To the north of the town is the estate of Chilton Lodge, the present house dating from 1795-1800.
[This should not be confused with Chilton House, an old manor house which used to be at the west end of Chilton Foliat village and was demolished in 1965.]
Owners of Chilton Estate:
1595-1663 Sir Thomas Hinton
1663-1675 Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke
c1750 John Holwell
c1785- John Pearse
Chilton Lodge (1800):
1890-1907 Sir William Pearce
1908- The Ward family:
1908-> The Hon Sir John & Lady Ward
1997-> The Scrope family
- Shooting at Chilton Lodge, from Illustrated Sporting News, 22 Nov 1884
- Chilton Lodge, c1912.
- Chilton Lodge, undated (Moya Dixon).
Chilton Park, c1595-1785:
There was a house called Chilton Park by 1595, when it was owned by Sir Thomas Hinton, Sheriff of Berkshire, and Commissioner of Wool. It stood to the west of the current house, across the county boundary in Wiltshire, and just to the east of where Park Farm now stands.
In 1663 it was bought by Sir Bulstrode Whitelocke, the English lawyer, diarist, writer, Parliamentarian, and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England. He was a distinguished character during the Civil War and Commonwealth period, and after the restoration of Charles II he retired to live quietly at Chilton Lodge, dying there 28th July 1675.
The estate was afterwards sold to John Holwell, a nabob, and one of the survivors of the 'Black Hole' of Calcutta (1756). He was subsequently governor of Bengal in 1760.
Chilton Park, 1785-93:
The property was then acquired by John Pearse (?1760–1836), of 50 Lincoln's Inn Fields.
John Pearse was director of the Bank of England (1790–1791, 1793–1808 and 1812–1828), deputy governor (1808–1810) and finally as its governor (1810–1812). He was later MP for Devizes 1818 to 1832.
John Pearse commissioned the well known architect Sir John Soane to demolish the old 16th century house and design a new villa, closely following his design for Saxlingham Parsonage in Suffolk. The new house was built between 1789 and 1793.
Chilton Lodge (1798-1801):
Remarkably, however, Pearse was not happy with the new house, and from Scrope family researches at the Soane Museum it is apparent that Soane was unhappy about the house he designed as the owner had obliged him to use some old materials from the older house that it replaced.
Within five years Pearse commissioned an entirely new house to be built. This time it was designed by Sir William Pilkington, and comprised a south front and a west front each of five bays, the south being particularly handsome incorporating a full-height Corinthian portico, with an east front of seven bays, and with a large north stable court. The new house was built about 600 yards to the east of the early buildings, and it now lay across the county boundary in Berkshire. The Soane house was demolished when the new one was completed.
Part of the very first cargo to travel down the newly opened Hungerford stretch of the Kennet and Avon Canal in 1798 was "a wrought Portland stone staircase for J. Pearse of Chilton Lodge".
Humphrey Repton laid out the park around the new house for John Pearse as it was built.
Various occupants, 1836-1890:
John Pearse died in 1836 and during the middle of the 19th century the house went through various hands until the estate was bought in 1890 by Sir William Pearce, 2nd Bart. of Cardwell in Renfrewshire. His father the first Sir William, had made a fortune from shipbuilding at Govan on the Clyde. His heir inherited the title on his father's death at the age of 27 years in 1888.
Changes to Chilton Lodge, 1890:
Sir William immediately employed the eminent architect Sir Arthur Blomfield to make alterations to Chilton lodge. These included adding a second storey with ten maids' rooms, an attractive porte cochère to the east, a large bachelor wing to the west, the coach house that forms the north wing of the stable block (in "Wrenaissance" style), and various garages and workshops.
Sir William Pearce made a major investment in 1891 when he installed the water supply for the estate, including the pump house on the Kennet below the house, along with river-powered turbines which pump water to the 40,000 gallon water tower built on the highest part of the estate, from which Chilton Lodge and all the estate properties are supplied.
He also added a number of properties in Chilton Foliat as well as the "model" farm and dairy at Leverton, and the lodges at the east and south gates.
Sir William Pearce was an extremely generous benefactor to Hungerford. In July 1892 he issued an open invitation to all the inhabitants of Hungerford and Chilton. Thousands of people were treated to "an excellent and abundant dinner, served in an enormous tent. The weather was delightful. There were two admiral bands".
The NWN reported on 28 Jul 1892:
"Hungerford held high holiday on Saturday. Its streets'were deserted and there was an air of quietude and repose about the place, which was most unusual for the end of the week when townspeople and country people alike are generally busy with their marketing exploits and laying in stores of good things for the morrow.
But for one Saturday, they followed the oft-repeated advice and let the morrow take care of itself.
Sufficient for the day appeared to be the good things thereof.
The truth was that there had been a general exodus in response to the generous invitations issued by Sir William Pearce, Bart MP, to the townspeople of Hungerford, and the parishioners of Hungerford, Newtown, Eddington and Chilton Foliat to assemble in his beautiful park at Chilton and there to celebrate in good old English fashion, in the first place Sir Williams thirty-first birthday, secondly to participate in the owner's housewarming."
The Pearce's paid for Church House (Croft Hall), St John's Mission Hall and Hungerford Newtown School.
Sadly, having been MP for Plymouth in 1892-95, and a JP for Berkshire and Wiltshire, and having finally married in 1905, Sir William died in 1907 at the age of 46 years and without heirs.
The 1908 sale - the Ward Family:
The estate was offered for sale in 1908 - 2,330 acres, including eight farms and 73 separate dwellings. There is a detailed sale catalogue (including map) which includes information on all the properties. Follow this link for the Chilton Lodge Estate Sale Catalogue, 5 May 1908 (pdf).
It was purchased at the sale on 5 May 1908 for £45,000 by The Right Hon Mr and Mrs Whitelaw Reid as a wedding present for their daughter Jean Templeton Reid and her new husband the Hon John Ward. Mr Whitelaw Reid was at the time the American Ambassador to the Court of St James. Mrs Whitelaw Reid was originally Miss Elizabeth Mills and hailed from the San Francisco area where her father, DO Mills, himself originally from Buffalo, New York, had established the first bank in California in the years after the Gold Rush. [There is still a Mills Building in down-town SF, one of the few pre-earthquake large buildings to survive, the main tenant now being the Pacific Stock Exchange.]
The estate has been owned by the Ward family since 1908.
The Hon Sir John and Lady Ward had two sons, Col "Jackie" Ward and his brother "Reggie".
It was Reggie who developed the Chilton monoplane in 1937, when he was aged only 22 years.
During the 2nd World War, Chilton was loaned to American forces, the grounds soon covered with Nissen huts. John Eveleigh contacted the Virtual Museum in 2013 to say that he was stationed at Chilton Lodge in 1945 with 600 Company RASC. He had happy memories of the village.
Chilton Aircraft became Chilton Electrics, and in the late 1950s it moved to newly built premises in Church Way Hungerford - the Chilton Factory.
July 1946: The death has occurred of Mr Charles Beckett, of Leverton, at the age of 83. He became head gardener at Chilton gardens 44 years ago for the late Sir William Pearce and later for the Hon Sir John and Lady Ward. He judged at Lambourn Flower Show for over 40 years."
Col "Jackie" and Susan Ward had a daughter Patricia, and a son, Gerald Ward, (who was President of the Hungerford Historical Association until his death in 2008). Mrs Susan Ward died in a car crash on the M4 in Dec 1981. See "Mrs Susan Ward dies in M4 crash", NWN 24 Dec 1981.
The kitchen gardens at Chilton Lodge were made famous by the past head gardener, Mr. Harry Dodson, whose television series on the Victorian kitchen garden was broadcast by the BBC in 1987. See "Gardening as the Victorians knew it", NWN 30 Jul 1987 and "Within these walls", SAGA Magazine, c1987. He had been head gardener from 1947 - 1981.
Since 1997, the Scrope family, (Sarah Scrope being Gerald Ward’s daughter) have lived at Chilton Lodge, the fourth generation to do so. They have managed the estate since 2003. In the summer of 2014 they produced an excellent leaflet outlining the history of Chilton, the aims and objectives of their management of the estate, and the many and varied estate activities. See "The Chilton Estate & Chilton Farms Ltd., Summer 2014". The estate is approximately 2,000 acres, of which 1,400 acres are arable, 300 acres grassland and 250 acres of woodland.
- Chilton Lodge - 1910-1938 (an account by the butler's grandson)
- Chilton Lodge Estate Sale Catalogue, 5 May 1908 (pdf) [and HHA Archive G].
- Chilton Estate [HHA Archive A07]