Heathfield Estate History

Heathfield House sits within the ancient parish of Christchurch on land forming part of the tithing of Winkton. At the time of Domesday, Winkton belonged to Waleran the huntsman. Two centuries later, John de Campeny held an estate in Winkton that was owned by Robert de Gundeville, whose ancestor had been sheriff of Hampshire in the time of Henry II. The manor of Winkton descended to Lady Alice West of Hinton Admiral who held the estate in the late 14th century. Her grandson Sir Reginald West became the 6th Baron De La Warr when his elder brother died at sea in 1416, and Winkton passed along with the barony to his descendant Thomas West, son of the 10th Baron De La Warr, a Privy Councillor to Queen Elizabeth. West mortgaged the manor and other estates in Christchurch to Sir John Berkeley and John Griffithe, and Berkeley as mortgagee sold the manors to John Moore in 1601. Edward Lewen, who fought with the Royalists during the Civil Wars, held Winkton Manor in the mid-17th century, and it was known subsequently as Winkton Lewen. He was deprived of his estates during the Interregnum, but Winkton was returned to Lewen after the restoration of the monarchy. The manor belonged to Jacob Perkins in 1722 and had passed to his grandson James Francis Perkins by the mid-18th century when he sold land at Winkton to Moses Sleat, a merchant of Christchurch. Sleat willed this land to his son John in 1793.

                Map of the tithings of Burton, Winkton and Hinton (Christchurch), 1796

A map of the Earl of Malmesbury’s neighbouring estate at Hinton Admiral surveyed in 1796 shows part of Winkton Common including the site where Heathfield House would be built amid the open ground on the north side of the Lyndhurst road above North Hinton Farm. The common land in the tithings of West Stow, Hurn Manor, Winkton and Hinton Admiral was enclosed under an Act of Parliament of 1802, and an 1805 map of the four tithings shows the newly enclosed fields on Winkton Common. At the time of enclosure, the land that would form the Heathfield estate was all agricultural and yet to be built upon. Plot No 508, future site of Heathfield House, and the small triangular plot No 509, where the estate lodge would be built, had been awarded to the aforementioned John Sleat. The site of Heathfield Farm is located in plot No 397 that belonged to James Jopp Esq. or Winkton House. On the west side of Sleat’s land was plot No 400, then belonging to Samuel Shute Esq. of the Isle of Wight, that would also be associated with Heathfield House.

               Liberty of West Stow, Hurn manor, Winckton and Hinton Admiral tithings enclosure map, 1805

During the following two decades, the various plots were consolidated into one property. First, James Jopp acquired plot No 400 from Samuel Shute in June 1805. Then in 1810, Jopp sold plots No 400 and No 397 to Thomas Morgan of Christchurch. On New Years Day 1817, Morgan filled in the gap by acquiring plot No 508 along with No 509, then still just “allotments of land”, from the Sleat family. It seems Morgan envisioned a multifunctional estate comprised of a country mansion with easy access to Christchurch supported by the profits from a new farming complex. Construction probably began shortly after the 1817 acquisition, and the farm buildings of Thomas Morgan are mentioned in a newspaper article of 1821. The mansion had been completed by the publication of Greenwood’s Hampshire county map in 1826. This map shows the mansion labelled as “Plainfield Cottage”, and the Plainfield name held sway for the next half century.

                    Map of the County of Southampton by C & J Greenwood, 1827

Thomas Morgan has proved difficult to trace, and nothing more is known of him than he styled himself Thomas Morgan of Christchurch Esq. No record has been uncovered of the means by which he funded the design and construction of the new estate nor of the architect and builder that he employed. He may, however, be the Thomas Morgan who was residing at Cowes in May 1829 when he was killed in a boating accident in Portsmouth Harbour. The death of Thomas Morgan of Cowes coincides with the first appearance in records of William Whately of Plainfield, Esq., who signed his name to a May 1829 lease on Goddens Croft Farm at South Bockhampton in Christchurch. William Whately was the son of the Rev. Joseph Whately of Nonsuch Park, Surrey. William’s younger brother Joseph had married a Hertfordshire heiress, Sarah Halsey. Joseph took her surname and assumed control of her property, employing William as their estate steward. William eventually acquired his own estate at Plainfield and relocated to Hampshire. No deed confirming the lease or sale of the Plainfield estate by Morgan or his executors to William Whately has been found, though in 1837, Whately was clearly in possession of the estate as he leased the land comprising the old enclosure plots 397, 400, 508 and 509 and a house and farmhouse “built on the land by Thomas Morgan” to Thomas Samuel Mott, a Hertfordshire attorney. This arrangement seems to have been short-lived as in 1838 Joseph Feast, a native of Milton near Christchurch, was listed in the church rate book for Winkton as the occupier of a house at Plainfield owned by William Whately. Whately himself was recorded next door at the farm where he’s described as both owner and occupier of a house, barn, stable, brick kiln, new barn and land at Plainfield.

                       Christchurch tithe map, 1843

Two years later in 1840, Christchurch was surveyed for the government’s Tithe Commissioners, and the mansion and its outbuildings are shown on the tithe map in plot 1326. The mansion appears to have been regularly square in shape at this time. Projecting east from the mansion was a range of service rooms and/or garden buildings with the stable/coach house block located at its eastern end. The complex of buildings forming Heathfield Farm occupied plot 1332 while immediately to the west of the farm was the walled garden in plot 1329. Historic England dates the lodge at Heathfield to the early 19th century, probably owing to its ‘cottage ornée’ style that was popular in the early 1800s, though no building is shown in plot 1461, the lodge’s present site. Though the tithe plots at Plainfield are labelled the area is not included in the tithe apportionment that would have described their individual use and ownership, presumably because the tithes for Winkton had already been extinguished through the enclosure process at the beginning of the 1800s.

William Whately died unmarried and childless in May 1840, and the Plainfield estate passed to his nephew, Thomas Plumer Halsey, M.P. He resided in Hertfordshire, so Plainfield was let or sold to Emma, Lady Bingham. Born into the Pleydell family of Whatcombe House at Winterbourne in Dorset, Emma was the widow of British Army Major General Sir George Ridout Bingham. The Binghams had been stationed at St Helena during Napoleon’s imprisonment on the island in the early 1820s (The Major was the commanding military officer there) then at the large British military installation at Cork. They retired to Weymouth in 1832, but Sir George died the following year. The 1841 census shows Lady Bingham residing at the mansion, and she remained there over the next three decades. She kept between six and seven staff throughout this period comprising a butler, housekeeper, lady’s and housemaids and kitchen staff. There were no footmen, however, so it seems entertaining wasn’t a priority.

The Heathfield name first appears in an 1859 county directory in which the mansion is referred to as “Heathfield Lodge”, though two years later, it was listed in the 1861 census as “Plainfield House” and in the next census it was “Plainfield Lodge”. Lady Bingham died in 1874, and the mansion was let to Dr George Thompson Gream and his wife Lady Emma Gooch. The couple had married in London the previous year and came down to Christchurch from Mayfair. Gream was a surgeon-accoucheur (specialising in childbirth) to the Queen Charlotte’s Lying-in-Hospital and a former lecturer on midwifery. Lady Emma was the widow of Sir Edward Sherlock Gooch, 7th Baronet of Benacre Hall in Suffolk. She was well-connected, and in April 1876, Queen Victoria’ eldest granddaughter, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, came to stay at “Heathfield Lodge”. The Greams spent just over five years in Hampshire before moving to the Sussex coast though their legacy was the permanent adoption of the Heathfield name.

The new residents and owners of the Heathfield estate were the Saye family. Evelyn Geoffrey Saye was the son of Frederick Richard Say(e), a society portrait painter who had commissions from Sir Robert Peel and Queen Victoria. The younger Saye was born in London in 1851 but grew up in Buckinghamshire until his father retired to Bournemouth in the early 1860s. He studied at St John’s College, Oxford obtaining a B.A. in 1874. The following year Evelyn married Anna Gertrude Wilson who came from a family of wealthy industrialists in the north of England. Her father Isaac Wilson was an ironmaster and manufacturer of earthenwares, and Anna grew up at Nunthorpe Hall near Middlesborough. The Sayes spent their first years together at Bournemouth but moved into the mansion just before the 1881 census was enumerated. Evelyn and Anna brought their three young children, Geoffrey Norman, Gwendoline, and Kenneth Saye to be raised at Heathfield Lodge, and the family of five are listed on the census along with Anna’s sister, Mrs Sarah Welsh, and six domestic servants including the butler, cook, housemaids and two nurses for the young children.

The Sayes’ home is portrayed two years later on the first large-scale ordnance survey plan published in 1883. This map shows a similar plan to the tithe period though with more detail provided and some small differences. The main entrance was on the north elevation via a portico, and there was another projecting element at the northwest corner of the mansion. The long, thin west-east connecting range doesn’t appear to have extended all the way to the stable/coach house block. At the western end of that block was what appears to be the beginnings of Magnolia Cottage. There were also various freestanding outbuildings, probably sheds and stores, to the north of the coach house. The grounds were well planted with mature trees, and there was a network of paths to the west and south of the mansion accessed via steps shown on its south elevation. The paths looped through the trees and around towards the large south lawn and the walled garden beside the farm buildings. There was a rectangular pattern of paths within the walled garden that are not present on later maps. The carriage drive swept along the western edge of the grounds to enter Lyndhurst Road opposite the old enclosure plot No 509, and this map is the first to show the estate lodge within that plot.

 Ordnance Survey Plan, 1883

The Saye family had grown with the births of another daughter, Dorothy, in 1883 and the couple’s youngest son, Lancelot, in 1894. The additions to their family may have prompted the Sayes to expand the mansion as well. It was extended to the north and west sweeping away the old entrance, which was moved to a porch extending from the centre of the west elevation, while a large two-storey bay window was added near the northwest corner. The crest above the doorway is the Saye Family crest.

Magnolia Cottage was also extended to the north and west so that it was attached to the one-storey connecting range, and a small extension was also added to the northeast corner of the stable/coach house block. These additions appear on the OS map published in 1898. The next OS map of 1909 has the same footprint for the house, cottage and outbuildings, though there are further details shown. The lower part of the mansion block was is shown to be the verandah along the south elevation with the hatched markings on the map indicating a glass structure. Evelyn Saye had also been extending his role and influence in the local community. He had become a churchwarden, magistrate and member of the Christchurch Board of Guardians who supervised poor relief in the district. He was elected to the Hampshire County Council in 1892 and served on the County Finance Committee while also representing the council on the governing bodies of the Bournemouth School for Boys and the Bournemouth High School.

                              Ordnance Survey Plan, 1896-98

                                 Ordnance Survey Plan, 1907-09

The UK government undertook a nationwide survey of land and property values in the 1910s known as the Valuation Office Survey. Evelyn Saye is listed as the owner of the Heathfield estate in the surveyor’s field book for Christchurch that includes details of the property as well as the first known description of the internal layout of the house. The land in the estate, including Heathfield Farm, totalled 99.177 acres so it had grown beyond the approximately seventy-five acres of enclosure plots first brought together in the 1810s. The mansion is described as a brick and slate detached residence. It contained three reception rooms, twelve bedrooms, and a kitchen and services in the half-basement. The outbuildings accommodated old and new style transport with three horse stalls, harness room and a coach house as well as a garage for motor cars. All were described as being in “fair condition”. The Sayes stayed on at Heathfield through the war years during which they lost their younger son, Lancelot Sayes, at the Battle of the Somme in July 1916. By 1920, Evelyn and Anna were both nearly seventy and in the market for a smaller residence, and they relocated to a house on the outskirts of Bournemouth that they called “Nunthorpe” after Anna’s childhood home.

The Sayes put the 99-acre Heathfield estate, including the mansion and farm, up for sale in 1920, and the sale particulars describe the mansion in great detail. The “old part” of the “substantially-built” residence of brick rendered with cement with part slate part tile roof had been “added to from time to time”, with the most recent addition being erected “about twenty years ago”. The old and new sections of the house comprised an entrance hall, three reception rooms, fifteen bed and dressing rooms, and day and night nurseries. The ground floor had an entrance porch with a coloured glass panel partition leading to a “lofty” entrance hall measuring 30 ft 6 in by 13 ft with a fire grate set in a marble mantelpiece and a small lobby with lavatory at its far end. Off the main hall were three reception rooms: a “pleasant” library measuring 22 by 19 ft with fitted book shelves and white marble mantelpiece, a 23 by 19 ft dining room, and a 32 by 17 ft drawing room with a “lofty” ceiling, steel register grate, fitted overmantel with mirrors, and casement windows in the bay that gave access to the pleasure gardens. The library and dining room had windows opening onto the long glass-covered verandah measuring 45 by 6 ft that overlooked the south lawns. The service areas were approached from the entrance hall and dining room suggesting the latter occupied the southeast corner of the house while the library was located in the southwest corner of the ground floor. Services were shut away from the principal ground floor rooms and included a butler’s pantry, linen closet, store room and W.C. The lower level accommodated a large kitchen with stone-flagged floor, scullery with bread oven, servant’s hall, china pantry, two larders, coal hole and cellarage.

                                        Heathfield sale plan, 1920

Two staircases led to the first floor including the main pinewood stair from the entrance hall that opened onto a large, square landing giving access to the family bedrooms. The “best” suite was comprised of a bedroom measuring 23 by 17 ft that had a pitch pine and marble mantel above the fireplace, and it communicated with a dressing room with fireplace and cupboard, a bathroom with linen cupboard, and a boudoir of 17 by 10 ft with a corner fireplace for the mistress of the house. There were two bedrooms measuring 22 by 12 ft 6 in that were connected by a shared dressing room and had access to a balcony above the verandah as well as three more bedrooms of smaller size. There’s no mention of another bathroom on this floor so it’s not clear where the rest of the family washed. Tucked away from the principal bedrooms was a housemaid’s pantry and separate W.C. On the second floor a “spacious” landing led to two bedrooms each measuring about 21 ft square with a shared dressing room, the day and night nurseries each measuring 21 by 17 ft, and a bathroom, closet and W.C. The top floor comprised three “good-sized” bedrooms and a box room and a large cistern room with “ample” storage space. These rooms can’t have been well-lit as the photographs in the sale particulars show just three small dormer windows set in the roof. The outbuildings adjoined the house and included a boot room, pump house, laundry, bicycle shed, wood house, store room timber shed, tool house, apple house, chicken house, barn and gardener’s shed. At the end of this range was the stable block and double coach house with harness and saddle rooms, and there was a hay loft and four servant’s rooms in the upper storey. The estate was approached by a “picturesque” carriage drive, with lawns, rhododendron hedges and ornamental fir and other trees on either side terminating with a carriage sweep in front of the residence. Six acres of “nicely” laid out pleasure gardens surrounded the house, and the one-acre walled kitchen garden sat in a secluded position at a “convenient” distance from the residence. Garden buildings included a potting shed, boiler house, and greenhouse. As well as the farming complex in the southeast corner of the estate, there were two cottages. The one-storey cottage known as “The Bungalow” was built of brick and clay-lump walls and comprised a sitting room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. The second “substantially built” cottage had two living rooms, kitchen and scullery downstairs and two bedrooms upstairs. Opposite the drive entrance was the “very pretty” thatched estate lodge. The estate had an orchard while the northwest part of the property was wooded and provided undulating walks and further pleasure grounds. At the northern end, there was a boat house and two large ponds, one with a small island, both fed by springs, and a stream affording boating and fishing. Between the residences and the ponds, there was approximately thirty-five acres each of pasture and arable land in the estate with seventeen acres of woodland.

             West and south elevations of Heathfield House and part of the outbuildings, 1920

                     Carriage drive and west elevation of Heathfield House, 1920

Though Heathfield was intended to be sold at auction in one lot, the Saye family retained the mansion and instead the farm was alienated from the estate at this time. With Evelyn and Anna Saye now in Bournemouth, Heathfield House was unoccupied during the first half of the 1920s, and in 1924 Evelyn sold a plot of land in the western corner of the estate, OS plot 134 as shown on the 1920 sale plan, to his eldest son Geoffrey on which he built Ytene Lodge (now Waverley House). Geoffrey was born at Bournemouth in 1876 and had been educated at Repton School and Trinity College, Oxford before training as a solicitor. After several years practising in London, he went out Bangkok to join the firm of Tilleke & Gibbins in 1903. Two years later, he married Muriel Ponsonby, daughter of a War Office official, at Singapore. They later returned to England and lived at Ytene Lodge during 1925-26. Geoffrey became a member of Bournemouth’s Parkstone Players and performed in several comedies and romantic light operas with the society over the following decade. The estate was offered for sale again in 1926 advertising three reception rooms, sixteen bedrooms, ample offices, stabling, lodge, and twenty-five acres of grounds, level pastureland and woodland.

             South elevation of Heathfield House and part of the outbuildings, 1926

It failed to sell a second time, and Geoffrey and Muriel moved into the mansion instead. They stayed there until the summer of 1935 when it was taken over by Miss Muriel Jane Butler and briefly turned into a school. Muriel was born at Crondall near Farnham and raised on a farm. She trained as a teacher and in 1925 went out to Gibraltar where she became acquainted with military and other expatriate families. In December 1935, she advertised the Heathfield Kindergarten and Preparatory School for girls and small boys and a home for children whose parents were abroad. The advert in The Monthly Army List described the premises as a “Georgian house facing south in [a] large old-fashioned garden” on the edge of the New Forest offering a “happy country life together with sound education”.

Evelyn Saye died in 1936 and Geoffrey inherited the Heathfield estate. He and Muriel had returned to Ytene Lodge, where Geoffrey died just three years later, and ownership of the estate passed to his widow. The 1939 Register, an emergency census taken at the outbreak of the Second World War, indicates that Muriel Saye had temporarily moved away from the estate. The register lists the occupants of “Heathfield School” as “principal” Muriel Butler, teacher Margaret Forrest, their resident cook Edith Foges, and seven boarding students. Gardener Ernest King appears to have been residing in Magnolia Cottage, while Ytene Lodge was occupied by James Lowe, manager of a paper pulping facility.

The next edition of the OS maps covering the Christchurch and Bransgore district was also surveyed in 1939 and shows changes had been made to most of the estate buildings in recent years. The one-story (with basement) range connecting the mansion and Magnolia Cottage, last shown in the photograph that accompanied the 1926 sale advert, had been removed entirely. The mansion had gained a two-story extension to the centre of the east elevation, visible in the 1940s photograph of Heathfield House, and a small pond had been added in the recently opened up space between the mansion and the cottage. The cottage was now clearly defined as a separate building though still attached to the old coach house, while the northeast extension to the coach house had been demolished.

                       Ordnance Survey Plan, 1939-46

                         South elevation of Heathfield House, 1940s

The war years brought more changes to the Heathfield estate. A military aerodrome was set up at Holmsley to the west of Heathfield, and the Air Ministry requisitioned Heathfield House for their use paying an annual rent of £175. Ytene Lodge was taken over by the Women’s Voluntary Service who set up a wooden hut on the grounds which they ran as a Services Club for the RAF and USAAF personnel stationed in the district. By 1944, Muriel Saye, who had now moved into the estate lodge, was thinking about dividing up and selling off what remained of the Heathfield estate.

Sale particulars were drawn up in October 1944 for the 64-acre “attractive” estate, and the sale plan shows the estate divided into three lots comprising (1) Heathfield House with its matured pleasure grounds, walled kitchen garden, garage, stables, cottage and other outbuildings and three fields to the northeast of the mansion, (2) the “charming” Ytene Lodge with its garage and other outbuildings and land lying to the southeast between the house and Lyndhurst Road, and (3) the farm land and woods between the two residences. The asking price for lots 1 and 3 were £3,500 and £3,300 respectively, while Ytene Lodge commanded a figure of £6,000, presumably as most of its land near Lyndhurst Road could be profitably developed with further housing.

The 1944 sale particulars include a full description of the layout of the house and outbuildings at this time allowing for comparison with the 1920s house. The outer lobby and entrance hall remained unchanged. The south-facing drawing room and morning room described in 1944 had access to the verandah so had taken the place of the old library and dining room. The old drawing room was now the west and north-facing dining room. In 1944, the ground floor service areas comprised the butler’s pantry, lavatory with basin and W.C., as well as the kitchen with range and independent boiler, larder, and scullery. In the basement, which had been converted to “meet the requirements of the boarding school”, were the servant's hall, the ablution room, six W.C.’s, a boiler room, general storeroom, and two fuel stores. There were still six bedrooms on the first floor, but the boudoir and dressing rooms had been replaced with a bathroom and lavatories accessible to all. The bedrooms facing south all had access to the balcony that ran the length of the house. The eight bedrooms and nurseries present on the second and attic floors in 1920 had been converted into eleven bedrooms with two additional bathrooms. The outbuildings comprised the double garage, four stall stables and a harness room, over which was a self-contained flat with four rooms and bathroom. There was the separate cottage of five rooms and a bathroom, and there were three detached stores and galvanised-iron roofed dog kennels. The walled kitchen garden with wall fruit, span-roof greenhouse and potting shed was located in the south-eastern corner of the lot.

            Sale plan, 1944

In May 1945, Flight Lieutenant Wilfred Hasseldine offered to purchase Heathfield House and seventeen acres of land from Mrs Saye for £2,800. He later increased his offer to £3,000 though this was still below the asking price reflecting the fact that the Air Ministry still hadn’t indicated when they would vacate the premises. Mrs Saye had already secured a windfall from the sale of Ytene Lodge, and there’s no indication she held out for a better offer on the mansion. Wilfred Hasseldine eventually purchased Heathfield House, and in 1950 he was living in the mansion with his wife Annie. Wilfred was born in Willesden in north London in 1914 and was the son of a building contractor. Just before the war, Wilfred was working Seward Farm at Newton Abbot in Devon, but he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve as a flight sergeant and was later promoted to flight lieutenant. He was mentioned in despatches in June 1945 but was released from service due to medical unfitness in October that year. Wilfred and Annie had married during the war in 1943.

The Hasseldines appear to have rented out various rooms in the house with their first tenants including another couple, Clifford and Betsy Mullin from Somerset, and various single persons. The electoral register for 1950 describes them all as living at Heathfield, though in 1952 two separate flats were listed, suggesting the Hasseldines were beginning to renovate and reconfigure the house. No plans for these changes survive, and it’s possible the Hasseldines decided to forego the official planning process for internal changes to the mansion. During the following years, four flats with different occupants were listed while the Hasseldines continued to reside in the mansion as well. Their tenants in the mid-1950s included the families of fellow R.A.F.V.S. Flight Lieutenant Roderick Armstrong and retired Metropolitan Police officer William Grieve.

No occupants were listed at the end of the 1950s, and it appears the Hasseldines cleared out the mansion so they could make further renovations to accommodate six different households. There’s no indication of subdivisions within Heathfield House on the 1961 OS map though it does show a small one-story extension had been added its northeast corner. Six flats were listed in the electoral registers from 1960 onwards. The Hasseldines initially occupied flat 4 before moving into Magnolia Cottage around 1961/62. The 1965 rate book for Christchurch lists Wilfred Hasseldine as the owner of Heathfield House, the cottage, and the “rooms over the former stables”. The Hasseldines also constructed another cottage within the walled garden sometime between 1965 and 1973, and the couple were living there when Wilfred died in March 1973. Four years later, Annie Hasseldine remarried, and Wilfred’s trustees sold off the cottage as a separate property.

                    Ordnance Survey Plan, Scale 1:2,500, 1961

Heathfield House doesn’t seem to have attracted many long-term residents, and every decade until the 2010s saw a different set of occupants. It entered a new phase in its history when Jackie and Mener Tsitsis acquired the Heathfield estate in 2014. They renovated the house and rented it as a luxury corporate and family getaway. The current owners acquired Heathfield Estate with Heathfield House, the Coach House and Magnolia Cottage in November 2020. Photos and videos of the estate are here