February 29, 2024|Reports

“The Garniers of Rookesbury: from Charitable Apothecary to Country Squire” – Dr Rosemary Baird Andreae

We were treated to the fascinating talk on the history of the fine Greek Revival house now known as Rookesbury Park in Wickham. As Huguenots, the first members of the Garnier family to come to England proved themselves as diligent professional apothecaries. In the eighteenth century they acquired through marriage a house and fields at Wickham, buying remarkable paintings and creating landscape gardens. Due to the two George Garniers, father and son, their property holdings expanded into a considerable estate. In the early nineteenth century the Revd William Garnier built the great Greek Revival house at Rookesbury, now still in family hands.

The Garnier family were Lords of the Manor of Wickham for almost two hundred years, and are still very involved with the village through their ownership of Rookesbury, Beverley House, and farmland and woodland in Wickham today.

Rosemary Baird Andreae has done a fantastic job of researching the history of the family and sixty eight visitors and members of Wickham History Society joined her on Zoom on Tuesday 27th February to hear the results of her research – our biggest Zoom attendance so far. There was no one from Australia this time, but we did have a family member from Switzerland join us!

As Huguenots, the first members of the Garnier family to come to England proved themselves as diligent professional apothecaries.

The family were Huguenot refugees from religious persecution in France, Isaac Garnier became Apothecary Extraordinaire to Charles II in the 1680’s. The family prospered and their connection with Wickham was established with the marriage of Paul Garnier to Elenor, the daughter of Charles Wynne in 1701. Wynne had built a fine house, Rokesby (since demolished) in an estate which was the nucleus of today’s Rookesbury.

The first Garnier to become Lord of the Manor was George Charles, Isaac’s grandson in 1765, when he bought the manor of Wickham for £20,000 from the Rashleigh family. His father had been instrumental in encouraging the famous Italian artist Canaletto to come to England and bought many Canaletto paintings that would have been displayed in both their London house and in Wickham. George continued his father’s interest in the arts and David Garrick, the famous eighteenth century actor, came to stay at Rokesby, and George also became President of the home of cricket: Hambledon Cricket Club.

It was William Garnier, George’s third son, who commissioned the building of the existing country house at Rookesbury in the fashionable Greek classical style by Charles Tatham. The opening of the new turnpike road (the A32) in 1828 followed the completion of the house and meant that the main entrance was through the two lodges there rather than on the Southwick Road as today. It was William Garner (the Second) who completed the landscaping of the Rookesbury estate in the late 1830’s, including the relocation of Southwick Road to the south and the later demolition of cottages to the north of Wickham Common (the families were rehoused in new homes at Hundred Acres).

William, although locally very popular, was not a good money manager and had no heir. A nephew, George Carpenter inherited as Carpenter Garnier, but he was unable to turn around the family fortunes and the family had to let Rookesbury. A succession of sales followed culminating in a major auction of land and property in 1928. George William Carpenter Garnier died in 1950, the last Lord of the Manor of Wickham.

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