A visit to a National Trust property in Hampshire or indeed across the UK is all about nature, beauty and history, for us all to share. I find a day at one of the Trust’s properties to be gentle, inspirational, entertaining and uplifting. The stories of past inhabitants are often sensational and ones of triumphs and disasters, all brought to life in the Trust’s inimitable way. Even just a gentle relaxing wander around beautiful gardens and landscapes is a perfect day out, and who can resist a cream tea or a browse in their lovely shops?
It is reassuring to know that the National Trust work hard to ensure that their properties are as accessible as possible, with teams on hand to care for elderly visitors and those with special needs. Here are a few of the Trust’s houses – and a beautiful mill – to visit in Hampshire, with accessiblity information. As a live-in care agency in Hampshire, we encourage our carers to make their clients lives as rich as possible, and a day out to a National Trust property brings all these things in abundance!
Near Romsey, Hampshire, SO51 0LP T: 01794 340757
Today, Mottisfont is famous for its stunningly beautiful walled rose gardens and recently created walled vegetable garden, its lovely gentle walk by the river and fascinating exhibitions, which often ‘spill’ outside, making delightful viewing.
The moderately-sized house, with its attractive mix of architectural styles, reveal a history stretching back eight centuries. Founded as a wealthy medieval priory, much visited by pilgrims, it was dissolved by Henry VIII who gifted it to His Lord Chamberlain, Lord Sandys. It was he who built a Tudor palace there, of which only a small part remains today. The Sandys divided their time between Mottisfont and The Vyne, near Basingstoke (see below).
During the Georgian period, Mottisfont was transformed into the place recognisable today. The Great Plane tree, seen on the left as one enters the main arena, was planted in this period, and is thought to be the largest and oldest of its kind in Britain. Such notable intellects as George Bernard Shaw and Charles Darwin were entertained there in the late 19th Century when the property was leased to the merchant banker, Daniel Meinertzhagen and his large family.
By the 1930s, Gilbert and Maud Russell bought Mottisfont and made it the centre of a fashionable artistic and political circle. The buildings were in a state of disrepair and in 1934, huge changes were made to the inside to create a luxurious, neo-classical setting we can visit today.
Mottisfont was requisitioned during the Second World War to become a convalescent home for wounded officers and children evacuated from London lived in the Stable Block. Maud Russell, by then a widow, moved to London to work for the Admiralty. After the war, however, she made Mottisfont her main home and lived here for around 30 years. Anxious that it should be preserved, Maud gave the house and estate to the National Trust in 1957.
Designated access car parking (20 spaces) located close to the accessible ramp into the Welcome Centre. If these spaces are full visitors can be dropped off outside the Welcome Centre entrance. If overflow car parking is in operation, designated access parking spaces will be set aside.
Please be aware that the car park is built on a water meadow with a surface of firm gravel. In bad weather conditions the car park can become flooded in parts, with uneven and muddy areas, which can restrict the number of spaces available.
Five manual wheelchairs are available from the Welcome Centre on a first come first served basis.
The entrance to the Welcome Centre is via a ramp with a gradient of approximately 1:12 slope with landings, or up four steps.
Accessible toilets in the Welcome Centre and the Stables. The toilets are equipped with alarm pull cords that alert staff that assistance is required. Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the site.
The property is situated on a gentle slope. The paths are mostly wide and surfaced with a mix of stone and clay which is uneven in places, and can be muddy due to in wet weather. The paths in the walled garden are narrower but still wide enough to accommodate wheelchair users. Please note that some of pathways (particularly beside the river and streams) are uneven underfoot, especially during periods of wet weather.
Electric mobility buggies not currently available.
Wooden and metal benches are situated throughout the garden and grounds to sit and relax.
There are three bridges that cross the main stream which runs through the grounds. The main brick bridge allows access for pedestrians and buggies. The two metal arched bridges are for pedestrians only due to a steep incline and decline. Help is available from the Welcome Team to navigate path restrictions and give alternative routes for mobility scooters.
Mobile phone reception is variable on site depending on which provider you use and your location. In the event of an emergency, we advise you to contact a member of staff or volunteer (identifiable by their name badges) immediately.
There is a defibrillator on site.
Vyne Road, Sherborne St John, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG24 9HL T: 01256 883858
The Vyne was transformed from a cluster of medieval buildings into a Tudor palace between 1500 and 1520, created by William Sandys, who became Lord Chamberlain to King Henry VIII in 1526, and indeed, the King and Anne Boleyn, mother of Elizabeth I, visited in person. Now approximately a third of its original size, The Vyne once extended as far as the lake and was described as ‘one of the Principale Houses in all Hamptonshire’. Although much of the Tudor Palace has gone, we can still see the beautiful Tudor chapel. After nearly being made destitute over the course of the English Civil War, in the 17th century, the 6th Lord Sandys sold The Vyne to Chaloner Chute, a barrister and the Speaker of the House of Commons. It was Chaloner Chute who reduced the size of the building and modernised it, commissioning the classical portico in 1654; the first of its kind on a privately owned English country house. The Chute family largely continued to own The Vyne well into the 20th century. In the 1920s a girls’ boarding school occupied it for a time and during the Second World War (1939-45) boys from Tormore School in Deal, Kent, were evacuated here.
The Vyne holds an inscribed Roman ring as well as a lead tablet that speaks of a curse on the one who stole it. As a Professor of Anglo-Saxon history at Oxford University, J R R Tolkien was asked to comment on it including its connection to a mine fabled to have been dug by dwarves, and a few days after began writing Lord of the Rings.
On the death of Sir Charles Chute in 1956, The Vyne was bequeathed to the National Trust. Over the years the house and grounds have received thousands of visitors who have enjoyed walking along the lakeside and into nearby Morgaston Wood.
Parking- designated parking spaces in the main car park near to Visitor Reception. The house is 1/3 mile from the entrance on relatively flat well marked paths.
Wheelchairs - three manual wheelchairs are available from Visitor Reception. You are welcome to ring up and reserve one prior to your visit.
Buggy - transfer by buggy is available from Visitor Reception to the house. It is kindly run by volunteers so is subject to availability. Please check that it is running before you travel on 01256883858. Please note the buggy does not run from November to March.
Accessible toilets - Disabled toilets can be found near the Visitor Reception and tea-room.
House - Entrance to the house is via a ramp. Ground floor is fully accessible. Upstairs is accessed by a stair case which has no handrails. A photo album of the upstairs rooms is available on request.
Visitor Reception, shop and tea-room are fully accessible. Grounds- flat gravel and hard paths throughout the gardens.
Hinton Ampner House
Hinton Ampner, Alresford SO24 0LA T: 01962 771305
While the Hinton Ampner of today is unashamedly Neo-Georgian in its architecture, there remain clues that point to the site's long and storied history, stretching back nearly 500 years. A more modest history than previous properties, perhaps, but one that is filled with family affection and ambition. It started life around 1540s, as a large Tudor manor, leased from 1597 from the Dean and Chapter of Winchester, by Thomas Stewkeley.
The mansion itself has completely gone, but it is known that it was described the house as being E-shaped, in honour of Queen Elizabeth I, with an extensive range of outbuildings. Passing through several generations of Stewkeley and Stawell family (by marriage), in 1793, when it was demolished by Henry Stawell Bilson-Legge, in favour of a Georgian house. A few Tudor elements still remain such as the stables (now the café) as well as parts of the walled garden and the lime tree avenue.
For a few years between 1820 and 1857, Hinton Ampner was leased to tenants following the marriage of Mary Bilson-Legge, to John Dutton, heir to the Sherbourne estates. Mary had inherited Hinton Ampner and preferred to let it out, living elsewhere. However, when their second son John Thomas Dutton moved in with his wife Lavinia in 1857, change was on the horizon for Hinton Ampner. They thought to demolish the Georgian house, however, he engaged a local builder, who devised a plan to encase the existing Georgian structure in an elaborate Tudor Gothic extension. One surprising story tells us that John despised bathrooms, having caught a cold in one, and hence no bathrooms were built, although a few toilets were installed!
In 1935, Ralph Dutton, inherited Hinton Ampner and wasted little time in converting what he described as a "building of exceptional hideousness" into something far more comfortable but with the intention to uncover the original Georgian structure, creating a new block on the west side, all with a more 18th century appearance.Despite the increasing threat of war, work began in 1936, reducing the overall number of rooms, leaving the first floor with seven principal bedrooms - and a generous supply of bathrooms! On the eve of war, Ralph moved in to an incomplete house with walls still bare plaster, and that summer of 1939, he gave the house over to the Portsmouth Day School for Girls.
When returned to him in 1945, decorating restarted, although rationing meant that permission had to be sought on a room-by-room basis. The plan for the work to take three years but in fact took more than 15, but by 1960 he was looking forward to spending the rest of his days enjoying what he had created. Fate, however, had other ideas. On Sunday 3rd April 1960, returning from a walk after lunch, Ralph returned to a scene of chaos and devastation - the house was on fire. Despite the heart-wrenching destruction, Ralph vowed to rebuild his home, and by May 1963 - exactly three years and one month on from the fire - the house was habitable once again. Hinton Ampner today remains true to the work carried out during this period, but to a larger extent it represents the life- long ambition of one man - Ralph Dutton, the 8th and last Lord Sherborne.
Mobility parking is available – staff members can direct you when you visit Grounds – accessible route will be marked.
Half of the garden is on hard path, either gravel or paved. Some of the garden has grass paths which may be unsuitable for wheelchairs in wet weather.
Adapted toilet near mansion in courtyard.
The admission policy admits the necessary companion, or carer, of a disabled visitor free of charge, on request, while the normal membership, or admission fee, applies to the disabled visitor. To request an Access for all Admit one Card, please either email Support Service Centre or phone them on 01793 817643. They will need the name and full postal address of the disabled person.
Winchester City Mill
Bridge St, Winchester SO23 9BH T: 01962 870057
From grand house to early industrial buildings - a visit to Winchester City Mill, the site of one of the most ancient mills in the country, possibly dating back 1000 years, it is most evocative and a fascinating must-do.
With its foundations possibly dating from the Roman period, early records from 932AD and 989AD certainly refer to a prosperous watermill in Winchester, owned by Wherwell Abbey. In the 12th and 13th centuries, however, with power and wealth shifting to London, Winchester was losing its status as the nation’s capital and the City and surrounding areas began to decline. By 1471 the mill is recorded as being derelict after a series of bad harvests, the Black Death, and the loss of wool trade.
In Tudor times, following the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the mill came under the ownership of the Crown. In 1554 Winchester Cathedral hosted the wedding of Queen Mary Tudor to Philip II of Spain, a costly affair and Winchester appealed to the Crown for financial assistance. In response, Mary gifted the mill to the city, and it is then that it was named City Mill and found a new lease of life, being tenanted for a set rent rate plus two chickens for the Mayor!
In 1743 the Mill had a new tenant, James Cooke, who was responsible for how the Mill looks today. Intent on restoring it, he used many of the structural timbers from the earlier mill, but added lead to the windows, replaced the thatch roof with tiles, and changed wattle and daub walls to expensive imported Flemish bricks. The artist, JMW Turner, touring as a young Royal Academy student sketched the mill, this work being the earliest known depiction of the building following this restoration. In 1820, John Benham bought the mill and it stayed in the family for more than 100 years, operating profitably as a corn mill. During the First World War the mill was turned into a laundry and then in 1928, was put up for sale.
Saved from demolition by a group of local benefactors, it was presented to the National Trust, who leased part of it to the Youth Hostels Association in 1931, the first of several hostels along the Pilgrims Way which ran from Winchester to Canterbury, remaining open until 2004.
In the 1980s, a new waterwheel and gearing were acquired, a pair of French millstones were kindly donated by the Science Museum, and Ian Clark, a millwright and restoration engineer, became involved bringing the equipment up to the standard required for milling, and today, it still produces and sells freshly ground wholemeal flour by water power.
No onsite parking. Parking at Chesil multi-storey car park, 5 minutes from the city centre. Or via Park and Ride, St Catherine’s to Winchester from M3, exit 10.
There are stairs with handrail to the entrance of the Mill, down to the millrace and out to the garden.
Nearest mobility parking spaces at Chesil car park.
Access for powered wheelchairs or powered mobility vehicles is limited within the mill museum by the entrance steps.
Onsite toilet facilities available to cafe patrons. Disabled access toilets located in Abbey Gardens, adjacent to King Alfred’s statue, 200m from visitor reception.
Assistance dogs are welcome throughout the property.
Induction loop at till point in visitor reception.
Large print guide available.
There are two large oak benches located within the main mill museum. Further seating can be made available upon request. Metal benches are situated throughout the garden to sit and relax.
The Mill can be noisy during busy times of the year. Quieter times tend to be early afternoon on a week day.
Mobile phone reception throughout the property is good. In the event of an emergency, you are advised to contact a member of staff or volunteer (identifiable by their name badges) immediately or call visitor reception – 01962 870057.
There is a defibrillator on the bridge opposite.
I’m Ti, a Recruitment Consultant at Access Care in Hampshire and it’s been a pleasure researching and writing about my top suggestions for national trust properties to visit in Hampshire and present them to you. Have a wonderful day out!
Sources – The National Trust Website and Wikipedia (April 2021)