Westbury House Nursing Home - Petersfield

Westbury House Nursing Home – Petersfield


Westbury House Nursing Home – Petersfield


Westbury was bought from the Gage family in 1866 by John Delaware Lewis. In 1904, the Times of London reported the heroism of his son, Colonel Le Roy Lewis, in saving the lives of some of his domestic staff from a devastating fire which destroyed the Palladian mansion:

‘The escape of the occupants was most exciting. The French governess, who occupied a bedroom at the rear of the main part of the house, raised the alarm at about 3am. Her cries were heard by Colonel Le Roy-Lewis, who immediately did what he could to rouse the family. Rushing out of his bedroom he found the staircase burning and the corridors filled with smoke, and all means of escape cut off. His first impulse was to save his five children, and he ran through the flames to the children’s wing and found that that part of the house was safe. Getting out of a window, he scrambled along a narrow ledge to a stack pipe, down which he slid to the ground, a distance of about 40 ft. He rushed to the stables, and with some difficulty roused the stablemen, and with the aid of three of them tried to raise a heavy ladder to the French governess’ window, but it fell and broke.’ 

‘Owing to the efforts of Colonel Le Roy-Lewis himself, no lives were lost by fire, but the housekeeper, an elderly woman named Jane Henley, who had been in the service of the family for many years, died on the roof from shock and fright before she could be rescued.’

‘The mansion itself is an old one, standing in a well-wooded park of 500 acres, and is in the Queen Anne style. It contained many fine pictures and some rich carving by Gibbons. Most of the rooms were wainscotted in oak, and there was a fine library. All these have been destroyed, only a few articles of furniture being saved. The family lost all their personal belongings.’

The gallant Colonel lost no time in rebuilding the mansion, regardless of cost. Ground-floor rooms included a ‘saloon or lounge’ (45ft by 27ft), with oak-panelled walls and housing a ‘three-manual organ, electrically blown’, an elegant drawing room (72ft by 21ft), fitted with mahogany glazed bookcases of Chippendale design, a dining room (32ft by 21ft), with painted panel walls; plus a study, boudoir and billiards room…. and so it went on, three floors of Edwardian comfort, including a passenger lift and central heating.

The estate was broken up in 1924, when Westbury House became a well-known and successful preparatory school, a use that continued for many years, until the 1980s when it was converted into a nursing home.


It closed in 2016 after a health watchdog found residents “were not protected from abuse and avoidable harm”. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-36474820