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  • Writer's pictureRoyston Nicholls

Fiddleford Manor...'a spectacular manor house'

I have decided to focus for the next few weeks on sites closer to home and a few days ago I made a visit to Fiddleford Manor, which is less than two miles from the village where I live. Fiddleford Manor is a medieval manor house located near Sturminster Newton and is thought to have been originally built around 1370 for William Latimer, the sheriff of Somerset and Dorset. The house is now owned by English Heritage and open for the public to visit throughout the year.

Fiddleford Manor. The old west wing would have been to the right of the remaining building.

Photo: Roy Nicholls

Fiddleford Manor from the river bank

Photo: Roy Nicholls

The present building comprises a two-storey solar and half of the hall to the east of that, both with open timber roofs. The house is unusual among this type of building in retaining many of its original features, this despite having undergone many alterations during its 600-year history. It has been described as having "perhaps the most spectacular manor house interior in Dorset." The foundations of the west range and an extension of the hall are now visible only as earthworks.

The central passage of the house, with service rooms like the buttery beyond

Photo: Roy Nicholls

The superb timber ceiling of the Great Hall

Photo: Roy Nicholls

The Great Hall fireplace

Photo: Roy Nicholls

The central passage and service rooms

Photo: Roy Nicholls

The Great Hall retains its large fireplace and the original wooden screen that separated the central passage, beyond which were rooms like the ‘buttery’. This was a service room in a medieval house where butts, barrels or bottles of liquor were stored and then served by the ‘butler’.

Upstairs was the chamber block, which provided the main private quarters of the house, where the family lived and entertained. Originally accessed by an outside stair, an interior staircase was added later.

The Solar Room, with access to the principle bedrooms. The 14th century wall painting of the Angel Gabriel can be seen to the left of an old window

Photo: Roy Nicholls

The ‘solar’ room also retains its grand fireplace as well as having a spectacular timber roof, as well as part of an original 14th century wall painting of the Angel Gabriel, part of an Annunciation scene. Beyond the solar room would have been the principle bedrooms and some of these rooms retain their decorated plaster ceilings, but these are in a private part of the building and not open to viewing.

The wall painting of the Angel Gabriel

Photo: Roy Nicholls

The house is a wonderful setting, close to the River Stour, and there are several field paths which allow visitors to explore the area. Close by is the Fiddleford Inn if you are seeking lunch and a drink or two!

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