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Old Idsworth House


Old Idsworth House was an 18th century house with extensive parkland and walled gardens. The house was largely demolished but a farmhouse remains, along with part of the lime walk and an 11th century chapel. Much of the original estate is now used for farming.

West of the Old Idsworth House, leading up the Down, was a lime avenue and a walks area. A dovecote, stone-lined pond and two icehouses supplied the household. By the 1830s the parkland was ornamented by clumps, with acacias and a beloved Red Cedar near the house. The farmhouse and its immediate grounds are now a private home, Old Idsworth Gardens, containing the pond, one of the icehouses, the walled garden, donkey well and dovecote. The parkland is divided between surrounding farms.

Further information supplied by the Sussex Gardens Trust.

Old Idsworth Park and Gardens are situated on the Hampshire/Sussex border. What remains of the old house - the coach house, stables, walled garden and out-buildings (including a dovecote, well-house, game cellar and ice house) are on rising ground just above the valley floor where the main line railway, the road from Chalton to Finchdean and on occasions the Lavant winterbourne stream runs.

The valley runs north/south, with very steeply rising sides, up to around 100 metres, to both the east and west. To the east, the skyline of the valley side is dominated by a thick band of woodland, composed mainly of beech, yew and conifer of varying ages, including recent replants. The west slope is predominately in arable production.

There are the remnants of an impressive lime avenue which once dominated the hillside opposite Old Idsworth. Only 33 mature limes are still standing, from what would have been an avenue of around 200 trees planted in two double rows 40 metres apart and staggered within the doubles rows at six metre centres. The rest of the original trees are stumps or missing. The land between the rows of trees is being used as pony paddocks.

North of Old Idsworth Gardens, on the top of a hill, is the little chapel of St Hubert's, which is thought to have originated as a hunting chapel. However the oldest parts date from Saxon times. It is visually separated from what was probably the old manor house by extensive arable cultivation.

There are remnants of parkland trees (a mixture of lime, cedar, yew, beech and maple) in the pasture (now mainly pony paddocks) surrounding Idsworth Gardens. Below the buildings, to the east, is disturbed ground where the original house stood, a section of the flint wall ha-ha to the south is all that is visible. Little remains of the parkland to the south except some scattered beech and oak and one clump of scrub and trees in an arable rotation. The trees have gradually been lost through old age, storm damage and general decline due to farming operations.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The original Idsworth House was an Elizabethan courtyard house built south of a medieval village and an 11th century chapel. It overlooked its parkland in Idsworth valley and was surrounded by its tenant farms, with Markwell's Wood east and Idsworth Down west. The lime avenue, which was planted around 1725, was destroyed at the beginning of the 19th century but soon replanted.

In the 1840s the avenue and walks area were separated from the house by the London to Portsmouth railway. The Clarke-Jervoise family, who had bought Idsworth in 1790, were looking to move as the old house was becoming damp. The coming of the railway provided the impetus to move to a new Idsworth House, on the hill and a short distance to the south-west. It is probable that the compensation received from the railway provided the funds for the new house. The old house was stripped of materials, its coach house was converted into a farmhouse and the site became the productive area for the main house - the walled garden may date from this time. The farmhouse and its surroundings are now a private home.

Further information supplied by the Sussex Gardens Trust.

Idsworth, originally part of Chalton, is recorded as a manor in its own right by 1271 when it was given as a gift by Queen Eleanor to the Tarrant Nunnery (as was the manor of Binderton, near West Dean). From 1316 the manor was in the ownership of the Romyn family, where it remained for 100 years until it passed after the death of John Romyn to a distant kinsman Thomas de Wintershull, lord of the manor of Wintershull, Bramley. In 1431 the rights passed back to the widow of John Romyn when she married Nicholas Banester. It then stayed with the Banester family for two centuries, until it passed through the marriage of Mary, daughter of Edward Banester, to Robert Dormer in 1679.

In 1789, Charles the 8th Lord Dormer sold the manor to Jervoise Clarke-Jervoise, who was thought to be responsible for the building or re-modelling of the last house at Idsworth. There is an illustration of the house, (undated, but thought to be from around 1840), when it was the seat of Reverend Sir Samuel Clarke-Jervoise. By 1823 Sir Samuel was investigating a new location to live as his wife wanted to move from the 'horrid, dank, dark, valley of Idsworth.' It wasn't however until they received money from the coming of the railway in 1849 that they could afford to move to a new Idsworth House, on the hill and a short distance to the south-west. The old Idsworth House was demolished, with the exception of the coach house, stables and walled garden (which continued to supply produce until the new garden was established), the materials being used in the new building.

After the Clarke-Jervoise family moved from the old site the remaining buildings were used as farm buildings and accommodation and the adjoining parkland was sold off for farming purposes.

In 1970 Rear-Admiral Sir Richard Trowbridge purchased the property. In 1971 part of the avenue of limes were felled by the local farmer because of concerns about their safety. The main historic feature is the lime avenue. It is uncertain at what date it was established. It is shown on Thomas Yeakell and William Gardener's 1778 map. It may have been the avenue that John Caryll wrote to his daughter-in-law about in 1726 in order that she could tell his grandson, 'Last Autumn so soon as I gott home I planted an avenue on Lord Dormer's Down (with his consent) leading to Idsworth which thrives very well.' Certainly Caryll was a good friend of his neighbour Lord Dormer.

The avenue was first severed from the house by the building of the railway in 1849. However the felling of the northern rows in 1971, because they were considered old and dying may well have been premature as they have suckered well from the base of the cut stumps. The predominant view from Old Idsworth House was to the south across what is shown in the 1778 and 1870/80 maps as parkland with scattered clumps and single trees. There was also parkland to the north around the chapel, which would have had close links to the house. In fact, in 1798 the owner of Idsworth, Sir Samuel Clarke-Jervoise, Bart., was the rector.

The cedar and yews to the south-west of the current buildings appear to be present in the illustrations of 1820/1840, as is the flint wall ha-ha. The woodland belt to the east of the buildings provides an important framing of the view. There is suggestion on the 1870/80 map that the lower edges had been planted with a row of trees. However, this cannot be substantiated on the ground as there is only one short row of beech trees which may have been the remnants. The line of trees below and parallel to the woodland edge running from Old Idsworth to south of Idsworth Farm, is shown as an avenue on the 1778 map and as a meandering line on the 1870/80 map. It is most likely this was just a belt of trees as can be seen today, retained because it was on a steepish slope, rather than a designed landscape feature.

Features & Designations


  • Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty


  • Tree Avenue
  • Description: The tree avenue consisted of lime trees.
  • Walk
  • Description: A walk throughout the parkland was separated from the main house in 1840.
  • Dovecote
  • Ornamental Pond
  • Description: A stone pond was constructed in the parkland to the west of the house.
  • Icehouse
  • Garden Wall
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Manor House (featured building)
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • House
  • Parkland
  • Walled Garden
  • Farmhouse
  • Walk
  • Chapel
Key Information




Agriculture And Subsistence

Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Part: standing remains



Open to the public


Civil Parish

Rowlands Castle