Eartham House is situated to the southern end of the hamlet of Eartham. The first reference to the establishment of a residence at Eartham was in 1743 when Thomas Hayley purchased a small estate from the heirs of Sir Robert Fag in order to build a house for his summer retirement.
The grounds are principally to the south of the house on steeply rising ground, up to 94 metres.
Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting
Eartham House is situated to the southern end of the hamlet of Eartham at map reference SU 939 094. The house and grounds are within a triangle of land bounded by two roads. To the north of the house, within the point of the triangle are a number of associated buildings and structures. This includes Saint Margaret's church, a small semi-circular late-18th-century orangery in brick with rock work window surrounds, a walled formal garden (now containing a swimming pool) and large walled kitchen garden (now housing school outbuildings), a dovecote and two attractive stone benches (one in the formal garden and one backed by yew behind the house) which appear to be contemporary with the 18th-century house. All these, including the house, are within the Eartham conservation area.
Gardens and Pleasure Grounds
The grounds are principally to the south of the house on steeply rising ground, up to 94 metres. As you climb up the slope spectacular views of the surrounding countryside are revealed on three sides, to the west across the valley to Halnaker Windmill on the skyline, north to the Downs and east to Nore Hill. At the top of the hill, where there is a tree-covered mound amongst the woodland, there are extensive views across the playing fields to the south coast and Chichester. Clearly it was no mistake that this knoll between two valleys was chosen to develop a fine house and garden.
On the steep slopes rising from the two roads are woodland blocks which shelter the rising ground. The wood is principally mixed beech, ash, yew and some hazel coppice with evidence of a number of paths meandering through. It has an interesting understorey, on the east side towards the house there is a lot of box, holly and rhododendron which may be remnants of ornamental plantings.
To the west close to the road there is evidence of an overgrown yew hedge alongside an old path which leads to a concrete-lined pond and flint wall alcove and on to an elegant wrought iron gate in some old iron park fencing. There is a large quantity of flowering viburnum in the hedge alongside the road to the west. It appears the basic framework of the 18th-century garden still exists, but in a very overgrown state. The outline of the woodland blocks as shown in the 1880 map has been lost somewhat due to additional planting and natural regeneration. The paths are shown on more recent maps and it may be possible with further research to trace them on the ground.
The house is the home of Great Ballard School and is also used as a wedding venue.
- Restoration of the clump surrounding the mount, by clearing the tree regeneration which now links it to the adjacent woodland blocks. Some action is also needed to prevent further erosion of the mount itself.
- Conservation of the woodland blocks and restoration of the paths.
- Conservation of the remaining small-scale features such as the wrought iron gates which mark the entrances to the walks, boundary iron park fencing, benches, pond and alcove.
- Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts
Access contact details
The house is the home of Great Ballard School and is also used as a wedding venue. For more information about it's use as a wedding venue visit the Eartham House website.
For more information and directions visit the Eartham House website.
Great Ballard Preparatory School
The first reference to the establishment of a residence at Eartham was in 1743 when Thomas Hayley purchased a small estate from the heirs of Sir Robert Fag in order to build a house for his summer retirement. After his death in 1775, the house was occupied by his son William Hayley who was a poet.
William Hayley enlarged the house as a villa and ...'embellished the domain in the simple and genuine taste of a ferme ornee as first introduced by Shenstone... the Grove of Eartham was made "academic" by the frequent visits of the first literary characters of that day, and as the favourite retreat of Cowper "in his happier hour" '.
Other visitors were William Blake, John Flaxman, George Romney and Robert Southey. In 1800, Hayley sold the estate to William Huskisson, MP for Chichester, who greatly enlarged the mansion house, extended the estate to include 300 acres and made alterations to the grounds.
Sir John Ralf Milbanke inherited the property in 1866 and took the name of Huskinsson. The estate then passed to his eldest son Sir Peniston Huskisson-Milbanke in 1879.
In 1905, Sir Peniston Huskisson-Milbanke sold it to Sir William Bird who had the house remodelled by Sir Edwin Lutyens. After Sir William's death in 1950, Eartham House was sold. It became a school in the 1950s and was re-named Great Ballard Preparatory School.
The early maps of 1778 and 1813 are of limited help in supporting the documentary evidence. The 1778 map shows an open down area, with the road south from Eartham passing close to what appears to be a building on the site of Eartham House. The 1813 map shows a similar situation but with a track from the church and limited tree planting, certainly little evidence of William Hayley's grounds. By 1880 the road had been moved further east, away from the house and extensive woodland plantings and paths are evident.
A description of walk around William Hayley's grounds in 1791 gives an idea of the layout and delights of a garden laid out in the style of a ferme ornee (in Mr Dallaway's opinion).
'Before the north entrance is a neat lawn well decorated with shrubs, at the end of which is a pleasant circular green-house of rough flint work, intermixed with brick; and at a short distance from this stands the little spire church.
This delightful retirement is situated on the side of a hill, commanding a pleasant view of Chichester, Portsdown Hill, near Portsmouth, the sea, the Isle of Wight, &c. The beautiful walks, made about sixteen years, we are now wandered along; and first, the lower walk to the west, at the end of which you have a picturesque view of the house and church.
Turning northward we came to an oval grotto, formed of rough wood, flint and moss. This is called the entrance into Otway's Walk; a beautiful close shade of a gentle curve, and exquisitely designed for the meditations of a poet. At the end of this is another small grotto. Returning from hence, we ascend a little to the right to an octagonal alcove in the wood, for the purpose of tea drinking. Pass from hence through a higher serpentine walk, with various shades and seats; at the end of which is another seat, commanding a fine open view of the prospect before mentioned.
Across the open hill to the north runs from hence a pleasant terrace walk...We next passed through a lovely shade of filberts, and ascended the mount which gave a full view around. To the east, Lord Newburgh's house, (Slindon House) embossed in venerable oaks, is a charming object, and the hills towards the north nobly crowned with wood , are a fine background to the scene. In the same direction are two other elevated walks, one of gravel and the other of grass, with several seats and romantic alcoves. Descending from hence through another serpentine walk to the house, we had a charming peep into the valley, skirted with the wood before mentioned'.
The main historic feature still present is the mount on top of the hill, which must be the one described in 1791. Now overgrown and hidden by yews and turkey oaks it is suffering some erosion from school activities. On the 1880 Ordnance Survey map the mount was situated within a clump of trees in the centre of the parkland on the top of the hill. This would have been a feature on the skyline as viewed from the house, but now it has been lost amongst a band of natural tree regeneration that has joined the east and western blocks of woodland.
Although it was not possible to follow the description of the 1791 walk with certainty, because many of the woodland paths have been lost, it does appear it could have followed an anti-clockwise route along the western boundary (yew walk), past the pond and alcove, up the hill to the mount and then through the eastern woodland back to the house. It seems likely in Hayley's time that the grounds only extended as far south as the mount. The extension of parkland southwards as shown in the 1880 map may have been William Huskisson work.
- Associated People
- Features & Designations
- House (featured building)
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- Description: The main historic feature still present is the mount on top of the hill, which must be the one described in 1791. Now overgrown and hidden by yews and turkey oaks it is suffering some erosion from school activities. On the 1880 Ordnance Survey map the mount was situated within a clump of trees in the centre of the parkland on the top of the hill. This would have been a feature on the skyline as viewed from the house, but now it has been lost amongst a band of natural tree regeneration that has joined the east and western blocks of woodland.
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- Key Information
Part: standing remains
Open to the public