Athelhampton House & Gardens





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Athelhampton is one of England's finest Tudor Manors.

The Great Hall built in 1485 remains greatly unchanged with a mainly original

hammer-beam roof, carved stonework, stained glass and other details.

The house survives due to its complex ownership through the years.

The History of Athelhampton

The Doomsday Book

In about 1350 Sir Richard Martyn of Waterston, descended from the Martyns of Turibus near Bayeux, married the de Pydele heiress and the Martyns became Lords of Athelhampton for the next 250 years

About the year 1485 Sir William Martyn, a land owner and collector of wine duty at Poole, built Athelhampton Hall, he received a licence to enclose 160 acres of deer park and fortify his manor with walls of stone and lime and to build towers and crenellate them.

Before 1066 Aethelric held the manor.

The Doomsday Book of 1086 records that the manor, then called Pidele, was held by the Bishop of Salisbury with Odbold as a tenant.


Nothing remains of this time.

The old English personal name Aethelhelm does not appear until the 13th Century when Athelhampton belonged to the de Loundres family before passing to the de Pydeles in the reign of Richard II.


Great Hall


This plan depicts the initial phase of construction in 1485


In 1661, heiress Mary Brune married Sir Ralph Bankes from Corfe Castle, and a few years later the three shares of the house were sold to Sir Robert Long. In 1683 his Grandson James Long a gambler avoided losing Athelhampton to some creditors by hiding out in the house.

His son, James Long esq inherited Athelhampton in 1710, with other property including estates in Wiltshire and purchased adjacent farmland at Southover and Burleston.

The House was passed down through further generations, not often visited and falling into disrepair, until it was inherited by William Pole-Tylney-Long-Wellesley in 1825.


In 1848 following years of disagreement with his father over family debt he sold the house to George Wood, with the Floyer share being purchased, re-uniting the house.

As living standards become more domesticated, with eating, cooking, living and sleeping quarters, Robert Martyn built the West Wing and a Gate House in the early 16th Century.

Robert Martyn married Elizabeth Kelway, their son Sir Nicholas Martyn would marry Margaret Wadham, he was the last of the Martyn male line when he died in 1595, he is buried with his ancestors in the Athelhampton Aisle of St Mary's Church, Puddletown

Four Martyn Daughters inherited equal shares of Athelhampton, which passed to their husbands, The elder married Henry Brune, another co-heir married Anthony Floyer.

Through marriage the Brunes acquired two more shares. Much of the Floyer family lineage died out with the last share passing between distantly related cousins.






This plan depicts the 16th Century phase of construction with a two story gate house, courtyard, West wing and Dovecote



The House, shared in four extends over the next 3 hundred years, buildings at the rear come and go as needed and a central court is created

A Change of Fortune

George Cochrane buys Athelhampton in 1918, and in 1920/21 he builds the North Wing, with some space used for servants. In 1929 his wife dies and Athelhampton is for sale again.

Athelhampton is purchased by Lord Rothermere for his estranged daughter-in-law Margaret Harmsworth. Athelhampton becomes a social destination with Noel Coward, Douglas Fairbanks & Aly Khan as visitors. In 1947 Margaret marries Sir John Blunt and a year later leaves Athelhampton.


In 1949 Athelhampton is sold to Rodney Phillips, who with his wife Marika, and mother-in-law the artist Marevna stay at Athelhampton until their separation in 1957.

Robert Victor Cooke, a retired surgeon from Bristol buys the house and furnishes with his collection of Antiques.

In 1966 the house passes to Robert Cooke MP, who continues to restore Athelhampton and add further structure to the gardens, following Cart De Lafontaine's plans. The Octagonal pond is added in 1972, and completes the current garden structure.


In 1992, Patrick Cooke, the third generation, inherits Athelhampton.


Much of the continued restoration of Athelhampton is due to his tireless efforts, the Kitchen Garden & the Main Staircase are last to be restored.

In 2019 Patrick Cooke retires and the house is sold to Giles Keating an economist from London.

George Wood acquired a house in poor condition, he repaired the hall roof. Thomas Hardy's father was involved in the work and Hardy visited and painted a watercolour of the house in 1859. 


In 1862 the Gate House and a Norman church are demolished, partly because of their proximity to the house and their poor repair, some carved stonework remains on site.

In 1862 George Wood builds a new Church at Athelhampton, with Hicks of Dorchester as Architect who employed Thomas Hardy. George Wood dies in 1866, his nephew George Wood Homer manages the estate and inherits a few years later 

George Wood-Homer  builds himself a new manor at Bardolf near Puddletown, selling Athelhampton in 1890 to Alfred Cart De Lafontaine, but retains the surrounding farmland.

Alfred Cart De Lafontaine sets about restoring the house, and engages  Francis Inigo Thomas to create the architectural gardens that we see today. 

Cart De Lafontaine continues to adapt his designs for Athelhampton, and during his time here he becomes a Magistrate in Dorchester, and entertains Thomas Hardy on many occasions.


Cart De Lafontaine is never satisfied with his many changes to Athelhampton, and having spent a fortune here, after his favourite Nephew and heir is killed in the World War, he sells Athelhampton to release his money.






This final plan of the house, from 1921 to current, the gate-house has been removed, the North Wing, a Victorian Wing and Turret added by Lafontaine and the Northwing in 1921