Somerley House


The history of Somerley House and its early origins, go back hundreds of years to its first occupation by the Okden family of Ellingham and Moyles Court in 1653. The Okden’s sold Somerley to Sir William Doddington, whose family built the original house, located in the lower parkland of the Estate (now known as The Walled Garden). This original dwelling boasted Flemish gables and a tall order of pilasters, very modern for its time and quite different from the Somerley House we know today.  Due to a fire, this original property was razed to the ground and a new dwelling was built.  This was to become Somerley House which stood proud in an elevated position, commanding panoramic views of the surrounding parkland, the River Avon and the New Forest.

From architectural drawings, it has been ascertained that the present Somerley House and stable block was designed by the Wyatt brothers but predominantly Samuel Wyatt between 1791 and 1795.  However, before its completion, Somerley was sold to Henry Baring – a great banking family, in 1811.

Our House is available for exclusive hire, for weddings, celebrations and private stays.

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The House and Estate was put up once again for sale in 1828 and was purchased by Welbore Ellis Agar, The 2nd Earl of Normanton.  This was to mark the beginning of the Agar Family ownership and subsequent succeeding line of Agar custodians. Welbore, was an ardent neoclassical collector and went about an elaborate exercise of completing the unfinished rooms, rivalling King George IV in the sale room.  Much of the furniture and artwork he collected, is still present within the House today. It was the 2nd Earl’s principal interest in collecting artwork that created a need for a 90ft long Picture Gallery in order to display them.  This magnificent room was added to Somerley in 1850

When the 3rd Earl succeeded in 1868, he and the Countess brought with them a large family of eight young children.  Somerley House, despite having the great Picture Gallery extension, was deemed too small for such a large family. So it was that William Byrne, veteran Architect of Baronial Mansions, was summoned to provide extra nursery and social accommodation. An additional floor was added to the House to provide the much-needed bedrooms for the 3rd Earl’s growing family and is where most of Somerley’s accommodation is located today.

The 3rd Earl’s alterations proved to be far reaching and expensive, but the integrity of Samual Wyatt’s work has remained intact. The 3rd Earl clearly decided to take advantage of the upheaval to re-model many of the principle rooms in accordance with a prevailing Adam/Louis XVI taste, like the modifications at Malborough House. Extra rooms were also added to the entrance front to accommodate the Victorian taste for smoking and billiards, connecting to a newly extended porch through a court and conservatory along with a servant’s wing comprising of 26 bedrooms. The House during the occupation of the 3rd and 4th Earl was at its largest.

On the outbreak of the Great World (WWI) in 1914, saw the 5th Earl and Countess of Normanton offering a wing of Somerley House to the War Office, to be used as an auxiliary hospital for 50 soldiers.  The Countess of Normanton became the Superintendent of the hospital and was assisted by her two daughters, Lady Georgina and Lady Alexandra together with a team of trained nurses to tend to the wounded. Because of the post-war economy, the 5th Earl decided to demolish the ground floor additions as well as the servants wing in 1945.

Today, Somerley House remains in a slightly more compact yet still sizeable form.  The current custodians, the 7th Earl and Countess of Normanton, have lovingly restored much of the House and have added 21st century comforts.  To enable its continued restoration and preservation, Somerley is available for exclusive hire, for weddings, celebrations, festivals, events and private stays.