One family story, made topical by a recent television series and with an interesting connection to Hampshire, is that of the American Selfridge family.
The recent ITV television series ‘Mr Selfridge’ has yet to mention Harry Gordon Selfridge’s connection to Hampshire, and in particular Highcliffe. In 1916, at the height of his success as a store owner, Harry took a long lease on Highcliffe Castle from the Stuart-Wortley family. The whole Selfridge family moved in and entertained lavishly, with Harry’s mother acting as host.
In 1919, a year after his wife’s death from influenza, Harry persuaded Sir George Meyrick, Lord of the Manor at Hinton, to sell him Hengistbury Head – the large promontory on the south side of Christchurch Harbour.
It was here that Harry planned to build the biggest house in England. He employed the architect Philip Tilden, who worked on projects for prominent figures of English society, including Winston Churchill and Lloyd George. The scale of the project was immense and required numerous site visits to Hengistbury Head. Harry would pay a golden guinea to the fisherman who rowed Tilden and himself across the run, so there was always a rush by local fishermen to the side of the run when Harry was seen approaching along the beach!
Tilden drew up plans for a house that would encompass the whole of Hengistbury Head; there were to be over two hundred and fifty suites of rooms for guests, each with its own bedroom, bathroom, dressing room and sitting room. There were to be studios, laboratories, observatories and libraries. The central hall had a staircase which was to have a dome measuring just ten feet less than the dome on St Paul’s Cathedral.
During the 1929 crash and the great depression, Harry watched his fortune rapidly decline, helped no doubt by his gambling and profligacy. The land at Hengistbury Head was put up for sale in 1930.
Harry died in poverty in 1947, estranged from the store that he founded, and is buried in St Mark’s church yard along side his wife and his mother. Today, the New Milton and Christchurch HGS Group meet in the Library Room at St Mark’s.
With thanks to Mike Andrews and John Heighes of the New Milton and Christchurch HGS Group.
Wield MI Correction
As with all data that gets indexed or transcribed there is always the possibility that information can be misread due to bad handwriting or general aging. Whilst preparing information for the forthcoming village booklet on Wield I have found a prime example of this.
Our Amazing Volunteers
A big, big thank you to the Bookstall volunteers who made Family Tree Live such a success. We were kept very busy for both days of the event helping people in the search of their Hampshire ancestors. And of course welcoming our many new members. L-R Angela Winteridge, Margaret Bowman, Chris Pavey, Fiona Ranger, Geoff […]
We’re at Family Tree Live – are you?
Come and see us Friday 25th and Saturday 26th April at Family Tree Live at the Alexandra Palace, London. We are on Stands 37-38a where we will have a wide selection of HGS Publications, Maps, Genealogy Source Guides as well as Local History books and information for the whole of Hampshire.
New Winchester Group
UPDATE ON THE NEW WINCHESTER GROUP!!! The inaugural meeting of the new Winchester Group will take place at Littleton Memorial Hall on Thursday 16th May 2019. Door open at 7.15 for 7.30 start. And it’s a packed agenda for the first meeting!!! * Members of the Executive Committee will give an update on the […]
Empshott village booklet now available
Empshott, (VB102) is a small, sparsely populated parish 6 miles north of Petersfield and 2 miles south-east of Selborne with the B3006 running through the parish from Greatham north-west to Selborne.