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Wednesday, 21 September 2016

A Regency History guide to Athelhampton House in Dorset

Athelhampton House, Dorset
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Where is Athelhampton?

Athelhampton is a Tudor manor house situated near Dorchester in Dorset. 

A history of Athelhampton

The story of Athelhampton starts in 1485 when Sir William Martyn was granted the right to enclose his estate and deer park and build a stone manor with towers and crenellations—the battlements that give a castle its characteristic shape. The result was the Great Hall with a solar on one side, providing living accommodation, and a buttery on the other. Subsequent owners added the west wing and a gatehouse and extended the house to the rear.

View of Athelhampton House from the White Garden
View of Athelhampton House from the White Garden
About 100 years after the Great Hall was built, one of Sir William’s descendants, Nicholas Martyn, died without male heirs. He left the estate to his four daughters in equal shares and the house was split into separate dwellings. Sir Ralph Bankes of Corfe Castle acquired three of these shares by marriage and other means, but sold them to Sir Robert Long, 1st Baronet, to help finance his expensive new house at Kingston Lacy

This three-quarter share was subsequently inherited by Catherine Tylney-Long, who married the Duke of Wellington’s nephew, William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley, 4th Earl of Mornington, in 1812. The Duke’s nephew only had a life interest in his wife’s property and so the house passed to her son William, 5th Earl of Mornington, on her death in 1825. He subsequently sold Athelhampton to George Wood who acquired the fourth share, reuniting the house once more. By now, the property was very run down, having been used by tenant farmers for many years. The gatehouse was demolished around 1862 and the Norman church was replaced by a new church before passing to a new owner, Alfred Cart de Lafontaine in 1891. 

Athelhampton House, Dorset
Athelhampton House, Dorset
De Lafontaine laid out formal gardens and restored the house but sold it on when he ran out of money. Eventually the house was bought by the Cooke family who still own and live at Athelhampton today. 

The house was visited often by the author Thomas Hardy (1840-1928) and was once lived in by the Russian cubist artist Marevna—Marie Vorobieff—whose paintings are on display in a gallery in the house.

The Gardens, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Gardens, Athelhampton House, Dorset
A tour of Athelhampton House

Athelhampton House is privately owned but is part of the Historic Houses Association and open to visitors. There are a number of items on display which are of particular interest to the Georgian historian. Some rooms are only viewable from the doorway.

Front door, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Front door, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Great Hall

The Great Hall dates back to the late 15th century and includes some original heraldic glass. On the balcony, there is a George III mahogany organ.

The Great Hall, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Hall, Athelhampton House, Dorset

King’s Ante Room

This little passage way includes some prints of Carlton House and a lovely portrait of George III’s fifth daughter, Princess Sophia.

Portrait of Princess Sophia, King's Ante Room,  Athelhampton House, Dorset
Portrait of Princess Sophia, King's Ante Room,
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Wine Cellar

Just inside the entrance to the wine cellar is a Coade stone torchère. This was part of a set of ten candlestick stands made by Coade and Sealy of Lambeth in 1810 for George, Prince of Wales, at Carlton House. Coade and Sealy was the artificial stone manufactory run by Eleanor Coade, one of the women featured in my forthcoming book, What Regency Women Did For Us. At this time, Eleanor had taken her cousin John Sealy into partnership, hence the name, Coade and Sealy.

The Wine Cellar, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Wine Cellar, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Great Chamber

The Great Chamber, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Chamber, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Library (now used as a billiard room)

This is one of the rooms that you can only view from the doorway. At the far end of the room is a Georgian globe which apparently shows the voyages of Captain Cook, but I couldn’t get close enough to see!

The Library, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Library, Athelhampton House, Dorset
King’s Room

The King's Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The King's Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Green Parlour

The Green Parlour, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Green Parlour, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Dressing Room

There is a small collection of vintage clothing on display, including a Georgian dress and a Regency costume, though sadly, not easy to see from the doorway.

Vintage clothing in the Dressing Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Vintage clothing in the Dressing Room, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Georgian dress in the Dressing Room,  Athelhampton House, Dorset
Georgian dress in the Dressing Room,
Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom Closet

Yellow Bedroom Closet, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom Closet, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom

Yellow Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Yellow Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
State Bedroom

A rather dark picture of the State Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
A rather dark picture of the State Bedroom, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Gardens

Although the formal gardens have no claim to Georgian origins as they were laid out in the 1890s, they are beautiful and well worth a visit. There are also other gardens formed later including The Canal and a bridge over the River Piddle leading to a short riverside walk. There is also a toll house within the grounds, beyond the Lime Walk.

Bridge over the River Piddle, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Bridge over the River Piddle, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Court

The Great Court, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Great Court, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Corona

The Corona, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Corona, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Canal

The Canal, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Canal, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Dovecote

The dovecote was built in the early 16th century at the same time as the west wing.

The Dovecote, Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Dovecote, Athelhampton House, Dorset
Toll House

The Toll House at Athelhampton House, Dorset
The Toll House at Athelhampton House, Dorset
Last visited: June 2016.

Sources used include:
Cooke, Patrick, Athelhampton House & Gardens (Dorchester, 2010)

All photographs © Andrew Knowles

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