Dating back to as early as 961, and recorded in the Doomsday Book, Avington (formerly Afintun) was granted to the Bishop of Winchester by King Edgar. Avington, is perfectly set on the banks of the River Itchin and was a Priory for the monks of Saint Swithun, until King Henry VIII took the estate for the Tudors and Royal Courtiers, then owned the estate which was enjoyed by the Royal Court for the next 300 years.
Avington was initially managed by Edmund Clerk (Clerk of the Privy Seal for Henry VIII and Elizabeth I) for the Tudors, until the reign of the Stewarts when Sir George Brydges (Groom of the Bed Chamber of Charles II) bought the Estate. The Brydges had a long history as Royal Courtiers and a portrait of the first Baron Brydges welcoming the future Queen Elizabeth I into the Tower of London, on the orders of her sister Bloody Mary, hangs in the main staircase hallway. Hand painted wall coverings of The Tudor Dynasty remain in perfect condition on the walls of the Avington’s first floor private family drawing room. The rear Tudor Courtyards remain at Avington along with various original bed chambers.
With the Stewarts now ruling England, a recently returned from excile, King Charles II, lived at Avington for 10 years with his mistress Nell Gwynn and their children, whilst building a new palace at Winchester. Avington became his Party Palace and was remodelled by the Brydges to reflect the King’s architectural taste including strong European influences from his time abroad. They include the ballroom ceiling painted by Antonio Verio who was tasked with replicating his ceiling masterpiece in the Palace of Versailles. Various Portraits of Charles II and his family including Nell Gwynn hang on the walls of Avington.
Avington passed through various generations of Brydges Barons who became the Dukes of Chandos and Avington continued to play party host to Royals including King George IV and his long term mistress Mrs Fitzherbert. A coronation portrait of King George also hangs in the ballroom. In their ownership it remained until 1847 when Sir John Shelley purchased it. The Shelleys further advanced the house including the building of the Orangery and adjoining conservatories. Lady Eleanor Shelley Rolls, the heiress to the Rolls Royce fortune, lived a long life at Avington and launched her hot air balloons from the South lawn. Portraits and statues remain at Avington of Lady Shelley Rolls, who divided and sold the Estate to Lt COL Hickson and family in 1951.
The Hicksons and their family saved the main house after its occupation by the army during the Second World War. Their Daughter Sarah Bullen and her husband Charles continued the remarkable preservation and rejoining of the estate until selling in November 2021. Today the parties very much continue.