One of Somerset’s most iconic buildings, the late 15th-century Grade II*-listed Manor Court has a fascinating Royal provenance. Spanning some 4,047 sq ft internally, the house has six bedrooms and a separate internal annexe. Original stone fireplaces, 15th-century stained glass windows, plank and muntin screens and a spectacular 17-ft Tudor inglenook fireplace are among the exceptional historic features that have been carefully preserved. Externally, a charming country garden with a private gravelled driveway, garage and ancillary buildings extends to the rear. Manor Court is wonderfully located in the lovely village of Martock in the bucolic Somerset countryside.
Setting the Scene
Upon ascending to the throne, King Henry VII gifted his mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, the village of Martock. Construction of the buttery hamstone building on Church Street soon commenced c.1490, built as the local court of law – or manor court – at the time. Nearly 200 years later, William Strode of Barrington purchased the court and established a school for ‘the breeding up of youth in the gear of God and good literature’. Above the door of the house are the Strode coat of arms and the motto, ‘Martock, neglect not thy opportunities’. For more information, please see the History section below.
The Grand Tour
Set beside a flaming torch, beneath the Strode coat of arms is a studded timber door, which opens to the traditional cross passage of the house. Finished in a deep shade of red by Little Greene, the space has a medieval plank screen and flagstone floor. Just off the entrance hall is a guest WC with a shower, vanity, and useful storage cupboards.
On the ground floor is the large kitchen with an attached snug. A room packed full of history, exposed beams have finely finished chamfered edges, and there is beautiful Jacobean panelling in the snug. Solid oak, bespoke cabinetry lines exposed brick walls, and an Aga is tucked into the vast Tudor inglenook fireplace.
At the top of a broad stone flight of stairs is the original court room. A spectacular space, the room is lit by magnificent stained-glass mullion windows on either side. In the 16th century, the area was converted into a school room, and hollows for games of marbles and other etchings from bored school boys remain engraved on the window sills; other inscriptions remain around the house said to be from soldiers who stayed before the Battle of Langport. An external flight of stairs lead from the ground floor to this room, part of its later academic conversion. Currently used as a living room and library, there is plenty of space for a large dining table.
The primary bedroom suite is on the first floor, adjacent to the original court room. A vast space, the room is clad in linenfold panelling, with a matching bespoke bed, all incorporated as part of the 1970s restoration. Created as a replica of Louis XI’s bedroom panelling at the Château Plessis-les-Tours, the intricate solid oak woodwork is hand-carved. The ceiling is painted indigo blue with gilded stars strewn across the coffering. Concealed wardrobes and bookcases are hidden behind the panelling, and a pretty fireplace sits between the bed and the original stone mullion windows.
Next to the primary bedroom is a large family bathroom, where a window with blue glass panes filters a pale sea-foam-coloured light into the room. Contemporary bathroom fixtures, including a bath, overhead shower, vanity, and WC, complement the original panelling. On the second floor are three further bedrooms. Two have access to a Jack-and-Jill bathroom clad with a wide-plank oak floor. It has a shower, vanity and WC, alongside banks of storage.
On the left-hand side of the plan on the ground floor is a separate annexe with its own entrance. Currently used as a self-contained space, the rooms could easily be incorporated into the rest of the house. A dining room here is painted in a calming blue by Little Greene with beautiful stained glass windows, which filter dappled coloured light into the room. A small kitchen sits behind this, screened by the plank and muntin screen, with access to the pretty gardens. At the rear is a handsome reception room where a 17 ft fireplace has a beautiful 16th-century grate. Stone flags run underfoot, and dual-aspect windows allow light to pour in. Opposite is a lovely guest bedroom, which would also make an excellent study.
The Great Outdoors
Set within a west-facing plot of just over 0.25 acres, the gardens are a private oasis in a central village location. A thick evergreen hedge provides privacy at street level to the front of the house, while a private gravelled driveway to the side leads to a large double garage.
The beautiful semi-formal English garden at the rear has been planted with apple trees, an olive, a pear, a fig, and even a kiwi fruit vine. There are herbs and currant and gooseberry bushes in the bed by the back door. A thatched piggery is currently used as a log store, and a stone and steel arbour is covered with a stunning winter clematis, a passionflower, and periwinkle. Red geraniums line the stone steps of the exterior staircase in summer. There are roses and bulbs galore, as well as lilac and buddleia bushes. Wildflowers line the stream bank beyond an old stone wall, and a whole sequence of historic protected gardens stretches back beyond the garden to the fields. The second annexe kitchen leads to a smaller gravelled seating area, separated from the main garden via a gate.
Out and About
The area is wonderfully located near Hauser & Wirth at Bruton, The Newt at Castle Cary and several Michelin-starred restaurants, including HOLM in South Petherton. An area famous for its cider production, the cider mills at Dowlish Wake are a thatched complex in a beautiful setting. Also notable are Haselbury Mill at Haselbury Plucknett, The Lord Poulett at Hinton St George and the Wine Bar in Crewkerne, which serves exceptional scallops.
Dazzling historic properties like Montacute House, Barrington Court and Tintinhull Gardens are all within about four miles and are built from beautiful golden hamstone. There is also the stunning Perpendicular church in the village, which can be admired from the first-floor court room and its external stairs.
The coast is within reaching distance, with Chesil Beach or Lyme Regis both a 30-40 minute drive; both perfect for a summer evening walk. The house is also surrounded by rural Somerset countryside; North of the house, between Wells and Glastonbury, the Levels are mysterious and beautiful. The rolling chalk downland of Dorset starts just past the village of East Coker and is a historical, literary hotspot. Throughout the summer, music festivals spring up in the fields around the village. There is also classical music at Sherborne, Wells, and in the summer, Cerne Abbas.
Several exceptional schools are in the area, including Sherborne, Millfield and Hazelgrove. The A303 is the region’s artery, making London, Devon and Cornwall all easily accessible. Crewkerne, Yeovil and Castle Cary stations offer direct trains to London in under two hours.
Council Tax Band: F
Margaret Beaufort gave birth to the future Henry VII at the age of 13; though much-married, she had no further children. Instead, she became a king-maker, propelling him and his claim to the throne through the Wars of the Roses. She was not only the most indomitable of Tudor queen mothers; she was also a pioneering literary lady who sponsored William Caxton’s development of the printing process and was responsible for the first English translation of such canonical texts as the Imitation of Christ.
By 1661 the Lordship of the manor was owned three ways, and William Strode of Montacute used his share to convert the Court House into a school – as the stone inscriptions above the front door, which Martock has adopted as its crest and motto, testify. The court room became the schoolroom, and there are seventeenth and 18th-century graffiti and the board for games of marbles, carved in all the window rebates and elsewhere on the building. Not all of these are schoolboy work, however. Many are very elegant, and some may belong to Cromwell’s New Model Army officers, who were billeted in the house the night before the Battle of Langport 14 June 1645. They stabled their horses in the church.
Once the school had been established, however, its masters included a relative of Daniel Defoe. Defoe’s A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great Britain (1724-7) includes a lengthy description of coming to the house and hearing pupils read in the first-floor court room.
In the 19th century, the incumbent vicar treated the house as his personal property and sold it on to his son; not, however, before having banned political meetings from being held here. Martock is a historically Liberal constituency: this was too radical for the Revd Salmon. As a result, a fine liberal meeting hall was built around the corner by the village. More recently, the house has been a dame school, the parish rooms, and the village library. In the 1980s, it was restored by composer Paul Lewis and his wife, ardent mediaevalists who commissioned a complete hand-carved linenfold panelling set and four poster bed for the main bedroom, based on the bedroom of Louis XI in the château of Plessis-les-Tours in the Loire Valley.
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