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A brief history of Appletree Court

In 1919 a wealthy shoe manufacturer named Edward Penton Esq. bought up several plots of land to the east of Lyndhurst village to form a 25 acre estate that would become Appletree Court. The new estate included part of the plot containing Glass Hayes, an impressive private residence built in the first of half of the nineteenth century. It shows on the 1870s and 1898 Ordnance Survey maps but, by 1909 it is shown as the Grand Hotel. Today it is the Lyndhurst Park Hotel.

Edward Penton instructed an architect to build a country retreat for him and his London friends to enjoy. The design included 'pleasure grounds' which in those days occupied 10 hectares and included a pond and woodland to the south and west. The house was positioned in the north east corner of the site, with the grounds sloping to the South West. A small area of designed garden included a sunken bowling green surrounded by paths and herbaceous borders, which can still be seen today in front of the large bay windows of the old house. Specimen trees planted at that time in the grass to the west of the bowling green have now matured, including the magnificent Wellingtonia.

The house had nineteen bedrooms and dressing rooms but just four bathrooms! More remarkably, it had central heating and electric lighting, the power for which was generated on the estate. The West Hampshire Electricity Company did not come into being until 1928. One striking feature of the house was its broad corridor, 87 feet in length, running the length of the house, screened from the hall on the west by the beautifully carved stone columns on marble bases, and terminating at the other end in a glazed oak screen, opening to the east porch.

In 1922 Mr Penton sold the house and estate to Mr Herbert Knight Esq. The son of Sir Edmund Knight, a past Lord Mayor of London, Mr Knight was a distinguished architect in the City and involved in the insurance industry. When he took possession of the house he removed the inside wall dividing the lounge hall from the drawing room and so formed a large lounge hall measuring some 62' x 18' with two exceptionally large bay windows. He also bought two beautiful Flemish stained glass panels, believed to be from a continental church. A long upstairs corridor, about 105 feet, was lighted by a large leaded glass window at either end. He built two lodges at the Gosport Land entrance (since demolished) and the estate had eight cottages in addition to garages and a farm.

In 1936 the house passed to a Mr HA Smith, who sold it in 1941 to an oil company called AGWI who had set up a small refinery at Fawley. In 1943 this was transferred to Esso who greatly enlarged the refinery. Appletree Court also passed to Esso, who used it to house their executives when they came to view the building works at Fawley. Esso had the house until 1948 when the New Forest Rural District Council bought it. The council had previously had offices all over Lyndhurst and was now able to bring them under one roof. The council chamber was added to the southern end of the original house in 1950, the east wing in 1967 and the south wing in 1986. New Forest District Council was formed with the merging of the New Forest, Ringwood and Fordingbridge Rural Districts, and the Lymington Borough Councils forty years ago, on 1 April 1974. The gardens of Appletree Court as we know them today are reduced to approximately 2 hectares.

Updated: 29 Oct 2014
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