Where is Merewood Hospital?

I discovered Minley Manor and Minley Home Farm in 2020 while looking for somewhere nearby to exercise during the Covid pandemic lockdown. Minley soon became one of my favourite places to walk, and I kept going back to look at the manor and farmhouse  - buildings that were crying out to have a novel written about them.

The book they inspired was Murder at Merewood Hospital. It tells the story of the remaining five patients left in a military hospital on the Merewood estate at the end of the First World War.

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During the war, many stately homeowners gave over a wing of their home or a building on their estate to the Red Cross to turn into a temporary hospital for injured soldiers.

This is true of Minley Manor, a country manor house built around 1860 in a French Gothic style for Raikes Currie - a rich banker and Member of Parliament. 

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Minley Manor, Hampshire, 2020

Raikes' grandson, Laurence Currie, later introduced a water tower, kitchen garden, and walled gardens to the estate and extended the woodland. In 1896, he had Home Farm built, a unique model farm designed by Arthur Castings.

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Minley Home Farm, 1903

The model farm had a similar decorative tudoresque façade to the manor. It was beautifully constructed in red brick with a dairy, pigsties, bull boxes, and calf and cow houses. Laurence bred Kerry cattle and Berkshire pigs. The pigs were fed on the by-products of cheese making.

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 Nurses with recuperating patients at Minley Lodge during First World War

In the Great War, Laurence Currie gave over a lodge on the Minley estate to be used as a hospital for wounded servicemen. The Commandant of the hospital was Mrs Laurence Currie, and the Currie family met all of the hospital’s expenses.

My novel has a similar premise in that the Wintringhams of Merewood Manor fund Merewood Hospital, and Dorothy Wintringham is the Commandant of the hospital.

However, because of its unusual architecture, I chose Minley Home Farm rather than Minley Lodge as the building that becomes Merewood Hospital.

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The above postcards shows a recuperating serviceman dressed in 'hospital blues'

Extracts from Murder at Merewood Hospital:

"Merewood Manor nestled on the outskirts of Gibbet Wood. The Wintringhams’ country home had the appearance of a giant dolls house. It looked more like an ornate folly built on a grand scale than a place people lived in."

"Merewood Farm was a later addition to the estate, built by Charles’s son, Joseph. It no more resembled a farm than it did a hospital. In keeping with the mansion that looked down on it like a poor relative, Merewood Farm boasted an ornate red brick exterior and arched windows."

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Minley Manor, 2020

In 1935, the Ministry of Defence purchased Minley Manor and all its estates. Minley Home Farm remained an active dairy farm until the mid-20th century and was still used by the MoD until the 1990s.

In 2014, Minley Manor was sold and is now an events venue. Over the years, it's featured in a number of films, including Mosquito Squadron and Stardust.

The MoD still owns Home Farm and thousands of acres of surrounding land. Despite other buildings within the estate being listed, Home Farm remains unlisted. It’s now derelict and in need of restoration.

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Minley Home Farm, 2020

In 2020, the MoD submitted plans to demolish the farm. The Victorian Society sent a letter to the Secretary of State for Defence, urging them to rethink, highlighting the farm’s architectural and historical significance.

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Above: The Victorian Society headline

SAVE Britain’s Heritage took legal action to block the demolition and, with the support of the Victorian Society, they’ve applied for Home Farm to become a listed building. So far, that hasn’t happened.

The future of Minley Home Farm remains uncertain, and I’m not sure it will survive for much longer. I still regularly walk at Minley, and each time I see the farm, it's deteriorated a little more.

In its day, it was a unique model farm – and it will be sad to see this piece of history lost forever. 

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Murder at Merewood Hospital is available in hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook from Amazon and bookstores.