History of The Elvetham
Elvetham is mentioned in the Domesday book. The site on which The Elvetham now
stands has a well documented history and in 1426 became the home of the Seymour
family. The house was passed down through a succession of Seymours including
Edward, the brother of Jane Seymour (third wife of Henry VIII and mother of Edward
VI), who became Lord Protector to the boy King after the death of Henry VIII and
who was eventually beheading for high treason in 1551.
Edward's brother Thomas married Catherine Parr – Henry VIII’s widow and he too
was beheaded for high treason after becoming embroiled in scandalous liaisons with
the then Princess Elizabeth. After his death, his estates were forfeited but eventually
restored to his son Edward, by now created Earl of Hertford.
Edward, Earl of Hertford married the younger sister of Lady Jane Grey. Queen
Elizabeth only heard of the bigamous marriage when Catherine became pregnant
and the Queen reacted with great fury by sending them to the Tower of London.
Eventually both were released, Catherine in 1567 and Edward in 1572.
In order to regain favours and to have his children legitimised, he entertained the
Queen at Elvetham in 1591. This lavish entertainment lasted four days for which
a range of luxurious pavilions were built, near the house, to accommodate Queen
Elizabeth and her retinue of 500. The Oak tree she planted to commemorate the
occasion still stands here today and is now more than 32 feet in circumference.
On Edward's death the house passed to his grandson, William Seymour, who
became Marquis of Hertford and Duke of Somerset. In 1649 he sold Elvetham to Sir
Robert Reynolds, Solicitor General of the Commonwealth whose daughter married
her first cousin, Reynolds Calthorpe. After her death he married again. The daughter
of his second marriage married Sir Henry Gough.
The original house that Queen Elizabeth visited no longer exists having burned down
in 1840. Rebuilt on the same site in 1860, the new house, developed into the present
mansion by Frederick, 4th Baron Calthorpe, commemorates Hampshire's famous
There are later additions including the Library and the Oak Room (originally the
Billiard room) built between 1911 -1913. In 1901 the carriage porch was added. The
first conservatory was built in 1956 (later rebuilt in 1998) and a further wing in 1977.
The Court was originally the stables and accommodated the polo ponies, the hacks
and the coach house. The first floor used to house the coachmen and grooms and
the outside staircase was added in the 1950’s.
St Mary’s church was built in 1840, designed by Sir Henry Roberts, to resemble a
Twelfth Century Norman church. Teulon however, added the flying buttresses and
the angels at the four corners.
The area of 35 acres surrounding The Elvetham is much the same today as it was
recorded in the Domesday book. A formal garden was created in 1860 and a mile
long avenue of Wellingtonias were planted. Amongst its many other trees and
flowers is a famous Magnolia Soulangiana said to be the largest in England. After
many years of neglect the gardens were restored in 1962 and now include a broad
walk of Irish Yews, a croquet lawn, eighty ornamental trees, a kitchen garden and
many other attractive features.
In 1953 Sir Richard Calthorpe sold the house to ICI who subsequently sold it to
Lansing Bagnall in 1965, an engineering company based in Basingstoke.
In August 2001 The Elvetham was acquired by the Dare family who are the principal
owners and also own The Petersham Hotel in Richmond, Surrey.