The History of Shrewton House
Henge Estate is family owned and operated. The Manor House, known as Shrewton House, is believed to have been built between 1820 and 1830 by local landed “minor” gentry, the Gilbert Family, to replace an existing farmstead near the old Norman church in Shrewton. It was apparently built for the landowner’s son, and for a time was known as “Shrewton Park House”. The style is typical of the late Georgian era, with limestone front, mosaic tiling in the entrance hall, and four pairs of Tuscan columns supporting a balcony above with fine geometric railing. Americans who have stayed, have been much reminded of Southern State houses, as in Gone with the Wind!
In the early 1900s, the owner at the time, Thomas Mills added a servants’ wing to the rear, connecting the hearth and kitchen to the main house. The house barely changed for the next 100 years, when we embarked on an extensive programme of restoration, introducing various elements to sympathetically bring the house into the 21st century with sustainability at its core. The family has a strong commitment to investing in the restoration and maintenance of the property, and to creating a carbon-neutral operation so that it can be enjoyed for generations to come.
Notable residents of Shrewton House include Thomas Sheppard Esq. who was a member of parliament, and likely bought the house as a retreat for countryside pursuits. The Nicholls family then occupied the house for over 30 years, whereby the “head of the household,” John Nicolls was listed in the census as a surgeon and farmer. Thomas Mills purchased the house in 1879, then sold it on to George Williams some 40 years later.
In the first half of the 20th Century, while owned by George Williams, Shrewton House went through what was considered a scandalous period. Lady Torrington, a former actress known as Eleanor “Nellie” Souray, and later a racehorse owner, purchased Elston House next to Shrewton House, and established a stud farm there. After her husband, Viscount Torrington, abandoned her, she took up residence with her famous jockey lover, Steve Donoghue, at Shrewton House! Their affair reportedly lasted from 1917 through the 1920s, while Steve was riding for Lady Torrington. During this time, Lady Torrington published a novel called: Over the Garden Wall: A story of racing and romance in 1924, which we imagine may have included scenes in our very own “secret” walled garden (although it is out of print so we will never know!)
Elston House was later acquired and ran by famous racehorse trainer, Richmond Sturdy. One of his jockeys, Peter Howell, became an internationally renowned, equine artist, who returned in recent years, and now lives in a residence on Henge Estate. Peter translates his love for horses and horse racing into his painting, and one of his pieces hangs in the kitchen, where he has beautifully captured the symbiotic charm of the house and the horses.
Shortly after Lady Torrington’s time at Shrewton House, a rather formidable Australian, Mrs Audrey Pape, lived there together with a “Mrs Brown”. The village would not have been familiar with open lesbian relationships, and the gossip it generated must have been quite something. We still have an enormous old key with a handwritten tag that says “Mrs Pape” – but we have no idea what it opens. The restaurant at Rollestone Manor has photographs of Mrs Pape and party on the steps of Shrewton House!
By the mid-1930s, the house was occupied by the Bonham Carter family, and became a Liberal strong hold. The story goes that Jo Grimond, at that time leader of the Liberal Party, spent half of his honeymoon at Shrewton House!
Our family arrived in 1955, when General Sir Robert Hinde retired to the house after a career in the British Army. Sir Robert features in Giles Milton’s masterpiece of a history book, Checkmate in Berlin: The First Battle of the Cold War (2022). Sir Robert’s early period at the House was disturbed in 1956, when he was recalled to the Army, and the War Rooms in Whitehall, to take part in the planning of the Suez Operation. After that little hurdle, he settled down to a military campaign against the nettles in the field. This was the first home he had owned, after 26 or so moves with the Army and he loved the place. It is a great privilege that it is in the third generation of our family.
There are no ghosts that we know of!
We hope you enjoy yourselves during your stay.