The Land on which the house named Ashford Chace stands was once part of the lands of Ashford Manor. This estate was variously owned by the Baker family in the eighteenth century and earlier, then in nineteenth century by Moses Hoper, the Vernon-Wentworths and the Hawker family. Originally Admiral Edward Hawker had come to live at the house known as Ashford Manor or Ashford Lodge, as the tenant of the Vernon Wentworths. Later his second wife, Lady Williams bought the house and estate. The present Ashford Chace and Ashford Manor/Lodge are two different houses. Please refer to the map for their locations.
Ashford Manor was much older. It was renamed Ashford Lodge by Moses Hoper when he owned it at the beginning of the nineteenth century. This was the house where the family of Admiral Edward Hawker lived from 1830. By 1911 Ashford Lodge had fallen into disrepair. The Ashford Chace house was not built until 1912. The full story can be found in the booklet ‘The Reputed Manor of Ashford’ by William Whiteman.
Rev. William Henry Hawker, son of Admiral Edward Hawker inherited Ashford Lodge in 1860. William Hawker was a clergyman and became the first vicar of Steep when it became a parish in its own right in 1868. He died in 1874. William Hawker’s three children died before him. His widow Eugenia lived at Ashford Lodge until her death in 1901 when the estate passed to granddaughter Dorothy in 1907.
New Farm and its buildings had been created further west in Ashford Lane.
Poet Edward Thomas and his family had been renting and living at Berryfield Cottage, near New Farm, on the Ashford estate from 1906. He was asked to leave in 1908, as there were plans to put the estate up for auction.
In 1911 a survey was done of the Ashford estate. It was sold at auction for £5,500 to brothers N.C. and A.S. Graham for occupation by their widowed brother in law, Aubyn Bernard Rochfort Trevor-Battye and his two daughters.
Aubyn Trevor-Battye (1855-1922)
Aubyn Trevor-Battye had been educated St Edward’s School Oxford, then gained a BA from Christ Church Oxford in 1887. He was a traveller, explorer, naturalist, artist and editor who had married Margaret, the Graham brother’s sister. The Trevor-Battyes lived at Chilbolton and had two daughters, but Margaret died of TB in 1906.
Trevor-Battye’s work & travels included:
• Expedition to Kolguyev islands, northern Russia 1894
• 1896 Joined expedition to Spitzbergen as zoologist
• 1899-1902 Joined Victoria County History project as its editor for natural history
• 1905 travels in South Africa and Zambesi
• 1906 Visiting zoos in Europe.
• 1908-9 Exploring Crete
• 1910 South Africa again
Trevor Battye had plans for a new house drawn up. It was built in 1912 further east in the lane on the natural plateau of New House Farm, where the sunshine and views were better. He named it Ashford Chace.
During the time he lived in Steep from 1912 onwards, Trevor-Battye was churchwarden at Steep church and a Steep Parish Councillor. There was a village controversy concerning his election as rural district councillor in May 1915. He was based in Steep for the last ten years of his life until his death in 1922, but he continued to travel.
By 1914 he was travelling again in India, Nepal, and Katmandu. From 1918 onwards, he wrote & attended meetings of National Geographical Society, but his health was deteriorating. He was advised to go abroad. He died in December 1922 at Queen Victoria Hospital, Las Palmas, Canary Islands. Trevor-Battye wrote five books and contributed to another. He also contributed to over 20 papers in ornithological and geographical journals.
Ashford Chace was designed by local architects Unsworth and Triggs of Petersfield and built in 1912. Wendy Bishop in a thesis on Inigo Triggs suggests both the house & gardens were designed by Triggs & that Unsworth contributed only conceptual ideas at the early stages. William Unsworth died in October 1912.
The house was influenced by Trevor-Battye’s Mediterranean travels. It had yellow stucco, a red tiled roof, balconies, Moorish arches and towers. It was built to generous 1912 standards. There were 18 foot polished oak beams for the floors. It had a hypocaust hot air heating system – in advance of its time. The specific requirements were:
• Every room should be very light.
• Every room (ex kitchen & larders) should have sun at some time of day.
• There must be no dark corner in any passage.
• Fullest possible outside views should be seen from every reception room by a person sitting in any part of it.
• The house should be capable of being run with the minimum of labour.
• No smell of cooking should ever be noticeable beyond the kitchen.
• Lavatories and the like should be shut away and not be near the main front door.
The house was built to draw every ray of sunshine. It had a long lounge hall running the length of the house. The axis of this was prolonged through the French windows at the western end from which there was a grass walk 100 yards long. This led to stone paving to the bottom of the garden and the remains of what had been Old Ashford Lodge.
The new house (Ashford Chace) was linked by a courtyard to the old farmhouse buildings which dated from 1689. The forecourt/courtyard was once the farmyard. The old buildings of what had been called New House Farm were pulled down except for the barn and outbuildings either side of it – which were retained as a gateway & for storage. This gave the entrance to the house the classic Arts and Crafts style favoured by Unsworth and Triggs.
William Frederick Unsworth 1851 – 1912
William Unsworth had been articled to Wilson and Wilcox of Bath in 1869. He had a keen interest in the architecture of the past, especially French Gothic. He had travelled extensively in France before starting his practice, with partner Edward John Dodgshun, in London in 1875. He won the contract for the Shakespeare theatre at Stratford upon Avon in 1876. From 1880 his base was in Sussex, then Petersfield, where he was in partnership with his son Gerald and Harry Inigo Triggs. He became a Fellow of RIBA from 1891. From 1882-1902 he exhibited as a watercolour and architectural painter of London – 12 times at Royal Academy and once at RBA. In 1905 Unsworth bought and developed Restalls in Church Road, Steep. He died in 1912.
Gerald Unsworth his son 1883 – 1946
Gerald Unsworth continued the practice after his father’s death. He designed houses at Durford Wood, Petersfield.
Harry Inigo Triggs (1876 – 1923)
Triggs was an English country house architect, he had been born in Chiswick in 1876. He was author of ‘Formal Gardens of England and Scotland’ 1901 – 2. He travelled in Italy & on the continent 1902-1908. He published ‘The Art of Garden Design in Italy’ 1908. He returned to England in 1908 & joined W.F. Unsworth and Son (architects) at their offices in Petersfield. He was a designer of formal gardens. According to a Triggs family relative, he was the partner in the company who designed the gardens for the houses. Triggs was an author specialising in historical research, the gardens of the past, and in town planning. His books influenced the Italian mode of the Arts and Crafts Style in England. He designed both the Steep and Petersfield War memorials. He died aged 47 years in Sicily in 1923. Triggs designed gardens for the following houses in Steep:
Adhurst St Mary, Ashford Chace, Garden Hill, Island House, Little Langleys, Restalls, Stonerwood Park
The Gardens of Ashford Chace
The house faced south. There was a formal terraced area near the house, with less formal areas as the land dropped down to the stream. A view southwards looked to the church spire and the South Downs. Woods bounded the eastern edge of the garden. To the west the terraces opened out to a wider landscape. In general the whole area was much more open & less wooded than it is today (2019).
In 1908 while on his honeymoon, Triggs had visited the gardens of the Generalife, near the Alhambra, in Spain. His designs for Ashford Chace and its gardens were influenced by these Spanish Moorish gardens. They were originally built 1273-1324 for the Sultan of Granada. Little of the original Generalife gardens now remain, as they were rebuilt 1931 – 1959. The Ashford Chace gardens were also influenced by the gardens of Italy.
Ashford Chace after the death of Trevor-Battye
Aubyn Trevor-Battye had died in Dec 1922 in Las Palmas, Canary Islands. The agricultural land around Ashford Chace had been let to a tenant farmer, who took little practical interest in the surrounding woodlands. After Trevor-Battye’s death, according to Mervyn Horder’s book, the Ashford Chace gardens had become woebegone by 1924. Watercress beds were derelict. There were rusty wire fruit bush enclosures, old motor tyres, broken glasshouses and overgrown orchards.
The Horder family
Mervyn Horder’s book, ‘The Little Genius’, states that Tommy’s daughter Joy told him that the father of one of her schoolfriends had died and the family had a house to sell near Petersfield. They drove down from London to see it on Easter Sunday 1924. They came down Stoner Road and first saw it through a gap in the trees. Other sources (DNB & W Whiteman) state that Ashford Chace was let to the Horders in 1920 and they later bought it.
On 1st May 1924 Tommy Horder paid £11,000 for 120 acres including the relatively new Ashford Chace house, garden and hangers. The draw for Tommy was the garden, spread out on the banks of the little valley with the stream running through it. What the Horders bought also included the remains of the Old Ashford Manor/Lodge house. The Horders were living at 141 Harley Street, Marylebone, West London, where Tommy also had his consulting rooms. It was a large four storeyed building with a basement. They continued to maintain the London house and started ‘weekending’ at Ashford Chace from July 1924.
The 1911 Census shows that at their London house, the Horders employed six servants – chauffeur, cook, parlourmaid, kitchenmaid, nurse & under nurse.
Lord Thomas Jeeves Horder (1871-1954)
Thomas Horder was born in 1871 at Shaftsbury, Dorset, the son of a draper. He won a scholarship to St Bartholomew’s Hospital London. In 1899 he became MD and member of Royal College of Physicians. He was house physician to Dr Samuel Gee at Barts., who specialised in observation and deduction at the bedside. From him he learned the art of medical diagnosis which became the mainspring of his medical career. A combination of bedside observation and special investigations in laboratory were foundations of his success.
In 1902 Horder married Geraldine Rose Doggett of Newnham Manor, Baldock, Herts. He began making a name for himself in the early C20. He was called to see Edward VII and made a correct diagnosis, where other doctors had failed. It seems to have been this which helped the future success of his career, as a number of others sought him out and became his private patients after this. He bought a Rolls Royce.
By 1921 Tommy Horder was senior physician at Barts. He was an outstanding clinician of his time. He was one of the personalities in medicine best known to the British public. His patients included Edward VII, Queen Alexandra, Princess Beatrice, George V, George VI, Edward VIII, Bonar Law, Ramsay Macdonald, Neville Chamberlain, Barbara Hutton (Woolworths heiress). Primo Carnera (prize fighter). Tommy Horder was knighted in 1918, became a baronet in 1923 and was made a peer in 1933. Tommy and Geraldine had two daughters (Dorothea Joy & Elizabeth Mary) and one son (Thomas Mervyn). In 1936 Tommy retired at the age of 65 years. He died on 13 August 1955 at Ashford Chace.
Tommy Horder was described as short and compact in build. He was 5 feet 6 inches tall. His chief qualities were described as sagacity, audacity and humanity. He gave the impression in consultation or committee of organised good sense.
The Horder Family and Their Weekend Trips to Ashford Chace
From 1912, for about ten years, the Horder family had a weekend/holiday house named The Gables at Hemsby in Norfolk. It took 6-7 hours to get there. With the further intensification of Tommy’s professional life, he needed a house nearer to London and he wanted a bigger garden. Hence the purchase of Ashford Chace in 1924.
Mervyn tells of the Horder family being chauffeur driven from London to Ashford Chace for the weekends in Tommy’s Rolls Royce. It was roomy and five people fitted in the back, but there was little luggage room. It was like a cathedral, Tommy could get into it with his top hat on. The hat had belonged to Prime Minister Bonar Law; Tommy had acquired it on Law’s death in 1924. The Horder family returned to London on Monday mornings with the car packed with flowers, foliage, fruit and vegetables. Mervyn was allowed to sit in the front with the chauffeur. Mervyn remembered the names of the chauffeurs as being: Nunn, Oliver, Anderson, Arnold, but the greatest was George E. Moult who served the family for 20 years.
Tommy’s Improvements to the Ashford Chace Gardens
The fruit and vegetable garden were moved to the other side of the road. A southward facing rock garden was built below the house. The stream was dammed to make the bog garden. New heated glasshouses for carnations and alpines were built. Tommy planned for a long season, with something to show in the garden from early spring to the end of the year. He built a bowling green in front of the south side of the house. The garden theatre was developed and performances were given there every year, each July/August until 1961. Autumn appealed to him. Maples and other Northern hemisphere trees were planted to add reds and oranges to the brown of the beeches. Shrubs and flowers were planted to the south of the house. The focal point of all was the rock garden – out of site of the house and in the sunniest part of the garden. There were basins and waterfalls, fed by a hose from the lake.
The Head Gardeners were successively: Cox, Carter, Spence and Stevens. There were 1 – 4 assistant gardeners.
Tommy’s children proved no good as unpaid gardeners. Weekend visitors – young doctors from Barts and Rhodes scholars from Oxford were pressed into service. Tommy left a book of written instructions for his gardeners each Monday morning when he returned to London. By late 1930s Tommy thought his garden had reached its highest pitch.
Geraldine Horder and the Children
The Horders had three children: Dorothea Joy b. 1905, Elizabeth Mary b. 1908 and Thomas Mervyn b. 1910. By 1930s both girls were married. Infant grandchildren came to visit the Horders at Ashford Chace. In 1940 Geraldine retired to Ashford Chace and prepared to receive a crowd of Portsmouth evacuees there. Geraldine ran both the Harley Street household and the one at Ashford Chace. She had two cocker spaniels at Ashford: Rollo and Rufus. She bathed and groomed them herself. Geraldine quarrelled on a point of doctrine with the local vicar. After that, she always went to Rogate church. (Vicars of Steep: 1922-30 E R Day, 1930-55 N M Livingstone). Geraldine died on 15th February 1954 aged 81 yrs and was buried in Steep churchyard.
Sharing Ashford Chace with Others
Steep Shakespeare Players held their annual productions at Ashford Chace each summer at least 1932 – 1961(?). There are frequent newspaper reports appear of the Ashford Chace gardens being opened to the public.
Charitable events and meetings were held there. The summer of 1933 was a particularly dry one. The water supplies of local farmers dried up. Tommy allowed them to come and take water from the stream which was fed by springs. There was a newspaper report of a steady procession of water carts to the stream at Ashford which was the only source of water for the farmers from ten miles about.
“LORD HORDER DIES AS PLAY GOES ON”
The above headline and following account appeared in the Portsmouth Evening News on 15th August 1955
“Lord Horder, the world famous physician, whose advice was sought by Kings and Commoners and who gave it freely to both, died at his home Ashford Chace, Petersfield, on Saturday night following a heart attack. He was 84.
Outside the house in Ashford’s lovely garden theatre, Steep Shakespeare Players were presenting “As You Like It”. They were not aware Lord Horder was dying, nor were they told until afterwards that his last wish had been for the show to go on.
Yesterday Lord Horder’s death was mourned in many Petersfield homes, for he was respected and admired by everyone.
Despite his greatness as a physician and as a man, he never lost the common touch – he made Petersfield his home and did much for the town and its people.
Lord Horder was a specialist in cancer and stomach and heart disease. He worked untiringly on behalf of cancer research….and was Chairman of the British Empire Cancer Campaign. He was a leading authority on arthritis and President of the Horder Centre for Arthritics working for the opening of ‘half way houses’ treatment centres combining home and hospital.
Perhaps his greatest love after doing good for people was his garden. Ashford Chace was one of the showpieces of Hampshire, and every year it was opened several times on behalf of charitable organisations.”
Inscription: In Loving Memory of THOMAS JEEVES 1st Baron Horder of Ashford 1871-1955 And of his wife Geraldine Rose 1872-1954 For here we have no continuing city, but seek one to come
Ashford Chace after the Death of Tommy Horder
The auction of the Ashford Chace estate by Knight, Frank and Rutley took place on 4 April 1957
The Petersfield Post of July 1958 reported:
“The house and estate of Ashford Chace, for over 30 years the home of the late royal physician Lord Horder, and extending over 300 acres of woodland, farmland and gardens, has been sold. The buyer is Stanley Longhurst, managing director of E Longhurst and Sons Ltd., the Epsom timber company. The estate is to be sold again in separate lots.”
William Whiteman’s notes state that the estate was sold to a company named Abbotts Leigh Ltd., but this may refer only to the house and gardens.
In November 1958, the Petersfield Post was again reporting:
“Many tenants of Lord Horder’s former Ashford estate bought their own properties when the estate was sold at auction.”
Lt Col. Gilbert Phipps bought the Old Ashford Lodge buildings. The Garden Gallery building was reconstructed into a new house, now called Old Ashford Manor. This house was later occupied in 1970s by businessman and diamond merchant, Jack Abrahams.
At some point the hangers were taken over and are now managed by Hampshire Countryside.
Robert Wellington became the freeholder of Ashford Chace. He lived permanently at The Gatehouse. The house was converted to six apartments and Robert managed their leaseholds. Alec Libbick, architect, was Robert Wellington’s partner. He lived mostly in London but came to Ashford Chace at weekends. He designed the conversion of the house to apartments.
Robert eventually sold the freehold to him. Robert Wellington died in 1990.
Alec Libbick continued to manage the property, he has since died.
From at least 1999 some of the occupants of the apartments bought the freehold of their own properties. In 2004 Chris and Mo Burton, then owners of the ground floor east apartment, were instrumental in the forming of a company to manage the house and estate.
Mervyn Horder (1910-1997) and the Ashford Chace Studio
Mervyn was the son of Tommy and Geraldine. He was educated at Winchester and Trinity College, Cambridge. He became Second Baron Horder in 1955. He was chairman of Duckworth and Co. publishers 1948-1970. He was also a composer, pianist, singer, organist, author, airman and cyclist. He was sometimes resident at Steep. In 1958 he commissioned a studio to be built in the grounds of Ashford Chace. It was designed by architect Ted Cullinan, who was his nephew, the son of Tommy’s daughter Joy. Ted Cullinan was a notable architect who also designed the Downland Gridshell building at The Weald & Downland Museum, West Dean.
The Baron Horder title ceased with the death of Mervyn in 1997. After Mervyn died, Pat and Maudie Hunt lived for a number of years at The Studio. He was a 1960s/70s photographer and she was a former model. Despite being a modern building of some architectural significance, the Studio was not listed. It was demolished when Hemlock Hall, later The Waterhouse, was built in 2008. This house was designed by The Classic Architecture Company. Mr & Mrs Avery Duff were resident at The Waterhouse in 2014.
Find My Past:
England and Wales Deaths 1837-2007
British Newspaper Archive
– The Sketch 3 Oct 1894
– Hampshire Telegraph 8 July 1931
– Lincolnshire Echo 9 Sept 1933
– Portsmouth Evening News 15 Aug 1955
Dictionary of National Biography
Ashford Chace and Ashford Manor:
Studio Magazine 1913 – print of Ashford Chace
Country Life Magazine 18 Dec 1920
The Reputed Manor of Ashford, Steep by William Whiteman Petersfield Paper No. 8 pub. 1987 Petersfield Area Historical Society
Petersfield Post Nostalgia article: ‘Arts and Crafts architects were based in Petersfield’ September 2017
Steep Buildings and Monuments by Tony Struthers Steep Parish Plan booklet 2012 – details of Ashford Chace and Old Ashford Manor
The Little Genius by Mervyn Horder
A Journey in My Head by Geoffrey Crump
Unsworth and Triggs:
Dictionary of Irish Architects 1720 – 1940 (W F Unsworth)
theatre-architecture.eu (Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatre)
publicsculpturesofsussex.co.uk (Unsworth) Public Sculptures of Sussex database
Architects and Buildings by Mary Ray – article in Petersfield Area Historical Bulletin Spring 1992
Edwardian Steep by David Jeffery – article in Petersfield Area Historical Bulletin Autumn 2011
David Jeffery – Presentation & talk on Lord Tommy Horder for Petersfield Museum Study Event 24 Nov 2014
Drawing of ‘Tommy’ by Flora Twort
Photographs of Ashford Chace and Steep Shakespeare Players
The Independent 10 July 1997 – obituary of Mervyn Horder
Piers Burton-Page – Presentation & talk on Mervyn Horder for Petersfield Museum Study Event 24 Nov 2014
Chris and Mo Burton, residents of Ashford Chace:
With many thanks to Mo Burton for the loan of their copy of the Country Homes Magazine Dec 1920 and for much other information provided by both Mo and Chris Burton on the more recent history of the house.
The Country House Company – 2013 Sales particulars of 1 & 2 Ashford Chace
Edward Cullinan Architects: cullinanstudio.com – details of The Studio, Ashford Chace and The Weald & Downland Museum Gridshell Building
Details of the Generalife garden:
Hampshire Gardens Trust News: hgt.org.uk – article on Inigo Triggs by Wendy Bishop Oct 2014
MA (?) Thesis Bristol University by Wendy Bishop on Inigo Triggs and his Gardens
Gardens For Small Country Houses by Gertrude Jekyll and Laurence Weaver – details of Little Boarhunt house and gardens created by Inigo Triggs
This article ©FrancesBox2019 and to its various sources.