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Old Bowlish House
New
Shepton Mallet, Somerset£1,350,000 Freehold

Old Bowlish House

"The best" in a hamlet of "comfortable Georgian residences" - Pevsner, North Somerset and Bristol

This house’s strikingly symmetrical, Grade II*-listed Georgian frontage belies its much earlier origins. Originally built as a farmhouse in the centre of an 18-acre estate, the house’s earliest evidence of its historic past is its cellar, which dates from before 1550. Rebuilt in the Jacobean period, the house was later Georgianised with a handsome Palladian façade, balustrade and tall sash windows. Described by Pevsner as being “the best” in a suburb of “comfortable Georgian residences”, Old Bowlish House has been carefully restored by the current owners, who have preserved its incredible period features while reinstating those lost throughout its long history. A sweet one-bedroom cottage can be accessed from the house’s stepped garden, which is also home to remarkable cloth mill stone ruins that make an incredible, almost Mediterranean, walled garden ‘room’.

Setting the Scene 

Bowlish – which means ‘bridge over the rocky waterfall’ – is a picturesque hamlet that mainly consists of historic listed houses and cottages. This late Jacobean house dates from circa 1630. Its substantial and ornate oak staircase was probably built for another building and likely installed here in 1700. With its decorative carved scrollwork, similar to a 1663-dated stair in a house in nearby Mere, the current owners have reinstated the oak panelling that would have originally lined the staircase.

The next tranche of works occurred around 1760, resulting in the building’s classical façade, adorned with alternating cornices and pediments crowning the sash windows on the first floor. The half-glazed front door sits centrally, with a semi-circular head, moulded surround, adjacent Ionic columns and a pediment above. The final work to extend the house and reconfigure it was completed around 1860. Latterly, the current owners have carried out a sensitive restoration and have redesigned the gardens, using traditionally resonant planting and finishes wherever possible. The house still sits next to its service buildings, although these were converted by the Georgians into a cottage and remain a separate dwelling to this day. For more information, please see the History section below.

The Grand Tour

A wide reception hall, paved with beautiful Blue Lias flagstones and mostly undisturbed since 1630, is a wonderfully light room with a high ceiling and an internal Georgian fanlight. It was created when the Georgians divided the Jacobean hall into the present reception hall and dining room; there is also a cloak cupboard that occupies part of the removed fireplace. The façade of the building is south-facing, so the rooms to the front are bathed in light from 20 tall sash windows throughout the day.

To the left is the drawing room, arranged around a central working fireplace installed c.1760. Its surround, unusual and ornate, is constructed from plaster on wood. Here, some of the original Baltic pine floorboards can also be found, complete with their original hardwood pegs. This room has been painted in colours in keeping with the early Georgian period.

On the opposite side is a dining room, where there is a second fireplace installed at the same time as the other. The Victorians have added a Lincrusta frieze to the top of the walls and the current owners have painted the lower part a rich red. Now a store cupboard, the Jacobean food service entrance from the remote kitchen remains. Also in this room is a drinks cupboard, placed in the second half of the Jacobean fireplace removed by the Georgians that the cloak cupboard in the hallway occupies.

A door at the back of the entrance hall allows for passage between the house’s Georgian front and the Jacobean rear. On the other side is the grand staircase, with a “heavily moulded handrail, large newels with ball finials [and] elaborately carved side panels between each” (Historic England). The hallway is also complete with stone mullion windows and stone floors, which guide towards a snug. This room is complete with a late medieval flat-arch inglenook, further evidence of the earlier original house.

From here, an entrance leads to the kitchen which, in the Jacobean period, would have been the kitchen and scullery. Recently updated, the kitchen comprises pastel-painted solid oak cabinetry with quartz worktops and a blue brick-tiled splashback. There is also a useful pantry cupboard. In the rear hall, stone steps lead down to a vaulted cellar.

Upstairs, there are five large bedrooms. The main bedroom has an en suite bathroom with a freestanding bath and a separate shower. Elm boards line most of this storey’s floor. In one bedroom, the remains of some of the 18th-century scheme of works can be seen: there is beautiful Georgian wallpaper, a Georgian door attached to an older Jacobean one, and a Carrara marble fire surround.

The pretty little one-bedroom stone cottage can be accessed either through the beautiful gardens or independently from the lane.

The Great Outdoors 

The house is surrounded by five modest but beautiful gardens. The current owner, a passionate gardener, has based the front garden on an archaeologically authenticated Georgian example in Bath. A box hedging design in ellipses and circles is the result, planted with roses and other planting specified by a garden designer. Two established wisteria plants envelop the wrought-iron railings facing the lane.

When the area’s cloth industry came to an end in around 1900, the mill positioned to the rear of the house was left to fall to ruin. Now, an archway leads into a walled ‘room’ with a gravel and stone paved base interspersed with miniature balls of topiary, shrubs and plants. A second archway leads into another walled area, this time with a level lawn surrounded by mature shrubs and trees, including a lovely magnolia, silver birch, and liquid amber.

Immediately outside the snug is a sunken private courtyard facing south and west, with plenty of space for a dining table and chairs amid raised stone beds planted with lavender and climbing roses.

Out and About 

Bowlish sits on the western edge of Shepton Mallet. The independent shops, cafés and restaurants of Wells, Frome, Bruton and the highlights of Hauser & Wirth Somerset, OsipThe Old Pharmacy and The Newt are all about 20 minutes’ drive away. Additionally, the excellent Jon Thorner’s farm shop is very close by. The cities of Bath and Bristol are around 40 minutes away, each with notable theatres as well as other delights.

The area is well-renowned for its beautiful countryside, with vast open fields and many footpaths surrounding the house and, for more extensive walking opportunities; the Mendip Hills, Cheddar Gorge, Stockhill Wood and the Chew Valley are all on the doorstep.

This part of Somerset is particularly well-served by excellent schools. Independent schools include Millfield Senior and Prep Schools, Wells Cathedral School, All Hallows, Hazlegrove, Downside, Sherborne and Kings at Bruton. State schools include Strode College in Street, The Blue School in Wells, Sexey’s in Bruton and St Dunstan’s in Glastonbury.

Direct train services to London Paddington are accessible via Castle Cary, a 15-minute drive away, with a journey time of 82 minutes. More frequent services to all points of the compass are available from Bristol, and to London from Bath. The national motorway network is via the A303 (M3), the A37 (M4 and M5) and Bristol International Airport is easily reached in around 40 minutes by car.

Council Tax Band: G

Please note that all areas, measurements and distances given in these particulars are approximate and rounded. The text, photographs and floor plans are for general guidance only. Inigo has not tested any services, appliances or specific fittings — prospective purchasers are advised to inspect the property themselves. All fixtures, fittings and furniture not specifically itemised within these particulars are deemed removable by the vendor.

History

The hamlet’s wealth was largely thanks to its successes in the cloth industry in the early 17th century, during which it made “the finest of all drapperyes”, a woollen cloth sold not only in England but in Japan, Persia, the Levant and into the royal courts of Spain and England. The 1630 house was built by the Strode family, who were eminent clothiers from the 15th to 17th centuries, on the then-existing farmhouse and associated mill, buildings and land of the late medieval sheep farm after which the locality is named.

Thomas Strode (d.1628) acquired the precursor house and it formed part of two estates that he owned in Shepton Mallet, which totalled around 125 acres. It is not clear whether he commissioned the house before his death, or whether it was built a little later by his eldest daughter Abigail alongside her husband, also Thomas Strode (d. 1692), after the property was willed to them by the earlier Thomas. What is clear, however, is that the house was built as both a family home and a visible expression of the wealth of this branch of the Strode dynasty.

The house remained in Strode’s ownership until about 1700, when it was sold to Nathaniel Tilley, another clothier, for £1,140. At the time, the amount of estate land which accompanied the house was something in the region of 55-60 acres. Tilley and his successor owners continued to make woollen cloth, although it had slipped from its previous high status, until around 1840, when the estate was bought to make silk cloth in three mills, one in the house’s garden and the other two within a stone’s throw of the house. By 1900, the silk cloth industry in the town was in terminal decline, and the estate was broken up and sold off.

During its life, the house has seen a tempestuous history, both in the Civil Wars, during the 18th and 19th centuries and later when it was sequestered by the navy during World War II.

Old Bowlish House — Shepton Mallet, Somerset
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