Chessel House (image 1) was built in 1796 for David Lance, a Southampton businessman after whom Lance's Hill is named. It was designed by John Kent, the architect responsible for Leigh House in Havant and Paultons Park near Romsey; the design of Chessel was very similar to that of Leigh House. The House was situated in Bitterne in the district still bearing the name, i.e. on the high ground south of Bitterne Road and west of Peartree Avenue. Jane Austen was a friend of the Lance family and visited Chessel House on several occasions between 1806 and 1809.
Sales particulars in the Hampshire Independent 18th July 1840 provide us with a good description of the house, which was being sold at auction after the death of its owner, Lord Ashtown. Under the heading “Lord Ashtown’s Spendid Italian Villa” the house is advertised as, “The leviathan amid the contending beauties and renowned attractions of Southampton.” It goes on to laud its “Grecian order of architecture”, adapted from the drawings of a Roman villa, and its “purist classical taste”.
The London auctioneer George Robins was famous for flowery language and showmanship, and one may suspect he was exaggerating the appeal of the house. He has very litle to say of the interior, other than, “The accommodation extends to all a family of pretention can wish for, without encountering the annoyance of superfluous chambers”.
The estate was sold to developers in 1911 and the house was demolished in the 1920s. Chessel Avenue and Chessel Crescent were built over the site of the house and its grounds.
The estate had three entrances lodges, one of which still remains as I Chessel Avenue, sometimes called Magellan (image 2). The two stone pillars either side of the front wall once flanked the main entrance to the house. Another lodge on Lance's Hill was the subject of a drawing in the 1920s (image 3), but was demolished in 1963 (see clipping below).
Lost Houses of Southampton, by Jessica Vale. (HS/i)
‘The Country Houses of Southampton’, by Jessica Vale in Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society, volume 39, 1983, p175, 183, 184. (HS/i)
Stories of Southampton Streets, by A. G. K. Leonard, p59-65. (HS/h)
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