Home of Merdon Castle
The grass earthworks and ramparts of Merdon Castle can be seen on the high ground to the north of Hursley Village covering about 14 acres.
The hillfort is of probable Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age (eighth to fifth centuries BC). The later castle was built by Henry de Blois, the Bishop of Winchester between 1129 and 1138, although there is tentative documentary evidence to suggest that it may originally have been the site of a Saxon defended manorial residence dating from the eighth century. It was partly demolished in 1155 on the accession of Henry II but was used as a bishop’s palace until at least the 14th century.
The greater Hursley estate continued in the ownership of the Bishop of Winchester until 1552 when it was surrendered to King Edward VI. The buildings had become ruinous by the 16th century when Edward Vl granted the manor and park at Hursley to Sir Philip Hoby, a prominent statesman of the time whose family retained it for two generations during which time they constructed the first principal house, known as The Great Lodge.
By 1638 the Estate is recorded as being in the ownership of Richard Major a member of Oliver Cromwell’s Privy Council. Cromwell’s son, also Richard, married Major’s daughter and The Great Lodge became their marital home. Richard Cromwell assumed the title “Lord of Merdon”, relating to Merdon Castle. Richard Cromwell’s descendants were to sell the Estate to Sir William Heathcote in 1718, whose family were bell founders and whose father had amassed a fortune of £90,000 during a lifetime that began with a loan of only £500 from his father. With this legacy, Sir William bought the Estate, demolished the old Great Lodge and constructed Park House, which remains in altered form to this day.
The earthworks and remains of the Motte and Bailey are all that now exists of the former castle and deserted medieval settlement. The site is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 and is closed to members of the public.
Website : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hursley