Court Barn is Lee on the Solent's ancient farmhouse. Most of the information is taken
from the work of Ancient Villages, Hamlets and Homesteads of Gosport Borough.
This was compiled by Joan Russell Bsc. for members of the St
Vincent 'Exploring local history' class of 1987 with
inserts from various books and especially from information received from members and visitors to the Club.
Some Conservative clubs are a political base for their area, but this is not the case at Court Barn. This was the political base for the Fareham and Gosport Member of Parliament. After the boundary changes in 1972 Fareham and Gosport now had their own MP. Members living in Gosport went to Stoke Road and purchased the old Town Hall as their social base. Members living in Fareham went to its High Street. Members of this club at the time were sold the respective halves. The club is still affiliated to the Conservative Association.
A house was first documented in 1666 and is shown on a map dating 1610. The date of building is not known but it is believed to have been built on a medieval site. It was part of the Titchfield estate owned by the 3rd Earl of Southampton though its first recorded owner was Thomas Wriothesley 4th Earl of Southampton. On his death in 1671 he left his property Cheque Farm and the Barn Farm to his two daughters. The second owner was Lady Elizabeth Noel, wife of Edward Noel who was later appointed Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. They did not live at Court Barn. Along with other properties they owned, they employed stewards to administer their affairs for the house and land. It may well have been the stewards that extended and improved the house. The stewards would have presided over the Courts Leet and Baronial. They collected rents and fines from local tenant farmers in money and in kind.
There were two great Barns in the Lee on the Solent area. The Common Barn, where all the farmers, common tenants
and small holders could store their harvests. Court Barn is where the Steward ordered the storage of all
payments in kind due to the lord of the manor. This huge old black timber barn, with its wagon bays and Queen's
post Truss, stood on the east side of the Court Barn farmyard opposite the farmhouse, until the late 1970s,
when Dr Taylor, then Conservative chairman, arranged for it to be dismantled and removed to Weald & Downland
Living Museum at Singleton. The barn has been used as the home of the BBC television series The Repair Shop since
In the 1760s Arthur Young included in his Annals of Agriculture reports about the state of local agriculture gleaned from the Waller family of nearby Croften with whom he corresponded about the prosperity of the local farms. Court Barn seems to have been prosperous. The fields were manured with cartloads of seaweed and mud, plus huge quantities of urban dung. These were brought from the dung heaps of Gosport and Portsmouth. The inhabitants in return were able to buy the products of the farm. Produce included cereal crops of wheat, barley and oats, vegetable crops of turnips, potatoes and cabbage. The farm also had livestock of cows and sheep.
When James Whattham made his census returns in 1851 and 1871, he needed a farm bailiff plus 20 labourers to
work Court Barn's 400 acres while with his two sisters or the bailiff's wife ran the household.
The local tenant farmers who farmed on the estates were: Stares, Fielders, Whattams and Lees. Their names crop up time and time again. Some were prosperous ones and improved the farmhouse and buildings. Farms were often passed on to their sons provided the landlord agreed and a transfer fee was made.
Not many families have owned Court Barn, Noels, Dukes of Portland, the Delme's and finally the Houses in the 1960s. The House farm estate broke up in the late 1960s when Charles House died, with wide reaching consequences for the many farms, including Court Barn. The new owner of the estate saw the potential for building land at Lee and so the estate was broken up.
By 1971, a hundred years after those returns farming was no longer the main aim. 'Building development' had become the craze of the century, and the harvest planned for Court Barn's ancient acres was no longer 'corn and cows' but bricks and mortar. So good is the housing around Court Barn that we have a member who for 15 years lived 150 yards away but did not know of the building.
In 1966, The Fareham and Gosport Conservative Association had seized the opportunity of purchasing the farmhouse, together with the farmyard, paddocks, gardens, outbuildings, and the ancient black timbered Court Barn. and found themselves a good tenant.
Court Barn was now the home of the newly formed Court Barn Conservative Club. The club rented the spacious cellars and other accommodation from the Fareham and Gosport Conservative Association who also used some of the rooms for their headquarters, Situated as it was, right on the boundary between Fareham and Gosport Boroughs it had seemed a practical central purchase. The price was £11,250, and the rent provided the Association with an income. No one at that time could possibly foresee that in 1972 Gosport Borough would become a new parliamentary constituency, and that the Fareham constituency boundaries would be extended away from its populous neighbour, to the rural areas north of Fareham. The 1970 general election saw the first successful conservative campaign master minded from Court Barn, return Dr Reginald Bennett for the last time as MP for his old joint constituency of Fareham and Gosport. Fareham then sold out its half of the Court barn to the prospering Court Barn Conservative Club, leaving Gosport in possession of the other half. In the late 1980s the Gosport Conservative Association also decided to sell out to the club and move to Gosport Town.
In 1977 Court Barn was given Grade II listed building status. This means the Committee of the Court
Barn Conservative Club is responsible for it's repair and maintenance. The cost of which becomes an
increasing burden on the profitability of the Club. Some public money is available in the form of
grants from local authorities and from English Heritage, but most of the cost must be borne by the
owners, i.e. members of the club. Nevertheless, the lack of systematic surveys of this listed grade
II building in the past had left a tremendous backlog of work which needed doing. A comprehensive
programme of maintenance and refurbishment has been done to keep the building in good repair.
The windows on the front of the house have been replaced at a cost of some £15,000. £4,000 more than the original house cost. Side windows and some at the back have now been done but because everything must be replaced to be in keeping with the building. It becomes more difficult to find the skills required or a company to do the job.
Of special interest, in connection with the former farmyard of Court Barn (now used as a car park for the club)
was the large pond, brimming with fish. In the 1950s the fish were destroyed when a barn fire took all the water
from the pond. Afterwards it was filled in.
Another feature of interest is the huge cellar beneath Court Barn's impressive central hall. The Cellar is unvaulted and unlined. When the cellarman switches on the lights down there, they shine up through the long straight floorboards, a unique sight at dusk, when the embers of the great log fire are glowing red in the fireplace. This is no longer the case as the floor is now carpeted.
This is a layman's description. There should be a competent professional description available
full of precise detail and technical phrases amongst the architects survey and report submitted to
the Court Barn Conservative Club, and to the Gosport planning department in connection with the 1990
application for grant aid and towards repairs.
A glance at a picture of Court barn reveals that the changing hand of man has been at work on Court Barn throughout the centuries. The architectural style of the north wing with it's dormers, is totally different from that on the south wing, with its elegant curved triple lit bay.
It also had six chimneys and they were made at Funtley brick works. There are only three left and one is still used in the bar area.
On the ground floor, leading off the main hall, is the Presidents Lounge. This is a light airy room
with a bay window overlooking the front garden. This in contrast to the Barn Restaurant, on the other side of
the hall, with its dark panelled walls and black beam ceiling.
The kitchen was modernised in 2019 to now provides Cathy and the catering team with state-of-the-art equipment and facilities.
The Lounge Bar used the club room and bar occupied the North wing. From the bar the gardens can be accessed. This has a seating area in a lovely well-tended garden.
In the hallway the staircase leads to the upstairs office and the club steward quarters. The staircase
was originally straight but is now in two stages. It has a restroom area, and a door leads to the loft where
items are kept for storage. The main rooms upstairs are the Colonel House suite, the Tudor Room and Henry's bar.
Colonel House suite was a bedroom with a balcony looking east out towards the Court Barn. The balcony was closed
sometime in the 19th century and contains some original windowpanes that are identified by the little bubbles in
the glass. The room leads to another room, known as the Tudor Room, that is over the kitchen and is one of the oldest
parts of the house. The wall is original and there are stairs that lead down to the kitchen below. These stairs have
been widened in the work carried out in the modernisation. The roof of the room shows how the roof was held up as it
is part of the barn hip. Though not all the beams are original they are as they would have appeared in the 17th century. The main beam in the centre is both twisted and not perpendicular.
The latest change upstairs has been the refurbishment of the small bar used for private functions. A club member, Henry Hatch, had left a legacy to the club for the refurbishment of the upstairs bar area. The original idea was to open the space with the Colonel House suite to provide a larger area and more inclusive areas. The surveyor could not allow this to happen as the wall separating them could only be opened a little larger. We were hoping that we could show off some original; beams but alas the surveyor won. All social clubs have characters in them, and we are no exception. Henry Hatch was his name. He was an airman in the RAF during the second world war based at Siskin, now known as HMS Sultan. He later became a farmer and remembers Court barn as a working farm. Henry came to lunch everyday by car then was given lifts when he could no longer drive and then by mobile scooter. He always went to the bookies and then the club and woe betide anyone who got his way! Even when he was placed in a home by his daughter he would still come to lunch as he did not want to eat with the old people! He sat at the same table and would have his whisky and lunch. He lived into his 90s and is fondly remembered by all who knew him.