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Landsdowne Gardens (also known as Priestlands, Landsdowne Nursery)


While being refurbished, between 1805 and 1809, the gardens were ascribed their most striking feature: serpentine brick walls. The pleasure grounds and walled gardens no longer exist. The only remaining feature of Landsdowne Gardens is parts of the serpentine wall.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

In the 1960s the Nursery ceased to be used and the old pleasure ground with its walls was bought for development. A Frank Rogers appears to have been instrumental in the design of a most unusual estate of some 28 houses and bungalows sited within the curved walls with pedestrian-only paths threading their way round, buying one of the houses himself (From a resident, 2008).

Gardens and Pleasure Grounds

Many of the houses have their back walls cut into the line of the curved walls which then continue on to the next house. It could be construed as vandalism to have cut into such magnificent walls but at least much remains of what was an outstanding small, walled pleasure ground. Between the straight outer wall, which would appear to be contemporary with the curved wall and the nearby houses, there is now a long grassed area.

The owners of the houses on the Estate, known as Landsdowne Gardens, own the freehold of their houses but the grassed verges and paths are owned leasehold between all the residents though it is not clear who is the lessor. The straight wall was leaning in the 1980s and required supporting. Restorative work was carried out by Romsey Council and the current Council cuts the grass in the long strip by the straight wall but again it is not clear who actually owns either the walls or the grassed strip. The residents formed a company to manage the Estate and many of the residents have been there since the estate was built.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

17th - 18th Century

The land to the north of Romsey on which Landsdowne Gardens stands first belonged to Sir William Petty (1623-1687), the eminent 17th-century thinker born in Romsey. Petty's widow became Baroness Shelburne and in 1754 her grandson settled at Bowood in Wiltshire. Her great-grandson, the second Earl of Shelburne, became first Marquis of Landsdowne in 1784.

19th Century

The first Marquis of Landsdowne died in 1805 and the second Marquis of Landsdowne, a century after William Petty, rediscovered the site. Between 1805 and 1809 he built a pleasure ground with encircling walls. This included walls in half-circles and serpentine walls. It may have been called Priestlands at this time.

A resident of the present Landsdowne Gardens has notes he believes were taken from papers in the Romsey Abbey archives, stating that the walls were built as a way of providing employment to people who might otherwise have been forced to live off charity. Such an approach would have copied a charitable act carried out by Carol IV in Prague.

400,000 bricks were used to build the walls, which extend 6 feet below ground where they become at least 6 feet thick on a concrete base. They are mostly 11 inches high and there is an inner and outer wall in some places resulting in an unusual shape which from the air looks rather like a tam o'shanter. An article in ‘The Short History of Romsey and Neighbourhood' (printed and published for Miss Chigwell, 1896) states that there was a special design by a Scotsman so as to obtain as much sunshine as possible. There is an outer, straight brick wall along the Greatbridge Road with a stone portico entrance having a centre column of one single stone. The second Marquis lived in Southampton and often visited the gardens using the ornamental entrance.

The Tithe Map of Romsey (1845) shows the site: '1840, Owner - Marquis of Landsdowne, Tenant James Elcombe, land use - Marquis Garden' On the first edition Ordnance Survey map (1867), the pleasure ground has become a nursery within the walled gardens. The ‘Gardens and Orchards: a General View of the Agriculture of Hampshire including the Isle of Wight' (Vancouver, 1811) describes numerous glass erections, well-filled with all the choicest plants of the day and a fine collection of ornamental trees and shrubs, the whole being the extensive nursery stock of Messrs, Elcombe and Son. The site on the other side of Greatbridge Road was also a nursery, the whole belonging to the Elcombe family whose house lay on the site of what is now Boots in Romsey town centre.

Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building

  • Reference: Lodge and garden walls
  • Grade: II

Plant Environment

  • Environment
  • Walled Garden


  • Serpentine Wall
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information





Plant Environment


Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Part: standing remains

Open to the public


Civil Parish