Category Archives: Royals

Cornish Excursion…


Forgive me for digressing from the brief… We have quite a lot of connection with Cornwall, but our holiday a month back has stubbornly stayed ‘in the system’ and won’t let us get back to normal just yet…

We love Hampshire but we have felt the pining for all things Cornish since our return. Mid Cornwall to be precise. Padstow is still pretty – seems a bit ‘serious’ now and rather more crowded than I remember it 20 years ago, but the beaches around there are wonderful and largely unspoilt. (The A30 road has improved too, although we now miss the last windy part of the route). We had booked a week away early September back to an area we know well – St Merryn.

My Wife’s family used to have small cottage in Porthcothan which had been in the
family for over 50 years. Many happy memories which I latterly was able to join in
the experience. Just over 15 years ago, with those grandchildren growing up, it was suggested the sale of the house could help us all on the property ladder… It was such
a tough decision for them to make, although probably was the sensible one, (for the
time we could actually make to get down there), and the split was painful. It took several years for us to muster the ‘courage’ to go back and visit. We went back 9 years ago,
and after quite a thing for North Devon, we decided it was time to visit again.

The other difference this time was we have a child! Holidays are a completley different thing with a 3 year old… We dont really have the rest bit. Having said that, he turned out to enjoy it as much as us and this maybe hepled make the holiday memorable and more relaxing than other ones. We didn’t have the best weather, but it wasn’t the washout it threatened to be either.

Porthcothan Beach at low tide © Nigel Smith

There were a few obligatory trips to Porthcothan, but not out of loyalty. Its a real gem of a beach. The tidal changes make it a varied experience every time.

With the weather a bit iffy early on, we thought we’d take a look at Restormal Castle. This was a bit hit with the little one, (hence made it easier for us). The castle wasn’t built for defence, (although it was the setting for a seige in the Enlish Civil War), but the remains are very extensive to wander inside, and the setting in a valley must be even better on a sunny day!

We thought we may have to go to the Eden project if it the weather didn’t improve, but after Tuesday we never needed the wet weather option. We could have even seen Maddie Moate who it turned out was doing a show down there at the same time…

St. Winnow © Nigel Smith

I then saw on the map what looked an interesting old church by the River Fowey, which wasn’t too further on. The place was called St Winnow. The whole area was heavily pro Royalist in the English Civil War, and the soon to be executed King Charles I showed his gratitude to the people with a ‘painted letter’ which is on display in an alcolve. The church had some lovely features (including the bell ropes) and a story of a recast bell. From the graveyard we made it down to the shoreline to the river.

The Camel Trail

Another success was our cycle ride along the Camel Trail, along the old railway line from Padstow. It was our wedding Anniversary so maybe we shoud have got a Tandem! It was easy to cycle with lots of places to stop and enjoy the estuary. We went all the way to Camelford, (and back), which was a surprise to us. We’ll do that again. It had its surreal moments… A couple having a blazing row during a high speed cycle was something I’ll remember – I hope they sorted it out.

One day, my Wife kindly let me have an afternoon to go off walking. It was serene. I made it to Stepper Point  another part of the South West Coast Path completed, (although there is still about 590 to do…. Its a start).  Alas, There was no time to do any watercolour painting, but I really appreciated the space and beauty.

One of our last days we had some bright weather. We attempted a little family walk along Constantine Bay, towards Booby’s Bay and Mother Ivey’s Bay. A favourite haunt of The Cameron’s and Thatchers, but dont let that put you off! Some glorious stretches of sand there. Its funny to think we hadn’t really ventured beyond Constantine Bay much before on our holidays. (Porthcothan ticked the boxes). Even now as I write this I remember the light. St Ives, further down the coast, is famed for its light, but maybe as we had seen some cloudy moments I appreciated it more.

Boobys Bay – Photo by Nigel Smith ©
Mother Ivey’s Bay towards the old lifeboat station © Nigel Smith
The other direction  – Mother Ivey’s Bay © Nigel Smith

Just a little word on where we were staying. Our holiday home was on an old airbase. Which I didn’t get initially. Some of the original buildings were still around from the war. R.N.A.S. St Merryn was was home to H.MS. Vulture. Just starting a placement in the aviation industry, it was a bit of a busman’s holiday. I traced where the runways were on a farm, and looked around some of the old structures, but some you couldn’t get to. The photo below shows the mix of the old and new uses.


We popped into Padstow a couple of times over the week for supplies, as you do. On our last day it was cloudy again, but I caught a great moment looking over the estuary to Rock. Over the week the number of visitors to Padstow seemed to lesson and made it it much more enjoyable experience.

Padstow Toward’s Rock © Nigel Smith

Our links to the West Country are strong, but on coming home from Cornwall this time,  this trip has lingered long in the memory, especially when I was back at my desk!



Kempshott House, in passing


I Should have gone back earlier, but on a glorious Sunday evening out for a cycle, I decided to look in to see whats becoming to the site of Kempshott House.

Also, as hearing about the Canadian 150th Anniversary yesterday, maybe it reminded me about the former Governor who had lived there in the late 18th Century when he retired.

So there is a lot of development carrying on around the Beggerwood area anyway, and this tract next to the golf course is part of that. When I first visited the site, you could wander on the site of old factory units that had been cleared, and by the time of my last blog the site was closed off. The pictures beneath show the same spot, 2 years apart.

Site of Kempsott House
Comparing O.S. Maps of 1950’s and today
My first visit and now… A shiny new estate.

The houses are up and people have moved in. I just feel a tinge of sadness most people living there will have no idea what their houses have been built over. Please see my previous blog for a fuller history, but just to summerize for any newcomers, Kempshott Manor was an  estate The Prince Regent, Later George IV, (1762 – 1830), was very fond of, and he could conduct his ‘affairs’ in relative privacy. The house was occupied by several prestigous owners through the years, but by the early 20th century upkeep was expensive, and the property was divided up, and eventually became a grain store. The building of the M3 didn’t help matters as it split through the grounds, but by then it’s prestige was faded.

Anyway, whilst I’m there, I want to take one more look at some of the old house outbuildings which still exist. The M3 cuts through the grounds, but footbridge takes you over the motorway. The most prominent building left are the old Stables.

Now offices, the stables are the best surviving reminder of Kempshott House
The track beside the wall
The gate was open, so I peered inside to the remains of a walled garden
Fading memories

If you carried on walking by the wall it opens out into what would have been the parkland. It lookes lovely on an evening like tonight. Back across the bridge, on the way back, I glanced through what would been the gardens behind the house, and I can see a structure. I can’t get near it this side, but I go back onto the new estate to see if I can find some better access.

I’m pretty sure this is the site of the house.

The fencing around the edge of the new development suggests to me sadly it’s temporary and they will shoe horn some more houses at a later date. But there is gap (where the white car is parked on the right), where I see something hidden away, and I just wonder if its the last remains of the house, or an outbuilding. Ok, so Its not a wonderful example of archictecture, but it could be our last visable piece of the old house left!


I have said before, Its a pity not more has been done to make residents aware of their local history. Land use changes, but I find it dissapointing that no one would have any idea of of the past unless they do some digging. Examples I have seen include The detailed Kempshott Manor site or the Lost Heritage site.

I don’t have to swipe at the new builds there. Judging by the cars, these properties are a desirable location, but I wish Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council would make more effort to raise awareness to highlight the history! They could have at least made some attempt with the road naming, if not a plaque. The list of owners of Kempshott House, have played a part in wider history beyong Basingstoke and to have it recorded would benefit the town.

Kingsclere… Ah now it makes sense!

King John out hunting

For the past 7 years, my journey to work has taken me through the village of Kingsclere in North Hampshire. With its stunning example of a Norman church, a village centre of tidy streets full of examples of 16th – 18th Century houses, it feels an historic place, that may have had held some importance in the past.

To the south on the downs, are the stables which have bred champion racehorses, and as you drive over White Hill the connection with racing is clear to see with the gallops.
I have often wondered about the name Kingsclere, (as also Highclere & Burghclere are near by). ‘Clere’ often refers to a clearing but the ‘King’ part was intriguing.

Kingsclere montage

Ok… so maybe it’s not real shock to find out, that several Kings have been associated with the area, most notably King John, (r.1199 – 1216), who had a hunting lodge up on the slopes above the Village. While we’re in the solving mood, Clere relates to to ‘Clere Manor’ a Norman ancestral estate in the area. Keith Briggs in the Journal of the English Place-Name Society has much more detail on this.

About 2 years ago, I was researching the ancient Royal Forests of Hampshire, and there was one called ‘Freemantle’ which as far as I could tell was in this region. I remembered from an earlier walk near White Hill, a farm called ‘Freemantle’ we walked by, on the edge of North Oakley. These Royal Forests of the Norman period, like the New Forest, were a mixture of woodland and open spaces with hunting lodges for the Kings party to use. I guess the hunting party of a King was pretty free to roam where they wanted, so although there were inclosures, the boundaries were a bit fluid. I think there is a further blog for ‘Freemantle’ and the Royal forests to be written here…

So as normal, my first port of call was an O.S. map, and then check some historic examples online – National Library of Scotland’s database is a great one to cross reference. Sure enough, on the old maps, it says “Supposed site of King Johns House” marked close where the Hannington Radio mast is today. On later editions this seems to have been removed. From excavations, almost no building remains has been discovered there, but this site that has been rebuilt  and used several times, now with its transmitter station, and a resevoir. (Being on high ground there is also evidence of prehistoric activity, so it shouldn’t be a surprise this spot could have been prefered by King John).

The slopes of White Hill and by the Hannigton Radio mast, the site of King Johns Lodge?

OS 6 inch series 1888-1913

Where there is (literal) concrete evidence though is Johns Father, Henry II (r. 1154 -1159) who had earlier connections with the Kingsclere area… He is know to have developed a residence at nearby Tidgrove Manor. (There is even evidence of his wine order from 1176!). The remains of this house have been excavated and researched by  archaeologists from University of Southampton & The Kingsclere Heritage Asociation in recent years.  So we can speculate that John built the other property nearer Kingsclere as a lodge as he enjoyed hunting in the area and visiting so much. He has a Castle near Odiham too.

As for other Kings, In the 13th Century, John’s son Henry III, (r.1216 – 1272), improved and enlarged Tidgrove, which was being called “Freemantle” by this time, and his son Edward I kept ties, but with the passing of time they were less inclined to visit as other matters of state and rebellions took their attention! The records show The lands of Freemantle were still shown to bepart of the Crown Estate at the time of Queen Elizabeth I, but the land was held by Trustee’s before Lord Cottington (1579 – 1652) acquired the land, ideally placed between his two large estates of Hanworth and Tisbury near Salisbury.
Today its ‘Cottington’s Hill’ that can be seen clearly marked on O.S, maps.

Kingsclere hasn’t really changed that much. Its grown a little with time, has a by-pass and is pleasant to wander around if you have some spare time. But the best connection to its royal heritage today would be a walk along from White Hill to Cannon Heath Down. Theres a good chance you’ll catch the race horses training. Afterall its ‘the sport of Kings’.

If you want to read more on Tidgrove’s and Freemantle’s history see here.

Recent excavations near Tidgrove by Southampton University


Kempshott Park, revisited…

Site of Kempshott House, June 2015. The debris visable is not the original buidling- that is 40 years of factories, tipping and building materials for the new housing

Today I have returned to the site of Kempshott House and Park, almost 2 years since my original post. Things are changing fast. It is now fenced off as a building site and It won’t be long before houses will be being built. Last time I was there it was a a bit of a sorry state – a known tipping site and used by travellers from time to time, so I expect the residents will be happy to see it cleaned up. I still feel sad however this piece of history will be covered over and lost.

A Manor for centuries, a favourite country retreat for a Prince of Wales, visted by Jane Austen who lived nearby, and the home to a founding father of Canada… Just some of the history connected with Kempshott. The house fell into gradual decline, and was later divided up and even become a grain store, and land was sold off to the golf course. The arrival of the M3 motorway didn’t help, but it was demolished later and factories were built on the site. A sad end to its residence.

...When it was like this!
Kempshott House

I spoke to a family out on a sunday bike ride who knew nothing of its past, (but to be fair why should they?) I wish for more people to feel they can connect to the past, not in a nostalgic way, but to be aware of the changes through time and maybe
add a sense of history to the place they live.

For a detalied history of Kempshot park, please look at by Christopher Golding for a thorough researched website charting the long history…

Kempshott House, Lost and soon forgotten?

by GF Prosser
Kempshott House by G.F Prosser
Comparing O.S. Maps of 1950's and today
Comparing O.S. Maps of 1950’s and today

Most people around Basingstoke will be aware of the ‘Local Plan’ which will effect us in different ways in the not too distant future.  One of the sites destined for new housing has a history surprisingly few seem to know about these days, especially us “newcomers”. I have been to the site of Kempshott House to explore a couple of times and just this last month I found out there was a local talk on the House. Relaying this information to my friends, none of them had seemed to have heard of the house, which  is a real pity.

I had seen from old Ordnance Survey maps a house was marked, so I have been over to the site a couple of weekends to explore what become of Kempshott House, and see if any of it was still visible.

There are several articles about Kempshott House / Manor / Park which can be read online and have much more detail than I intend to cover here, and there some great old photos you can see of the property and its interiors. My real motivation is to encourage people to visit the site before its gets lost forever. It will probably take you just around an hour to retrace the site and I come away understanding its location.

Basingstoke Golf Club currently preserves part of the landscape of Kempshott Park which in different guises, has been owned by Lords, has been the country residence of a Prince of Wales, and one of the founding fathers of Canada, (and oh yeah, Jane Austen was know to visit from time to time…)  It’s slow decline has mirrored many estates post war, as the money run out and upkeep such places spiraled. The coming of the M3 motorway helped its demise further. I always thought it was the building of the motorway that demolished the house, but at the recent talk on the subject I discovered this was not the case! It didn’t really help preserve it though with the land being split in two…

So at this moment in time you can stand on the site of the house – er, but be careful… if you don’t mind the fly tipping and debris of old factories pulled down around, so take care!  This is a bit sad to see when you have a knowledge of whats been lost. Around the fringes there are supposed to be some traces of the steps –  but I couldn’t see any easily, and I’m not encouraging you to trespass or endanger yourselves in the hunt.

Sadly Its come to this...
Sadly Its come to this…
...When it was like this!
…When it was like this!

But bear with it… Its not all doom and still worth persevering. The second part gives you a much better experience of what it was like if you just take the path, with the current golf course on your right. You cross the motorway via a bridge and down the slope, the old coaching stables and remains of what was the kitchen garden come into view. Here you can walk into an open view away from the bustle of the M3, just as the Prince Regent would have known.

The Coaching Stables

On one of my walks earlier this year I was able to find a musket shot, which I like to think harks back the hunting the Prince Regent and his party once indulged in!
So before the building commences can I urge you to read up on the history of Kempshott House, take a map, (and an old one preferably), and see this site before it is lost to housing and the next residents know nothing of what they live on.