THE FIELD TENT AT
NORTH STONEHAM HOUSE
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
THE WILLIS FLEMING HISTORICAL TRUST
Part Field HQ; part museum; part time capsule and part echo chamber: in the summer of 2008 an ancient tent - property of the Willis Fleming Historical Trust - materialised beneath a cedar tree, in a clearing surrounded by woodland, overlooking the foundations of North Stoneham House. Once the centre of a 1000-acre parkland estate in Hampshire, North Stoneham House was conceived by the architect Thomas Hopper for the Willis Fleming family, who commissioned him in 1818; but with the extravagant plans for the building still not entirely completed over 100 years later, the fantastical Grecian mansion was demolished in 1939.
Taking up temporary residence in the tent, on the site of the long vanished house, Jane Wildgoose and Harry Willis Fleming invited members of the public with links to North Stoneham to take tea with them - to view the Stoneham Archive, and to share memories of life on the estate. Many of their visitors had vivid recollections of the house and its demolition. Local men who had grown up together on the estate as boys, but not met again for decades, were re-acquainted.Different generations of families historically connected with the estate swapped stories, comparing details. Rent rolls, game registers, maps, photographs and other papers were scrutinised; names, events, and daily life brought to mind. A three-legged dog scampered between the visitors' legs; tea brewed on an open fire; all was carefully documented.
Just a few days later, the tent - like the House - had disappeared.