|HCC Site ID.||1341||Parish:||East Meon|
|Designations:||SDNP; St Nicholas Chapel & stables LB II||Area:||c7 ha|
|Access:||No Public Access||Ownership:||Private|
Location and Site
Westbury Park is situated in West Hampshire, 9km west of Petersfield and 1 km east of West Meon, a village on the A32 London to Farnham road. The historic park comprises c70ha of parkland, riverside and plantations with c.4ha of kitchen gardens and orchards. The parish boundary between East and West Meon runs north-south through the site; the major part of which is in East Meon. The minor east-west road beside the River Meon forms the northern boundary of the park, which rises gradually to the south, up a dry chalk valley below Henbury Down (ht.200m). Woods on the slopes of this valley form the visual boundaries to east and west, on the east the boundary is a track adjoining further woodland and on the west, running north-south, is Coombe Lane. The south boundary is the edge of Hen Wood, which extends for some 124ha over Henwood Down, now Forestry Commission land but formerly part of the estate. The c.12ha of woodland on the western boundary, Chappetts Wood, is now owned by the Hampshire Wildlife Trust. Westbury House is set in a sheltered position on the valley floor, near the river, which rises 5km away and is little more than a stream at this point. Outward views from the park are of the fields on the opposite slope of the Meon valley and the woods rising to the horizon of the surrounding downs.
Westbury was recorded in Saxon times as ‘Wesberie’ – the manor to the west, as it was situated near the western boundary of the Hundred of East Meon. The place is rich in history and the evidence of its occupation and land use, dating back to the Bronze Age. It is likely that an historic meeting in 1102, between King Henry II and his elder brother Robert, Duke of Normandy, who had landed at Porchester with an army, took place at Westbury. In 1322, the Lord of the manor was given permission to fortify the house and also the right of free warren. The Hampshire Field Club, in 1891, noted that “Some remains of the medieval house which Rober Lewer was allowed to kernelate may still be seen in the cellars of this mansion.”
Westbury House is set in a landscaped park on the lower slopes of Henbury Down, beside the River Meon. The site is of historic interest for its association with owners of note and the influential eighteenth century landscape gardener, Charles Bridgeman, Royal Gardener from 18728-38. Bridgeman is held to be responsible for the introduction of the now familiar sunken ditch or ‘ha-ha’ as a garden boundary that does not interrupt the view. Fortunately, a survey plan of Bridgeman’s garden at Westbury, laid out in the 1720s for Admiral Phillip Cavendish, was kept with the estate papers. The deep ditch that formed the boundary to Bridgeman’s garden survived the ‘improvement’s fashionable in the later C18 and is still a strong feature in the park.
Succeeding owners created and maintained a model of the classic English landscaped park, a composition of ‘lawns’ and trees, with a small lake in front of the house, to reflect the ruined medieval chapel of St Nicholas, standing beside the River Meon. The walled garden and orchards may have utilised in the mid-nineteenth century to produce greengages, when a member of the Gage family, who introduced and cultivated the ‘Green Gage’ plum in the mid-eighteenth century, was living at Westbury. It is thought that the second of two ice houses was built to preserve the fruit.
In 1904, the three-storey eighteenth century house was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the neo ‘Queen Anne’ style the following year. The grounds remain little changed, other than by nature, as some scattered trees have grown into woods and some dwindled away.
The house is now in use as a Nursing Home and the eighteenth century stables have been converted into two dwellings. A substantial wheelchair entrance has been constructed on the formal garden to facilitate easy access to the garden. A planning application for an additional building for dementia care, to the north of the house, has recently been placed with the local authority (September 2015). The walled garden remains (Aerial map 2015).
Summary and Significance
A site of historic landscape and archaeological interest, set among the woods and fields of characteristic chalkland river valley. Westbury has traces of an early C18 formal garden designed by Charles Bridgeman overlaid by late C18, and early C19 parkland.
Research: Independent Consultant 2004, brief update September 2015
A full list of references is available from Hampshire Gardens Trust