There have been impressive properties at Hartham for many centuries. Two families, living beside one another for over 300 years, before the existing Hartham Park buildings even existed. Hartham House was home to the Duckett family, one of whom, Lionel Duckett, became Lord Mayor of London in 1572. The Duckett coat of arms can still be seen over the main gate.
Hartham Park was the home of the Goddards, a family whose history is inextricably linked with North Wiltshire both as land-owners and politicians. Anne Goddard inherited the property in 1785, and was married to Commodore William James, whose enterprise and success in the East India Company led to him becoming Chairman of the Board of Directors, it also provided the funds for Anne to build the Mansion House as we now know it, designed by the fashionable and highly sought after architect James Wyatt. This “new” Mansion House was built on the site of a former Tudor farmstead and was completed in 1795. Sadly, she did not live to enjoy the house that she had created. Severndroog Castle, London, built in 1784 is a memorial to Sir William. Lady James wanted to celebrate his most famous exploit when he destroyed the fleet and stronghold of pirates on the island fortress Severn Droog on the west coast of Malabar, India in 1755.
Henry Hall Joy became the owner of both Hartham House and Hartham Park in the 183o’s and he made the decision that the original Hartham House was superfluous to requirements, and it was knocked down. Eventually the estate was sold to the Methuen family.
Bought by Thomas Poynder, another trader with the East India Company, Hartham Park now enjoys its heyday. Sir John Poynder Dickson inherited the estate some years later, as well as the title sixth baronet. In 1888, by Royal licence, he added the addition Poynder to his Surname becoming Sir John Poynder Dickson Poynder. Sir John became MP for Chippenham in 1892 and during the Second Boer War was aide-de-campe to Lord Methuen, Commander in Chief, winning DSO in 1900. In 1910 he was appointed Governor of New Zealand and rose to the peerage as Lord Islington (a part of London where the Poynder family owned land). After two years he returned from New Zealand to become first Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies and then Under-Secretary of State for India. Under his ownership he added to the house, extending the main building and creating the courtyard. It was Sir John who also built the Stické tennis court in 1904, used for the popular indoor version of lawn tennis.
Although 38 Stické courts were built throughout the British Empire, the present court is one of only two which remain. The building and balcony also doubled as a cricket pavilion.
It was at the turn of the 19th century that Churchill and Asquith are known to have stayed in the house, as did H.R.H Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, the third son of Queen Victoria.
In 1922 the estate was purchased by Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson, who resided here during the second World War. The Nicholson family were famed gin distillers and benefactors of the MCC. The red and yellow colours of the club were adopted in recognition of financial support afforded by Mr W. Nicholson which saved Lords from rapacious property developers in 1866.
The upper floors of the house became billet for 100 WAAF personnel, B Watch for 10 Group, RAF Fighter Command, during the Battle of Britain and for the remainder of the War.
From the 1960’s onwards Hartham Park has been primarily used for business. For a number of years it was the head quarters of The Bath and Portland Stone Company, which now trades as Hanson Bath & Portland Stone and still operates an underground quarry in Corsham extracting Bath Stone.
While later owners of Hartham Park let much of the grounds deteriorate or sold parts off altogether, there is still evidence of what the property must have been like. Pineapples were grown in a heated greenhouse (the smokestack for the boiler can still be seen from the car park) the gardens were landscaped by Harold Peto, of Iford Manor fame and much of the grounds were laid out, as they are today, in this period. The servants’ bells remain in situ outside of Jacks restaurant, harking back to the Victorian kitchen days.
Hartham Park was bought by Jeffrey Thomas in 1997. His vision of returning the house and grounds into active and sustainable use has resulted in the unique campus that you will find today.
Now, as has been the case throughout its history, Hartham Park is once again a place where people meet, entertain and relax; a place where business and pleasure are important components of the building’s present. Hartham Park is today very much alive, and it is a place that will continue to excite, and welcome the curious.