'Rotherfield, with East Tisted village on the Fareham road just south of Alton, forms one of the most complete and delightful instances of Picturesque theory put into practice. Mansion, park, village, and distant landscape were all transformed over a period of half a century by a family obviously imbued with the Picturesque and with building in their blood.'
So wrote Christopher Hussey in an article for Country Life in 1948. The family was that of James Scott who bought Rotherfield in 1808 - the only time the house has been sold in its long history. James Scott's father William was a very successful building contractor in Fulham. Like the Hollands in Hammersmith and later the Cubitts, Scotts of Fulham prospered from the westward expansion of London in the 18th century, building Bedford Square for the Bedford estate and probably Montagu and Bryanston Squares for the Portman estate in 1811.
The architect for the squares, Joseph Parkinson, was commissioned to rebuild the house at Rotherfield incorporating the new theories of romanticism as dictated by Sir Uvedale Price and Richard Payne Knight. They suggested that in architecture, harmony with the landscape was the primary object and both commended the effect of successive periods of alteration and building. They both also advocated the picturesque possibilities of improving any nearby village, church or bridge.
As well as the initial task of rebuilding the house and improving the village according to the Picturesque ideals, Parkinson considered the garden to be just as important, and since 1808 the six successive generations of the Scott family have lavished considerable efforts to maintain the 12 acres, which is now listed Grade II by English Heritage. It includes an acre of walled garden divided into four compartments: fruit, vegetables, swimming pool and trampoline, all decorated with flower beds. Students of garden history will enjoy looking over the notes prepared by Norah Lindsay in the 1920s, many of whose suggestions were adopted. More recently, the celebrated garden designer Kim Wilkie has transformed the south lawn where Rossini's opera will be performed. In his Rural Rides, William Cobbett describes how the new owner of Rotherfield Park ‘has recently built a new house in the park …has quite metamorphosed the village of Tisted within eight years…has, indeed really and truly improved the whole county just round about here.’ Clearly, the work continues.
The garden, house and park have been used on many occasions as a location for filming, including the horror classic The House of the Long Shadows and most recently Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Now, for the first time, it is the sound of opera which will echo around the house.