Hungerford Park was first established as a deer park, in 1247, for Simon de Montfort, the Earl of Leicester, and so-called ‘Father of English Democracy’. The area was just one of his many parcels of land around the country, but as it was located on the main road from London to the West, he may have visited on occasion. He was married to Princess Eleanor, sister of King
III, whose first husband’s family lived at nearby Hamstead
Marshall. The King certainly gave his sister twenty deer for the park and Simon may have erected a small hunting lodge to stay over in. After De Montfort was killed at the Battle of Evesham, Hungerford deer park fell into Royal hands. It was probably rarely, if ever, visited by the monarch and any lodge presumably fell into ruin.
By 1586, the Royal deer park at Hungerford was in serious decline. There was no lodge and two hundred and thirty oak and ash trees had been felled there in the previous twelve years; while the number of deer had plummeted from three hundred to sixty-six in just three years. Queen
Elizabeth I must have invested heavily to bring the place back up to scratch. Three years later, a certain Anthony Cooke was overseeing the park. By 1591, the tenancy was with Henry Sadler and his wife, Philippa. His park “containeth 300 acres, 140 deer, well paled and furnished with oaks, ashes and coppice woods” and most importantly, “a convenient new built lodge”. In 1595, the Queen granted Hungerford Park to her favourite, Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex. He is said to have expanded the lodge into a ‘mansion,’ at the east end of which were displayed the Royal arms of his patroness. A large room over the servants’ hall was called ‘Queen Elizabeth's Room’ indicating that the lady visited him there at least once to partake of the chase. Sadler remained as steward while Essex spent most of his time in London, but the great man became involved in Court intrigues and was executed for treason in 1601.
By the middle of the 17th century, Thomas Hussey had purchased the park lease from a certain John Herbert. Presumably he was a descendant of the Husseys from North Standen. Thomas died in 1657 leaving the park to his wife, Catherine, for her lifetime, with a remainder to his eldest son, also called Thomas. Later that century, the park belonged to Edward Boyland and his family, but in 1707 it was sold to Francis Stonhouse, a 2nd cousin of Sir George Stonhouse, 4th Baronet, of
Radley Hall, near Abingdon. His mother was one of the Goddards from
Standen Manor, a property he also purchased from his cousin, Francis Goddard, in 1719. Francis Stonhouse died in 1738, when his son, another Francis, inherited both estates. The former Governor of Jamaica, Edward Trelawny, was presumably his guest when he died at Hungerford Park on 16th January 1754. Six years later the estate became celebrated in agricultural circles for the early introduction of maize. Francis Junior’s son, George Stonhouse, inherited his father’s estates in 1758. He appears to have preferred Standen
Manor, for he sold Hungerford Park to Isaac Renous in 1765. We know, from maps of this period, that the accommodation consisted of a large east-facing house with two wings resting amongst tree-lined avenues and formally laid-out gardens and orchards. However, Isaac went bankrupt within four years and the park was vested in trustees for the benefit of his creditors.
Hungerford Park was eventually sold to a Mr. Walters and, by 1787, had passed to Charles Dalbiac. Dalbiac was a Protestant Huguenot whose father had fled France as a child hidden in a hamper, presumably with a large amount of money. Dalbiac pulled down the old house at Hungerford Park and built a new “elegant villa in the Italian style,” set in pleasure grounds of “a neat and agreeable appearance”. There, he raised a family, including his eldest son, Lieut-Gen Sir James Charles Dalbiac KCH who famously led the left wing of the 4th Dragoons at the Battle of Talavera during the Peninsular War. The family sold up in 1796.
The new owner, John Willes, was to start a dynasty that was associated with the area for over a hundred years. He rebuilt the ancillary buildings around the house and erected the only still extant associated structure, the wellhouse. This is a charming little red-brick octagonal building, with side chambers, in a muted classical style,
standing over an 111ft deep well. Within its gable, it sports a sculptured arms of Elizabeth I, probably the one that graced the wall of the original house. The whole is sadly in need of restoration. Willes also had new kitchen and pleasure gardens laid out. He served as Sheriff of Berkshire in 1815 but died childless in 1837, leaving this estate to his nephew, George, fifth son of the Rev. William Shippen Willes of Astrop in Northamptonshire. In 1850, George Willes employed Thomas and William Cubitt to remodel a large part of his mansion. He served as deputy-lieutenant for the county and was succeeded in 1862 by his son, George Shippen Willes, Hon. Colonel of the Berkshire Imperial Yeomanry. Shippen Willes was eventually unable to keep up the building himself and rented it out to tenants before being forced to sell the park in 1908 to Humphrey James Walmesley. He resided at Inglewood House in
The shipping magnate, Alfred George Turner, purchased Hungerford Park – a two storeyed stuccoed building with moulded cornice, a Doric porch and two projecting bays on south garden front – in June 1928. Six years later, he made a number of changes to the house, including the addition of a grand ballroom, ideal for the magnificent themed parties, ending in fireworks displays, for which the family became famous. Particularly remembered locally were the ‘Golden Ball’ when everything was coloured gold and the party with a chartered train to supply the drinks from Paddington. After Turner’s death in 1956, the estate was sold to Lord Howard de Walden from Avington Manor and,
being unoccupied, fell into disrepair. Despite being a Grade III listed building (a grade that no longer exists), the house and almost all associated buildings were demolished in 1960.
In the early 2010s, planning permission was granted for a new mansion on the site.
Memories of the old
house referenced from the Hungerford
no longer stands.