Therefore all seasons shall be sweet to thee,
Whether summer clothe the general earth
With greeness, or the redbreast sit and sing
Betwixt the tufts of snow on the bare branch
Of mossy apple-tree, while the nigh thatch
Smokes in the sun-thaw; whether the eave-drops fall
Heard only in the trances of the blast,
Or if the secret ministry of frost
Shall hang them up in silent icicles,
Quietly shining to the quiet Moon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Ruined Abbey and A Dovecote Part Two

The Dovecote

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.


Wanda..... said...

Rowan...I am very thankful for finding your Blog...I have seen so much through your eyes...and learned from your knowledge... I can only imagine the thrill of walking through such a place as Athelhampton...but at least I have seen it now and I have to admit I did not know of dovecotes...such a beautiful construction! Thanks for the tour.

JoAnn ( Scene Through My Eyes) said...

What a lovely tour - and such interesting information - how wonderful that there are keepers of records. I learned much - especially about the dovecote.

Thimbleanna said...

Thanks for another lovely tour Rowan. I used to think it was ridiculous that they wouldn't let you take pictures inside NT locations, but when we were at a NT place in Scotland, a man there explained that they had had trouble with people taking pictures who later planned to steal items. He was a very nice man, we were alone on his tour and it was obvious that we were tourists rather than burglars, so he kindly let me take a few pictures

Rosie said...

Oh, Rowan you have brought back loads of memories for me with this post - it must be over 20 years ago that we visited Athelhampton - I remember the dovecote but also an amazing garden with huge pyramid shaped hedges or trees - I must dig out our old photos as we also visited Kingston Lacey and the tress could have been there but I think they were at Athelhampton. It is a wonderful house isn't it? Thanks for all the information about dovecotes it was fascinating:)

hippymummy said...

Some day i hope to be able to visit some of the beautiful places that i've learned about from your wonderful blog. I can't thank you enough for that. I look forward to your next post xXx

Ragged Roses said...

What a treat to have some lovely interior shots, it's such a shame that the NT gets so stuffy about it. Thanks for the beautiful photos. I am in fact writing this in a crumpled heap on the floor as I have just swooned after seeing that dovecote, I LOVE dovecotes, there is something so utterly romantic about them.
Thanks too for the lovely elderflower recipe, I am very tempted to have a go at that this weekend.
I also really enjoyed your Midsummer's Eve post, it is a magical time of the year isn't it!

Gracie said...

Thank you for showing us the house. Is someone still living there?
Gracie at

Unknown said...

And you weren't attacked by 1500 marauding doves, Rowan?!

Beautiful dovecot. Much nicer than Jack's pigeon loft!! I also really liked the Yellow Bedroom and the Corona garden. And why did I think the Buttery would be part of the dairy?!

Another great post, Rowan.

uphilldowndale said...

I saw a lot of old and ancient dovecotes when we were living in Scotland, there they go by the lyrical name of doocot

Anonymous said...

Hi Rowan, that Dovecote is in really good condition. Its another interesting part of Dorset you have taken us to and all memory lane for me. The family on my Mother's side come from Cerne Abbas and Dorchester.
There would have been a lot more sniggering at the back if you had mentioned Piddletrenthide, Puddletown and all the other Piddles and Puddles.!!
Great post.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comment this morning - you just missed the anniversary giveaway I'm afraid but know you're appreciated and valued, and yes, you may call 'her' Tess! x

Gretel said...

Oh, how I loved looking at those photos big-size! Almost as good as being there. Do the National Trust not allow photos, even with no flash? For shame. Another thoroughly enjoyable excursion, thank you!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I love that cozy library, it reminds me of my own. And I love the yellow bedroom. What a delightful place to wake up. But you're right, the dovecote is pure magic.

And you caught me... I'm afraid I did giggle at the river!!

Ruthie Redden said...

a perfectly wonderful guided tour, thank you. the kings room is magnificent,

Jo Potter said...

Hi Rowan,
I have just found your blog with this wonderful house. We are very lucky in England to have such beautiful, old buildings with great history.
I am a member of the National Trust and I'm glad to have the chance to visit these places of our past.
I will now follow you. Thank you for sharing your visit to Athelhampton manor.


Janet said...

I'm so glad you were allowed to take photos. They're beautiful. I have so enjoyed both of these posts. Thank you for always taking us along with you when you travel.

PAT said...

I enjoyed part 1 and 2! I'm e-mailing your link to friends.

When I read what you wrote about the sickle, it reminded me, we saw one at a sale a couple of weeks ago. I asked J if he would like that instead of the weed eater. He said no thanks. He has cut many weeds with a sickle or scythe and prefers the modern method!

thelma said...

Hi Rowan,

Lovely long blog, see you've been to Knowlton Henge, and the abbey. Dorset must have been rather beautiful this time of year..
p.s.having difficulty with my computer connection at the moment

Julie said...

Dear Dorothy,

Today I explored a fallen-down farmhouse and took photos (to the horror of the ND Tourism Department). Then I took to the fields to note the fresh cowpats and locoweed. Later I had a delightful tour of Bismarck's water purification system, and rounded it all off with a fabulous lunch at Wendy's. By now you can probably tell I am joking.

We do have SOME history around here, granted, but (by far) not to the extent you do. Thank you so much for sharing this, as usual.