10:41am Tuesday 4th May 2010
By Richard Garfield
HIDDEN away behind two large yew trees is a fine Georgian mansion in Basingstoke’s Winton Square.
Winton House is an attractive brick building, complete with a portico and Doric columns. It’s elegant and formal style has certainly stood the test of time and seen a few changes over the centuries.
Once Winton House would have been a local landmark, standing out and looking towards open fields, while having an extensive garden at the rear.
The garden and the fields are long gone. Today, Winton House is owned by Colin Davison, from where he runs his serviced offices business space2prosper and Cranleys Chartered Accountants.
Colin, who bought the mansion in 2007, was curious to learn about the past of Winton House. It was a private residence but has seen life as a school, doctor’s surgery and even a telephone exchange.
Colin said: “Although it’s not one of the biggest buildings around, it has had a few uses. A lot of people in this town have either worked here, or can recall someone who has worked here, so there is that personal affection for it.”
Soon after moving into Winton House, Colin commissioned local artist Kerry Sheffield to produce some colourful paintings of the mansion.
“I wanted to have some paintings depicting its early years,” said Colin. “I wanted paintings with some life in them, showing movement and of people going about their daily business.”
Together Colin and Kerry collaborated in tracing the history of the mansion by paying a visit to Hampshire Record Office in Winchester.
“It’s been fascinating, trying to produce a coherent record of the history of Winton House, looking through lots of documents and linking records together,” said Colin.
“We don’t know who had the house built, but given the stature of the building, I would guess that it must have been built by someone wealthy, like a successful local merchant.
“We don’t know anything about the early years of the building apart from it replacing two or three ‘meek-looking cottages’.
“However, looking through a copy of Hunts Hampshire Directory, at the Hampshire Record Office, we know that by 1852, it was used as a girls boarding school, kept by Ann and Susan Dusantoy.”
Colin said he understands that the opening ceremony for the school was attended by dignitaries from all over Hampshire, including the Bishop of Winchester, and he believes this is how the mansion acquired its name – Winton is the ecclesiastical signature of the bishop. Even today, the current Bishop of Winchester, The Right Reverend Michael Scott-Joynt signs his name +Michael Winton.
Records show the mansion continued to be used as a school up until 1867 and possibly into the 1870s. A name that crops up in 1875 is a Mrs Rousby, who owned the house, either as a private residence or as a school.
According to the Post Office Hampshire Directory, by 1878 the house was used as a private residence for Sir George Russell Clerk.Was it the same Sir George Russell Clerk who was a British colonial administrator in India? He was acting governor of Bombay in 1848 to 1850 and again from 1860 to 1862, and also helped to establish the Orange Free State in South Africa, between 1853 and 1856.
Next to take up residence at Winton House was Charles Henry Johnson in 1890, who was the first in a series of doctors to live and practise there up until around the Second World War.
The last doctor to be based at Winton House, found by Colin, was a Dr Rowe, who held surgeries there from 1935 to 1941. During the 1950s and 1960s, the building was used by the Post Office as a telephone exchange.
Colin said in 1965, the Ministry of Labour made use of the building, while in the 1970s it was used by the Department of Employment and Productivity, and from 1975 to 1983, it was used by the Post Office Engineering Department.
Insurance giant the Prudential was occupying the house by 1983, using it as a regional office, and then an IT company called Panacea set up offices there in 1987, sharing the mansion with a firm of solicitors.
Colin said: “It’s a building that has a 300-year history covering a range of activity, from education, medical use and business.
“But it’s also very much a building for the 21st century with modern facilities.
“Many historical buildings almost become museums and go into sleepy mode, whereas Winton House is very much alive.”
Colin is keen to hear from anyone who has memories and stories about the building and its surrounding area along with any photos, which he would like to add to Winton House’s archive.
To contact Colin, call space2prosper on 01256 830000.
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