Worting House History

 

Worting House is a beautiful Georgian Grade II listed manor house. The main house was built in the reign of George I (1714 – 1727) and the wings of Worting House were added late in the 18th Century.

In 1797 the house was sold to Squire Lovelace Bigg-Wither of Manydown House; whose ancestors had held the lordship of the manor since the beginning of the 17th century. The house was let to John Clarke and during this time, on the evening of Thursday 20th December 1798, there was a visit by Jane Austen who came to a ball with her friend Catherine Bigg, one of Squire Bigg-Wither’s seven daughters.

She wrote “I spent my time very quietly and pleasantly with Catherine. Miss Blachford (a cousin of the Biggs, also a guest in the house) is agreeable enough. I do not want people to be very agreeable as it saves me the trouble of liking them a great deal. I found only Catherine and her when I got to Manydown on Thursday. We dined together and went together to Worting to seek protection of Mrs Clarke which whom Lady Mildmay, her eldest son, and a Mr and Mrs Hoare. Our ball was very thin, but by no means unpleasant. There were twenty dances, and I danced them all, and without any fatigue. My black cap was openly admired by Mrs Lefroy and I secretly imagine by everybody else in the room”.

Outwardly the house has stayed very much the same as when Jane Austen visited. It is approached from the coach turnpike road by two drives flanking a small park planted with trees. The front is flanked on either side by typical Regency shrubbery through which the drive curves and it has a lawn running down to the park being separated by a brick “ha-ha”.

The house consists of the plain red-brick George I central block with windows on three floors topped by a white painted cornice and brick parapet. The wings were added later, the east wing providing a ballroom and the west adding to domestic quarters.

Some of the features inside have disappeared, however the early Georgian arch remains in the front hall leading to the staircase. There is also an impressive marble fireplace and grate made of gunmetal which is dated before 1830.

There is said to be a tunnel that runs from the house to the church, but we have never been able to find it!

The whole property is about 55 acres, surrounded by a belt of trees.

Worting House was sold in 1813 by Lovelace Bigg-Wither’s only surviving son and heir, Harris who was briefly (lasted little more than twelve hours) engaged to Jane Austen. The house was purchased by Lord Spencer Chichester, second son of the first marquis of Donegal. Because of his extravagances, the house was seized by creditors and sold to Anna Maria, Lady Jones, widow of Sir Willian Jones the Orientalist. Worting House next appears in the possession of Anna Maria’s niece Penelope who was married to Pelham Warren, a distinguished London doctor and George III’s physician.

Penelope Warren survived her husband by thirty years, but when she died in 1865, Worting House was succeeded by their eldest son, Major Richard Pelham Warren JP. He added Scrapps farm to the property in 1866. He died in 1897, and it is believed that his brother Major-General Sir Arthur Frederick Warren KCB came to live at Worting House before this time as he purchased the advowson of Worting rectory in 1892 from the Bigg-Wither family. He died at Worting in 1913 at the age of 83. The house was sold in 1948 by his daughter, Mrs Warren-Codrington to Mr H Thornton of Basingstoke.

During its time, Worting House has been associated with many well-known people of the day.

Mr GK Burness bought the property from the executors of the late Mr H Thornton and he did a considerable amount of refurbishment and repair to the house. He farmed the home farm mainly as a pig farm and a modern piggery was built to the west of the farm drive and the original curving drive up from Church Lane was opened up.

In 1954 the firm of Burness, Corlett & Partners moved their headquarters from Bishopsgate in London for £25,000, a firm of naval architects & marine consultants.  Mr GK Burness was a partner and director of the company. The ballroom was converted into a large drawing office, the dining room became the boardroom and most of the bedrooms became offices. A canteen was established in the west wing which was also occupied by the managing director of BCP. Ewan Corlett will be remembered for his part in the rescue of Brunel’s pioneer steamship, The Great Britain from the sandbank in the Falklands.

The Coach House was stripped to a bare shell, a fine brick arched over the coach entrance was retained but bricked in with Georgian brick in a recessed form. The hall was formed with a large and attractive winding staircase. The managing director Dr E C B Corlett and his family occupied this house from 1958 until 1976.

In 1970 a large single storey extension to the offices was built behind the main building between the wings at the back of the north side.

A large car park was also built near the entrance; relieving pressure on the area in the front of Worting House.

Worting House has been Serviced Offices since 1988.