Rev. Seymour. was already living in Clifton, near Bristol, and probably had been living there since 1852, when he started letting Farringford as a holiday home, first to Baron A. and then to Alfred Tennyson. In 1856, Seymour finally sold Farringford along with a sizeable estate called Priors Freshwater [see Priors Freshwater] to Tennyson:
1856 Dec. 2 [JER/LTF/2]
Manor of Priors, mansion house called Farringford Hill with coachhouse, stables, outbuildings, gardens etc. and other lands and premises in the parish of Freshwater.
1. Reverend George Turner Seymour. of Cornwallis Crescent, Clifton, near Bristol, clerk.
2. Alfred Tennyson of Farringford Hill, esq.
“By 1856, Alfred’s earnings from his writing alone amounted to more than £2,000 a year. He was able to buy the house, park and farmland of Farringford for £6,900.”
Paul Hyland, Wight. Gollancz, 1985.
The dilatoriness of Seymour irritated Tennyson to such an extent that he started to have doubts about ever managing to purchase Farringford. In March 1856, he wrote to his friend, Sir John Simeon:
“Seymour is the most uncourteous animal I ever dreamed of, or Estcourt the most lazy (we are now (it's being 9 weeks since I first mentioned the matter to Estcourt)) obliged to warehouse the furniture in our old Twickenham house in London. ... Have you seen E? I shall have to give up this place out of pure disgust at the conduct of Seymour I expect.”
Letter to Sir John Simeon c. 20 March 1856 in The letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson, volume 2 1851 to 1870. Edited by Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. Clarendon press, Oxford. 1987.
In fact, the family had to wait for Seymour to remove his furniture and this added to the chaotic state. In May 1856, Tennyson wrote to his aunt, “… we are in the midst of a packing bustle, things tumbled about here and there - my landlord being about to sell his furniture: preparatory to my buying the place: …”
Letter to Elizabeth Russell May 19, 1856 in The letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson, volume 2 1851 to 1870. Edited by Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. Clarendon press, Oxford. 1987.
Several days later, Seymour was still there:
“The Seymours still in the house, the entrance room nearly impossible from packages, and the drawing-room, stripped of pictures and some of its furniture. Alfred told the Prince there was to be a sale and apologised for the confusion ...
The sale is fixed for the 27th or the 28. Mr. Seymour means to put all those iron rails into the sale, which I fear will cost us an additional hundred pounds or two.”
Emily Tennyson to George Venables, 21 May 1856 in The Letters of Alfred Lord Tennyson, volume 2 1851 to 1870. Edited by Cecil Y. Lang and Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. Clarendon press, Oxford. 1987.
And so on 27th and 28th May, Rev. Seymour auctioned much of his furniture and effects at Farringford, before the Tennysons installed their own.
[Hampshire Telegraph 1856 May 24; Issue 2955.]
“Before the Tennysons could really take Farringford over as their home, there was a good deal to be done. Their own furniture had to be substituted for that which they had been using, and the house had to be redecorated.
It was a delightful moment when on a sunny afternoon in May 1856, they saw their favourite crimson sofa and other belongings set out in the sunshine, against the ivy-covered stable wall. Alfred repeated the song which he had just made for Enid, “Turn, Fortune, turn thy wheel”. On May 13th, “in the midst of all confustion while all imaginable things strewed the drawing-room, and the bookshelves were bare and the chairs and tables dancing.” Prince Albert arrived unannounced. He went all over the place, seemingly charmed with everything he saw, and left carrying a large bunch of cowslips which had been gathered in the park by one of his attendant gentlemen, and which he said he would have made into cowslip wine for the Queen.
That evening, Alfred and Emily moved to a house in the neighbourhood (The ‘Red House’, afterwards called ‘High Down Villa’ and then ‘Lockersby) in order to leave Farringford for the decorators. On June 23rd, an exquisite summer evening, they walked up to the back door through the kitchen garden where Alfred picked a rose for Emily.
During the next fifteen years or so, Tennyson gave Farringford the form which, subject to the inevitable modifications of time and circumstance, can still be traced today. He made little alteration during those early years, though some time during the 1860s the little attic study became his dressing room and the ground floor room next to the conservancy his study.”
Tennyson, Sir Charles Bruce, Farringford, Home of Alfred Lord Tennyson. Tennyson Society, 1976.
“Tennyson always told his friends that Maud paid for Farringford. This was partially true. The figure of over £2,000, which he received from Moxon in 1856, went towards the purchase price. Not all the money came from Maud however. In 1854, Tennyson bought £1700 worth of East Lincolnshire Railway shares…with the help of the money from his shares and from Maud, Tennyson eventually put up the asking price for Farringford, which had now risen to over £6,000.”
Ormond, Leonee, Alfred Tennyson. Macmillan, 1993.
April 24th, 1856.
“This morning a letter came from Mr G. S. Venables saying that Mr Chapman pronounced the title of Farringford good. We have agreed to buy, so I suppose this ivied home among the pine-trees is ours. Went to our withy holt: such beautiful blue hyacinths, orchises, primroses, daisies, marsh-marigolds and cuckoo-flowers. Wild cherry trees too with single snowy blossom, and the hawthorns white with their "pearls of May." The park has for many days been rich with cowslips and furze in bloom. The elms are a golden wreath at the foot of the down; to the north of the house the mespilus and horse-chestnut are in flower and the apple-trees are covered with rosy buds. A. dug the bed ready for the rhododendrons. A thrush was singing among the nightingales and other birds, as he said " mad with joy." At sunset, the golden green of the trees, the burning splendour of Blackgang Chine and St Catharine's, and the red bank of the primeval river, contrasted with the turkis-blue of the sea (that is our view from the drawing-room), make altogether a miracle of beauty. We are glad that Farringford is ours.”
From the diary of Emily Tennyson cited in Tennyson, Hallam, Alfred Lord Tennyson. A Memoir by his Son. 2 volumes. London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1897.
The first problem the family encountered was the poor state of the drains, and by July 1856, Emily was describing them as “bad as they have never been before.” [Emily Tennyson’s Journal, July 1856.] Consequently, in November and December of that year, the first major work carried out by the Tennysons involved extensive work on the drains at Farringford.
In May 1859, bay windows (Emily Tennyson calls them “oriel windows”) were put in to the attic rooms [image 02], thus converting them from low-ceilinged, dark rooms into the much lighter, open rooms of today. [Emily Tennyson’s Journal, May 1859.]
In 1863, during one of Tennyson’s absences (York, Harrogate, Ripon and Fountains Abbey?), Emily supervised further alterations to the house but what these were is unknown. (Emily Tennyson’s Journal, 1863 Sept. 14: “To my delight and thankfulness, A. is pleased with the alterations I have made during his absence and immediately orders the completion of my plan.”)
In 1864, during another of Tennyson’s absences (Brittany?), Emily set to work having “the back staircase altered and a grand arch made.” This may refer to one of the arches in the hall as in July of that year, she writes, ”I am very glad that he likes the alterations I have made in the hall.” [Emily Tennyson’s Journal, July 1864.] It is relevant to note that the internal arches built at Freshwater Court (a house built by local builder Kennett, who also built the New Study at Farringford) are smaller versions of those at Farringford, suggesting that Kennett also built these. The back staircase can possibly be identified with a staircase that is now concealed by a false wall, adjoining the bathroom suite of the northwest main bedroom [see paragraph13.45]. This is most likely the staircase that Emily Tennyson mentions in her diary in 1864, when she noted, “I am very busy getting the back staircase altered …” [Emily Tennyson’s Journal, 27 June 1864.]
In 1868, during Alfred’s visit to Portugal, Emily again supervised the insertion of a small dormer window [still extant] into the west wall of Tennyson’s attic study. (William Allingham, March 17, 1868: – ‘Walk to Farringford. Upstairs. New window in corner of study. T. said "I have desired it for years, sixteen years, done while I was away.") This window provided views in a westerly direction towards Moon’s Hill and the Downs above The Needles.
In 1871, it was decided to build a new study or library to contain Tennyson’s overflowing book collection. This was built by Kennett, a well-known Freshwater builder, who was also responsible for building many other houses in the area. Like the main body of the house, it is built using a similar yellow brick and in Flemish bond. To obtain a view to the north, large windows were inserted in the north wall, but to allow an uninterrupted vista, a central section of the roof of the south servant’s wing opposite had to be cut away and a flat roof built instead. Although the original roof of the north wing was replaced by the present second storey, it too presumably would have required the same alteration.
The study was heated by a large fireplace, still extant. At a later date, secondary double glazing was fitted and central heating arrived in the form of pair of pipes that encircled the whole room at skirting board level.