Country houses for sale

Large Dorset estate once owned by Horace Walpole

I was recently asked to research the history of a large rural estate covering almost 2500 acres in the Dorset countryside. My task was a little different as it didn’t involve looking at the history of an individual house, but rather the estate as a whole. This, however, didn’t make it any less historical, in fact, the Ilsington estate, for sale with Chesterton Humberts, can be traced back to the 12th century and was formerly owned by Horatio Walpole, son of Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.

For much of its early history, the Ilsington estate was part of Puddletown manor and the earliest records show it was granted to Norman lord, Richard de Redvers, who came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. By the 13th century, the manor passed to the priory of Christ Church, who held it until the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1540s.

In the 17th century, James I granted the manor of Puddletown to Henry Hastings, second son of George, fourth Earl of Huntingdon. The Hastings family had strong links with royalty, including Henry, third Earl of Huntingdon, who was knight of the garter and had charge of Mary Queen of Scots for a time.

By the 18th century, Puddletown manor had passed to Robert Walpole, son of the first Prime Minister of England, Sir Robert Walpole. After Robert Walpole, second Earl of Orford passed away in 1751 the estate passed to his son, Sir George Walpole, but he died unmarried and the estate passed to the youngest son or Sir Robert Walpole (Sir George’s uncle), Horatio Walpole, who became the fourth Earl of Orford in 1791.

Horatio (Horace) Walpole was a politician, like his father, but is often most remembered as the creator of the gothic villa, Strawberry Hill, in west London. Horatio Walpole also wrote a number of books, including gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto. After his death in 1797, Puddletown manor, with Ilsington, passed to Horatio’s cousin, also Horatio, Baron Walpole of Wolterton.

Throughout this period, the Walpoles were absentee landlords and the estate was managed by land agents. Ilsington House and the estate were leased, with the most renowned lessee, General Thomas Garth, principal equerry to George III and it was at this time that the young princesses, Mary, Sophia and Amelia, along with the Duke of York, stayed in Ilsington House.

Puddletown manor continued in the hands of the Walpole family throughout the 19th century, but in 1861 the Ilsington estate was purchased by John Brymer, Esq. John Brymer was the first landlord to live in Ilsington House. The estate passed to his son, William Ernest Brymer, who held a number of prominent positions, including M.P. for Dorchester and South Dorset and from 1887 was High Sheriff for Dorset.

The Ilsington estate offers extensive farming land, as well as a number of farm buildings and cottages, along with woodlands, fishing rights to the River Frome and shooting and stalking.

* More details on the Ilsington Estate

* To read the full history visit my blog – The House Historian