From Domesday To Data – The History Of Hartham Park
The history of this magnificent Georgian manor stretches back to the eleventh century, beginning with the Domesday book and ending – via several eminent owners, a brief flirtation with the gin business, and a spell as a World War II billet – as an inspirational workspace whose heritage belies a tech capability to rival any in the region and even Europe.
Indeed, in 2020 the beautiful building and workspaces offer a data capability beyond the wildest imagination of any of the previous tenants. The oak panelled drawing rooms, majestic staircases and sweeping grounds conceal one of the most secure, fastest performing data centres within hundreds of miles.
Looking back through time, the classic Georgian appearance of Hartham Park is thanks to Lady Anne James (née Goddard) whose family had owned the estate for 400 years. Sadly, Lady James died before she could occupy the building and the property was subsequently leased. Alexander Malet, who later went on to become Governor of Bombay, was born here in 1800.
Between 1800 and 1886, the estate changed hands several times, and through inheritance, eventually passed to Sir John Dickson Poynder. It was during his ownership that the house became a focal point for the political, social and recreational life of North Wiltshire. Under his care, the house was witness to a lively parade of glittering balls, village fêtes and political gatherings. There are records of Sir Winston Churchill staying at Hartham Park and the correspondence between the two men continued throughout their lives.
In 1904, the Stické tennis court was built in the grounds to the north west of the house. The indoor racket sport merges aspects of real tennis, racquets and lawn tennis and the name derives from sphairistikè, the ancient Greek word meaning “the art of playing ball.” This historic listed building still stands, and sees enthusiastic games continuing on the court, enjoyed by the occupants of the workspaces and local community. Of the thirty-six that were originally built, it’s now one of only three playable courts in the world – the others being at Knightshayes in Devon and at Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, in the grounds of the then Viceroy’s Summer Palace.
Following the death of incumbent Sir John Dickson Poynder, who ended his illustrious career as Under Secretary of State for India, the house was bought by the Nicholson family of Gin fame. Despite having ‘London Gin’ on its label, the brand has strong links to Wiltshire thanks to the family seat at Hartham Park. The family resided here during the second world war and gave over the upper floors of the house (previously the servants quarters) as a billet for 100 WAAF personnel. The Nicholson gin brand still endures today and has a long and illustrious history, reputed to have been the favoured tipple of both the Duke of Wellington and Sarah Bernhardt. In 2020, the company still visit for away days, product launches and team building.
In 1997, Hartham Park was purchased by the current owner, tech entrepreneur Jeffrey Thomas. Under his care, Hartham Park is now a 21st century workspace with a dark fibre connection to one of Europe’s most powerful data centres, based in nearby Corsham. The incredibly secure, high-tech, high speed data capability doesn’t mean that the heritage of this mellow Bath-stone mansion is in any way compromised. The high-tech businesses, co-workers and forward-thinkers who reside here benefit from acres of manicured parkland, oak-panelled meeting rooms and break out spaces in lofty halls, former ballrooms and drawing rooms, making it the ideal space for work-life balance. Its current iteration brings life, modernity and vivacity to the place which has been witness to life in all its glory over the centuries.