A Victorian rectory and garden was remodelled into a showcase garden of rare and unusual trees and shrubs by the enthusiastic and knowledgeable horticulturalist Henry Hoare from 1905 to 1955. It was admired and featured in contemporary publications. From the 1960s it was abandoned and the site was redeveloped with the grounds being subdivided, but recently major parts of Hoare’s garden have been unearthed and restored. The current gardens taken as a group retain the imprint of the Ellisfield Manor Garden and the close association between the several properties has ensured the survival of the ambiance of the original design.
Ellisfield Manor was the name given in 1905 to a Victorian house and garden previously known as Widmoor (Widmore) Place (Sims-Williams 1984: HRO). The house was replaced in the 1980s and the site is now divided into six or seven separate properties. The village of Ellisfield lies about six miles south of Basingstoke town centre and west of the A339 from Basingstoke to Alton. Much of the village is within the Ellisfield Conservation Area and enjoys a downland setting in an elevated position with fine vistas to the north, east and south east. It lies on the edge of the Ellisfield Clay Plateau in good agricultural arable land. This site sits at the junction of Church Lane and College Lane at a height of 190m (Ellisfield Conservation Area Appraisal, Basingstoke Deane BC, 2004).
Although in discrete ownerships there is a bond between all the houses and gardens on this site which reflects its past history. Much of the original approach to Ellisfield Manor remains- the walls, the drives and the stable archway and the whole site including the woods is encircled by walls, hedges and original railings. Some of the service buildings are now converted into individual properties. The kitchen garden is fully occupied by a modern house and appropriate garden within mostly original walls and the adjacent pumphouse has been converted to domestic use. The manor cottage, bothy, stables and kitchen wings all have sections of the garden attached. The Old Stables now owns the tennis court lawns where a hard court was installed. The house known as Mulberries is on the actual site of Ellisfield Manor and the owners are the guardians of the old rose garden, Cupid's Walk and the long herbaceous walk. There are no longer roses nor herbaceous borders but the garden is laid mainly to lawns sheltered by high yew hedges. South of Mulberries on the site of the formal lawn and flower beds is a house called The Grange. Here the owners have uncovered the complete rock garden with its 300 tons of Purbeck stone, brought up from Dorset by train in 1911. Traces of the bog garden remain from where an attractive rill of water meanders its way to the lily pond beneath specimen shrubs and attractively-coloured trees. Piles of plant markers have been unearthed and it is hoped that with the help of Henry Hoare's notebooks many of these markers can be reattached to their plants. The wood provides a shelter belt of trees and in spring it is carpeted with daffodils, bluebells and primroses under unusual rhododendron bushes. In this corner of the Ellisfield Manor site the memories and ambiance of Henry Hoare's remarkable garden still linger.
Campion, P. The Wessex Series 1923
Sims-Williams, M and H. 1984, A History of Ellisfield,
Hoare, Henry, Flowering Trees and Shrubs, Humphreys, London 1905
Hoare, Henry, Private notebook, unpublished, possession of Mr T Guinness
Boyd, W. B. ‘Hampshire Gardens (III), Ellisfield Manor' in Hampshire Review Autumn 1950
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
Ellisfield Deeds: 23M70;/T23-41/E11-13; and Tithe Map 21M65/F7/78/1 and 2
Basingstoke and Deane District Council, Planning Office
Ellisfield Conservation Area Appraisal, Basingstoke Deane BC, 2004.
Mr T Guinness, Mrs Haas, Mr and Mrs Lonergan, May 2010
Detailed description contributed by Hampshire Gardens Trust 16/04/2015
A small house appears on the 1872 OS map; in 1883 this house, Widmore Place, was enlarged to accommodate the new curate of Ellisfield, Rev. Eversfield Botry Pigott (HRO:Ellisfield deeds 23M70). In 1905 this house was sold to Henry Hoare, a member of the large banking family and a writer and enthusiast on horticultural matters; in 1902 he had published the book Flowering Trees and Shrubs. Over the next fifty years he and his wife dedicated their time to developing a garden of immense attraction in about ten acres on this windy hilltop site. From the day on which Henry Hoare bought Widmore and renamed it Ellisfield Manor he kept a detailed account of the projects undertaken, the costs incurred, the plants ordered and planted and the tradesmen, nurseries and builders whom he employed (Guinness, 2010). The garden was featured in Campion's book The Wessex Series in 1923 and in the Hampshire Review in 1950. It was a garden to showcase Hoare's taste for rare varieties of trees and shrubs as well as an opportunity for him to create a romantic work of art. The water garden, rock garden and winter garden were highlights, blending into a background of a rhododendron-filled wood. Two long walks hedged with yews and roses reached the outer regions of the gardens and deep borders of herbaceous plants underplanted the hedges. Great care was taken that all the shrubs and plants were labelled so that visitors might easily ascertain the names of the varieties. Although the development of the garden was interrupted by two World Wars it continued to enthral and was frequently opened for charity fund-raising events. Following the deaths of Major Hoare and his wife, Lady Geraldine Hoare in 1956 and 1955, the house and garden were closed and slowly fell into dereliction. The site was purchased in the 1970s by a speculator who built a new house in the kitchen garden and eventually in the 1980s the old mansion was demolished and two more houses were built on its site. The land and garden was divided between all the new property owners (Guinness 2010).
Detailed history contributed by Hampshire Gardens Trust 16/04/2015
Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
- Associated People
- Features & Designations
- Key Information
Early 20th Century (1901-1932)
Part: standing remains
Open to the public
Hampshire Gardens Trust