North Stoneham Park – a rich history that spans centuries

Set in the midst of a busy motorway network and bordering a number of thriving suburban communities lays an oasis of vast green spaces with a remarkable history that has remained largely undiscovered – even to those who live on its periphery.

North Stoneham Park is a substantial estate of some 120 acres that’s situated between Eastleigh and Southampton and will soon be home to a vibrant new community set in stunning landscaped grounds. Its parkland remains a truly breathtaking feature of this impressive setting and the history of its grounds and the deer park that spans centuries simply adds to its charm.

North Stoneham Park was originally a Deer Park

The story begins far back in time when, according to the Saxon land charter of AD932, King Athelstan gave the North Stoneham estate to thane Alfred, only for it to be transferred soon after to the New Minster at Winchester when it grew in scale considerably. Its large expanses of beautiful common pasture were diminished in the medieval period however, when they became enclosed within the new private estates that were taking shape on the land.

The estate was also home to a deer park, the likes of which often formed part of the medieval landscapes of the past. They provided pasture for deer and other animals, incorporating rabbit warrens, fishponds and woodlands for the pleasure of the aristocracy who aspired to own them to enhance their grandiose status. The earliest origins of North Stoneham Park’s former deer park date back as far as the Saxon age when routeways linked Stoneham Common with the town of Hamwic and the ‘west landing place’ on the nearby River Itchen.

One of the most enduring landscapes ever created in the region

By the time of Doomsday, settlements had begun to increase and continued to grow until the 14th century. A free warrant that entitled lords to hunt within their manors was granted by royal licence to the Abbot of Hyde – and North Stoneham’s magnificent deer park was judged the perfect place to hunt the stunning medieval landscape.

In 1545 the manor passed to Hampshire’s greatest landowner of the age, the Wriothesley earls of Southampton, who let the estate to farming tenants until new owner, the Willis Fleming family, dramatically revived its status in the 16th century. The family built a splendid mansion with 29 rooms, at least ten outbuildings and gardens with ponds and spectacular parkland that, two hundred years later, were redesigned by the renowned English landscape architect, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

 Capability Brown was the name behind England’s most distinctive estates. He made his mark on vast country mansions where he constructed elegant gardens, parklands, woodlands, lakes and serpentine rivers, which all flowed seamlessly to create enchanting grounds like those at North Stoneham that, with his touch, became one of the most enduring landscapes ever created in the region.

The Willis Flemings left the exquisite North Stoneham just before the end of the 19th century and, as its landscape’s allure began to fade, equestrians, golfers and grazing cattle took up residence on what was once one of the South’s most celebrated country estates.

Eco habitats and historic areas for everyone to enjoy

In the 21st century, North Stoneham Park remains an idyllic parkland and, thanks to a carefully considered design scheme and green infrastructure, its ecologically sensitive habitats and historic areas will remain protected and feature throughout the revived grounds.

In the 21st century, North Stoneham Park remains an idyllic parkland and, thanks to a carefully considered design scheme and green infrastructure, its ecologically sensitive habitats and historic areas will remain protected and feature throughout the revived grounds.

Indeed, the landscape’s most historically sensitive areas will play a leading role. The ancient parkland avenue that was once a serpentine carriage drive will serve as an imposing welcome to the centre of the Park along with other historic features, such as the walled garden and war memorial shrine that was built by John Willis Fleming to commemorate the lives of both his son and the other parishioners who died in the First World War.

As the story continues, these impressive features will serve as a testament to its rich heritage and, together with its beautiful landscape, will bring pleasure to new generations once more.

 

The story continues.