The Robertson family came to Chawton Park Farm in 1982, but the farm has been in existence for at least 250 years and Chawton Park has been a feature of the landscape for over seven centuries. The farm was was part of a large estate owned by Jane Austen’s brother, but was sold off in 1932.
The farm is 280 acres and has many historical features. In the 13th century the road from Farnham to Winchester passed through a wooded part of the farm which was known as ‘The Pass of Alton’ and this was frequented by robbers and thieves. In Medieval times there was a deer park and this is evident from the Park Pales (wooden stake fences) which are still there today on various parts of the farm.
The traditional farm buildings have been built over many years to form a courtyard; some areas of the farm still show evidence of where the bricks were made. The buildings have had multiple uses over the years from housing cart horses to calves and lambs and to being used as a school room during educational visits. Until 2004, cereals were grown on the land. Now the farm has all been put down to grass to restore it back to a traditional parkland setting.
The Old Buildings
We received a grant from Natural England through our membership of the HLS stewardship scheme, to repair and restore the old buildings.
The farmstead is a coherent historic farm building group based around the Grade ll listed farmhouse which dates from the 17th Century. To the west of the farmhouse is a timber framed, open fronted cart shed which has a ‘king post’ timber roof structure and is covered in plain clay tiles.
Opposite the farmhouse, there is a series of historic farm buildings arranged in a U-shape around a yard. The buildings are partly 18th, partly 19th century, and form a set comprising former threshing barn and stables, which have survived in a remarkably unaltered condition. The stables have chamfered bricks around door and window openings and patterned brickwork. This reflects the importance which horses had in historic farming practice. “It is rare for such buildings to survive in such an original state on working farms.” (Principal Conservation Officer, Hampshire County Council).
The land is split up into fields which are interspersed with small copses where we have put bird nesting boxes. The deer paddocks are surrounded by 6ft fences and the other fields are either grazed by sheep or conserved for hay and silage.
Under the environmental stewardship scheme, the old arable land has been returned to rough grassland and an area of species rich semi natural grassland is being restored, returning it to its historic parkland setting. Areas of wild bird seed have also been planted to encourage bird life and we have provided owl boxes for our resident barn owls.
The land to the north of the valley is heavy clay over chalk with a plentiful supply of flints. Dells have been formed where the clay was extracted to make bricks. Land to the south of the valley is chalk with a thin layer of topsoil and chalk pits are still in evidence where chalk was extracted to apply to the poorer clay soils to help the crops grow.
The farm lies on the eastern edge of the Hampshire Downs, the broad belt of chalk linking the Dorset Downs and Salisbury Plain in the west with the South Downs in the east. The Downs are a large-scale landscape of open rolling country on broad, gently domed undulating plateaux traversed by sheltered wooded valleys. There are numerous distinct hilltops, ridges and scarps supporting chalk downland.
The farm is situated within a sheltered wooded valley, with the southern ridge supporting chalk down land and the northern side a more open plateau area.