Old Park House, Devizes, Wiltshire a grade 2 listed building

 

Old Park refers to the Castle estate that surrounded the Castle. It extended south west in a natural bowl, surrounded by higher land. In the early 16th century and back to Norman times the Castle and its Park were part of the Crown estate and often passed on down through the Queen's family. King James 1 changed this ; he had a policy of selling off surplus estates to boost his coffers. By 1595 the Old and New Parks belonged outright  to Henry, Earl of Pembroke. He was the last Constable of Devizes and Governor of the castle. The Parks descended to his grandson Philip, earl of Pembroke (also Earl of Montgomery 1605, died 1650). They were mortgaged by him in 1609 to Peter Vanlore a Dutchman. Vanlore paid the mortgage quickly and then acquired the castle too.

Above Old Park from near Avon Road, the Castle can be glimpsed top left.

 

The castle and Park descended for several generations in the Vanlore family, but with legal wranglings. These followed seizure by the Powell family after Mary, a Vanlore daughter, married Sir Edward Powell in 1627. An Act of Parliament finally settled the land on the Vanlore heirs in 1662. The Vanlore family then partitioned the Old Park. 

 

A modest dwelling northwest of Hartmoor and approached by a drive is shown on the 1773 Andrews and Drury map of Devizes existed by 1773. It had not been there in 1736–7.  By the mid 17th century a few small dwellings, some of them farm-houses, had begun to dot the area enclosed by a ditch and bank – referred to locally as the Castle’s Old Park pale. 

 

Part of the Vanlore property which came into the hands of William Wyndham was sold by him to at least two purchasers. John Eldridge of Abingdon, Berkshire bought the largest share and soon after the purchase built within it a house called Old Park House. This may have incorporated the older smaller house. He died in 1807 and the House and Park passed to his son William Eldridge. Above Right is a photo of the east  side of the Grade 2 listed Old Park House taken for the auction brochure  in 1980.

 

In 1823 Old Park was owned by A. H. Hardman. It was purchased from him by the Reverend Alfred Smith in 1825. He, his son A.C. Smith and his widow Mrs AC Smith occupied the House from 1825 through to 1908. The Reverend Alfred Smith was the Vicar of St. James Church in Southbroom, by the Green. He drew up plans for the conversion and expansion of the old St James to provide accommodation for the growing congregation in this part of Devizes. The church was rebuilt in 1831-2 to the design of John Peniston and the builder was a Mr Plank. Some of the original stone was reused. The Tower is all that is left of the 1830 Church. The Church was re-opened for Divine Service on the 10th August 1832. Under Alfred Smith the Southbroom National School was founded in 1833 by St. James Church. This school for both boys and girls was situated across the Estcourt Road from the Church. Both Southbroom Juniors and Southbroom Infant's' Schools owe their beginnings to this pioneering educational and charitable effort.

 

The Reverend Alfred Smith resigned the St James living in 1838 and retired to Old Park, Devizeswhere he died in 1877.  His son, Reverend A. C. Smith, inherited the estate; he was a distinguished ornithologist and wrote a standard work “The Birds of Wiltshire”. He was an antiquary too and Rector of Yatesburywhere he stayed throughout the winter. He died in 18.. and his widow stayed on at Old Park until her death in 1908.

 

Below left is the interesting west side of Old Park House.  

By 1885 Old Park Farm, with farm-land, adjoined Old Park House. In 1909, after the deathof the Reverend Smith'swidow the property with 142 acres of land passed to Sir Reginald Butler, who died in 1933. His family were trying to sell Old Park House in 1924. However from about 1923 the House was rented by General Sir Henry Beauvoir de Lisle before his retirement from the Army in 1926. He eventually bought the House and occupied it until about 1937. He was known for his polo skills and he spent much of the years 1929 to 1930 training polo teams for the Maharajah of Kashmir in India. He died in 1955. See the appendix for details ofhis military career.

 

The House was bought from him in 1937 by Joshua Bower and he occupied it until his death in 1951. On Bower's death the estate was split up. Some of the land fronting Hartmoor was then built upon. The house itself was sold to the Ministry of health and it was used  in 1953 as branch of Roundway Hospital - the mental health hospital.

 

In 1980 the House and its land was put up for auction. The land was parcelled up into 6 lots and sold separately as shown on the plan below. This is taken from the auction brochure and appears courtesy of Jack Yeates Old Park estate house owner. Since that time many houses have been built on the old drive to the House as shown in the aerial photo below

In 2010 Old Park House is divided up into four apartments. One of them is occupied by a famous and daring soldier. Major General Corran Purdon had a military career worthy of a Hollywood film script. He volunteered for the Commandos and received the Military Cross for his part in raids on Norway and perhaps the most daring raid of the war on St Nazaire, where he was wounded and captured. However, he escaped from Spangenburg PoW camp, where he was imprisoned, and was on the run for ten days before being recaptured and transferred to the notorious Colditz Castle prison, where his companions included Airey Neave and amputee air ace Douglas Bader.

He retired as General Officer Commanding Near East Land Forces in 1976 and became deputy commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force between 1978 and 1981.See the appendix for a fuller account of his record.

 Above Old Park Farm and under the tall Wellingtonia tree the roof of Old Park House. Photo taken March 2010 from the Avon Road area.

 

Since 1980 the Old Park Estate land has been developed considerably around  Old Park House and the farm complex. Many houses have been built on the old drive to the House as shown in the aerial photo below.

Old Park House is a large irregularly shaped two-storeyed building faced with stone ashlar. The western end may date in part from about 1773 but the house was obviously much extended in the early 19thcentury. Facing east is an imposing entrance front, its central portion concave on plan; the curved Tuscan portico is flanked by niches and surmounted by a cast-iron balustrade.

 

English Heritage listing for Old Park House

 

Image of England Number: 432009 Location: OLD PARK HOUSE  DEVIZES, WILTSHIRE

Date listed: 19 September 1972 Grade 2.

 

1042 HARTMOOR ROAD Old Park House  ST 96 SE 5/252 II 2. Built about 1820-30. It is a mansion in the neo-classical style. It was enlarged and interior altered in 1930's and recently.

 

Below left is Old Park House - east side - in 1980.

 

Two tall storeys faced in Bathstone on a slightly projecting plinth. Block sill course to 1st floor, panelled block cornice, parapet and moulded coping. The entrance front faces west and has a fine but unusual elevation consisting of a concave centre, the outer bays splayed at an acute angle extending beyond the body of the building rather as an arrow head. The outer bays have recessed flanking strips and either side of the centre are broad but shallow piers, the sill course, cornice, parapet and coping breaking forward over them. The concave centre has a lstfloor recessed tripartite window, curving withwall. The centre light is a French casement withmarginal glazing, flanked by recessed pilaster strips withfluted brackets supporting recessed frieze, the cornice projecting over. The sill course is carried in below sidelights. To the left and right of window are blind round headed niches. The ground floor repeats the design withniches, and the door set in a similar tripartite frame, double with 6 geometric panels, rectangular fanlight with 2 circular panes. In front and following line of wall starts a concave Doric portico on a shallow plinth with a bowed step to the centre. The entablature has a panelled frieze and the cornice is returned on wall as a string course. Blocking course over carrying a delicate diamond pattern wrought iron balcony with lead rosettes.

 

The angled flanking bays are of 2 windows each, recessed, sash, glazing bars, block sills to ground floor. A rectangular bay faced in the same Bathstone has been added to the ground floor on the right hand; plinth, block cornice and small parapet withmoulded coping, 1 window each side, sash, glazing bars, block sills. The front window retains upper sash, but has been converted to door below. All windows on outer bays have fretted blind cases and their return fronts to main block have blind windows. The south front has a centre block of 4 similar sash windows. The ground floor has been altered to a sun lounge but has a Bathstone base, pilasters and cornice to the left sidean attractive French window with marginal glazing and pointed upper panes. This front is splayed out again to east but with altered fenestration. East wing added in 1937, rendered front and fenestration in same style as original. The interior has been very much altered since its use as an Old Peoples Home, but the present Reading Room has a fine early C19 mantel piece with anthemion mouldings to frame, the mantle withcentre piece of lyre and flutes entwined with ribbons, the sidesections decorated with delicate vases and urns draped and linked by swaggs set between dentiland egg and dart mouldings. The fireplace itself is entirely lined with l8th century blue and white figurative Dutch tiles. The present Dining Room has a shallow apsed end to southwest and round headed niches either side of fireplace. Original frieze has delicate mouldings of swaggand urn type with scrollwork.

 

Right Hartmoor Lane with East Lodge, Old Park House to the right; this postcard was sent in 1905.

 

English Heritage listing for East Lodge, Old Park House

 

Left  is East Lodge taken in March 2010, the road leads down to Hartmoor Lane.

 

Image of England Number: 432010. Grade 2 listed. Date listed: 19 September 1972

 

1042 HARTMOOR ROAD East Lodge of Old Park House SU 0060 1/252A II 2. Lodge at entrance to drive from Hartmoor Road to Old Park House. "Cottage orne" style. 2 storeys rough cast on brick with thatch roof, the eaves swept down on west side to form verandah with flint and rubble columns. Dormer, casement of 2 pointed leaded lights, the thatch is "eyebrow" over. Shallow hipped roof bracketed bay to ground floor withslightly bowed casement of 3 pointed leaded lights. Door of 4 diamond panels in plain surround with fretted gable hood. Small bay of 3 leaded lights on east side with steep hipped roof. 

 

Appendix

 

The Military Career of Sir Henry de Beauvoir de Lisle

 

He was born and educated in Jersey. He was commissioned  into 2nd Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry in 1883.[He saw service with the Mounted Infantry in Egypt between 1885 and 1886[winning his DSO there.He studied at the Staff College, Camberley  in 1899 before returning to the Mounted Infantry with whom he saw service during the Boer War between 1899 and 1901.He was appointed Second in Command of the Royal Dragoons in 1903 and then became Commanding officer of 1st Battalion Royal Dragoons in 1906.

 

He became a General officer at Aldershot in 1910 and in 1911 was appointed Commander  of 2nd Cavalry Brigade.[He served in World war 1 initially as Commander of 2nd Cavalry Brigade on the Western Front and and then as General officer commanding 1st cavalry Divison also on the Western Front in 1914. He then became general Officer Commanding 29th Division, leading the Division at the Third battle of Krithia during the Gallopi Campaign of April 1915 to January 1916. He returned to the Western front in 1916 and fought at the battle of the Somme before moving on to become General Commanding Officer Commanding 13 Corps in March 1918 and GOC 15 Corps in Apr 1918.

 

His military reputation was unexceptional prior to the outbreak of war in August 1914, and was chiefly remarked upon for his considerable talents as a polo player. In the latter capacity de Lisle brought the Durham Light Infantry to victory in the Championship of India in 1898, a remarkable feat which remains commented upon today.

  

De Lisle's words in reference to the 1st Newfoundland Regiment in the wake of the Somme Offensive are often quoted: "It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further." He was not an especially popular commander - he was referred to as "a brute" by his commander in Gallipoli Sir William Birdwood  and he was scarcely considered more genial by his subordinate commanders - he never courted popular opinion, on one occasion going on record to complain to British Commander-in-Chief Sir Douglas Haig about Sir Edmund Allenby's conduct during the Battle of Arras on the Western Front.

 

After the 1914 to 1918 War he was appointed General Officer Commanding - in-Chief of Western command. He held this post until 1923 and then he retired in 1926 to Devizes.

 

Military career of Major General  Corran William Brooke Purdon born in1921.

 

General Purdon had a military career worthy of a Hollywood film script. He volunteered for the Commandos and received the Military Cross for his part in raids on Norway and perhaps the most daring raid of the war on St Nazaire, where he was wounded and captured.

 

However, he escaped from Spangenburg PoW camp, where he was imprisoned, and was on the run for ten days before being recaptured and transferred to the notorious Colditz Castle prison, where his companions included Airey Neave and amputee air ace Douglas Bader.

 

He retired as General Officer Commanding Near East Land Forces in 1976 and became deputy commissioner of the Royal Hong Kong Police Force between 1978 and 1981.

 

Formal Service biography.

 

Joined Royal Ulster Rifles 1939; World War II 1939-1945; service with Army Commandos in France and Germany 1940-1945; Lofoten Islands oil depot raid, Norway 1941; service with 1 Bn, Royal Ulster Rifles, Palestine 1945-1946; General Headquarters, Middle East Land Forces 1949-1951; Staff College 1955; on staff, Malayan Emergency 1956-1958; Company Commander, 1 Royal Ulster Rifles, Cyprus Emergency 1958; Commanding Officer 1 Bn, Royal Ulster Rifles, British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) and Borneo War 1962-1964; General Staff Officer Grade 1 and Chief Instructor, School of Infantry, Warminster 1965-1967; Commander, Sultan's Armed Forces, Oman, and Director of Operations, Dhofar War, Oman 1967-1970; Commandant, School of Infantry, Warminster 1970-1972; Small Arms School Corps 1970-1972; General Officer Commanding North West District 1972-1974; General Officer Commanding Near East Land Forces 1974-1976; retired 1976; Deputy Commissioner, Royal Hong Kong Police Force 1978-1981