The First House
Leigh Park House, the seat of Sir George Thomas Staunton
The original Leigh Park House, which was demolished in the early 1850,s by William Stone, is best remembered as the home for nearly forty years of Sir George Thomas Staunton, Bart. who bought the estate in 1819, but the history of the house can be traced back a further fifty years.
Before the turn of the eighteenth century, the tything of Leigh was probably made up of scattered settlements, relying on Havant Thicket, a part of the Forest of Bere, for their survival. The settlement around Leigh House probably dates back to the Medieval period. The first mention of a house on the site of Leigh House dates from 1767, when Charles Webber purchased the revisionary rights to a messuage, barn and gateroom, together with nine acres of land from Frances Higgins of Middlesex. Higgins was a butcher and had inherited the property on the death of his great-grandfather, Frances Higgins (two Francis Higgins are recorded as being buried in Havant in 1736 and 1749), the first recorded person to live on this site.
Later the same year the property passed to Samuel Harrison of Chichester, and a document undated, but before 1792, refers "to the house newly erected by Samuel Harrison". This seems to confirm that Harrison had built the house that, after structural alterations by later owners, became the first Leigh House. A map dated between 1792 and 1800 shows clearly the house and other buildings, including the stable block and a bothy, which still survive this day. The buildings surviving at Leigh were built in a mellow yellow brick, but the house appears from prints to have been stuccoed. Also attached to the house is the walled garden, which Sir George Staunton had realigned by 1833. An earlier map of 1791 surveyed by Thomas Milne shows Leigh or Ley in the possession of Harrison and which interestingly shows the house and enclosed grounds. The map of 1792-1800 clearly shows the freeholders and copyholders of the land around Leigh House.
It must be remembered that up until April 1784, the land at Leigh was in the hands of the Bishop of Winchester who granted the lease of the Manor of Havant to a succession of Havant worthies. These included Richard Cotton of Warblington Castle (in 1553) and later the Moody family. In April 1784, a new lease was granted to Richard Bingham Newland who, as Lord of the Manor began to sell off parts of the Manor of Havant. In 1812, Newland conveyed the Manor of Havant to his brother-in-law, William Garrett, a future owner of the Leigh Estate.
From 1792, when Harrison surrendered Leigh House to Captain Thomas Lennox Frederick (1750-1800), the development of the property becomes somewhat clearer. Captain Thomas Lennox Frederick RN was the son of Sir Charles Frederick, the Surveyor-General of Ordnance and cousin of Admiral Sir John Frederick Bart. Though Frederick owned the property and held 20 acres of land, the main landholder was Joseph Franklin, who held the farm nearby and 220 acres of land, land that would eventually become part of the Leigh Park Estate.
It appears that Frederick let the property rather than live at Leigh himself and, prior to his death, the house was occupied by his tenant, John Allan. After the death of Captain Thomas Lennox Frederick in 1800, his widow Anne, who was left Leigh House in the will of her late husband, sold the house and nine acres of land surrounding the house to William Garrett (1762-1831) for the sum of £480. In 1802, Garrett had the house substantially rebuilt by the Southampton architect John Kent, and by 1807 Garrett had acquired all of Franklins land, Franklin having died in 1805. Together with other land purchases in the area, Garrett was turning Leigh into one of the biggest estates in the neighbourhood.
Garrett came from a well-known Portsmouth family. His father was a Portsmouth brewer and owner of the Belmont Estate at Bedhampton while his brother Vice-Admiral Henry Garrett was Governor of the military hospital at Haslar. Another brother, George who was knighted in 1820, inherited the family brewing business. William Garrett, together with his father Daniel (1737-1805) formed the "Loyal Portsmouth Garrison Company of Volunteer Infantry" (1798). William also played a big part as a Major in the formation of the "Loyal Havant Volunteers" (1803-1809).
It was Garrett who created the estate more or less as we know it today. He landscaped the grounds and park around the house, fenced off the park and extended it to 400 acres, and converted the farm to a ferme ornee (ornamental farm). By the time of the sale to Staunton, the estate had doubled to comprise 828 acres.
In May 1817, due to possibly family matters (his mother and unmarried sister had moved to Bath), Garrett negotiated the sale of Leigh Park to John Julius Angerstein (1735-1823). Angerstein, of Russian extraction, came to England when he was fifteen and was very influential in the establishment of Lloyds in London, becoming financial advisor to William Pitt. Legend has it that Angerstein was the natural son of either the Empress Anne of Russia (1693-1740) or Elizabeth Petrovna (1709-1762), the illegitimate daughter of Peter the Great. It is unclear, but is appears that Angerstein did move into Leigh Park House. In the October of 1817, he applied for permission to erect a gallery in St. Faiths Church, Havant, for himself and his family. By the summer of 1818 a contract had been signed for the purchase of Leigh Park for 47,350 pounds. Things began to go wrong when Angerstein brought a case against Garrett for not disclosing alleged dry rot. The case was heard in London in February 1819 and the charges dismissed, but Angerstein was not compelled to complete the purchase. Angerstein was an avid collector of art, and after his death in 1823 the government paid £57,000 for 58 of his pictures and a further £3,000 for the continued tenancy of his London home in Pall Mall, so that it could be opened as a public art gallery.This was the beginning of what became the National Gallery.
Unfortunately this left Garett with Leigh Park, and the estate was again put up for sale in 1819. This time, Garrett, with the aid of Chichester land agent and auctioneer, Mr Weller, had a booklet published of twenty "Letters addressed to William Garrett Esq., Relative to the state of Leigh House". This booklet, as well as asserting the sound condition of Leigh House, has letters from twenty worthy gentry and builders and local craftsmen of the area and shows the importance of Garrett and how well Leigh Park had developed.
At the end of July 1819, Sir George Staunton paid his first visit to Leigh Park and was conducted around the estate by William Garrett. The only disappointment that Staunton suffered was that the road from Havant to Horndean passed close to the front of the house. Staunton was duly impressed and by September 1819, agreements were signed for Staunton to become the next owner of the estate.
Staunton's connection with Leigh Park is well documented, suffice to say that over the next twenty years Staunton, with the help of the architect Lewis Vulliamy, enlarged the house and conservatories and added another library. He enhanced the grounds by adding follies and temples to the park and creating the lake known as Leigh Water. In 1827 he moved the Havant road a further two hundred yards east so that it ran past the Home Farm and not his front door. Under Staunton, Leigh Park became one of the finest estates in Hampshire, famed for its gardens and its park. Staunton added plants from China and other parts of the world to be grown in hot houses, conservatories and themed gardens.
Sir George Staunton died on 10th August 1859 and his English estates, including Leigh Park and his London Home, passed to his cousin, Captain Henry Cormick Lynch. Unfortunately Captain Lynch died at Leigh Park on the 22nd September, a mere six weeks after the death of Sir George. Though Captain Lynch died intestate, his son took the additional surname of Staunton by Royal Licence and inherited the estate. In 1860, George Lynch-Staunton sold the estate, by this time consisting of a thousand acres to William Henry Stone for the sum of £60,000.
William Stone moved to Leigh Park in 1861 and within seven years had demolished the Staunton mansion and erected a new house in the grounds of the park. All that was left of the old house was the library that Staunton built and a large conservatory which had been attached to the house. This conservatory was later used as a camelia house and was demolished in the 1930s.
The Second House
The second Leigh Park House from the lake, built in 1863
William Henry Stone bought Leigh Park at auction in October, 1860; he was then aged only 27 and not long out of Cambridge University. He was the son of William Stone of Dulwich Hill, London and a staunch supporter of the Liberal Party. After a settlement was agreed, Stone paid £60,000 for the estate. He moved to Leigh Park at the beginning of October, 1861.
When Stone first saw Leigh Park he had reservations. The idea of the farm so close to the house did not appeal and he thought the house could be placed at a more convenient site in the grounds. It also appears that Stone was no garden enthusiast, as a huge number of Stauntons garden features were later to disappear during his ownership.
Soon after buying the estate, Stone employed a former University acquaintance, Richard William Drew, to design a new house for him. The place chosen was the site of Staunton's Temple, the highest point of the estate, with extensive views over Leigh Water to the south. Richard Drew was only a year older than Stone, and Leigh Park must have been one of his first commissions. Not a prolific architect, Drews designs were used in other buildings in the Havant area that Stone was involved with, notably Havant Town Hall, built in 1868, and St. Faiths Church in Havant where Drew carried out work on the Tower and Chancel in 1874. Drew also designed Bedhampton School in 1868 where William Stone was an important benefactor.
The Gothic style mansion designed by Drew looked quite a lot larger than the Staunton house, but the dimensions were very similar, the principal rooms were the same size and also the number of bedrooms the same. Work started on the new mansion in early 1863. The bricks and tiles were made on site, the clay being dug from pits east of Hammonds Land Copse, and fired in two kilns which, until a few years ago could still be seen in situ. Other materials were brought in including chalk from Portsdown Hill and Portland stone. A building firm from Gosport, Rogers and Booth, carried out the work.
Whilst the new house was being built, Stone married Melicent, the daughter of Sir Arthur Helps of Vernon Hill House, Bishops Waltham, in 1864. Sir Arthur was noted as the Victorian age obiturist; writing obituaries for Prince Albert, Palmerston, Dickens and his personal friend Charles Kingsley amongst others. A year later in 1865, Stone was victorious in the election at Portsmouth, winning the seat easily as a Liberal after the retirement of Sir Frances Baring (afterwards Lord Northbrook).
The new house was completed at the end of 1865, and Stone and his relatively new bride moved in. The work reputable cost in the region of 20,000 pounds. After completion, the old mansion, which had stood on the site overlooking Front Lawn, was demolished. By 1868, a new entrance drive and North Lodge had been built opposite the Staunton Arms, and slowly the glories of Stauntons age almost disappeared. The new North Lodge, which still stands, clearly shows the style the new mansion took with its neo-Gothic style. In the General Election of 4th February 1874, Stone lost his seat, trailing third of five candidates. This marked a turning point for both Stone and Leigh Park.
The south entrance in 1874 when the house was put up for sale.
In October 1874, Stone decided to put Leigh Park up for sale. It would appear that a financial decision rather than losing his seat at the election was the reason. Stone, by acquiring other land (largely due to the enclosure of common land) had nearly doubled the acreage of the estate by the time of the sale in 1874. When it was sold it measured 1866 acres.
The estate and the new house, which was only nine years old at the time of the sale, were bought by Lt. General Sir Frederick Wellington John Fitzwygram, Bart. Sir Frederick was an expert on horses and veterinary matters, and had just returned from India, after inheriting the baronetcy on the death of his elder brother, the unmarried Sir Robert Fitzwygram. Sir Frederick, still a serving officer and later Inspector General of Cavalry and President of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons, was 51 and unmarried when he bought the Leigh Park estate. In 1882, he married Angela, the daughter of Thomas Nugent Vaughan and Countess Forbes and in 1884 retired from the army after over forty years service. Sir Frederick, who sat on the Havant Bench as a magistrate, was elected as Conservative MP in the 1884 election. He sat for the Fareham Borough of Hampshire and South Hants until his retirement in 1900.
Though there were no structural changes to the house during Sir Frederick's residency, he carried on the tradition of Sir George Staunton, upholding the values of the gardens and parkland after the destruction under William Stone. Sir Frederick, a well-respected figure in the neighbourhood, died aged 81, in December 1904. His only son, Frederick Loftus Fitzwygram, succeeded him in the Baronetcy, as well as at Leigh Park. This Sir Frederick was only twenty when he inherited Leigh Park and set out like his father, on a military career, joining the Scots Guards in 1906. Previous to this he had studied at Oxford University. He continued to live at Leigh Park with his mother, Lady Fitzwygram, and his younger sister, Angela.
Sir Frederick's mother and sister continued to live at Leigh Park after his death, Lady Fitzwygram's death in her 91st year in 1935, ending 53 years in residence. The following year, Angela Fitzwygram left Leigh Park and took up residence at appropriately named Leigh Heights at Hindhead in Surrey. She died in her 100th year in July 1984. All four members of the Fitzwygram family are buried in the churchyard of St. John the Baptist, Redhill, Rowlands Castle.