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Description of Chilworth Manor, 1870

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Illustrations of Hampshire horticulture: Chilworth Manor, the seat of Mr. J. B. W. Fleming

By "A. D."

For this, our last illustration of our county horticulture we have come nearer home, and would bring before our readers a description, not of a palatial residence, but rather of a pleasant and comfortable family habitation where, if the records of the past have been chequered with sorrow, there is also to be found all that can be needed to realise in the future that complete happiness that all who read this may earnestly wish may be the lot of the respected owner and his amiable lady.

There are few residents in Southampton or its locality who are not familiar with Chilworth, as from its common is to be seen one of the richest views of our Hampshire scenery that the whole county affords. It forms a choice feature in a favourite drive, and the tower of the sculptor's house stands like a prominent landmark to denote whereabouts the common lies. Long, long may that broad and beautiful expanse of woodland, arable, and pasture, with all its peaceful and prosperous surroundings continue to gladden the eye and heart of the gazer with a continuation of its present beauties, and may it never become the theatre of all those warlike and fearful scenes that now are, alas, but too common amidst the rural homes of unhappy France.

We pass the wellknown inn, and a little further on our way lies along a winding road that leads under lofty firs to the lodge entrance, where, on gaining admission, we are struck with the extraordinary growth of some ancient laurels, that form a sort of triumphal arch, under which all who enter here must pass. Of some of these the stems at the base are about 12 inches in diameter, and indicate a wondrous growth, seldom seen even in a shrub that thrives at all times so well as the laurel does. The luxuriant growth of rhododendrons that line either side of the carriage way gives a favourable notion as to the great beauty that must be presented here in the month of June. Just before reaching the house the road runs out into an open expanse of park, in which is afforded some very pleasing and picturesque scenery, but it is not until we have reached the north front of the mansion and look about that we see all the pretty views and distant features that present themselves. First, then, to the right, through a long leafy vista, is seen the spire of Chilworth Church; then, looking farther to the left, the Church of North Baddesley is seen, and, far beyond it, Farley Mount, with its monumental peak. Still more to the left, and lying in the foreground, is seen the town of Romsey and its fine old Abbey, and beyond that, in one direction, the great range of chalk hills right up to Stockbridge and, in the other direction, far away to Whiteparish, where the white chalk hill is distinctly visible, and from the top of which the traveller can look on the one hand over Salisbury and a large portion of the fair county of Wilts, and behind him lies some of the most beautiful portion of South Hants. Another church spire, that of Rownhams, can also be seen through a long umbrageous tube, and this, as well as many other lesser points, indicate the love of the beautiful and the picturesque that permeates those whose lot has been cast in this pleasant place.

The house itself is somewhat old-fashioned, but substantial, and looks rather like homeliness than magnificence. All its surroundings are in keeping, and the lawn and flower garden is prettily arranged and neatly kept. On the north end of the house are trained strong plants of the pretty blue ceanothus floribundus, that are thriving luxuriantly, and a wall at the other side is also covered with this pretty trailing plant. In the centre of the west front of the house is a semi-circular glass colonnade, or conservatory, filled with a nice lot of decorative plants, and affording a charming means of communication between various portions of the house. As we pass from here to the gardens we note that along one side of the stable walls are planted a lot of camellias, that look in admirable condition, and which will no doubt in a few years cover the whole of the brickwork. With but a few well-known exceptions, we are, as horticulturists, apparently but just becoming alive to the thorough hardiness of character and constitution that the camellia possesses. If fairly dealt with it will prove more hardy than the common laurel and ten times more decorative.

From this point broad walks swoop both left and right up to the new fruit-houses, the whole of the enclosed space being planted with standard apple trees, destined to become in time a capital orchard. Taking the left hand path that first prominent object presented is some large blocks of strawberries in pots for early forcing. These number about 1000, and all look the picture of health and fruitfulness. The earliest kind used is the Black Prince, a small but prolific and good-flavoured kind. These are started at Christmas, and gathered from at the end of March. Of successive kinds are President, a very certain and abundant bearer, Marguerite, Sir Harry, and Dr. Hogg, this latter bearing “prodigious” fruit. Going at once to the new range of fruit houses, in which so many of these pots are to find comfortable quarters in the ensuing winter, we perceive that they consist of a block for glass erections, forming nearly three sides of a square, the centre space being a newly-made vine border; and just in front of this is a huge deep tank, capable of holding some 2000 gallons of water, and which is filled by means of the surface-rain that falls upon the houses. This tank is a most wise and useful adjunct to the garden. Entering the houses on the left hand we find the first planted with vines, and is to constitute a late vinery. On the front border is planted White Tokay, Mrs. Pince's Muscat, and Black Alicante, and on the wall behind Muscat of Alexandria and Lady Downes. This is an admirable selection of late grapes, and the vines look all that can be desired. Next this is an angle house devoted to figs of several varieties, which are planted out in the border and trained as bushes; on the wall behind are cherries. Then follows an early peach-house, having a strong noblesse planted in front and an ebruge nectarine behind, and this is succeeded by an early vinery planted with Hamburghs and Foster's seedlings, and followed by a succession peach-house, having in front a strong tree of Walburton Admirable, and on the wall behind a violet native nectarine. Again another angle house, planted with plums and cherries, and last of all a late fig-house. The entire length of the structure is about 90 feet, and was built by Hardiman of Southampton, and heated by Milsom, of Shirley. Along the entire length of the wall behind is a line of shelves, available for early strawberries and dwarf beans. The idea originally was to have a large orchard-house only, but Mr. Batters, the able young gardener here, advised its present mode of arrangement, thus enabling him to cast the fruit crops over a large period of the year.

Retracing our steps, we pass a couple of houses devoted to the culture of plants, and then note a long range of pits, in a portion of which are growing melons and cucumbers, planted here to maintain a supply until the houses usually devoted to these fruits are put into requisition. Dale's Conqueror and Telegraph appear to be the favourite sorts of cucumbers grown. Following these are a range of lights, under which are a fine lot of Queen pines full of fruit; and also an equal extent of space in which are succession plants and suckers for another year's consumption. Close by is a large late vinery, in which are hanging some magnificent bunches of grapes. The black Alicantes at the far end are marvels of cultivation, and are not a whit behind the splendid bunches, cut from the same vine, with which Mr Batters carried off the first prize at the Wilts Horticultural Show last year; and this remark would also apply to the fine bunches of Muscat of Alexandia, the richest flavoured of all our white grapes, and without exception the best. We note also in this house fine samples of Lady Downes, Trentham Black, and White Nice. A large bed in the centre is devoted to the production of early potatoes. Succeeding is a house for melons, Golden Perfection being chiefly grown. The plants here were started at the end of August, and would yield fruit at the end of October and through the winter. A cucumber house follows, started at the end of September, and will furnish a supply all the winter.

From these houses we turn to the kitchen gardens, which are of about two acres in extent, and surrounded :by a wall on which a great variety of fruit trees are growing, pears especially being very fine in fruit. The inside garden is arranged in four large quarters, around each of which are lines of very fine pyramidal pear trees, most of which have immense crops, and constitute perfect pictures of fruitfulness. There are some ninety trees in all, and we noted Beurre de Pampot, White Doyenne, Vicar of Winkfield, Williams Bonchretien, Duchess de Angouleme, Beurre de Capaimont, Prince Camille de Rohan, Winter Nelis, and Louis Bonne of Jersey, as all having a wonderful produce. The vegetable crops had in this high position suffered somewhat severely from the summer drought. Still, there was every prospect of a good winter supply being furnished. The gardens, though not extensive, are admirably kept, and will not, in the hands of Mr. Batters, bring any discredit upon other examples of Hampshire horticulture.

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