Help solve the secrets of Staunton’s Gothic Mansion

Take a closer look at the intriguing history of Leigh Park Mansion House

Oct 23 2019

Hi, I’m Tim Speller, Manager of Staunton Country Park near Havant.

Welcome to our latest blog on the changes we’re making on site to restore the beautiful 200-year-old Regency landscape as well as modernising visitor facilities.

The house fell into disrepair and was demolished sixty years ago, some time before Hampshire County Council took on the care of the site. However, the outline of the Mansion House can still be seen today, looking across Staunton’s picturesque and popular lake.

Solving some of Staunton’s secrets

It’s been 60 years since the Mansion House was there in its entirety, so now’s a fantastic time to ponder on the secrets of this gothic mansion. We’d also like your help to solve some of its puzzles.

Leigh Park Mansion House

A few of you who are already familiar with Staunton’s history will hopefully recognise this photograph of Leigh Park Mansion House. It was built in the1860s and made within 400 metres of the mansion from bricks created out of local London Clay (a nice pinky-red colour). The bricks were formed and dried in ‘clay pits’ in a north east spot within the parkland.

This is one of the earliest photographs of the house (c1870). At the bottom right, you can see the statue of the goddess Flora, standing on the edge of the island in the lake (originally placed by owner Sir George Staunton in the 1820s, which was later removed by William Stone who built the Mansion House in 1865).

The Mansion House was gothic in style, as shown by the sharply pointed turrets and narrow windows. It was home to Portsmouth MP, William Stone, (between 1860-1874) and then the Fitzwygram family (between 1874-1938).

Interior of Leigh Park Mansion House during Fitzwygram residency

When the mansion was home to the Fitzwygram family, the interior was very lush and decorative. Here you can see the hall and a picture of the lady of the house above a doorway.

Interior of Leigh Park Mansion House

This is the library. Can you count how many chairs there are? The library was beautifully furnished and would have been the perfect setting for reading books, writing letters, taking tea and taking in the views. Some photographs of the Fitzwygram family will be on view at an exhibition at the end of this month – read on for more details. 

Exterior of Leigh Park Mansion House

This photograph was likely taken later, in the 1940s. Can anyone identify this vehicle to the right?

Admiralty on the terrace of Leigh Park Mansion House

This photograph was taken in 1943 outside the terrace of the Admiralty, who requisitioned the house at around that time. These men were a team of researchers, originally from HMS Vernon. They experimented with interesting inventions including exploding hoovers and strangely, put seaweed in the walls (find out why at the exhibition)! Meanwhile, are there any familiar faces?

Friends on the terrace of Leigh Park Mansion House

These photographs are of friends (or workers) during the Admiralty years. Does anyone recognise these faces?

View from Leigh Park Mansion House 1959

Amazingly, this image was taken from the roof of the Mansion House in 1959.

Exhibition time

We will be hosting a free exhibition and twilight tour on Wednesday 30 October (3.00-5.00pm) to give people the chance to learn more about the history of the Mansion House and an insight into the life and times of people who lived and worked there. Documents will be displayed, including photos from the Fitzwygram family. 

It’s also the perfect time of year to don some suitable footwear for a twilight tour to walk in the footsteps of those from the previous 150 years or so.

We would love to see you there – you can book for free online.