Stoke House - a lost mansion. By Philip Eley
In 1726 a wealthy local yeoman farmer named John Eames died leaving his money and extensive farms to his three children. One of his farms stretched from Stoke Lake to King's Bottom (now Foster Gardens), between Ewer Common and Green Lane where, shortly before his death, he had built a large house on the southernmost part. Known as Stoke House it stood alongside the Rectory and looked over Stoke Lake towards the Isle of Wight on a site that is now covered by Rectory Close.
John's eldest son, also named John, inherited the land but he lived elsewhere, allowing his brother William and their widowed mother to occupy Stoke House. John junior had been educated at Oxford, was called to the bar in 1739, appointed Master in Chancery in 1768, and was M.P. for both Yarmouth and Newport on the Isle of Wight. In 1745, when he sold Hasleworth Farm (also inherited from his father) to the Navy as part of the site of their new hospital, he was living in London, but later he is described as of "Weovil". His marriage produced just one child, a daughter named Dorothea.
As sole heir to her father's considerable fortune, Dorothea, who had married the Honourable William, son of Viscount, FitzWilliam, inherited Stoke House and the farmland in 1795. As she lived in Titchfield she rented-out the "exceedingly good and convenient family house with pleasure and kitchen gardens" with 27 acres of rich meadowland on a seven-year lease. It had a large entrance hall, a drawing room, two parlours, four bedchambers with dressing rooms, a powdering room, and four garrets. There was a laundry, a large kitchen, servant's hall, pantry, dairy and excellent cellars. With it came a pew in St Mary's church and it was near the sea "where bathing machines are kept".
For the next 15 years Stoke House was occupied by Richard Walmisley, esquire, and his wife (later widow) Catherine. In 1810, however, the whole lot was put up for sale. The farmland to the north was sold to Sir Samuel Bentham; the house and meadowland were bought by the next door neighbour, the Reverend Charles Augustus North, Rector of Alverstoke. It is fair to say that Charles North was not a typical vicar. His father was Brownlow North, Bishop of Winchester and his uncle, Lord North, had been Prime Minister. One of their illustrious ancestors was Samuel Pepys.
One of Charles' interests was yachting - he owned a 78-ton pleasure yacht named Lord Nelson - and it may be that he bought Stoke House to rent out to his "townie" friends. That is certainly what happened in 1820 when the Marquis of Anglesey took the house for three years. The Marquis, as Field Marshall Henry Paget, had fought alongside Wellington at Waterloo, where he had lost his right leg. He was afterwards made Earl of Uxbridge and then Marquis of Anglesey. His interest in yachting was such that in 1822, when he was staying at Stoke House, he was one of the first Commodores of the Cowes Yacht Club (now the Royal Yacht Squadron).
Stoke House, at the time the Marquis was there, was reaching its centenary and was probably showing signs of its age. Perhaps encouraged by the Marquis, and the prospect of attracting further tenants, Charles North embarked on the building of a new house, having first demolished part of the old one. Unfortunately he did not live to see its completion as he died of "gout of the stomach", aged 40, in 1825.
The celebrated auctioneer Mr Christie travelled to Alverstoke Rectory to conduct the sale of his collection of china, his stock of wines, spirits and beer, his yacht, and the unfinished mansion in 21 acres of land. The sale drew in collectors from far and wide but the highest bid of £4,500 for the house and grounds was below the reserve price and it thus went unsold. The materials of the old Stoke House were auctioned a few days later.
It would seem that the site was simply abandoned after Charles' widow Rachael moved to Cheltenham. The view towards the Solent was gradually eclipsed by Robert Cruickshank's development of Anglesey Ville and the land was finally sold in 1829 when the incomplete house was demolished. The church subsequently bought it and part was added to the Rectory grounds, the remainder later became part of the Rectory Allotments.
It is tempting to speculate that Charles North, in building his new mansion, was consciously trying to emulate the success of the recently established Bournemouth. If that was the case, and had he lived longer, then we might have had a quite different version of Anglesey built along the road which, somewhat appropriately, bears the name of Little Anglesey. Robert Cruickshank and his architect, Thomas Owen, rightly get the credit Anglesey Ville, but we should at least give a respectful nod to Charles North for perhaps putting the idea into their heads in the first place.
April 16th 1810
October 3rd 1825
View the site of Stoke House on Streetview