Wessex Attractions: West Green House

West Green House is an 18th century grade II listed house near Hartley Wintney in Hampshire by Henry Hawley, aka Hangman Hawley, a bloodthirsty imperialist who led the cavalry charge against the Scots at the Battle of Colluden. Whilst we have written before about Wessaxon support for the Jacobite cause, Hawley most emphatically did not share such sympathy, and was a leading figure in the destruction of the Jacobite rebellion.

Today, the house is better known for its gardens, and for its regular opera performances instituted by its current owner Marylyn Abbott, a former manager at Sydney Opera House.

The house and gardens are currently closed due to the coronavirus lockdown, but are scheduled to reopen on June 17th. The postcode, for satnav purposes, is RG27 8JB.

Wessex Attractions: Hidcote

Hidcote Manor and its gardens, located near Chipping Campden in the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. are a National Trust-owned property bought by the American-born Major Lawrence Johnston and his mother in the early years of the 20th century and restored according to the principles of the then-burgeoning Arts and Crafts movement. Charles Ashbee moved the Gild (sic) of Handicrafts from East London to Chipping Campden in 1902, and the area quickly became a centre for the movement.

The G(u)ild dissolved five years later, but Major Johnson continued its legacy, He spent the period up to 1914 remodelling the house and gardens according to Arts and Crafts principles, but progress was halted when he went off to fight in World War 1. After the war, a period of expansion began, and the estate was sold to the National Trust in 1948.

Like all National Trust properties, Hidcote Manor is currently closed. but their website allows visitors to experience a virtual tour.

Wessex Attractions: Marden Henge

Marden Henge, 5½ miles southeast of Devizes, is the third of Wiltshire's major prehistoric sites, along with Stonehenge and Avebury, though less well-known than either. It is the site of Hatfield Barrow, a Bronze Age burial chamber. In July 2015, archaeologists from the University of Reading found a 4000-year-old skeleton believed to be that of a teenager, buried with an amber necklace at nearby Wilsford Henge.

Marden Henge covered some 26 acres, making it larger than Stonehenge or Avebury. Unfortunately, little of it now survives. It merits only the briefest mention in the book Prehistoric Sacred Sites of Wessex by Kent Goodman (Wessex Books, 1997), whose gazetteer simply describes it as "A large henge, now barely visible". However, anyone wishing to visit it once lockdown ends should use satnav postcode SN10 3RQ, or Salisbury Reds service 101 or 210 from Devizes.

Wessex Attractions: Prior Park Landscape Gardens

Prior Park Landscape Gardens is one of the must-see attractions in Bath. In the time before The Awfulness, it was undergoing restoration by the National Trust to help return it to its Georgian splendour, the way it looked in 1764 when its creator, Ralph Allen, died. Work was being done on the dams when lockdown began, to repair damage to the riverbanks by an invasive species, the American signal crayfish.

Allen, a Cornishman, became postmaster of Bath at the age of 19. He greatly reformed the postal service, and invested the money he made into local quarries at Bathampton and Combe Down. He had Prior Park, a Palladian mansion, built to showcase the local Bath Stone. It was designed by neo-druidical nutcase/genius John Wood the Elder, whose influence can still be seen in Bath's architecture to this day. The gardens were probably designed by Capability Brown. This is not certain, but £60 was owing to him at the time of Allen's death, so it seems likely.

The mansion house is now used as a Catholic secondary school, but the gardens are still open to the public, or at least will be once lockdown ends. The postcode is BA2 5AH, and the gardens are served by the no 2 bus from Bath Spa station, as well as the various sightseeing buses that operate in the city.

Wessex Attractions: Pepperbox Hill

Pepperbox Hill, six miles south of Salisbury, is the site of one of the earliest follies, built in 1606, before the term "folly" was in common use, at least in an architectural context. Built in 1606 by local landowner Giles Eyre for his wife Jane (not that one), its exact function is the subject of debate. The general consensus seems to be that it was some kind of hunting lodge for rich weirdos.

The octagonal building appears to have been modelled on the Tower of the Winds in Athens, as does a similar folly in County Down, Ireland. Now owned by the National Trust, the tower itself is closed to the public, but the surrounding chalk ridge offers magnificent views of the surrounding area. It is a popular spot with dog walkers, so watch where you tread!

The postcode, for satnav purposes, is SP5 3QL.