BEHIND a high wall on the way to Alton on the A339, to the south side of Basingstoke, lies the Hackwood Estate, an area of 260 acres encompassing the grand building of Hackwood House just out of view from the main road.

This impressive house, built in the reign of James II in the late 1600s, has 24 bedrooms and 20 bathrooms, and the main entrance is flanked by two gatehouses. The grounds include a botanical garden, a coach house and stables.

The Hackwood Estate dates back to 1223 when it was owned by the manor of Eastrop and became a deer park. In the 16th century it was purchased by the 1st Marquess of Winchester Sir William Paulet, the first resident of Basing House and treasurer to Edward VI, Queen Mary and Elizabeth I.

George I stayed as a guest of Charles Paulet, the fifth Marquess, Duke of Bolton, on August 28 1693, and the King presented the Duke with a statue of himself on horseback which was mounted on a pedestal outside the house.

Queen Elizabeth of the Belgians was given refuge during the First World War and King Albert of Belgium visited in 1920. In 1921 Sir Winston Churchill stayed while on painting expeditions and Neville Chamberlain, following his notorious visit to Adolf Hitler in 1938, was also a guest.

In the 1930s it saw the occupancy of William Berry the 1st Viscount Camrose who moved his family from St James’s Place in London to the newly-acquired Hackwood House where he loved to entertain, but mostly he enjoyed the company of his family of eight children.

At a young age William dreamed of owning a daily newspaper and in 1915 he purchased an ailing Sunday Times on borrowed money and turned it into a success. Based on this, he purchased the Financial Times.

His dream was realised when in 1927 he took over the Daily Telegraph, which was not in good shape, and, by reducing the selling price from 2d to 1d, turned around its fortunes, doubling the circulation. The rest is history - and William became a very wealthy man.

During the Second World War the house was used as a hospital for more than 16,500 Canadian troops housed in Nissan huts covering the front lawn.

Known to be kind to his staff, William was also generous to those he knew. Winston Churchill saw that side to him when, faced with the possibility of the sale of his home, Chartwell, Viscount Camrose arranged with his friends to help Winston to buy it so that he could live in it until his death in 1965, 11 years after the passing of Viscount Camrose.

Lady Camrose, Princess Joan Aly Khan, the mother of Aga Khan IV, continued to live there until her death in 1997. Now said to be the home of a foreign billionaire, the estate in 2016 was valued at £65 million, becoming the most expensive country estate publicly for sale.

Still a magnificent building, it stands as testimony to the wealth and prosperity of previous generations and should continue to do so into the future.