Ditcham Park is in an exceptional position with equally exceptional views, of which maximum advantage was taken. Many 18th-century features remain, enhanced by 19th-century improvements. The site is still maintained by the current owners.
Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting
When visiting Ditcham today the approaches and views and the views from the house are as handsome as ever. The woods are mainly beech with a scattering of ash, birch and sycamore. Conifers from the 19th century remain, as do the shrubberies near the house. In 1987 many trees came down around the house though some fine mature specimens remain.
Gardens and Pleasure Grounds
A now grassed walled garden has intact walls. The gazebo lies dismantled in the woods north of the house. The ‘Italian Rose Garden' has been replaced by a sports hall. The footings of one glasshouse remain and contain a garden for the children. They also have a ‘wildlife garden' in the woods which is available for study. Where the frames used to be by the stable yard are planted raised beds. Exotic tropicals are being grown against south walls. Both cricket pitch and golf course are under crops, as is the 18th-century topped off ice-house.
- Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts
Ditcham Park developed beside an ancient entrenchment on the chalk lands of the South Downs on the Hampshire side of the county border. The lands are first mentioned in Domesday Book ending up in 1545 in the hands of John and Margaret Cowper. These consisted of two farms, Old Ditcham and Sunwood, and large areas of wooded slopes and high down land.
Richard Cowper left the estate in 1762 to his cousin John Cole.
Cole built a new house on top of the down, arranging planting including specimen trees in a small landscaped park and building a walled garden. He called it Ditcham Grove. It was probably he who added an ice-house in the Park Field just south of the house. Views to the south across Chalton Down to the coast and to the Isle of Wight were and still are magnificent.
A southern approach drive swept up in curves through fields and woods, though the more spectacular approach drive was not developed until after 1885 by the Cave family. This was from the north affording a series of viewpoints of ‘borrowed' landscape of encircling hills and valleys from Petersfield in the west to Harting in the east and beyond. The easterly views encompass Lady Holt Park in Sussex, Ditcham's immediate neighbour which was part of this ‘borrowing'.
Let to the Bonham Carters for ten years in the mid-19th-century, the property of 1,600 acres was sold in 1868 to Charles Cammell who changed the name of the house to Ditcham House. He sold it in 1885 to Laurence Trent Cave who built a new house on the same site, which burnt down just after completion so was rebuilt in 1888.
It has been suggested that either Sir Reginald Blomfield or his uncle Sir Arthur Blomfield were the architects. Not only is there no acknowledgement of this in either Blomfield's archive, but the surviving Cave family members are adamant that the build was by a distant Cave cousin. This was in all probability Walter Frederick Cave who was articled with Sir Arthur Blomfield. He has been proved to be the architect of the North Lodge erected for the Caves, and there are stylistic similarities between this and the main house.
It is possible that he had design influence on the formal ‘Italian' garden created in the early-20th-century, as he had close connections with architects designing in this fashionable style including Sir Reginald Blomfield and Harold Peto. Apart from this ‘Italian Rose Garden' the Cave family radically improved the estate. New introductions were a pumping station for water, installing electricity and paying for a railway halt. Birch was planted as shelter for game and the shooting improved.
Rides and avenues were cut through the woods to key viewpoints. Conifers were planted for more variety of leaf colour and plant form. Much glass was added to an already well-endowed 18th-century walled garden, and frames and outhouses. All of this was immaculately maintained. The south terrace was improved with urns and the south lawn hugely extended. For sporting fun the family had a cricket pitch installed where regular matches were held. To the east-south-east of the house they laid out a nine hole golf course.
After the Caves moved on in 1922 the estate was in the hands of W R Rea until 1933, then briefly Colonel E J L Pike and even more briefly by Stanley Bond who ran the Dycheham Press. The estate was sold again to the Douai Abbey Trust Company, having been requisitioned by the Admiralty during World War 2. It was run as a boarding school until bought in 1975 by Ditcham Park School Ltd and changed to a co-educational day school which is still in operation in 2007.
- Features & Designations
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation
- House (featured building)
- Description: A new house was built around 1885, but burnt down soon after. The house was re-built in 1888. The architect was probably Walter Frederick Cave who was articled with Sir Arthur Blomfield.
- Earliest Date:
- Latest Date:
- Specimen Tree
- Description: In 1987 many trees came down around the house though some fine mature specimens remain.
- Description: A now grassed walled garden has intact walls.
- Description: The gazebo lies dismantled in the woods north of the house.
- Description: The footings of one glasshouse remain and contain a garden for the children.
- Description: There is a `wildlife garden? in the woods which is available for study.
- Raised Bed
- Description: Where the frames used to be by the stable yard are planted raised beds.
- Key Information
Open to the public
Hampshire Gardens Trust