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A Brief History of Grove Place

The first recorded reference to a holding at Grove Place dates back to 1276, when the estate was owned by John de Pontissara, Bishop of Winchester. The most probable status of any building at Grove Place in this period was as a farmhouse. Later on, the manor came into the possession of the Dean and Canons of St George's Chapel, Windsor, some time between 1423 and 1442.

The first mention of the manor occurs in the time of Henry VI, (1422-1461) when a certain John Greenfield was the tenant of the manor. He was apparently a member of the Royal Household. The archives of St George's do not show how they came into the ownership of the manor, but it is presumed that it was part of the endowment given by Edward III when, in 1344, he created the Order of Knights of Garter, and founded the Chapel of St George for them "within the Castle of Windsor, and endowed the canons with good and liberal revenue".

In 1480, John Hammond was the lessee of Grove Place. In 1513 the Dean and Canons of Windsor granted a lease of the manor to the Abbess and Convent of Romsey for fifty years. At the dissolution of the monasteries, the remainder of this lease was granted by Henry VIII to John Uttoft. (See Parliamentary biography here.)

In the late 1520s the estate was granted to John Mill, a merchant of Southampton. In 1540 he became Overseer of Customs at Southampton and, in 1547, Town Recorder. Mill was among a group of port officials in Southampton who had an important role in the administration of the port and the development of defences in the early years of the reign of Henry VIII. In the 1540s he was in charge of development of new castles along the coast at Hurst, Cowes, Portsmouth and elsewhere. The estate subsequently passed to his son Thomas Mill and, later, Thomas's son Sir Richard Mill.


The family were part of a well-connected urban elite in Hampshire and beyond and took advantage of the national developments of the Henrician reformation as it targeted the possessions of the Church. The Crown, in appropriating monastery lands, and the first grantees in the administration and alterations to their new estates, made use of the local network of professional administrators and business men such as John Mill. The period was an important one in the longer progress of the mercantile class from Southampton transforming themselves into landowner gentry.

In 1561, a lease of the manor of Southwells from the Dean and Canons of Windsor was taken by James Paget, who subsequently built the existing manor house. Paget was linked to the Mill family through marriage as John Mill's daughter Bridget was his second wife. He shared a similar mercantile background and had also profited from the appropriation of land from the monasteries.

The house was built to the north-east of the existing one and the likely date range for consstruction is between 1561, when the lease was taken out, and 1581. The latter date is that of Paget's third marriage and was determined from the family arms on the plaster decoration in the house which are closely associated wih Paget (and include his own, those of his mother, grandmother, the family of his first wife and of John Mill) except those of his third wife. (The only date about the house that exists was found behind decayed panelling in the west wing: there, scribbled on the wall on the old plaster finish appears, in the quaint Tudor figures of the time, some some initials and the date 1565, so it is probable that the house was standing at that time.)

In 1623 the house was sold to a group including Sir Thomas Cornwallis,, Groom Porter to James I, John Scrivenor and others but was then sold again in 1630 to Charles I, who granted it to Henry Knollys, a grandson of Sir Francis Knollys. (See Wikipedia article here).


Henry Knollys was Clerk Comptroller to the royal household and knighted in 1633. His son, also Henry Knollys, was created Baronet Knollys of Grove Place in May 1642, He fought for the Royalist side in the Civil War, which resulted in the sequestration of the estate, which was only returned to the Knollys family after the restoration of Charles II.

Grove Place was then occupied by the Knollys family until the death of Robert Knollys in 1752 without a male heir. Ownership then reverted by marriage to the senior branch of the Mill family that, by that time, was resident at Mottisfont Abbey.

They subsequently let Grove Place in the second half of the 18th century to a series of, often short-term, occupiers. Among these were General Sir John Clavering, later Commander-in-Chief of Bengal, from 1765 to 1773, James Harris, later Earl of Malmesbury, in 1775, Sir Charles Rich from 1798 to 1802, Herbert Newton Jarrett from 1804 to 1809 and James Drummond in 1811.

In 1818 Dr Edward Middleton purchased the lease of the house and converted it into a lunatic asylum, in which use it remained until about 1855. After the closure of the asylum there was a six-year period when the house was empty until after the death of Sir Charles Mills, when St George's Chapel finally sold the freehold to Viscount Palmerston at the neighbouring Broadlands estate.

In 1895 the Broadlands estate sold the freehold of the house to Colonel Fenwick Bulmer de Sales la Terriere who subsequently undertook a major restoration programme on the house, as well as laying out new formal gardens.

The house was sold in 1906 when, again, there was a sequence of short-tern owners and occupiers including Major Oswald Magniac (1920s).

In 1961 the house and the remaining estate were sold to Northcliffe School (and later to the Atherley School) and remained in educational use until purchased by Renaissance Lifecare PLC in 2007.


The following time line sets out the tenants of Grove Place and its estate.

At "Old" Grove Place
John Mill (dec. 1551) Burgess of Southampton in 1510.
Town Clerk in 1512.
MP of the town in 1523 and 1529.
Thomas Mill (dec. 1560) 2nd son of John Mill.
Recorder of Southampton and Sheriff in 1559.
Sir Richard Mill (dec. 1613)
At "New" Grove Place Built by James Pagett (1560- )
Bridget Pagett (dec. 1604)
Sir Richard Mill (dec. 1613) Nephew of Bridget Pagett, deceased leaving no heir.
Lady Mary Mill (dec. 1622) Née Savage. top    
Sir Thomas Savage Bequeathed from Lady Mary Mill:
sold Grove Place in 1624 to:
Sir Thomas Cornwallis Groom Porter to James I who, in 1630,
sold Grove Place to Charles I, who granted the estate to:
Henry Knollys (dec 1638) Comptroller of Charles I's household.
Sir Henry Knollys (dec. 1650) Baronetcy created in 1642, which expired on his death
six years later.
Left no heir but bequeathed to his brother Thomas.
Thomas Knollys
Robert Knollys (dec 1752)
Margaret Knollys Married Sir Richard Mill of Mottisfont Abbey, thus returning Grove Place to the Mill family. It is likely they subsequently let out the property to tenants.

Manor House Structure

To see a description of the structure of the manor house of Grove Place click here.

(Parts of the above have been taken from an article by Alastair Pott.)