Restoration bid for historic house gets under way

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A £1m project to restore a 250-year-old manor house to its former glory has begun.

East Hampshire District Council is set to hand over £100,000 to start the regeneration of Merchistoun Hall in Horndean.

For the past 60 years the distinctive Georgian house, in Portsmouth Road, has been used as a community centre after villagers rallied round to pay the £5,000 to buy the estate.

However, in recent years the house and its huge grounds have deteriorated.

Horndean Community Association, which runs the building, has come up with a plan to transform it into a historical visitor attraction, as well as a thriving community centre.

It plans to restore many of the period features and create a small museum.

Brendan Charles, manager of Horndean Community Association, said there was a strong will in the village to revamp Merchistoun.

He said: ‘We have a lot of young people who use the building and a lot of young people enjoy the age, appearance and to a certain extent the grandeur of the building.

‘The older person enjoys being in surroundings that are quite beautiful.

‘There’s a huge love for Merchistoun Hall. She’s quite unique and unusual.’

Merchistoun Hall has a colourful history. It was once home to Admiral Sir Charles Napier, one of the most widely known naval officers during the early Victorian era, having fought in the Napoleonic, Syria and Crimean Wars.

Napier bought the house, then known as Qualletts Grove, in 1836 and renamed it Merchistoun after his family home in Falkirk, Scotland.

Mr Charles said: ’We are looking at restoring some of the original features that may have, over time, been plastered over and hidden for whatever reason.

‘It’s been a community centre for the best part of 50 years and over that time things have got covered over.’

Work on improving the grounds and pond has already begun, thanks to help from Horndean Parish Council.

A full structural survey will take place of the manor house. The outbuildings will be demolished and replaced with temporary buildings.

New buildings for community use will be built in keeping with the Grade II listed house.

The association is applying for grant funding to pay for the rest of the project. The aim is to have the work completed within five years.