On our arrival at this historic estate, eighteen members of the Society were greeted by Jim Farrell, chairman of the Friends of Staunton Country Park and Steve Jones, a trustee and historian, who led the afternoon walk.
The park’s beautiful landscape has been greatly influenced over the centuries by the various owners but it was the vision of Sir George Staunton who had the greatest influence in creating this important example of a Regency pleasure garden between 1820 and 1859. Over those thirty-nine years he carried out extensive remodelling of the landscape, by enlarging the lake, planting specimen trees and shrubs and creating numerous follies, several of which still survive today.
After his death his heirs sold the estate to William Stone in 1861 who, over a period of ten, years built an impressive Victorian mansion on high ground overlooking the lake. The house and estate had several owners over the years including being used by the Royal Navy during the Second World War. With the house then falling into disrepair it was demolished in the 1960s by the then owners, Portsmouth City Council. Fortunately a footprint of the house is still visible, together with the undercroft, enabling the superb view you would have seen from the house to be retained.
Of interest to our group from Petersfield was that the one of the original follies, an obelisk, was known as the Canning Memorial. It was erected by George Staunton in 1832 to commemorate his close friend, Sir George Canning MP who, as the shortest lived Prime Minister, had died five years earlier. As an MP, Canning had represented Petersfield between 1812 and 1820. Regrettably this obelisk fell into disrepair and was demolished in the 1980s.
The park is now owned and maintained by Hampshire County Council. During the past five years impressive renovation has been carried out within the park’s landscape with the help of a generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Appropriately the tour ended with tea in the newly transformed Coach House, Stables and Old Dairy.