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South Wraxall

South Wraxall Maor House

South Wraxall Maor House Date Photo Taken c.1905
Uploaded 21/06/2011 16:49:35
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Map Latitude 51.38794894976654 : Longitude -2.241157293319702
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Original Media Location: Wiltshire & Swindon History Centre

Chimney Piece in Drawing Room

Without doubt the most impressive property in South Wraxall has to be the manor, as featured in the TV programme 'The Country House Revealed,' presented by Dan Cruickshank (2011).

Aubrey says 'This is a very large well built old howse: on the gate is the Marshall's lock and the stagge's head caboshed in stone. The Hall is open and high and windowes full of painted glasse.'

The manor house dates from the 15th century and is constructed of stone walls with stone slated roofs; the earliest portion was built in 1429 by Robert Long. The building surrounds three sides of a courtyard with a gatehouse to the south and the hall looks west. Alterations were made in the 15th century by Sir Walter Long and again in the 16th and 17th centuries and in 1700; it was restored in 1900 by A.C. Martin for E. Richardson Cox.

The original hall has a kitchen, parlour and Lords chamber at one end and a guest chamber and buttery at the opposite north end. To this was added the gatehouse with diagonal buttresses, a four centred archway and a fine oriel window. A wing was also added at the south end facing east. The hall is a particularly fine example of its time, incorporating its entrance porch at the south west corner, two and three light windows and a number of gargoyles on the parapet. Linen fold panelling exists in the 'Raleigh' room and the over mantel dates from c.1600. There is a story that Sir Walter Raleigh first lit his pipe at South Wraxall manor and smoked tobacco there. Aubrey writes that Sir Walter Long introduced smoking as a fashion in north Wiltshire and he was a friend of Raleigh who was a regular visitor to the Manor, so this could be the origin of such a story.

Alterations made in the early 17th century include an elaborate stone fireplace and some plaster ceilings. Another kitchen was built forming a south east wing and connecting with the hall by a covered arcade. Several rooms have panelling, ceilings and fireplaces of this period. In 1700 a new staircase was installed, the east wing rooms were panelled and more windows and doors inserted, while outside a loggia with Tuscan style pillars was added. From 1820 - 1826 the house was used as a boarding school and run by Dr. Knight. Then it was uninhabited until 1900, being maintained by a series of caretakers one of whom was called Worthy Farr, a carpenter and gamekeeper. However, visitors' books show that it was open to view, both by local people and tourists. The US Ambassador visited in March 1893 and left his visiting card in the Visitors Book. In the latter part of the 19th century family finances were becoming strained, partly due to agricultural difficulties and taxation changes. Some parts of the estate were sold c.1870, culminating in the sale of the majority of the estate, except the manor house, by 20th May 1919. The sale was handled by Knight, Frank and Rutley and comprised 1,159 acres including dairy farms and fertile land, producing rent of £1,184 p.a. and it achieved a price of £42,000.

In 1900 the manor house was leased by Mr. E Richardson who instigated more alterations and repairs. In 1935 after the death of the tenant, the family returned and it was inhabited by the 2nd Viscount Long who proceeded to do more restoration work. During the Second World War it housed refugees from St. Mary's Home, Broadstairs, Kent, including the nuns who were in charge of that home and their staff. They described making jam and picking flowers in their newsletters and often catered for extra children sent down from London to regain strength after suffering the difficulties of the wartime conditions. It was then inhabited by the sister in law of the Viscount who was married to Lord Rothermore. The last member of the Long family to live there was the only daughter of the second Viscount, Sara, who was married to local M.P. Charles Morrison. It was finally sold in 1966 along with 830 acres and is now owned by John Taylor of Duran Duran and his wife Gela Nash who bought the manor in 2005.

Pevsner describes it as 'an outstandingly successful mixture of the 15th century and the later Elizabethan and Jacobean. Moreover what features of both periods remain are outstanding in their own right.'

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