William Stone enjoyed entertaining and held weekend house parties, but also liked the locals to enjoy the grounds.
Letting the public in William Stone was very generous in sharing his estate with others less fortunate than himself. He held open days and allowed local charities to use the grounds for fundraising.
From 1864 onwards an annual fete was held and in the summer of 1865 the grounds were thrown open, possibly in a bid to boost Stone’s campaign for re-election.
Leigh Park, Havant – To the Editor of the Portsmouth Times and Naval Gazette – Sir, as Saturday, the 11th of April, is likely to be a holiday with many of the inhabitants of Portsmouth, and as there will be no doubt many visitors in the town, I have thought that some of them may like to visit the grounds at Leigh Park on that day. I shall be much obliged, therefore, if you will allow me to announce through your columns that the grounds will be open to the public on Saturday, the 11th, in addition to the usual days in April.
W.H. Stone, 1 April 1868 - Portsmouth Times and Naval Gazette, 4 April 1868
Annual Excursion, - The members and friends of the Portsea Island Young Men’s Christian Association held their annual excursion on Tuesday, at Leigh Park. By the kind permission of W.H. Stone, Esq. M.P., and the exertions of Mr Young, head-gardener, tea was provided in the gardens, and the use of the library granted for the occasion. Invitations were sent to the respective societies at Ryde, Gosport, and Fareham. After tea various sports were indulged in, and the friends retired at a reasonable hour, having spent a day of rational enjoyment not to be forgotten.
Hampshire Telegraph, 24 July 1869
‘Grand Amalgamated Fete and Gala of Foresters and Druids’
Those possessing no desire to engage in any of the numerous amusements wandered through the gardens and conservatories, which had been liberally thrown open on the occasion, and we have no doubt the attention paid by the crowds of the visitors to the valuable English and exotic specialities, and to the warnings of the large number of Mr Stone’s workmen, who politely, yet firmly, interfered whenever they saw anything to justify interference, will have the effect of inducing that gentleman to continue to afford the people of Portsmouth and the surrounding neighbourhood, the opportunity of visiting his seat, and enjoying rambles through his well appointed gardens and greenhouses. The flowers did not appear so thoroughly forward as they were this time last year, but they still looked beautiful and their delicious fragrance pervaded the whole of the grounds. The large and carpet-like lawn was taken advantage of by a large number of the visitors as a resting place, and the beautiful prospect of the lake and island and the new drive through the wood was much admired by all.
Hampshire Telegraph, 4 June 1873