Members Login: Remember Me Need your login details?

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.

Highcliffe Castle c 1900
Highcliffe Castle c 1900

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!

Harry Gordan Selfridge c1910
Harry Gordan Selfridge c1910

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.




Latest News

Home Guard Names in the Hampshire Record Office

Home Guard Names in the Hampshire Record Office   Did anyone in your family serve in the Home Guard during WWII?   They may be included in the number of members in the Hampshire Home Guard who have been mentioned in the HRO catalogue and either appear in documents and photographs.

Discord in Marriage

Interesting little snippets from some of the old newspapers include brief advertisements where husbands have declared that they will not be responsible for their wife’s debts. One item from James LINDSAY appeared in the Hampshire Chronicle printed on 4th September 1820. He said that he would not be answerable for any debts incurred by his […]

HGS on Radio Solent

On Friday 1st February, Radio Solent broadcasted their Sasha Twining Show from the Dolphin Shopping Centre in Poole. Along with two other experts, HGS Chairman and Ringwood Group member Paul Pinhorne, along with Pat and George Hilbert, also from the Ringwood Group were there to help people with their family history research. Many interesting questions […]

Winchfield village booklet now available

Winchfield, (VB101) is located midway between Farnborough and Basingstoke with the A30 forming part of the northern parish boundary. The B3016 crosses the parish from south to north. The Basingstoke Canal forms part of the southern border, the London to Southampton railway crosses the parish and recently the M3 follows the same route. There is […]

Old Alresford village booklet now available

Old Alresford, (VB100) is located midway between Alton and Winchester just north of New Alresford which is on the A31. Alresford Pond is a large lake created in the 12th Century at the head of the River Arle, a tributary of the River Itchen. Several water mills have existed along the river with the restored […]

All News...