Originally a private residence, Urchfont Manor was used to house evacuated children during the Second World War. From 1947 the building was used as a residential college for adult education and a conference centre, and since 2013 has again been a private country house.
An earlier house was built in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, just west of Urchfont village. It was rebuilt between 1678 and 1700 by Sir William Pynsent, 1st Baronet, Member of Parliament for Devizes, in the Restoration style with a seven-bay east elevation. His son Sir William Pynsent, 2nd Baronet died without an heir in 1765 and left his estates in Somerset and Wiltshire to William Pitt the Elder, in gratitude for Pitt's opposition to a new tax of ten shillings on each hogshead of cider. Pitt kept the Somerset estates at Burton Pynsent but sold his new property at Urchfont to the third Duke of Queensberry, and the house was then occupied by tenants until it was bought by Simon Watson Taylor in 1843. Around this time, the name of the property changed from Urchfont House to Urchfont Manor.
Watson Taylor, who had other estates elsewhere in Wiltshire, was also briefly a member of parliament for Devizes in the 1850s; he lived at the house from about 1850 to 1862 and carried out internal rearrangements, including moving the entrance of the house. In 1928, his heirs sold the house and what remained of its farmland to Hamilton Rivers Pollock (1884–1941), a barrister who lived there until his death.
For the rest of the Second World War, Urchfont Manor was a home for children evacuated from London.
In 1945, the house and about 100 acres of land were bought by Wiltshire County Council to establish an adult education centre, which opened in 1947. The building was designated as Grade II* listed in 1962.
Courses offered at the college were mainly in visual and performing arts and media, either as day courses, short residential stays or summer schools. Some programmes were City & Guilds accredited, and some Open University short courses were offered. In its final years, more than one thousand students were enrolled at any time. Some courses were provided directly by the Local Education Authority and some by partners such as the Workers Educational Association or by other agencies, some within the voluntary sector.
The college was managed by a Management Board of governors, most appointed by Wiltshire County Council (later Wiltshire Council) as Local Education Authority, plus the Director of the college, one elected representative of the teaching staff, and a student member. The college closed in September 2012 and in 2013 it was sold to be used as a private house, at a price of £2.7 million.
- Baggs, A.P.; Crowley, D.A.; Pugh, Ralph B.; Stevenson, Janet H.; Tomlinson, Margaret (1975). Crittall, Elizabeth (ed.). "Victoria County History: Wiltshire: Vol 10 pp173-190 – Parishes: Urchfont". British History Online. University of London. Retrieved 27 September 2020.
- Historic England. "Urchfont Manor (1035857)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 11 June 2015.
- "Closure of Urchfont Manor - September 2012". Urchfont Manor College. Archived from the original on 22 August 2020.
- "Council-owned Wiltshire mansion sells for more than £2.7m". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 12 June 2015.
- Channel 4 Time Team, Season 4, Episode 1 - St Mary's City, Maryland +30:13
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