Barton Court on the cliff top at Barton was the holiday home of the Dent family. Family members had access to their own private beach and made a fine collection of fossils from the cliffs below.
John Dent (c1761-1826) was MP for Lancaster and lived in London but bought Barton Court as a seaside home. He was a supporter of William Pitt the Younger but known for his independent streak. He opposed the abolition of slavery stating that abolition would be ‘destructive of the property of the planters’ and that the grievances of the slaves no longer existed as the Liverpool merchants had done everything possible to improve conditions on the middle passage!
In 1796 he proposed a tax on dogs to fund the relief of the poor which earned him the lifelong soubriquet ‘Dog’ Dent. He contested the seat at Poole in 1812 but had to withdraw for lack of support. He supported George Canning, who planned to visit him at Barton, and later applied for a baronetcy but was denied. Canning wrote: “How could I guess the Dog’s wish to be Sir Dogby, when he so positively denied it?” In his later years Dent suffered from tic douloureux (stabbing pains in the face) and attempted to end his life by throwing himself off the cliff at Barton ‘but it was not high enough to kill him’.
Villiers and Susan Dent lived at the estate in the mid-19th century and their daughter, Susan, married the 4th Earl of Harrowby in 1859. Villiers was a notable local figure. He was the son of John Villiers Dent (1806-91) of Barton Court and born at Avon, Ringwood in 1846. He became Justice of the Peace for Hampshire and for the Borough of Lymington and member of the Lymington Local Board, 1880-89. On the incorporation of the town on modern lines, he was made first mayor of the extended borough, occupying the mayoral chair for two successive years, 1889-90, 1890-91, and then mayor for the coronation year, 1901-02, and again for 1902-03. His other positions included alderman of the council from 1889; chairman of the County Bench of Magistrates for the Lymington Division; member of the County Licensing Committee; a Commissioner of Income Taxes and a member of Hampshire County Council for six years. Villiers Dent died in 1891 and in 1894 the family started to sell off 70 acres of the 350 acre estate.
The arrival of the railway at (New) Milton brought development opportunities for the area and over the next few decades transformed Barton from a quiet farming hamlet to a ‘builders paradise’. The house at Barton Court was sold off as a hotel and later extended but because of its proximity to the eroding cliffs none of the original buildings remain. It was the first hotel to open in Barton.
Some rare images shown in this section have been reproduced from family archives by kind permission of the 8th Earl of Harrowby.
The gallery below gives more information and images about Barton Court and its history.