The site of Audleys Wood is recorded in the Doomsday Book of 1086 as ‘Oddele’.
This painting of the house is from a larger work by Hesketh Hubbard (1892-1957) It was presented to Eric Simonds in January 1952 by Capt A.S Drew, to celebrate his completion of 50 years service at the brewery and was paid for by a Brewery staff subscription.
Just South of Basingstoke, Audleys Wood was designed by a so far unknown architect for Thomas & Rachel Pain, a Magistrate, twice Mayor of Salisbury and a Director of Tattersall’s in Salisbury. They moved there in about 1880. Following his death in 1885, it was acquired in 1887 by William Bradshaw and his wife Elizabeth who extended the property. [Not to be confused with Sir George Bradshaw of Railway Guide fame who died in 1853] In 1889 Elizabeth was killed in a hideous runaway horse accident – she was taken into The Hatch pub on the A30 East of Basingstoke where she died. William promptly sold up and remarried in 1892. Bradshaw may have sold it to Frederick & Sophie Saville [who lived there for the census of 1891] or to the Pirie family, but they can’t have lived there long as it was bought in 1899 by Henry Adolphus Simonds (1885-1904), a sportsman and Brewer who had previously lived in a fine Georgian House, Red Rice, Andover. Shooting was his first love and both Red Rice and Audleys Wood, where he held shooting rights to several neighbouring farms, provided ample sport.
When Henry Simonds moved in, he modernised his new home, extending the house with the Conservatory and Billiard Room (now kitchens) which dates them about twenty years after the original building. In 1910 he installed one of the very first electric lighting systems in Berkshire, that was powered by its own generator. These are the original installation drawings:
It was a grand Victorian mansion in the Gothic Rennaissance style, with features that seem to have been salvaged from earlier buildings. There was often with more than one family living there. Henry Simonds’ wife Emily [Boulger] died in 1897 and they had no children. So, in 1901 so he invited his nephew Louis de Luze Simonds (1852-1916) with his wife Mary and 5 children to join him. They left ‘The Point’ on Bath Road, Reading, where the ‘East Wing’ had just been extended, to make room for them.
The Point, Bath Road, Reading. Now a hotel, which was in walking distance from The Brewery.
Louis then traveled to the Reading Brewery daily by train from Basingstoke.
The Coat of Arms of Louis de Luze Simonds is displayed on a stained glass window in the lobby;
The house was used extensively for entertaining family & friends, with a huge Annual Ball & regular shooting parties. Click below to read recollections by the local Women’s Institute, written in 1965.
In February 1907 it was the venue for a family wedding, Louise Simonds (1889-1934) to Charles Francis Hare (1881-1928). This is the conservatory, with their wedding gifts on display.
Following the death of his mother Mary in 1930, Eric Simonds failed to find a buyer, so moved in with his wife and 3 children.
The Audleys Wood Estate had always included Pensdell Farm and the surrounding woodlands, altogether a property of some 300 acres.
The vastly greater adjacent estate, Hackwood Park, across the Alton road, was bought in 1935 by Viscount Camrose, the Editor-Proprietor of the Daily Telegraph from Lord Bolton, who had long been an absentee landlord, with the house let, primarily to Lord Curzon of Kedleston, Viceroy of India and Foreign Secretary, and subsequently to his widow then later to other short-term tenants. Soon after the outbreak of World War II, it became apparent that Hackwood was to be requisitioned as a Canadian Army Hospital, and in 1940, Lord Camrose took a furnished tenancy of Audleys Wood for the duration, and Eric Simonds and his wife moved to a much smaller and more manageable house, Abbey Croft in Mortimer, which was also nearer to the Reading Brewery.
During the war years, Audleys Wood was visited by many great statesmen, journalists and politicians of the day who were the friends of the Camrose family. In the autumn of 1945, both families returned to their respective homes. In 1950 after five years in his old family home, Eric Simonds decided that Audleys Wood was altogether too large and unmanageable in the context of post-war Britain for just himself and his wife, so it was put up for sale complete. Lord Camrose bought it, and incorporated Pensdell Farm and the woodlands into the Hackwood estate, selling the house, gardens and adjacent buildings to the Hampshire County Council, who ran it as an Old Folks Home, with a home and workshops for the disabled in the old stable block for 35 years. The family moved to Ashe House, a beautiful [now listed] house in Overton, where Eric Simonds was taken ill & died in 1953.
This story is courtesy of Kenneth FitzGerald Simonds (1920-2006) who was brought up there.