It is likely that the elegant house we know today is on the site of an earlier Tudor timber-framed building, but there is only fragmentary evidence in outbuildings and no surviving documention.
Mary Baldwin has sifted the archives and personal memories to write the very accessible and fascinating history of Greyfriars House and the Community Association. Part of her introduction follows:
Greyfriars as a Private House
Imagine that by some time-machine you could be transported back to Ringwood as it was two hundred years ago. You would find yourself in a pleasant busy market town full of old thatched cottages occupied by working townsfolk, interspersed with the grander new brick houses belonging to the local gentry and merchants.
You stop one of the passers-by and ask to be directed to Greyfriars, only to be greeted by a blank stare of incomprehension and a shake of the head. This is a puzzle, because you have always been told that Greyfriars is a late 18th century house, described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his ‘Buildings of England’ as ‘the showpiece among Ringwood houses.’ Surely everyone in Ringwood would know it?
You proceed along the road from Fridays Cross towards Christchurch and soon, on your right, you see before you the fine red brick house with its familiar central doorway and three storeys crowned by a pediment. Its grandeur and height make it stand out from the surrounding buildings much as it still does today. So why was your 18th century guide not able to direct you to it?
The answer lies in the fact that although Greyfriars existed two hundred years ago, it was not originally known by that name. Show any Ringwood resident of that time the house we know as Greyfriars and he would say, “Oh, you mean Lonnens”, for the house was then called London House, often corrupted to Lonnens. This was not due to any connection with our capital city, but because the house was built on land belonging to a lady named Mary London, the widow of Samuel London. This may come as a disappointment to the more romantic reader, who has liked to fancy mysterious hooded friars haunting the place from days long ago. The prosaic fact remains that there is not a shred of historical evidence to suggest there was ever any form of monastic settlement here.
From ‘The History of Greyfriars’ by Mary Baldwin. Illustrated (b & w), 40 pages.
Available from the Office at Greyfriars, price £1