Athelhampton started off life in the 15th century as a family home for the Martyn family. It was regularly visited by the writer Thomas Hardy, and is now owned by Giles Keating.
The Great Hall at Athelhampton House was built in 1493 by Sir William Martyn and was owned by the Martyn family until Sir Robert Long bought it from them in 1665. It ended up being sold to the antiquarian Alfred Cart de Lafontaine in 1891 who carried out lots of restoration works to the house. Thomas Hardy’s father worked on the house as a stonemason, and the writer used Athelhampton as a model for Weatherbury Farm in his book, Far From the Madding Crowd.
Lafontaine’s biggest contribution was to the gardens, designed by Francis Inigo Thomas. They were imaged as a series of ‘outdoor rooms’, inspired by Renaissance gardens, and are made up of eight walled gardens which all have a different theme. You’ll find terraces, giant yew tree pyramids, little statues and rectangular reflection pools as you explore the walled gardens. Lafontaine sold the house to George Cochrane in 1918 and it was acquired by Robert Victor Cooke in 1957. The Cookes owned the house until 2019, when it was bought by the economist Giles Keating, who reopened the house and the garden to the public.
The Great Hall – built in 1485 – has hardly been changed and still has its mostly original hammerbeam roof, stonework and stained glass. The other rooms all have antique furnishings and art which you can see on a tour.