Hidden historic home in Somerset
PUBLISHED: 10:27 22 June 2015
Jo Sheldrake Photography
It's not everyone who gets to live in their very own mini 'Downton Abbey', but since moving here eight years ago Nigel and Finny Muers-Raby - with their three sons and two lively Sealyham Terriers and Cocker Spaniel - have worked hard to restore a manor to its former glory.
As you drive down the tree lined drive, through the magnificent Grade 1 listed gatehouse and into the pretty courtyard, the warm glow of the 16th century historic Cothelstone Manor’s imposing Quantock stone faced front elevation welcomes you. Entering through the heavy front door, you walk into the galleried hall, with its massive fireplace (with a blazing log fire in the winter), sweeping staircase and walls lined with fine oil paintings to be greeted by a rush of terriers welcoming you to their home.
You are immediately struck by the warmth exuded by this lovely house and by a spectacular full length portrait of the beautiful Lady Elizabeth Cromwell facing you as you enter. Beyond the hall lies the rest of the manor - each room a testament to interior designer Finny Muers-Raby’s eclectic styling and flair. Finny has created a dining room with an informal contemporary feel. In contrast, the drawing room has a more traditional appeal with its huge windows allowing the light to flood in. But, as befits the most used room in most homes today, the huge kitchen truly is a farmhouse kitchen with style - massive flagstones on the floor, the obligatory four-oven Aga and work surfaces a master chef would die for!
Living in such a beautiful home and surrounded by beautiful countryside, Finny came up with the idea of the bridal suite for couples on their wedding night.
“I really wanted to create something magical that you won’t find anywhere else,” Finny says.
“The bridal suite is stunningly decorated with a four poster bed, some special added touches such as ‘Mr’ and ‘Mrs’ cushions, lovely rustic hearts, flowers, scented candles and, of course, chocolates and Champagne in the room on arrival – making it a truly memorable night after such a perfect day!”
And now it is also possible to get a taste of life in the manor and a look behind the scenes by joining Nigel and Finny on a pre-booked group tour followed by a delicious afternoon tea in the manor itself. You can do this if you are a group of other like-minded people or by joining an Invitation to View tour (an organisation which opens the door on historic houses not normally open to the public). These tours include some special Christmas tours which give visitors a chance to see the manor decorated throughout for Christmas, enjoy a wonderful Christmas tea with mince pies and hot honey and mustard sausages and get into the spirit of things singing carols around the magnificent Christmas tree accompanied by the manor’s own organ!
The Downton Abbey factor has led to resurgence in passion for historic homes such as Cothelstone Manor. Its history is spectacular, dating back to Saxon times and the manor has seen its fair share of dramas through some turbulent times - including being bombarded by Admiral Blake’s canons during the Civil War (two of the cannon balls can still be seen in the galleried hall). Later the arched entrance gateway was used by the notorious Judge Jeffries to dispense his legendary summary justice on three unfortunate Tauntonians. Now, fortunately, the manor enjoys more tranquil times! Legend has it that Cothelstone was founded by a Saxon king (possibly Cuthwulf) who, with his queen, secluded himself within its walls to fulfill a vow undertaken at the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. A network of ancient foundations found within the grounds in mid-Victorian times supports this idea.
“What we do know for certain is that there’s been a manor house here since at least 1066 when William the Conqueror gave the land to Sir Adam de Coveston,” says Nigel.
“And the Manor has only been in the hands of two families during the past thousand years. Living here you certainly get a sense of that history, however whilst Cothelstone Manor resonates with history, it is today very much a family home offering a warm welcome to guests and visitors alike.” cothelstonemanor.co.uk