The history of St. John's House really begins with a man named John Imber who was captain of Lord Bolton's watch station at Yarmouth.
He had two daughters, Ann and Elizabeth. Ann married a man named William White of Newport, but Elizabeth married one Thomas Paterson of Conduit Street, London, and while married to him had a daughter also named Elizabeth.
However, her marriage to Paterson was to be only her first for, after his death, she married a George Ross, Esq.
George Ross owned a parcel of land called Troublefield, which took its name from Turberville, the name of a family who had owned it some hundreds of years earlier. This Troublefield was part of the medieval manor of Preston.
When George Ross died there was no surviving issue from his marriage to Elizabeth Imber and so he left the land of Troublefield to her daughter by her first marriage, Elizabeth.
This Elizabeth in 1766 married Colonel William Amherst of Argyll Street, Westminster, and it was he who built the house of St. John's in about 1769 on the land she had inherited, naming it after St. John's in Newfoundland where he had been governor. It was a marine residence built of stone in Georgian style as a place suitable for spending summers.
When he died on the 13th May, 1781 the house passed to his son, William Pitt Amherst. This Amherst had little interest in St. John's and the estate was twice let, firstly in 1782 to a gentleman named Samuel Leeke and secondly in 1793 to Sir Archibald Macdonald. Sir Archibald Macdonald was a man of great importance being Attorney General from 1788 to 1792 and Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer from 1793 to 1813 when he was created a baronet.
He also had connections with the Ryde, or Ride as it was then, area. Firstly, his wife was Lady Louisa, daughter of the Marquis of Stafford and her sister married Dr. Edward Vernon, Archbishop of York, and their tenth son was Colonel Francis Vernon Harcourt of St. Clare, the Island's M.P. from 1852 to 1857. Secondly, Sir Archibald's son, Leevison, was buried at St. Helens on 6th November 1792. Sir Archibald left the house in 1796 when William Pitt Amherst sold the house to Edward Simeon of London.
It is not known why he bought St.John's but he must have been pleased with it because in 1797 he employed the famous landscape gardener, Humphrey Repton, who was involved in work on Kew Gardens in London, to lay out the grounds of St. John's. Repton was then in partnership with John Nash, an architect, and he visited St. John's while on the Island planning Nash's gardens at East Cowes Castle. Repton was one of the first landscape gardeners to use rhododendrons as there were only fifteen species known to English nurserymen at the time and he used them at St. John's. Even today the grounds contain some beautiful rhododendrons.
During his ownership Edward Simeon appointed a John Hunt as bailiff and a Mrs Mary Locke as housekeeper. When he died aged 54 on 14th December, 1812 he left in his Will £200 each to John Hunt and his wife, together with all the pigs on hand at the time of his death. To Mrs Locke he also left a sum of money.
Apparently Edward's marriage produced no children for he left St. John's House to his nephew, Richard Godin Simeon, who took on St. John's in 1813, and on 8th April of that year married Louisa Edith Barrington, eldest daughter of Sir Fitzwilliam Barrington of Swainston, near Calbourne.
on 26th September, 1833, Sir Fitzwilliam Barrington died and his five daughters were co-heirs to his Estate. Louisa was left Swainston and therefore her husband, Richard, now Sir Richard,
became master of two Estates on the Island.
It seems unlikely that Louisa was left much else for, nine years later, Richard Godin Simeon was raising two mortgages of £15,000 each on the Estate of St. John's, part of the money being put up by his nephew, Sir George Baker. By this time the Estate consisted of 313 acres as he had added a considerable amount of land himself. After another nine years he raised a mortgage of £8,000, making a total of £38,000.