In 1799 William Chamberlayne (1760-1829) inherited from his father, also William, estates in Berkshire, Hampshire – including land on both sides of the Itchen River in Southampton - and Leicestershire. His main residence was Cranbury Park in Hampshire, but in 1801 he built Weston Grove House on family land just south of modern Archery Road in Woolston. On the estate, he erected a stone obelisk to the memory of Whig politician Charles James Fox which still stands, although the house itself was demolished in about 1940.

William served as MP for Southampton from 1818 to his death in 1829. He was chairman of the local gas company and is best remembered in Southampton for his gift to the town of the ornate iron columns which carried the gas street lighting. A memorial erected by public subscription commemorating his generosity still stands. The memorial, a replica iron column, was unveiled in 1822 and first stood at the junction of Northam Bridge Road (now New Road) and Above Bar Street. It was moved in 1829 to the Town Quay (image 1), then to an island site in Park View at the junction of the anonymous road between the parks (later part of Palmerston Road). A slight re-siting took place in 1957 when the column took up a site on the large traffic island in Queen's Way. It has since been moved to Houndwell Park (image 2). It is Grade II listed.

William died unmarried in 1829, the estate passing to his sister Charlotte and then in 1831 to his nephew, Thomas Chamberlayne. There are monuments to William and Charlotte, carved by the country’s leading sculptor, Sir Francis Chantrey, in Jesus Chapel, Peartree Green.

1. Gas Column, Town Quay

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Philip Brannon's engraving of Town Quay showing the column in the centre, c.1850.

2. Gas Column, Houndwell Park

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Photograph, c.2010

See also

Further reading:

Stories of Southampton Streets, by A. G. K. Leonard, p68-76. (HS/h)
House of Commons (Thorne) 1790-1820. (378.30942)
Hampshire Curiosities, by Jo Draper, p32-3. (H/q)
'Weston Grove House and William Chamberlayne', by Chrstine Clearkin, in Fosmag Magazine, No. 68, Spring 2011, p18-19. (HS/lt)
History of Parliament website: Chamberlayne


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