Plans for this project, however, never came to fruition and it was eventually abandoned shortly after Wren’s death in 1723.
The site, which was unusually large for a private house so close to the centre of the city, was purchased by William Sheldon, whose father had been an equerry to King James II, and the great house was built in about 1730.
The entrance to what is now The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum, which faces onto the Memorial Garden, was actually originally the rear entrance of the house. The main, or front, entrance once faced onto Bowling Green Lane, which was long ago eradicated to make way for the Barracks.
In 1781 the house was sold to an attorney, James Serle, whose son, Peter Serle, forged a link between the house and the military that was to last in excess of 200 years.
Peter Serle, whose service spanned the Napoleonic Wars, began soldiering as a hobby. He joined a Corps of Hampshire Volunteers and later rose to command them. He was so successful that in 1804 he was transferred from the Volunteers direct to the command of the South Hampshire Militia. Eventually reaching the rank of full Colonel, Peter Serle retained his command until his death in 1826.
Serle’s House was always used as the Headquarters of whatever command Peter was holding, even whilst the family were still in occupation of their home. In 1796 he sold the property to the Government for £3,750.
The house has seen use as Militia Headquarters, married quarters for officers of the garrison, residence of the Barrack Master, the Officers’ Mess and, in about 1859, it was used as the Judges’ Lodgings for the Assizes. By 1881, however, when the Militia had become the 3rd Battalion The Hampshire Regiment, Serle’s House was established as its Headquarters, as well as that of the 37th Regimental District. Later it would become the Headquarters of the Depot, The Hampshire Regiment. When the Depot closed in 1958 Serle’s House became Regimental Headquarters, encompassing the Regimental Museum and Memorial Garden.
In 2001 the Ministry of Defence sold the entire Peninsula Barracks site complex, resulting in a risk that Serle’s House was going to become commercial premises and the Royal Hampshire Regiment potentially having to move out. Following discussions with Councillor Ken Thornber, then Leader of Hampshire County Council (HCC), the building was purchased directly from the MOD for County Council use and the Royal Hampshire Regiment was kindly given a lease for the ground floor and the Memorial Garden.