St. Nicholas Hurst, Berkshire
Bill Hill is a fine early Georgian house of blue bricks with red brick dressings in the parish of Hurst. Additions were made in the later Georgian period and the interior was altered in the early 19th century when a fine staircase with a delicate iron balustrade was installed.
The present house was probably built around 1723 for Lord Blundell who then owned the site on which probably stood an old forest hunting lodge. He sold his new house to Lady Harold eleven years later. This widowed lady became the third wife of John Leveson-Gower (pronounced Lewison-Gore) , the Lord Privy Seal who was later created Earl Gower. Countess Gower built the stables and east wing, and made other additions. She also owned Barkham House where her chaplain was the rector. She was buried in the parish church there after she died, at the age of eighty-four, from injuries received when her clothes caught fire in 1785. Her son, Rear Admiral Leveson-Gower, had some trouble inheriting her Berkshire lands as his elder half-brother claimed they were the property of their father. A prolonged court case, however, established that Countess Gower had purchased them prior to her marriage.
In the 1790s, the family rented the property to the young Marquis of Blandford (later 5th Duke of Marlborough). He was quite a party animal, collector and spendthrift, particularly when he moved on to Whiteknights Park in Earley. A skilled and experienced botanist, he started his fine collection of unusual and exotic plants at Bill Hill. His sister married the Earl of Shaftesbury in Hurst Church and his eldest son, the 6th Duke, was born at Bill Hill in 1793. The Leveson-Gower family were back in residence by 1798, however, and continued to live in the house for the next hundred years or more.
Bill Hill is currently a private
residence & stud farm. It can be viewed at a distance from the now
truncated Forest Road.
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