Broadlands - The Mountbatten's home in Romsey, Hampshire
'Broadlands' is considered one of the finest examples of mid-Georgian architecture in England. It stands serenely in a unique place in British history, having had several distinguished owners and many of its important visitors have helped to shape the course of history. Its name originates from the 'Brodelandes' estate, which was owned by nearby Romsey Abbey which had been founded by a daughter of King Edward the Elder (870(899-924) as a Benedictine nunnery in 997. In 1539 the manor was surrendered to King Henry VIII (1491(1509-1547) who separated the Abbey from the house after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Broadlands was subsequently sold to Sir Francis Fleming (1502-1558) in 1547, whose grand-daughter married Edward St. Barbe. The manor remained the property of the St. Barbe family for the next 117 years.
ABOVE: The arms of
the St. Barbe family
RIGHT: A map of the
old Broadlands estate
Sir John St. Barbe, Bt. (1655-1723) made many improvements to the manor prior to leaving the estate to his nephew – Humphrey Sydenham (1694-1757) in 1723. Sydenham was ruined in the South Sea Bubble incident – where the South Sea Company was granted a monopoly to trade with South America under a treaty with Spain and an economic 'bubble' occurred through overheated speculation in the company’s shares. He sold the estate for £26,500 to Henry Temple, 1st Viscount Palmerston (1673-1757) in 1736. Palmerston began the deformalisation of the gardens between the river and the house and produced the “gentle descent to the river” and to make the house “suitable for a gentleman to live in”.
In 1767, a major architectural 'transformation' was begun by Lancelot 'Capability' Brown (1716-1783). Palmerston’s grandson - Henry Temple, 2nd Viscount Palmerston, (1739-1802) requested that Brown seize upon the capabilities' of the earlier Tudor and Jacobean manor house and between 1767 and 1780, the 'deformalisation' of William Kent (1685-1748) was completed, as well as further landscaping, planting and riverside work, creating one of his greatest masterpieces.
Much of Brown’s designs remain today and it is a tribute to his foresight, that Broadland’s grounds are so beautiful today. Broadlands' Archives show that his was the principal influence in planning the project to 'square' the house in new classic Palladian style to be encased in white brick to give the appearance of stone and to have two noble porticos. Brown's protégé and son-in-law - Henry Holland (1745-1806) added the east front portico and domed hall in 1788.
Most of the decorative plaster work in the main rooms was designed and executed by Joseph Rose the Elder (1723-1780) who was described by a contemporary as "the first man in the Kingdom as a plasterer". The stable building (which now houses the Mountbatten Exhibition) has changed little since the end of the 17th Century when the old manor house of the St. Barbe family stood on the site of the present Georgian house.
The St.Barbe family memorial
within Romsey Abbey
Lancelot "Capability" Brown
'Capability' Brown's design
of the South Front of Broadlands
© Southampton University -
The 18th Century grace of Broadlands' exterior is today complemented by its elegant interior and visitors can see many of the original paintings, furniture, porcelain and magnificent sculpture collected by The Palmerstons. Lady Palmerston wrote - “nothing can be more comfortable than this House. It is magnificent when we have company, and when alone it seems to be only a cottage in a beautiful garden".
Today, the house is largely as the 2nd Viscount Palmerston left it, with only minor improvements being made by The Rt Hon. Sir Henry Temple, 3rd Viscount Palmerston (1784-1865) who served as Foreign Secretary 1830-1834, 1835-1841 and 1846-1851 and as Prime Minister 1855-1858 and 1859-1865.
When the 3rd Viscount inherited Broadlands in 1802, his father's debts were substantial and Broadlands had a £10,000 mortgage and worked hard to reduce his debts. With restored finances added by his ministerial salary, he spent a great deal on the estate by improving the workmen's cottages and carried out extensive improvements to the house itself. He regularly hosted large parties and enjoyed hunting and his horses at Broadlands. He was a popular landlord and generous to his servants, tenants and to the local community by supporting local charities instituted a school for the local poor children of Romsey and paid the salary of the teacher. In addition he paid for gaslight and heating improvements to Romsey Abbey - where he attended regularly. By 1847, the new railway service from Romsey meant that the 3rd Viscount could travel from the Foreign Office to Broadlands in 3½ hours.
An early 19th Century engraving of Broadlands
An early photograph of Henry, 3rd Viscount Palmerston
on the steps of Broadlands
Following the death of the 3rd Viscount Palmerston, the Broadlands estate passed to his step-son William Cowper-Temple, 1st Lord Mount Temple (1811-1888), who held public prayer meetings in the grounds and banned all blood-sports on the estate. Following his death the estate passed to his great-nephew – The Rt Hon Evelyn Melbourne Ashley (1836-1907), who was the second son of the great philanthropist Sir Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury (1801-1885) and who had been private secretary to the 3rd Viscount Palmerston.