The history of Fernhill Manor is a long and fascinating one. It is one of the areas of our town where we have records stretching back centuries.
The Fernhill area of Milton Parish lies just to the north of the railway station.
The 1086 Domesday book entry tells us that in the reign of Edward the Confessor the land, named ‘Fernehelle’ was owned by a Saxon called Godric. In pre conquest times it was assessed as being 3 virgates in size. A virgate is a variable measure but is roughly about 30 to 40 acres.
After the Norman Conquest the land was acquired by Earl Robert of Shrewsbury and was held (managed) by a person called Nigel. The king had seized 2 virgates for inclusion in to the forest so the manor holdings were reduced in size and value. We know that there was enough land on the estate for one plough to cope with and the farming was carried out by a villain who was a tenant who was the property of the landowner. He was not free but was above the status of a slave.
Richard de Redvers the Earl of Devon were granted by king Henry I (1068 – 1135) a large number of estates and parcels of land in Wilshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and six manors in Hampshire including Fernhill. William the 6th Earl of Devon granted the estate to Richard de Fernhill for the compulsory service of one man at arms for duty at Christchurch Castle for 8 days a year. Fernhill passed through three generations of the same family until ownership passed to John Fromond when he married Richard de Fernhill’s great granddaughter Maud.
John Fromond was a steward of the Manors of Winchester College. In this role he looked after the manors to ensure that the college could benefit from them. On his death in 1420 with no children to inherit, he left Fernhill Manor Estate (in this time period spelt Farnhill) to the college. The rent from the land was intended to pay for the clothes for 16 of the College choir boys. In addition the monies raised from the manor paid for a chantry building in the college.
Winchester College were to retain ownership of Fernhill manor until 1874. During that time they leased the manor house and farm land out to tenants.
Thomas White and his wife Frances lived in the manor house in the early 1700s. White was a soldier who had served three kings and was the commander of the body guard of Queen Anne. He fought in the wars in Flanders and Ireland and was wounded in action. He originated from Fiddleford in Dorset. He died in 1720.
His widow presented St Mary Magdalene Church with a chalice and plate in his memory.
His effigy can be seen in the porch way entrance to St Mary Magdalene Church in Milton. Next to his bust is his sword believed to be made by Andria Ferara, a renowned swordsmith of the age. Thomas White is buried in the church porch way below his effigy.
The tenancy of Fernhill passed through a number of hands until Thomas Beckley a surgeon from Lymington acquired it in May 1764. He sub let the farm land to Hugh Budden who was a yeoman farmer. The Beckley family retained the tenancy for many years. The 1841 tithe allocation book lists the landholder for the large number of Winchester college holdings as ‘Reverend Thomas Beckley. Leasehold under the wardens, fellows and clerks of St Mary College Winchester’.
Reverend Thomas Beckley (1790 – 1872) was a Fellow of New College Oxford and was Ordained as a Priest in 1814. Elected Mayor of Lymington for the years 1817,1822 and 1833, he was also elected Mayor of Christchurch for the years 1820 and 1825. He lived in Lymington until 1839 when he sold his household effects. In 1862 his Livestock and Implements of Ossemsley Farm near Christchurch were sold.
By 1870 the lease was in the possession of a farmer named Mr John Chinery a farmer from nearby Wootton.
On 5th August 1874 Winchester College put up for auction a large portion of the Fernhill Manor Estate. The map published above comes from the auction catalogue. The purchaser was a Mr Henry Hewitt Kennard (1811 -1878) a banker and investor from London. He and his brother (John Pierce Kennard) were directors of Denison, Heywood and Kennards and Co, of 4 Lombard Street, London. Later this became Consolidated Bank and H.H. Kennard was the chairman. The two brothers had investing heavily in developing new railways.
John Pierce Kennard bought Hordle House in Milford. Henry Kennard bought Rookliffe House in Milford. Both appear to have been very philanthropic towards the villagers of Milford and there was a charity set up in the name of Henry Hewitt Kennard with the aim of funding apprenticeships for young people in Milford and for relieving the suffering of the poor in the village.
In the early 1880s the London and South Western Railway were building a new direct line to Bournemouth from Brockenhurst. The route went via Sway and created a new station at Milton, and at Hinton Admiral where the permission of Sir George Meyrick for the line to go through his land was crucial to the success of the project. The line also went through Mr Kennard’s land on the Fernhill Estate. The construction of the new line was completed in 1886.
It should be noted that Kennard Road in New Milton is not named after H. H. Kennard but his nephew Colonel Edmund Hegan Kennard who was MP for Lymington (and Milton Parish) from 1874 to 1885.
The Kennard family sold off plots of land for development around the new railway station. The Hampshire Chronicle dated 26th April 1890 reports the sale of the first plots. Manor Road and Avenue Road were amongst the first to be developed for housing.
Amongst the many investors was a Winchester brewer Mr Hugh Wyeth. He realised that there was a great interest in developing new healthy country and seaside resorts. Nearby Bournemouth was developing rapidly and great interest was being shown in expanding Milford.
He built a hotel next to Milton railway station which would be used by prospective purchasers of land and property in the Milton area.
Wyeth also built the Milton Hall located opposite Station Approach. This building is still in existence. It was used as a dance hall, a place for large meetings such as auctions and town council meetings. Part of the building was used by the Wilts and Dorset Bank until a purpose made bank was built nearby in 1904. Later it was an auctioneers and estate agents. It is now used as a furniture shop.
The 16th century Fernhill Manor House, was now occupied by the Kennard family or their employees. From 1874 to 1898 James “Daddy” Tee the bailiff for the Kennard family lived in the house. Later members of the Kennard family lived there until just after World War One.
In 1904 the Ubsdell family built a large house to the north of the fish pond at Fernhill. The driving force behind this development was Mrs Genevieve Ubsdell and American heiress. The house was named Great Ballard and can be seen located at the top of the 1909 map. They also built three large houses in Kennard Road called Idelwild, Brooklyn and Grey Gables. Only the latter survives today. After the First World War the Ubsdell family moved out of the main building and it was rented by a school which took the name of Great Ballard Preparatory School. They remained in residence until 1940 when the building and grounds were commandeered by the army and used throughout the war.
Genevieve Ubsdell’s youngest son Lt Col. Thurlow Richardson Ubsdell had moved to Great Ballard Lodge in 1939. He gave Great Ballard Lake to the local authority with a restrictive covenant against any form of development. Just before his death the family refused to agree with the authority suggesting that it should be filled in.
In 1946 Edinburgh House School for boys took over the lease. After the merger with Fernhill Manor School this building remained a school and eventually the Fernhill Manor site was sold and is now used for houses and the Manor House for flats.
In 1919 two ladies, Miss Clarke and Miss Macnamara relocated their girls school from a house called Branksome in Ashley Road, to the Manor House. The school was renamed Fernhill Manor it later merged with the nearby Edinburgh House school and together they became the Ballard Schools in 1995.
Fernhill Manor House is now divided into flats. Some fragments of the Fernhill Manor estate still survive with Ballard Lake and the nearby water meadow being popular recreation areas for Miltonians. The below postcard image of the lake is circa 1905.
The Fernhill Manor estate area has played an important part in the history of Milton Parish over many centuries and will continue to do so for many years to come.