In the foothills of the chalk Downs, just east of Winchester, is the house and park of Hinton Ampner, which is now owned by the National Trust. We visited on a warm Saturday in May, as we had heard that the garden was especially beautiful this year.
The Manor of Hinton Ampner was mentioned in the Domesday Book, when it belonged to the Bishop of Winchester. Over the centuries, it has also been owned by the Convent and Priory of St Swithun`s , Winchester ( dissolved by Henry VIII) and by the Stukeley, Stowell and Dutton families. The last Lord Sherborne, Ralph Dutton, bequeathed the current House and Gardens to the National Trust when he died in 1986.
As we approached the house, along a narrow driveway, bright sunlight had sent sheep into the shade of fine old trees in the landscaped park.
Through a gate in a high, red bricked wall, we entered the old kitchen garden. The tower of the estate church could be seen behind the glasshouses.
The rooftops of Hinton Ampner House were half hidden.
Wigwams promised support for young bean plants, sheltered by espaliered fruit trees.
The old wall sheltered lush herbaceous borders. Bee-attracting plants in the walled garden are beautiful in their own right, but also attract the pollinators that fruit and vegetables need.
Temptation at the plant stall.
.......and a vivid orange honeysuckle on the gable end of the tea room.
Lupins, Catnip, Lavender and grasses......
Foxglove and aquilegia. It was good to see native wildflowers amongst the garden cultivars.
A stunning show of iris flags.....
....and delphiniums in every shade of blue.
Soft fruits, well watered and greening into growth.
Broad beans and lettuce. The visitors` tearoom and restaurant uses as much home grown produce as possible.
....a walk through a walled pathway, scented with flowers, and then our first view of the house.
The present Hinton Ampner House was largely rebuilt and restored after a devastating house fire in 1960. The earlier Georgian house had previously been changed dramatically by its Victorian owners. Ralph Dutton inherited it from his parents as a large, forbidding house in the Victorian Gothic style. After the fire, Dutton decided to rebuild in the Georgian style, and the rest of his life was spent collecting furniture, paintings and objets d`art which reflected the restored Neo Classical interior of the house.
Ralph Dutton was an art critic and an author. He wrote books about the country houses and estates of Britain. He remained unmarried and was the last in his line. On his death, Hinton Ampner became the property of the National Trust , so that his historic estate could be preserved and enjoyed long into the future.
At the end of a long grass avenue, between high yew hedges, was a view across the park. This field was, in the English Civil War between the Royalists of King Charles I and the Roundhead Parliamentarians of Oliver Cromwell, the site of the Battle of Cheriton. Cheriton is a nearby village. On 29th March, 1644, the Parliamentarians won a decisive battle on this land.
A ram`s head on a garden urn.....
...and shade in the Magnolia Walk.
The Church of All Saints....
Estate cottages in traditional red brick.
The church was heavily restored in Victorian times, but still remains on the Saxon, pre Norman Conquest, plan.
The wooden belfry.....
...the gate into the churchyard...
...and looking back, a view of the main house, just two minutes walk away.
Older, simple stained glass.......
....while the windows behind the altar are modern, colourful and dramatic.
The tombs of the old families of Hinton Ampner are in the vaults beneath the church. This Stewkely tomb dates from 1692 and is surrounded by contemporary terracotta tiles with a fluer de lys motif.
Ralph Dutton, the last of the old families and the restorer of Hinton Ampner, rests in the family vaults.
Traditional flint walls, which are a common feature of churches in Hampshire. The flints will have been collected from fields of the chalk downland of the Hampshire Basin.
We walked around the shaded old graveyard, where estate workers and villagers lie at rest, before crossing the lawns in front of the church. It was time to explore the gardens that Ralph Dutton planned and grew around his elegant neo-Georgian House.