Thursday, June 25, 2009
A Ruined Abbey and A Dovecote Part Two
The weather was starting to improve by the time I'd had lunch and I set off towards Dorchester to visit a medieval manor house called Athelhampton. The original part of the house was built in 1495 with the addition of a West Wing in the 16th century and over the next 300 years the North and East wings were added. The photograph shows the West Wing from the garden - and also, at last, some blue sky and sunshine.
The original part of Athelhampton with the 15th century porch which leads into the Great Hall. You can see the oriel of the Great Hall on the left - the tall, narrow windows which project from the wall. The only other rooms at this period were the buttery at the north end of the Great Hall and the solar on the south side.
Athelhampton is privately owned and when I asked my usual question about taking photographs they said 'yes, but please don't use flash'. Refreshing change from the NT! The interior shots are not that great because there were a lot of lamps on so there is glare but hey! at least I can show you what the inside looks like. Above is one end of the Great Hall with a lovely log fire going in the fireplace. The linenfold panelling is really elegant and beautiful.
On this you can see just the oriel on the left - it's an early form of bay window. The doorway leads into The King's Ante Room. The tapestry above the fireplace is late 16th/early 17th century Flemish and illustrates ' Sampson slaying the Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass'. If you click on the picture to enlarge it you will just about be able to make out Sampson.
The other end of the Great Hall with the Minstrel's Gallery, beneath the portrait is a lovely oak and walnut coffer dating from 1631.
The Screens passage with a lovely old stone floor. It runs under the Minstrel's Gallery and the oak door is 15th century, there is one of these doors at each end of the passage. Click on the photo to see it more clearly.
This is the dining room now but it is part of the original 1495 building and the buttery would have been here then. This was where the butts of wine were kept hence the term buttery. I imagine it was also used for the storage of anything that needed cool, dry conditions.
This is The King's Room, also part of the original house. It was once the solar which was the room where the lord of the manor and his family could withdraw and have some privacy. It isn't called The King's Room because a king has slept there but because this is the room where the Manor Court was held in the name of the king.
The lovely oak Tester bed dates from the reign of Charles l ie between 1625 and 1649.
This isn't the main library of the house but a small and cosy little study/library opening off a landing on the stairs.
The Yellow Bedroom, the fireplace is lined with lovely Delft tiles and the panelling is 19th century but is fixed directly onto Tudor brick and timber walls.
The ghost of The Grey Lady haunts this room.
The State Bedroom with its oak four poster bed.
This rather splendid fire place is 15th century and is made of Ham stone which comes from a quarry on Ham Hill in Somerset. The small arched doorway leads to a private chapel.
The gardens at Athelhampton are very pleasant to walk in especially on a sunny afternoon which by this stage is what I had. This is the Corona which is more or less at the centre of the gardens. The walls, like the fireplace in the previous photo, are of Ham stone backed by clipped yew and they frame a lovely vista through to the fountain in The Great Court.
The River Piddle runs through the grounds - no sniggering at the back there please!
On a rather more romantic note, this scene reminded me of the Pre-Raphaelite painting of Ophelia by John Everett Millais.
Finally we come to the piece de resistance - at least, it is as far as I'm concerned. I think this 15th century dovecote is absolutely beautiful.
This lantern on top of the roof provides landing stages for the doves.
Dovecotes were a status symbol but also had a very practical purpose, they were used to farm pigeons to provide fresh meat especially in the winter months. The door is only three feet high but, in the interests of science and also because I was curious!, I crept in and took this photograph of the interior showing some of the nesting boxes. There is room in here for 1500 birds to nest.
I had a really pleasant afternoon at Athelhampton and from this point on the weather was much better and the two best days were still ahead of me.