Northwood House Ghost HuntCowes, Isle of Wight Hampshire
The Northwood House you see today was built, rebuilt and modified at various times between 1807 and 1841, based on the original layout of the 1768 Bellevue House that originally stood on the site. Over the past 200 years the House has had a complicated and at times wild past, some of which may never be entirely unravelled after this distance of time. Each owner, tenant and custodian has imposed their brand of order, (or otherwise) upon its fabric and history and today every room and every wall still tells a part of that story.
Architecturally the House is a perplexing mix of additions and alterations; essentially an eclectic mix of the fads, fashions and curiosity that typified the Victorian era. It has Roman, Greek, French and even Egyptian influence and is a product of an age that was, for the wealthy elite, a time of almost unlimited opportunities, experiences and horizons. The House entered the twentieth century with an uncertain future but today it proudly bears the scars of another hundred years of faithful service, use and sometimes misuse. With its future now more secure in the next Century these marks and changes are as much a part of basic fabric of the House as the very best frescos or the unique Egypt corner.
The current Northwood House is the third dwelling to be built on what was once called Nutt's Meadow, although it is possible that the site has been occupied since the late sixteenth century. The first house that we can positively identify was known as Bellevue, built in 1768. It was bought at auction by George Ward for ??2,180 in 1793.
During the early 1800s the Bellevue Estate was renamed Northwood Park and John Nash the famous 'Royal Architect' was commissioned around 1807 to completely remodel the estate mansion, now known as Northwood House. By 1802 George Ward and John Nash had become great friends and had much in common. They were similar in age, both speculators and members of the fashionable new rich and when Nash completed the first elevations at his East Cowes Castle home they became close neighbours.
During 1811 and 1822 further work was carried out which included a study, domestic offices and three bedrooms above, accessed by an oval staircase. The later work included the conversion of a stable block into additional bedrooms. In 1837 a large domed annex was added to the house, the architect was believed to have been Charles Lee who had trained in Nash's office.
Around 1840 the House grounds were also modified to a design by James Pennethorne, an adopted son of Mrs Nash who became Nash???s business successor in 1832. The modern Ward Avenue formed the boundary between the pleasure gardens and the park. The kitchen garden and the large Victorian greenhouses were located where the Park Court flats now stand. Only part of the original Bembridge stone wall and a single fig tree now survive.
At first the new house was intended to be a family home and the centre of a Ward dynasty - George Ward's will leaves this matter in no doubt - but the dynasty was to be short lived. In 1849, only eight years after the house had been completed, George Henry Ward died. Having died childless and leaving no direct heir, his nephew William George Ward unexpectedly inherited the estate.
But William Ward was to prove a most reluctant Lord of the Manor and would not live in the House. In 1850 the contents were auctioned and the House, barely eight years old, would never again be home to any members of the Ward family.
In reality Northwood House had been designed to entertain, for holding parties and throwing grand balls. It was also designed to allow the Ward family to demonstrate to the world, and their peers, the level of success and fortune they had achieved. The residential wing was never built and the Ward family preferred to live in a succession of other Island properties. George Ward and his son had aspired to become part of the Landed Gentry 'Set' and establishing a country seat within a huge landscaped park was very much part of this plan. But their idea of form a Ward dynasty based at Northwood House disappeared with George Henry Ward's death and the following years saw the House pass to increasingly remote relatives who had no interest in the large House and Park on the hill.
For the next 75 years Northwood House would see a diverse succession of tenants come and go, including hosting a school for ten years and a convent for six. For the most part its rooms remained empty and unused, but during all this time for weekends during the season it was still let out and hosted the grandest of balls. As the House stirred into life its halls and rooms were graced by the crowned heads of Europe for over 175 years. It also served as a vital Red Cross hospital during World War One with nearly 14,00 patients being treated there in 1918. During World War 2 it again became a hospital with its own purpose built operating theatre, air raid shelters and centre for civil defence based in the Houses extensive cellars.