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Freemantle Kings House

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Frigidum Mantellum; Gottington Hill; King Johns House; Freytmauntel; Freitmantell'; Freit Mantel

In the civil parish of Kingsclere.
In the historic county of Hampshire and the Isle of Wight.
Modern Authority of Hampshire.
1974 county of Hampshire.
Medieval County of Hampshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: SU52695676
Latitude 51.30753° Longitude -1.24548°

Freemantle Kings House has been described as a certain Palace.

There are no visible remains.


Freemantle Park Farm. Traditionally believed to be the site of King John's Hunting Lodge. Finds include sherds, an enamel plaque, a silver coin and fragments of Tudor bricks. Remains of C.13 park pale surround the area of Freemantle Park. (Hampshire Treasures)

The Kings of England from a very early date owned a large estate called Freemantle. King John stayed here no fewer than 37 times, probably for hunting. The park remained in the possession of the Crown until the 17th cent. Early in the 17th cent. the park passed into the possession of the Cottingtons: it was sequestered under the Commonwealth, but restored at the Restoration, and remained in the family for some time, Francis Cottington dealing with it by recovery in 1739.
In 1778 it was in the occupation of Henry Fitch: shortly afterwards the mansion was taken down and the park converted into a farm. Freemantle Park Farm, the site of King John's House, now (1911) belongs to Mrs. Currie of Minley Manor. According to tradition King John's house occupied a site on the southern slope of King John's Hill.
An inquisition of Henry III shows that the park contained 1136 perches and that only part of it was enclosed. The work of enclosing was soon afterwards completed and large sums were spent every year cutting down timber and repairing the paling. There were still deer in the park in the 17th cent. The site of the park is marked by Freemantle Park Down, King John's or Cottington's Hill, Freemantle Park Farm and Park Copse.
A spectacula or watch-tower was built on the summit of King John's Hill by one of the Cottingtons in the 18th cent. It is now in ruins (VCH).
"In my boyhood I learnt from a very old man that they remembered the old mansion standing on {Cottington's} Hill, with many trees about it; and on the north slope towards Kingsclere, the grove and drive to this mansion still remain; and there are evident earthworks besides the old foundation, of considerable extent, showing that a residence of large pretensions had existed. The scarping of the ground {remains of I.A. Hill-Fort, SU 55 NW 33 (sic 22 meant)} for views still exists" (Pole 1870)
(SU 52155692-SU52235672) There is a univallate cross-dyke on Cottington's Hill, west of the plantation, running from the steep northern slope for 300 yds and facing west. C.D. vert. 6' (Field work shows that this is part of the park pale) (Williams-Freeman).
Early Ordnance Survey maps show the supposed site of King John's House on top of King John's Hill. On the authority of a series of letters (Revision O.N.B. 1909 p.5) from Walter Money, F.S.A. the site was removed to Freemantle Park Farm in the valley. The main reasons that he gave were his claim that the house on the hill-top was 18th cent. and that, "The ancient well presumably at the farm but it could not be traced during field work proclaims the site of the Plantagenet building."
Except for the greater suitability of the sheltered valley site, no evidence was obtained during field work and recording to support Money's siting. On the other hand overwhelming proof that the ancient Royal hunting lodge stood on the hill-top is provided by the following:
(a) The presence of medieval earthworks alongside the hill-fort. The larger of these is called the "Fishstews" by Dr. J.P. Williams-Freeman on his private 6" (Williams-Freeman MSS Winchester Museum): it seems likely that that was its actual function, although it is now known at the farm as the "Bowling Green".
(b) 60-70 medieval sherds (including a fragment of a green-glazed jug, probably 13th cent.) 2 fragments of plaster with marks of wattle (?) on rear, and oyster shells were seen in the collection of the late Mr. G.B. Bull. Bull states that his father obtained this material from mole-casts on the hill-top east of the wooded area.
(c) At SU 5286 5669 in the corner of an arable field the following material has been found by farm workers - Limoges enamel plague bearing an angel, the symbol of St. Mathew the Evangelist (13th cent, probably c.1250: perhaps part of a processional cross - British Museum report dated 22/5/1956); silver coin of Charles the Bold. This site was under stubble when visited, but fragments of medieval or Tudor bricks were noted.
(d) A large house is marked here on Isaac Taylor's Map of Hampshire, 1759; Pole spoke to men who remembered the old mansion; Gough (see SU 55 NW 22) noted "remains of a large building, said to have been a castle"
Much of the area of the hill-top has been disturbed in the construction of a wireless station and the rest is under pasture. No evidence of the exact site of the hunting lodge was obtained, but the "King's houses" noted by the VCH must have covered a large area and it seems reasonable to assume that they were centred somewhere around the point marked on the older Ordnance Survey maps.
(Centred at SU 53055650) Freemantle Park occupied a trapezium-shaped area, averaging 1 mile E-W slighlty under 1mile along the west side & 5 furlongs along the east side. The pale can still be traced on all sides except the south. The park commenced at the northern foot of Freemantle Park Down, included the ridge of the down (still mainly downland) and a broad, dry valley (now cultivated) to its south, and presumably terminated along the Roman Road from Old Sarum to Silchester. The pale (bank and outer ditch, see section A'-B') is perfectly preserved from SU 52155692 to 52235673 and has been mistaken for a cross-ridge dyke by Williams-Freeman but elsewhere it has been incorporated in hedgerows or is ploughed out.
According to Mr. K.C.R. Brown, owner-occupier Freemantle Park Farm, the eastern and western boundaries are traditionally known as "deer fences" (F1 VJB 14-SEP-56). (PastScape)

In 2005–8 excavations at possible sites of royal houses in Kingsclere have been directed by Kristin Strutt (Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton), with the support of the Kingsclere Heritage Association. The following description of the work has been contributed by David Hinton of the same department.
North Hampshire has an unusual cluster of three royal houses, all within the large medieval parish of Kingsclere. One, Wolverton, had money spent on it between 1158–9 and 1166–7, after which no more is heard of it until its alienation by king John in 1215. Substantial amounts were spent on Titegrava between 1171–2 and 1178–9, and then there is silence about that as well. Instead, expenditure was on Freemantle from 1180–1. A park at Freemantle is recorded from 1243–4, and what in the mid-12th century was the foreste de Witingelega came also to be known as the Forest of Freemantle during the thirteenth.
Although some other royal houses were quite close together, and a few were abandoned for a preferred site nearby, nowhere else has the same chronological sequence. Wolverton is presumed to be somewhere within present-day Wolverton Park, in the clay vale east of Kingsclere. Titegrava has the same name as a small Domesday manor, thought to be located at Tidgrove Warren Farm, south of Kingsclere and high on the chalk downs. The royal site was unknown until a few years ago when Raleigh Place, farming the land, realised that there were structures in a field in a dry valley east of the present house, and an air photograph revealed an enclosure. Geophysical work demonstrated that there were various features within it, and excavation has now revealed remains that include an aisled hall and a flint-lined cellar.
Freemantle Park is north of Tidgrove, and parts of its surrounding pale can still be seen on what is now called Cottington's Hill, after a country-house built right on the summit of the downs by an eccentric 18th- century owner. No trace of a medieval house remains above ground, but none remains of the later mansion either, and that could have obliterated evidence of an earlier structure. An alternative location for the king's house is where Freemantle Park Farm is today, in a more sheltered position closer to a stream.
The sequence of houses indicated by the documents seemed straightforward, but excavation at Tidgrove in 2005–7 produced a number of issues with it, not least that the pottery so far found (work will continue in 2009) suggests use well beyond the 1170s, and the abandonment of such a well-built place for one only a mile away seems strange. Cottington's Hill also has an enclosure, though in this case quite possibly prehistoric. It too has been surveyed by geophysics, and a small area was excavated in 2008 over some of the anomalies. To confound the picture, what was found was not substantial evidence of the 18th-century mansion, but a ditch that had medieval pottery in it, and the remains of a wall which also seems to be medieval. The summit of such an exposed hill seems an unlikely place for a royal residence – it was never considered a castle – but a theory that was beginning to form in 2007 that Titegrava was not abandoned after a decade, but perhaps unprecedentedly had its name changed, certainly did not get substantiation from the 2008 work. Whether this conundrum will be resolved in 2009 remains to be seen. (Briggs 2008)

The hunting lodge of Freemantle Park from documentary evidence was extant in 1183. The building of the house is recorded in the Pipe Rolls for 1180-1183. Henry III in 1251 ordered a new house to be built. It was to consist of a hall, kitchen, chapel, first floor chambers and cellar. Stabling for 80 horses is also mentioned. The building was finally completed in 1256. In 1276 the sheriff of Southampton was ordered to permit the demolition of the king's houses of Freytmauntel. In the 2nd half of C14 references to the Kings Lodge within the park were made. The lodge comprised several 'houses', some tiled, others thatched. Isaac Taylors 1759 Map of Hampshire and early Ordnance Survey Maps show the supposed site of King John's House on top of King Johns Hill (or Cottington's Hill). Finds recovered from hill top supports this siting. Most of the area of the hill top has been disturbed in the construction of a wireless station. No evidence of the exact site of the hunting lodge has been obtained.
See also Tidgrove King House and Wolverton
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:20:07

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