Early History - Tudor Elvetham - Elizabethan Elvetham - Shakespeare at Elvetham - Jacobean Elvetham - Elvetham in the 18th Century - Victorian Elvetham - Craft at Elvetham - Edwardian Elvetham - Elvetham at War - 20th Century Elvetham - St Mary's Church - Elvetham Gardens
The Elvetham Estate is suffused with over a century of English history. England’s tales are woven through its ancient oaks and parklands. It’s the site where Eadric the Wild plotted against William the Conqueror in the 11th Century, where King John gathered his nobles in readiness for war with France in 1205, and where King Henry VIII fell in love with Jane Seymour, his third wife and mother of his longed-for heir, just to name a few.
While only parts of the medieval house remain, its ancient spirit has been woven into the modern trappings of a luxury hotel.
Elvetham was originally a Saxon settlement and was believed to have been in existence as early as the 800’s AD. Its name is a mix of two Saxon words; Elve - a spirit or swan, and Ham – a dwelling or dwellings. In Saxon England, Elvetham was part of the Eversley Forest; a small settlement founded in a clearing of level ground near the River Hart, protected by the surrounding marsh land and thicket of trees.
In the late 800’s AD King Alfred the Great fought many battles in the local area from invading forces. In 871 AD he fought off an army of Viking invaders in Basing, nine miles west of Elvetham, 5 years later battled with Norsemen at Aldershot, 11 miles east of the village. For his many campaigns King Alfred would have needed to recruit many loyal local men to bolster his forces and is believed to have even camped near the settlement of Elvetham before the ensuing battles.
The Domesday Book, which was an inventory of land and property collated by William the Conqueror’s men in 1086, lists the owner of Elvetham, before the Norman conquest of England, as Eadric ‘the Wild’, who was so called because of his tenacious resistance to the Norman invaders. After being defeated by William the conqueror at Hereford Castle and the Battle of Stafford, the Normans confiscated the lands of Elvetham from Eadric which were then given to the Abbey of Chertsey. The monks, in turn, leased the manor to Hugh de Port, a vassal of King William. The de Ports were later confirmed as the owners of Elvetham sometime between 1100 and 1135.
At this point in its history, Elvetham manor included three ‘ploughs’, a plough being roughly an area of land workable by a team of eight oxen, four acres of meadow and enough woodland for 10 pigs.
By 1166 Elvetham manor passed from the de Ports to the de Bendengs, another family of Norman descendants. In 1205, whilst on his way west to Marlborough, King John stayed at the Elvetham manor, currently owned by Adam de Bendeng. During his stay, King John gathered the local loyal nobles and had them declare their ‘friendship’ or allegiance, as he prepared for his invasion of France.
A pandemic carried by rat fleas devastated Europe in the mid 1300’s, arriving in England in 1348. It spread quickly and killed between a third and a half of the country’s population within two years. Labour shortages throughout the country meant that survivors of the Black Death could demand higher wages, and be bolder about refusing the historic traditions of unpaid work for the lord of the manor.
The Esturmy family emerged from the Black Death unscathed and had taken advantage of the disruption to Elvetham’s traditional farming routines, applying to enclose the unused farmland to make a new park, including Elvetham manor. Their application was granted in 1359 to Henry Esturmy, to ‘hold to himself and his heirs forever’. In 1403 Henry VI gave William Estrumy, Henry Esturmy nephew and heir, permission to ‘enclose and empark’ a further 300 acres of land. William soon became one of the most influential people in England, rising to the rank of Speaker of the House of Commons and was knighted in the early 1400’s.
Sir William Esturmy and his wife Joan, had two daughters, the eldest of which, Maud, married an already wealthy land owner Roger Seymour. After the death of Sir William Esturmy, all his lands, including Elvetham manor, passed on to Maud and Roger’s son, John Seymour. The Seymour’s were an ambitious Norman family who stayed in possession of The Elvetham for the next 300 years, gaining land and titles through fortuitous marriages, political scheming and eventually setting their sights on the English throne.
The second John Seymour, the son of the first John Seymour, inherited his the land after his father’s death in 1492. John was a soldier and courtier who rose in favour under Henry VII. Knighted by the king after a skirmish with Cornish rebels at Blackheath in 1497, and also proved his worth in a number of other battles against French forces. John Seymour retained favour of the next king, Henry VIII, and I 1520 attended the Field of Cloth and Gold, a lavish diplomatic meeting between the English court and Francis I, King of France. By 1532 John Seymour had become one of the King’s ‘grooms of the bedchamber’, a title given to well-born courtiers favoured by the monarch.
On 21st October 1535, King Henry VIII stayed at The Elvetham with his second wife Anne Boleyn, whom he married following his divorce from Catherine of Aragon in 1533. The monarch and his wife dined with John Seymour’s family, including his 27-year-old daughter Jane. Once it became clear that Anne Boleyn could not provide Henry VIII with an heir, Jane Seymour swiftly became the king’s new favourite. Henry returned again to The Elvetham to visit Jane within the month, apparently on the pretext of escaping London’s sweating sickness.
In 1536 Anne Boleyn fell spectacularly from royal favour, a fall undoubtedly compelled by her failure to provide a male heir to the English throne. In April, she was accused of conspiring against the king, committing adultery and also accused of incest with her brother George Rochford. Anne Boleyn was soon found guilty of high treason and adultery, her marriage to Henry VIII was declared null by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer on 17th May, and was beheaded on 19th May.
On 20th May, the following day, Lady Jane Seymour was betrothed to Henry VIII, securing the Seymour family’s place at the very heart of power and influence in Tudor England. Jane and Henry disappeared from public view for eight days following their betrothal and are believed to have escaped to The Elvetham prior to their wedding, having been the Seymour’s summer residence. The two visited The Elvetham again in August 1536, underlining the affection in which the Tudor king held for this small estate where he first seduced his third wife. Janes father, now Sir John Seymour, died at the end of 1536, passing his lands and titles to his son Edward Seymour, who basked in the warmth of his brother in law Henry VIII’s favour.
Having served in the households of both Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour had learnt much about the art of tactical diplomacy. She was a peacemaker, keen on reuniting Henry with His eldest daughter Mary and restoring her to the royal succession, after any children of her own. I October 1937 Jane gave birth to a boy, Edward, who was the only legitimate son of Henry VIII to survive infancy and would later be crowned Edward VI. After experiencing a difficult birth Jane Seymour died of complications 12 days afterwards. Jane Seymour was considered to be Henry’s favourite wife having been the only wife to receive a queen’s funeral. When Henry VIII died in 1547 he was buried beside her in St George’s Chapel, Windsor.
When Henry VIII died in 1547, the Seymour’s of Elvetham remained at the heart if power, because it was a Seymour boy who inherited the throne. As Edward VI was only nine when he became king, he was placed in the care of a regency council whose leader – a king in all but name – was his powerful uncle, Edward Seymour, Jane Seymour’s brother.
As the Elvetham was the summer retreat for the Seymour’s, it is believed it would have played the part in countless diplomatic meetings and glittering parties. Those who could escape London in the summer – when bouts of a mysterious and often fatal ‘sweating sickness’ spread amongst the population between 1485 and 1551 – would move to their country homes. Elvetham would then have been at the centre of court life, as a display of wealth, power-brokering and political manoeuvring for the Tudor and Seymour families.
The manor of Elvetham did not stay long at the heart of power, however, as its masters struggled to keep his rivals in check. In an attempt to aid the poorer classes, Edward Seymour forbid the enclosure of common lands, but this angered a group of powerful landowners led by the Earl of Warwick. Seymour was ousted from power in October 1549. In 1551 Edward Seymour was arrested for treason, after plotting to make Edward VI his son in law by marrying him to his daughter Jane. Seymour was later executed in 1552 and his estates, including Elvetham, were forfeit.
The following year Edward VI died of a lung disease aged just 15. With his death, the last vestiges of heady power and favour held by the Seymour’s were snuffed out, and Elvetham – so recently the fashionable summer focus for the Tudor court – faded from favour with the dawn of a new monarchy.
After Edward VI’s death in 1553 he was succeeded by his older sister Mary Tudor, daughter of Henry VII first wife Catherine of Aragon. Her reign was one of terror and retribution as she forcibly reinstated the Roman Catholic faith in England, burning hundreds of Protestants who refused to convert, giving her the nickname of Bloody Mary. Elizabeth - Mary’s half-sister and daughter of Henry VIII’s second wife Anne Boleyn – became queen following Mary’s death in 1558. Within one year of Elizabeth’s reign she decided to restore the Seymour family to their former lands and titles, all apart from the title of the Duke of Somerset, placing Elvetham back into the possession of the Seymour family.
In 1591, while planning a summer tour of Hampshire, the queen’s staff informed the earl of Hertford - the latest Edward Seymour – of the queen’s intention to favour him with a stop at Elvetham Manor. Being visited by the queen and her court –of at least 1000 people - was a golden opportunity to display the size and magnificence of one’s house, as well as how imaginatively they could entertain the queen.
To accomplish this, the earl set 300 men on task to build a new tented village to host the queen’s court, including accommodation, a large entertainment hall, for Knights, Ladies and Gentlemen, a separate are for her guards and other officers of the queen’s house, and finally, for the queen herself, an elaborate walled court, living area and separate wardrobe building were constructed. Between Elvetham’s manor house and the rise which housed the travelling court, a lake was dug out to the perfect figure of a half moon. This – the earl of Hertford’s masterpiece – was large enough to have three artificial islands.
The 1st edition of the Ordnance Survey map of the estate in 1810 shows a hollow containing an irregular shaped pond, with another pond nearby to the south east. Map analysis and aerial photography indicated that these fragments, which survived into the 20 century, were remnants of Queen Elizabeth’s half-moon lake. Archaeological remains of the lake lie near the modern tennis court at Elvetham.
Queen Elizabeth expected the nobles she visited to entertain her, and the amusements laid on by the earl of Hertford at Elvetham cannot have disappointed her. The earl spared no expense, employing musicians, poets, dancers and actors to take part in plays, mock battles and musical renditions in tribute to the queen. The islands were the setting for music, Artillery and fireworks during the four days of entertainment. The lake was also the setting for the central water pageant, a carefully written and intricately choreographed battle designed as a shining spotlight on her military leadership against the Spanish Armada.
During her stay, Queen Elizabeth also watched the first ever public display of lawn tennis, enjoyed a special banquet while watching fireworks explode over the lake on her final night, and on the morning of her departure, planted an oak tree in the Elvetham grounds, which still stands to this day as a silent reminder of the spectacle and one of the most expensive events ever staged for the gilded queen.
Although it has not been proven, it is believed that William Shakespeare may have been in attendance to the Elvetham Entertainment or even perhaps performed as one of its actors, with a number of scholars believing that the water pageant was a large inspiration for the play “A Midsummer Nights Dream” written in 1595 not too long after the queen’s visit to Elvetham.
“A Midsummer Nights Dream” is steeped in mythological allusion, with classical characters from Greek and Roman stories woven together with the pagan world of fairies. The story opens with two characters - Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons - preparing for their marriage with a four-day festival, mirroring the Elvetham Entertainment.
The play also reflects elements of the water pageant, a prominent feature of the Elvetham Entertainment, with Shakespeare’s narrative including; a moon that is ‘watery’ (hinting towards the half-moon shaped artificial lake create for the Elvetham Entertainment), reference to singing from a ‘dolphins back’ (a metaphor for a ship), and approaching the ‘fair vestal throned to the west’ (referencing Queen Elizabeth watching the pageant to the west of the lake).
“A Midsummer Nights Dream” features a magical world of fairies with many of its central characters being fairies, which could have been influenced by the Elvetham Entertainment’s aim to portray Queen Elizabeth as a ‘Fairy Queen’. On the morning Queen Elizabeth’s royal court left Elvetham, a ‘Fairy Queen’ gave a speech in honour of her majesty in which she was portrayed as the character ‘Elisa’, a character connected to the fairy world. Queen Elizabeth was so pleased with the oration that she apparently requested to hear the speech for a second time.
After his successful entertainment of Queen Elizabeth I, the earl of Hertford, Edward Seymour, died at the grand age of 81 in 1621. He was succeeded by his grandson Sir William Seymour who inherited his lands and titles upon his death. Sir William Seymour was favoured with a visit to the Elvetham by the King James - who became king after Queen Elizabeth I death in 1603 – who planted several Scots fir trees on the grounds during his stay.
Sir William Seymour was the last of the Seymour line to own the Elvetham. During his life, he served as one of King Charles I’s generals in the English civil war, which divided the country in a series of bloody battles between 1642 and 1649. Elvetham was at the thick of the action during the Civil War, with Oliver Cromwell – the opposition to King Charles I’s – having his headquarters stationed at nearby Hartford bridge, and a two year siege taking place at the royalist stronghold of Basing House, half a day’s march west of Elvetham.
During King Charles I’s imprisonment in 1646, William Seymour remained with him and was one of four loyal senior nobles who petitioned parliament to allow their own death to be in place of their kings. Their petition was refused and in 1649 King Charles was executed for treason. In 1650, the Elvetham estate was sold to Colonel Robert Reynolds, a distinguished military leader and senior legal advisor in Cromwell’s camp. The reason for the sale is unknown, but can be assumed that William Seymour was coerced by Cromwell’s government into selling the property, or his hand had been forced by a lack of ready cash.
After Sir Robert Reynolds death in 1678, the Elvetham estate passed to his daughter Priscilla Reynolds. In 1681 Priscilla married her first cousin Reynolds Calthorpe, and after Priscilla’s death in 1709, the Elvetham estate passed into the Calthorpe family who would hold the estate for the next 300 years.
When Henry Calthorpe – son of Reynolds Calthorpe - came of age, he inherited estates in Norfolk and Hampshire, including Elvetham. Shortly after Henry’s inheritance, there are historic accounts that Elvetham was re-fronted in classic Georgian style in 1740. Henry added a new dining parlour with classic sash windows on the ground floor and Gothic windows above. The majority of downstairs rooms were employed in service of a central great hall and the adjacent dining room. Upstairs there was a long galley – probably used for entertainment – and bedrooms for the family and servents. A 1788 drawing of the south front also shows an Elizbethan house with mullioned windows and pointed brick gables.
During the late 1740’s Henry Calthorpe started to display erratic behaviour and was eventually declared a ‘lunatic’. Unable to manage his own affairs, his cousin James Calthorpe oversaw the running of his estates. Before his Henry’s descent into madness, Elvetham was evidently a place of safety and retreat for him until his death in 1788. Having no children of his own, the Elvetham passed to Henry Clathorpe’s nephew Henry Gough-Calthorpe, who had little interest in the estate. Without maintenance and having been neglected towards the end of Henry Calthorpe’s life, the house sank into disrepair. Henry Gough-Calthorpe decided to let the manor and its park to a number of tenants during his ownership, each of which played their part in saving the house from ruin and helped to reshape the landscape of the park.
In 1792 the Landscape designer William Emes took a 21 year lease on Elvetham, living there at least 3 years in which time he made significant changes to the Elvetham’s park land as well as a few architectural improvements to the house.
Emes let the Elvetham to Lieutenant General Gwynne from 1799. Gwynne appears to have radically restyled the crumbling house. Drawings from 1811 show a classic two-story Georgian villa with hipped roofs and stuccoed walls, very much in tune with fashions of the day. The Gwynne family’s accommodation was spacious but not lavish. Either side of the entrance was a small, south facing drawing room and north facing library. With a parlour beyond. Behind the small drawing room was a large dining room. A new service wing was added in 1832 which included a servant’s hall, coal house, still room, housekeeper’s room, butler’s pantry, kitchen and scullery. Gwynne lived at Elvetham until at least 1835.
In 1840 there was a tragic fire at Elvetham, the reports of the state of the property differ in the aftermath with some saying it was beyond repair and rebuilt in a similar style, or badly damaged and then repaired. Either way, the property was radically enlarged and redesigned in a Gothic style from 1859.
In 1851, at age 61, Fredrick Gough became the 4th Lord Calthorpe of Elvetham following the Death of his older brother George. In 1859 the new Lord Calthorpe commissioned architect Samuel Sanders Teulon to extend and radically redesign his country seat at Elvetham. It is not clear why Elvetham became the focus of the Calthorpe family’s attentions, but a number of factors may have nudged them in this direction.
Firstly the Gough-Calthorpe’s main country house was then Perry Hall, just North West of Birmingham. As the burgeoning industrial city expanded, perhaps the family glimpsed the possibility that their Midlands country estate would be submersed by suburbia. Secondly, a new house closer to the amenities of London provided an opportunity for Lord Calthorpe to make his mark. Lastly, after the 1840 fire, the Gwynne’s modest repaired Georgian villa was visited by a number of high-profile guests, including the Duke of Wellington.
At Elvetham, Teulon designed a flamboyantly gothic house with polychromatic brickwork, decorated window heads, tall chimneys, turrets and pinnacles. There was a high mansard roof, inspired by Teulon’s visi to Chateau Balleroy in Normandy, Dutch stylings in the form of the steeped gables on the south west side of the house, and hints of Bavarian and Austrian architecture featured in the decorative detail. For Teulon, a dramatic and varied skyline was vital to Elvetham’s success, distilling the Victorian Ideal of a fairy-tale castle, as well as a statement against the symmetrical Georgian buildings of the time.
Of all of Teulons’s country house designs, Elvetham was the embodiment of the architect’s flamboyant and restless style. Inside, its complex plan rivalled the very best examples of England’s ‘Gosford Park’ architecture, with lavish entertaining spaces and warren of service rooms for every possible task. The grand entrance featured a large carriage arch which led via a small porch to a striking new hall which would have been the scene of candlelit dancing and concerts, the centre of the Gough-Calthorpe’s social world. The hall linked to the other family rooms via a corridor furnished with a gallery of pictures. Leading off one side of the corridor was the new library (now our Morning Room) and opposite lay Lord Calthorpe’s study (this was later removed to make way for a grander corridor, but he stained glass still remains to this day). On the far side of the corridor was a south facing, bay windowed drawing room where Lady Calthorpe received visitors and hosted afternoon tea, along-side which lay the 19th century former drawing room which was converted into a wood-panelled dining room.
An ornate staircase in its own turret, swept up to the first floor towards the principal bedrooms, all with their own dressing rooms and some with their own WC’s. On the second floor were further family bedrooms which did not contain dressing rooms, which were most likely used by older children and unmarried guests.
The working area of the house was also greatly improved to aid the service staff. Teulon extended the cellar from its original narrow passage ways, linking spaces beneath the offices and the drawing room. The existing service wing was expanded, adding a servents’ hall and staircase, additional larders and butler’s accommodation. The first floor of the service wing was occupied by the nursery rooms and servants’ bedrooms.
Elvetham’s reincarnation as a Victorian castle cost £70,000, equivalent to around £8.5 million in today’s terms. Local clay was used to fire the bricks which are the buildings principal material and no expense was spared on the interior detailing, which featured work by some of the best craftsmen working in England.
The carved stonework at Elvetham was by Thomas Earp, who crafted the ornamental panels for the porch and the ground floor window surroundings, as well as the fireplaces in the Library, Dining Room, Drawing Room and Great Hall. All the principal fireplaces were wrought in Caen stone and still exist to this day. In the Dining room, the fireplace featured stone carvings of Elizabethan adventurers who likely attended the Elvetham Entertainment, including Thomas Cavendish, Francis Drake and John Hawkins. In the Drawing room (now the Gloriana Bar), the fireplace commemorates the moment of arrival of Queen Elizabeth I at the Elvetham at 5pm on 20thSeptember 1591 on the eve of the Historic Elvetham Entertainment. Within the carving it shows Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford greeting the queen on her arrival. In the Library (now the Morning Room), the fireplace portrays the Tudor sport of falconry which had been practiced within the Elvetham grounds for generations, part and parcel of the Elvetham Entertainment. The fire place in the first floor suite (now the Seymour Room) depicts Sir Walter Raleigh and the Earl of Essex standing either side of Queen Elizabeth I. The Earl of stayed at Elvetham as a guest of the Earl of Hertford shortly before his disgrace and execution by the queen in 1601.
The architectural ceramics at Elvetham, including the flooring for the Great Hall and corridors, were designed and made by John Marriot Blashfield, a leading manufacturer of decorative tiles and ceramics. The ornamental glass work was provided by Antonio Salviati, an Italian glass supplier who was famous for helping to restore the mosaics at St Mark’s Cathedral in Venice.
Harland and Fisher, a firm of fine art decorators from London, painted the ceilings in each principal room, which depicted scenes or characters from Elvetham’s illustrious history. Apart from the central roundels, the artists’ work was painstakingly wrought directly onto the plasterwork ceiling. The Drawing Room ceiling (now the Gloriana Bar) features Elizabethan characters from Sir Walter Scott’s novelKenilworth, a romance on three volumes first published in 1821. The paintings included the novel’s central protagonist Robert Dudley, 1 Earl of Leicester, who was related to Edward Seymour by marriage. The ceiling of the old Library (now the Morning Room) is divided into panels, each featuring portraits of famous poets, writers or law makers from the Elizabethan age. Each section is adorned with foliage and a quote on the nature of wisdom. The ceiling of the main staircase is crowned by a gilded sun, around which are set the signs of the zodiac, the four seasons and day and night. Canopy decorations like this were a Victorian interpretation of the medieval idea that the painted ceiling could reveal to mortals the glory of the heavens.
The wood-carved, Jacobean-style principal staircase was finished in 1869 by a master carpenter called Grinham, whos decendants still live in the area. The Gough-Calthorpe insignias of a boar and wold respectively, are depicted in wood and stone carvings throughout Elvetham.
In line with the Gothic Revival appetite for English folklore, Elvetham’s stained glass commemorates Hampshire men including William Wickham, chancellor of England under Edward III, Bishop of Winchester and founder of New College Oxford. Other panes in the house contain portraits of nobels who entertained Elizabeth I during her royal progresses through England in the 16th century. All the windows in the Great Hall were installed in 1861, apart from two. One dates from c.1911 and another, depicting Henry I seizing the crown from the altar at Winchester Cathedral, from 1982.
Elvethams Stables, located north east of the house, were designed by Teulon in a similar European Gothic style. The clock there used to be kept five minutes fast on Lord Calthorpe’s instruction, to give the coachman extra time to get to Fleet Railway Station. Horses were the focus of much of a Victorians aristocrat’s social activity, from polo to horse racing, hunting to carriage sport.
Upon the death of the 6th Lord Calthorpe, Elvetham was inherited by his eldest daughter, the Honourable Rachel Gough-Calthorpe and her husband Sir Fitzroy Hamilton Lloyd-Anstruther. The young family bought new life and energy to the estate, embarking in a programme of improvements to the house and grounds costing £38,000, £4.5 million in modern terms. Between 1911 and 1913 Teulon’s original library was reborn as the Morning Room, and a new Hall and Library were added to the east. The new Library reflected Teulon’s original style but provided a nod to the new custodians by featuring the armorial bearings of Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe either side of the fireplace.
The Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe’s added a richly decorated chapel within the house, which was used by the family and servants for their daily morning prayers. The access to the chapel was hidden away under the main grand staircase, and is still there to this day.
Victorian houses like Elvetham operated like small towns being as self-sufficient as possible, featuring fruit and vegetable gardens, facilities for brewing and supplied of meat and dairy from the estate. A butler, housekeeper, valet, cook, assorted maids and footmen – along with a number of gardeners and grooms – kept Elvetham running smoothly.
In its heyday, the warren of service rooms formed the well-oiled machine behind every public-facing family activity, including hunting, shooting, afternoon teas, dances and dinners. Elvetham Hall was comparable in scale and grandure to other great Victorian houses including Tyntesfield near Bristol (built in 1864 and now owned by the National Trust), and Highclere Castle (finished in 1842 and now known by television viewers as the home of ‘Downton Abbey’).
When war broke out in June 1914, many believed the hostilities would be over by Christmas. As the conflict dragged on, however, British country houses were pressed into military use, being used for billeting troops and hospitals for the wounded. Between 1916 and 1919, Elvetham was used as a makeshift hospital being used principally for ANZAC (Australian New Zealand Army Corps) and Canadian officer casualties.
The Great War saw many young men across the country being shipped away to fight on the western front in Europe with many of them losing their lives. The Elvetham was also tinged with this sadness with 17 men from the estate losing their lives in the fighting. In 1922 the Bishop of Winchester dedicated a memorial to the 17 men for their sacrifice, which still stands beside the St. Mary’s church in The Elvetham grounds.
Although not being requisitions during the Second World War, The Elvetham still played its part by hosting a company of Royal Engineers who briefly occupied the stable complex before departing for their D-Day landing mission in 1944. There is archaeological evidence that the soldiers trained within the grounds using live ordinances for battle. In the 1970s a live grenade was found in the stables complex during some maintenance work on the building. A further 7 names were added to the St Mary’s war memorial after the second war ended in 1945.
On 5th October 1945, a month after Japan’s formal surrender and end of the Second World War, a liberator aircraft, repatriating Czech residents from England to Prague, crashed on the Elvetham estate. The plane, carrying 23 passengers and crew, had taken off from Blackbush Aerodrome at nearby Hartfordbridge flats and within two miles, it crashed into a field of sugar beet, killing all on board the aircraft.
Upon the death of Lady Rachel Gough-Calthorpe, The Elvetham estate passed to her son Richard Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe. In 1953, Richard sold The Elvetham Manor along with 30 acres of its grounds to the chemical company ICI. Both ICI and a subsequent owner Lansing Bagnall – a forklift truck manufacturer- used the Manor as a training and conference centre. A conservatory modelled on Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace was added to the house in 1956 and a further wing was added in 1977 with stylings similar to Teulon’s original designs.
Elvetham’s fairy-tale castle exterior and grand rooms were put to good use from the 1960’s as the backdrop for a number of TV shows and films. Such as; Salt and Pepper (1967), Three Into Two Won’t Go (1968), A Severed Head (1970) and The Ruling Class (1972). In 1985 The Elvetham was the set for an episode of The Benny Hill Show and was used as a shoot location in the 1990 TV biopic The Secret Life of Ian Fleming.
Like Elvetham Manor, St Mary’s church has ancient origins and a history of radical alterations. A church was recorded in Elvetham in the Domesday Book of 1086 which most likely would have been a timber-framed, single chamber hall with a thatched roof. In 1488 the Bishop of Winchester recorded the admission of a new rector to the parish church of ‘Blessed Mary of Elvetham’, this would most likely have been a Norman building erected in c.1250. With no good building stone in this area of Hampshire, it is likely that this would have also been a timber construction. Several historic accounts record that this church was rebuilt in 1638 by William Seymour, the last of the Seymours to own Elvetham. The oldest church registers date back to 1648.
In 1840 the 3rd Lord Calthorpe spent £4,000 remodelling and enlarging the existing church, which occupies a prominent position ease of the house, in a neo-Norman style. It was designed by an architect called Henry Roberts, who had worked on Calthorpe family commissions in Birmingham. The completed church had a north transept, nave, sanctuary and a plain west spire.
In the 1960’s Elvetham’s vicar described ‘authentic 13th century fabric’ visible in three places in the church, including the west door and a trefoiled piscine with dog-tooth moulding which is in the south wall. The church also featured is a pre-Victorian crypt which is now empty of coffins. The foundations of the church are ancient with the walls of the sanctuary most likely dating back to the 13th or 14th century.
Along with new galleries and ceiling, Roberts refurnished the church. The pre-1840 box pews were dismantled and used to panel the walls, which featured the Calthorpe family coats of arms and memorials. The oldest tombstone in the church yard dates back to 1729, but before the buildings deconsecration in 1969 there were older busts in the church.
Teulon, who was principally a church architect, made his own mark at St Mary’s from 1859, adding a font and decorating Robert’s plain spire with angels and Gargoyles. He also installed flying buttresses, perhaps to make the church look more imposing.
The parishes of Elvetham and Hartley Wintney were combined some decades ago and St Mary’s closed for services in 1969. After it was deconsecrated, the interior was stripped and the building turned into a squash court by its then owners, the chemical company ICI, who used Elvetham as a conference and training centre. As the squash court was rarely used, a subsequent owner turned it into a workshop and store. The Matharu family, owners of Elvetham since 2019, plan to bring the church back into use as an event space.
The principal formal gardens at Elvetham lie to the south and south-east of the house, with further planting either side of the River Hart to the north-west. In the 1860’s the south-east front lawn led into a large terrace with crescent shaped beds, depicted in a watercolour painting which was submitted with Teulon’s architectural proposal.
West and north of the house, the River Hart was canalised at some point between 1839 and 1871. The Ordnance Survey map of 1871, showed a Victorian lake and a long avenue of Wellingtonias which had been planted in the 1860’s. These Welligntonias were intended to flank a grand carriageway linking the house with the main road (now the A30), however, in 1870 the land at the end of the end of the avenue was given away for the construction of a golf course and the Wellingtonia driveway was never finished.
There was no bridge over the river Hart between Elvetham and Hart Hartley Wintney until the last half of the 19th century. Until this time, the family, their visitors and their staff had to cross over a ford to reach the estate gates. Teulon designed a new bridge, along with a water tower to solve this problem. The water tower, which can still be seen today along the main entrance, stored filtered water from the River Hart and linked to a 10,000 gallon tank in its roof.
In 1889 an article in The Garden magazine recorded a variety of climbers on the walls of Elvetham Hall, as well as an avenue of Irish Yew and silver maple trees, now known as the Broad Walk. The kitchen and fruit garden were well tended to with a healthy supply of grapes, peaches, nectarines, figs and apricots, alongside a variety of English apples and raspberries. Orchids and other exotic plants were cultivated on the grounds by utilising a 60ft long greenhouse that ran alongside the fruit garden.
Between 1911 and 1912 the edge of what was once Queen Elizabeth I’s lake, was designed and planted out as an azalea garden, now known as our Hidden Garden, by the landscape architect William Goldring, commissioned by Rachel Gough-Clathorpe and her husband Sir Fitzroy Hamilton Lloyd-Anstruther. Golding also planted the terrace’s parterre beds with a heady, sweet smelling mix of wisteria, clemantis and geraniums, now known as our Formal Gardens Square. From here, steps led down to a smaller terrace with a central, yew hedged, rectangular pool and a series of rose beds, now known as our Sunken Garden. Roses had been a feature of Elvetham’s garden for some time, being highlighted in an edition of The Gardening World in 1894, alongside the properties magnolias. In 1970, it was claimed that the magnolia in the centre of the top terrace was the second largest in England. Rachel and Sir Fitzroy also made the addition of a tile-roofed summerhouse, located between the Formal Square Gardens and the Sunken Gardens.
Elvetham’s park and waterways have long been home to wildlife, both wild and captive. One of the estate’s yew trees was an aviary in the 19th century. The tree was encased in a huge cage and housed a variety of exotic birds. In 1920 a pair of Canadian Geese were introduced to the estate and by the 1980’s these had flourished into two large flocks with distinct territories around the lake. On a visit to Elvetham in the Early 1960’s Field Marshall Viscount Alanbrooke, the British military leader and ornithologist, recorded 43 different species of bird in one single day in the park. Today the surrounding areas are home to a population of deer which have been known to wander the grounds of The Elvetham on the grounds past the River Hart.
Our full edition of Elvetham: A History, containing all source material and in depth history of the Elvetham’s owners, complete with illustrations, is due to be finalised and published in 2021.