Throughout its existence it’s been owned by a king, used as a lunatic asylum, a school and a retirement village.

Grove Place is a Grade I listed Elizabethan manor house currently on a 27 acre site in Nursling.

The original building was converted into a 19th century lunatic asylum and subsequently used as a school building, before being redeveloped as part of a retirement village.The current house at Grove Place replaced an older one which was located to the southwest of the building that stands today.

In the 15th century the manor of Southwells, into which Grove Place was incorporated, was possessed by the Dean and Canons of St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. This and other estates in the area were bought by John Mill, a merchant from Southampton, in the 1520s passing to Thomas his son who died in 1560.

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John Mill’s son-in-law, James Paget, leased Southwells from the Dean and Canons of St George’s Chapel in 1561 for 81 years and it was Paget who commissioned the building of the new house at Grove Place, about 100 metres away from the medieval building. It was built in around 1561, with some alterations and restoration taking place towards the end of the 18th century and again in 1895.

The manor was purchased by King Charles I in 1630 and he granted it to Henry Knollys. The Knollys family dwelt at Grove Place until Robert Knollys died without a male heir in 1751. Ownership then reverted to the Mill family, who kept most of the farmland on the estate but leased 88 acres, including the house.

Dr Edward Middleton purchased the property in 1831 and converted it into a private lunatic asylum run from 1844 by Mrs H Middleton and her family. The first patients to be admitted to the Hampshire County Lunatic Asylum were transferred there on December 13, 1852.

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As well as private patients, the asylum at Grove Park accepted paupers from Poor Law unions in the area, but the two groups were treated very differently. In 1844, 19 private patients were housed in the main house but the 53 resident paupers were located in outbuildings. They were separated into “clean” and “dirty” patients with little attention paid to their comfort or rehabilitation.

Magistrates visited Grove Place in 1853 and, finding evidence that a patient had been treated cruelly and severely, they recommended that the owner’s licence to run the asylum be discontinued. The following year the asylum was sold to Dr James Baillie. The Lunacy Commissioners reported in 1854 that they were concerned he would attempt to seek a return on his investment by cutting back further on the quality of the patients’ accommodation. Subsequently, the asylum licence was not renewed.

The house remained empty from 1855 to 1861 when it was purchased by Viscount Palmerston. He lived at nearby Broadlands in Romsey and leased it as a farmhouse. It was then purchased by Colonel de Sales la Terriere in 1895, who restored the interior of the house and extended the gardens. The colonel sold the estate in 1906. During the Second World War it housed Ordnance Survey documents.

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The estate was divided into lots in 1949 and they were all sold. The house was given its Grade I designation in May 1957.

In 1961 the house and gardens were sold to the independent Northcliffe School, a boys prep school, where fees were then £110 per term for boarders.

The 17th century double lime tree avenue was badly damaged in the Great Storm of 1987 but has been replanted.

When the Atherley School moved from its Hill Lane site in 1995 it took over from Northcliffe School until it itself closed in 2006.

The estate is now owned by LifeCare Residences Ltd, who has converted the house to be the communal area of their retirement village. It includes a snooker room, coffee lounges, restaurant, bar, music room and function rooms. There are several bungalows and apartment complexes in the grounds. There are plans to build 10 new apartments and a 30-bed nursing home in the woodland.

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Martin Brisland is a tour guide with .