Exbury House is an Rothschild family English country house in Exbury, Hampshire, on the edge of the New Forest National Park.
Exbury Manor dates from the 13th century. In the 15th century Exbury House belonged to the Berkeley family and in the 16th century the Compton family. Exbury House was passed to William Mitford In 1708 and later in the 18th century to his grandson, the historian William Mitford. Upon the death of William it passed directly to his grandson Henry Reveley Mitford. Henry sold it to Major John Forster in the early 1880s, whose son sold it in turn to the financier Lionel de Rothschild in 1919 who bought Exbury manor with the proceeds from the sale of his uncle Alfred’s house at Halton which he had inherited. It was Lionel’s gardening passion which led him to choose the Exbury estate with its 2600 acres.
The Exbury House consists of a redesigned 18th-century core remodeled with neo-Georgian designs by William Jenkins, and upgraded by Rothschild in 1927. Exbury House is constructed of brick and the finest ashlar stone masonry with a slate roof. The 3 storey level house has a rectangular floor plan, with the main entrance side having one corner sliced off , and a low protective wall along the edge of a roof and balcony. The long side garden frontage a classical colonnaded entrance.
It was the ideal climate and soil conditions along with Lionel’s gardening passion that led him to choose the Exbury estate with its 2600 acres and 250 acres of overgrown woodland. Labor was recruited in large force to accommodate Lionel’s passion in creating the gardens. 60 experienced gardeners and 150 men were employed to clear the land, lay paths, install 22 miles of irrigation pipes, and construct two acres of green houses. In that first year, they transformed 10 acres and eventually the garden would cover 200 acres navigated by 26 miles of paths. Lionel worked tirelessly developing hundreds of new hybrid rhododendons and azaleas to bring shapes and colors together to please the eye which resulted in a million plants being introduced to the famous Rothschild Exbury gardens.
When Lionel de Rothschild died in 1942, aged just 60, Exbury House Renamed ‘HMS Mastodon was requisitioned by the Royal Navy as a headquarters and became one of the key centers for the planning of the D-Day landings, the Invasion of Normandy. At the end of the War, it was left to Lionel’s son, Edmund, to set about the restoration of Exbury Gardens, rolling back the years of abandonment and dereliction of the valuable gardens. Over the next 50 years three-quarters of the acreage was replanted producing several dozen new rhododendron hybrids. Exbury house was returned to the Rothschild family in 1955 and in 1989 was once again reoccupied as a private residence.
The gardens have been open to the public since 1950, on a long lease from the Rothschild family, run since 1988 by Exbury Gardens Ltd. About 80,000 visitors per year now enjoy a very full day exploring the gardens. The Exbury Gardens continue to be looked after and developed with loving care by the current generation of Exbury Rothschild family. Today, Exbury Gardens is a charitable trust. Its directors include all four of Edmund’s children, Kate, Nicholas, Charlotte and Lionel, Kate’s husband Marcus Agius, who chairs it, and their daughter, garden designer Marie-Louise Agius. Exbury remains today not only a significant name in horticultural history but a living and colourful tribute to a passion.