Somerset's super seven stately homes

PUBLISHED: 18:02 14 November 2012 | UPDATED: 22:21 20 February 2013

Hestercome House

Hestercome House

Our county is no slouch when it comes to beautiful homes to visit and enjoy. And now a new book has named the county's Most Amazing Stately Homes. Somerset Life reveals their pick of the county...

Somersets super seven stately homes

Our county is no slouch when it comes to beautiful homes to visit and enjoy. And now a new book has named the countys Most Amazing Stately Homes. Somerset Life reveals their pick of the county

Words by: Carol Burns

Five miles outside of Wellington, sits Cothay Manor. Now in its seventh century, Cothay Manor has witnessed some of Englands most exciting histories. Described as a fine example of a medieval moated manor in the new publication, The Most Amazing Stately Homes in Britain, it is also still a family home. Alastair and Mary-Anne Robb moved into the home in 1993 and have spent almost two decades undertaking a sympathetic restoration.
Visitors can tour its historic rooms, including the Oratory, Georgian Hall and Great Chamber and view stained-glass windows, 15th-century wall paintings and 17th-century panelling. Outside a yew walk, bog garden, cottage garden, courtyards and river walk awaits. Red and white roses have been planted in the Manors gardens since the 15th century to celebrate the end of the Wars of the Roses.
Tours are available by appointment throughout the year, with seasonal opening of the gardens.
A real gem for gardeners, Hestercombe near Taunton is described as the result of one of the most fruitful cross-fertilisations in gardening history, that of Gertrude Jekyll and her protg Edwin Lutyens. An even more amazing achievement as the colour-loving Gertrude Jekyll was almost blind by that time.
The gardens are overlooked by a house built in the 16th century for the Warre family, enlarged and altered in the 1700s and refronted in 1875. The gardens are open all year; there is no public access to the house but it is available to hire for events.
Today, Dunster Castle rises majestically out of its surrounding hills, but it began life as a more simple-looking motte and bailey castle after the Conquest of 1066. It was a family home for more than 600 years but is now part of the National Trust. The castle sits two miles east of Minehead. Historical hghlights include being under siege from both sides in the Civil War and a stopover by Charles II in May 1645 immortalised by God save the King inscribed on a warming pan.
The house underwent a major renovation in the mid-19th century, with a new tower and all-mod cons, including central heating and updated kitchens. Losses included 17th-century panelling stripped from the parlour. Works of art were brought in along with a stuffed polar bear and a brace of Italian cannons.
It was given to the National Trust in 1976 by the last of the Luttrell family and is described as a Norman-cum-medieval castle transformed into a grand country home. At its heart is a considerably altered Jacobean manor house.
Barrington Court is a tudor manor house begun in the reign of Henry VIII, it has been in the custody of the National Trust for more than a century, leased out to Colonel A.A. Lyle, of Tate & Lyle, in the 1920s who updated it. Barrington Court now stands empty, but a sprung dance floor recalls the time when the Lyles entertained in style. There is the further considerable attraction of an Arts and Crafts-style garden commissioned by LylePresented as a series of walled rooms, it includes a white garden, a rose and iris garden and a lily garden.
Clevedon Court, just outside the town of the same name, numbers the poet Alfred Tennyson among its illustrious guests, and the writer William Makepeace Thackeray, modeled Castlewood in his novel The History of Henry Edmond on Clevedon Court.
But there is plenty for the less literary visitor. Named after its first owner, Sir John de Clevedon in the early 1300s, it has retained its medieval character through serial alterations.
Its later owners included a writer, a pioneering documentary filmmaker and a potter.
If the British Museum is the nations attic, Tyntesfield a spectacular Victorian Gothic pile built by William Gibbs with a fortune made from sales of guano in Wraxall could be Somersets. When it was acquired by the National Trust in 2002, they discovered four generations of stuff and created an inventory of 30,000 items from old teddy bears to an unexploded bomb. An appeal to save it from private hands raised 8.2 million in just 100 days and with an additional 17.4 million from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, it was saved.

Readers can order The Most Amazing Stately Homes in Britain for 12.99 (RRP 14.99) with free p&p (UK only). To order visit and quote promo code R3142 at checkout, or call 0844 8805851

Latest from the Somerset Life