The grounds were at their height of landscape interest in the 20th century when they achieved notoriety for the fine display of rhododendrons and azaleas. There is no evidence of an historically significant designed landscape. The chief historical interest in the house relates to its sometime occupation by Alec Waugh, the novelist and travel-writer of the mid-20th-century. While it occupies a site encircled by areas of national importance for archaeology, nature conservation and history it does not itself command significant importance.
The Old House, which dates from around 1703 but which was radically altered in the 19th century and now again in 2009, is listed Grade II.
Location and site
The Old House, Silchester is situated on the north east edge of the village of Silchester. The village is close to the northern county boundary of Hampshire with Berkshire and it is about four miles north of Basingstoke. The centre of the village is a designated Conservation Area and the nearby Roman town of Calleva Atrebatum is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The grounds of The Old House are bounded on the north by a public footpath which leads to the old Roman settlement (Local View).
The house has an extensive formal garden newly installed around the house but with more informal areas leading down to the small lake on the south boundary of the property. The approach drive is still bordered by oak trees and the plantation of trees and shrubs on the northern boundary alongside the public footpath obscures the house completely from view. Satellite photographs (Google Earth) were last taken around 2007/8 and they show the new gardens under construction. A particular feature is the new swimming pool, described as an horizon pool, in full view of the garden house; there had been intentions to rebuild the garden room, which connects the main house to the old barn, with tall glazed windows overlooking the formal garden and pool but so far the permission has been denied on the grounds of inappropriate design (BDB 69906, January 2009).
HGT Research: March 2010
Hampshire Record Office (HRO)
HRO: 159M88/1163 Sale advertisement and extra photograph
Tithe map of Silchester: http://www.dutton.force9.co.uk/tithes/pdf/Silchester.PDF
Boon, G.C. St Mary the Virgin - Silchester, nd.
Page, W. (ed.) 1911 Victoria History of the Counties of England Series: A History of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, Constable, IV: 112-14
Thompson, J. The Book of Silchester London 1924
Waugh, Alexander Fathers and Sons, Headline 2005
Pearce, M. An Assessment of the Architectural and Historic Interest of the former Rectory, in Planning application BDBC 66820, 2007
Jurgens, Jorie, Personal Conversation, November 2009. The author is grateful to Mrs Jurgens for her memories and information.
Hampshire Treasures: http://www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/
Detailed description contributed by Hampshire Gardens Trust 16/04/2015
A rectory for the church of St Mary was built around 1703; this house was extended considerably in the nineteenth century but the original core, a two storeyed house with attic rooms, is still distinguishable in the west wing. The house remained as a rectory until 1923 when a new rectory was built on a plot of land just to the north and the old rectory was sold. Since then it has had only four owners, each of which has taken more care of the grounds than had the earlier church owners. It was set in some 54 acres of land but the pleasure garden around the house extended to only three and a half acres (Pearce, 2008). There is little or no evidence of a designed landscape until the mid-twentieth century when the owners, Bramley-Firth, established a garden which was often opened to the public. Improvements were made by the next owner, Mrs Alec Waugh who remained there until her death in 1969 (Waugh, 2005). The house was sold to Michael Jurgens who, as Chairman of the Rhododendron, Camellia and Magnolia Group of the Royal Horticultural Society took a great pride in his collection of rare and beautiful rhododendrons (pers. com. Jurgens 2009).
Detailed history contributed by Hampshire Gardens Trust 16/04/2015
Hampshire Gardens Trust