Charborough House

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Charborough House

Charborough House, also known as Charborough Park, is a Grade I listed building[1] and rural estate between the villages of Sturminster Marshall and Bere Regis in Dorset, England. The grounds, which include a deer park and gardens, adjoin the villages of Winterborne Zelston, Newton Peveril and Lytchett Matravers. They are Grade II* listed in the National Register of Historic Parks and Gardens,[2] and have been called the most splendid park in Dorset.[3]

The estate has been owned by the same family since Elizabethan times and is first recorded in the Domesday Book Survey of 1086, commissioned by William I of England.[4] The quadruple-barrelled surname of the owners is now Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, the Earles/Erles having arrived in Dorset from east Devon circa 1500, and continued via several female lines. The current occupier is Richard Drax, the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Dorset.[5] The current house is in the centre of the park and incorporates parts of the house built by Sir Walter Erle (1586–1665), the Governor of Dorchester and commander of the Parliamentary forces which besieged Corfe Castle in 1646. Stone and timber taken from Corfe Castle were used in the building.

In 1686, a group of conspirators met at Charborough House to plan the overthrow of "the tyrant race of Stuarts". This was hosted by Thomas Erle, MP for Wareham since 1678, and Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset since 1685. The meeting was effectively the start of the buildup to the Invitation to William, signed by the Immortal Seven, which resulted in the Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, and the overthrow of James II of England in 1688 by a union of Parliamentarians and the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau, (William of Orange).

Church of St Mary[edit]

The church of St Mary next to Charborough House is a Gothic Revival style Grade II* listed building,[6] It was built by Thomas Erle Drax in 1775 and transformed in 1837 by John Sawbridge Erle Drax who had married Sarah Frances Erle-Drax, the heiress of Charborough, in 1826 and assumed her surname. It is now used only as the burial-place of the Drax family. Above the door of a small arched building nearby is an inscription, dated 1686, commemorating the meeting of the "patriotic individuals, who concerted the plan of the Revolution in 1688".

Tower[edit]

Charborough Tower

Charborough Tower is a Grade II* listed octagonal folly tower dating from 1790, extended in 1839 to a five-storey height. It is on a hill southeast of the house,[7] with a triumphal way running between them.[3]

Charborough House with the tower is the model for "Welland House" in the novel Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy.[8]

Estate wall and entrances[edit]

Charborough Park is surrounded by one of the longest brick walls in England, comprising more than 2 million bricks and built between 1841 and 1842 by the then owner of the park John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge-Erle-Drax. He had successfully had the new Wimborne/Dorchester turnpike moved further away from his house, a detour of over half a mile, but unfortunately for Sawbridge-Erle-Drax - who was also its chief promoter - the turnpike lost money, mainly because the railway between Wimborne and Dorchester opened shortly afterwards.

The wall runs alongside the A31 and is punctuated by Stag Gate at the northern extremity and Lion Lodge at the easternmost entrance, with decorations created by Eleanor Coade's Artificial Stone Manufactory in Lithodipyra (Coade stone).

Although the stag on top of 'Stag Gate' appears to have five legs, the 'fifth leg' is actually a 'tree stump' originally incorporated into the sculpture to add strength. There are quite a few comments on-line and in publications that the stag has five legs so that it appears to have four when viewed from any angle, which is clearly imaginative but incorrect.[9]

These gateways are Grade II listed, as is a third one, East Almer Lodge,[2] further to the west. A fourth gateway, Peacock Lodge, which is inside the current bounds of the estate,[3] is Grade II* listed.[2]

The Drax estate is thought to consist of nearly 7,000 acres (28 km2).[10] The private grounds are only open to the public once or twice a year, when the local villagers sell tea and cakes.

Thomas Erle[edit]

Main article: Thomas Erle

Thomas Erle c 1650-1720, served as MP for Wareham and Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset. In 1686 he hosted a group of conspirators who met at Charborough House to plan the overthrow of "the tyrant race of Stuarts", which resulted in the overthrow of James II of England in 1688 by a union of Parliamentarians and the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau, (William of Orange).

He also served as Lord Justice of Ireland; MP for Cork in the Irish Parliament; Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance in Spain and France; and Governor of Portsmouth.

Parliamentary representation[edit]

Family members who were Members of Parliament for Wareham
1679-1698, 1701–1718, Thomas Erle (born circa 1650, died 23 July 1720)
1701, 1704, 1710, 1722 Sir Edward Ernle (born circa 1673, died 31 Jan 1729)
1718, 1734, 1751, Henry Drax (born circa 1693, died 24 May 1755)
1747, 1754, 1761, Thomas Erle Drax (born circa 1721, died December 1789)
1755, Edward Drax (born circa 1726, died April 1791)
1841, 1859, 1868, John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle-Drax (born 6 October 1800, died 7 January 1887)

The current owner, Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (born 29 January 1958), was elected Member of Parliament for South Dorset in 2010.

References[edit]

  1. ^ English Heritage. "Charborough Park (1323286)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c English Heritage. "Charborough Park (1000713)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Newman, John; Pevsner, Nikolaus (1997). The Buildings of England: Dorset. London: Penguin. pp. 139–141. ISBN 0-14-071044-2. 
  4. ^ Charborough House - Domesday Book
  5. ^ Biography from Great British Life
  6. ^ English Heritage. "Parish Church of Saint Mary, Charborough (1120553)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  7. ^ English Heritage. "Charborough Tower (1120555)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  8. ^ Letter from Hardy to Bertram Windle, transcribed by Birgit Plietzsch, from CL, vol 2, pp 131-133
  9. ^ Drakesfamily website
  10. ^ Daily Mail article

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 50°46′50.22″N 2°6′26.76″W / 50.7806167°N 2.1074333°W / 50.7806167; -2.1074333