St Mary’s House, built for the Bishop of Winchester in the 15th century, was once an inn for pilgrims. Now, it offers a snapshot of Elizabethan life, with a selection of gardens for the wandering traveller to get lost in.
Built in 1450 by William Waynflete, the house was not only a pit-stop for pilgrims but has a long history of association with the Knight’s Templar, whose cross can be seen in the church not far from the house. It is claimed that Charles II stayed at St Mary’s House during his escape to France, having been defeated at the Battle of Worcester.
Now owned and lived in by composer Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton, the pair saved the house from falling into disrepair in 1984. They have preserved interior paneled rooms and timber frames of the medieval building, as well as an octagon-shaped dining room, cosy parlour, and the unique Elizabethan painted trompe l’oeil murals. The house also features a Victorian music room, open to the public for concerts and musical performances throughout the year.
Beyond the house, the Terrace Garden also hosts musical performances. The gardens, five acres in size, are open for visitors to roam in, where you’ll find a water garden and a Jubilee rose garden, as well as a secret rural museum tucked away in a corner. The museum houses old gardening tools, mangles, and irons, for another glimpse at the horticultural history of the house. The Secret Garden also keeps the pineapple pits from the Victorian period, although you’d be hard pressed to find any remaining pineapples there now. Instead, if you’re hungry, pop by the tea-room for a cream tea at the end of your visit.