Athelhampton House, Athelhampton, Dorset
Athelhampton House was built in 1485 by the Martin Family, who remained there until 1595. Standing on the banks of the River Piddle, on the main road to Dorchester, it is one of the finest examples of a Mediaeval building in England. It is said to stand on the site of the legendary palace of King Athelstan. It has several secret passages and priest holes, and also has at least five ghosts, all of whom are described as being gentle and friendly.
The most unique ghost at Athelhampton is the ghost of a pet monkey, which became accidentally trapped inside the walls of one of the secret stairways, when they were being panelled in the 16th century. Although not heard recently, the scratchings of the pathetic wraith of the monkey have been heard down the ages, still trying to escape from itís prison.
The Grey Lady of Athelhampton has been seen on many occasions by various members of the household. Mr Robert Cooke, the owner of Athelhampton, said that he once saw her in the early hours of the morning as she passed the open door of his bedroom. She was also seen by a maid, sitting in a chair in the Tudor Room, and when asked to leave - the maid thought that she was a visitor to the house who had overspent her time - promptly faded into one of the walls. On another occasion, she was seen by a housekeeper, but on being spoken to, faded into thin air. The Grey Lady has also been seen in one of the bedrooms.
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History of the Athelhampton House 1066 -1847
1483 Sir William Martyn was a wealthy merchant and Lord Mayor of London in 1492. He built his estate of
Athelhampton is also haunted by the ghost of a Mediaeval cooper, who has been heard frequently hammering away at long-disappeared wine barrels in the wine cellar adjoining the Great Hall.
Connected with the Great Hall are two phantom duellists, who at least up to the First World War were seen frequently fighting there, until the one was wounded in the arm. After this act, they would both walk away from the Hall. On one occasion, a woman guest was sitting reading in the Great Hall when the two phantom duellists burst in. She is said to have been so disturbed by their sudden appearance that she asked them to leave, and take their troubles elsewhere. They are said to have ignored her and carried on with their duel.
Of the dwellings mentioned in the 1086 Domesday Book it records that the Bishop of Salisbury, with Odbold as tenant held the manor, then called Pidele.
The old English name of Aethelhelm does not appear until the 13th century when Athelhampton belonged to the de Loundres family and then passed to the de Pydeles in the reign of Richard II. In 1350 Richard Martyn married the de Pydele heiress.
Their descendant Sir William Martyn built the Great hall in or around 1485. He received a licence to enclose 160 acres of deer park and to fortify his manor.
Robert Martyn built the west wing in the early sixteenth century and added a gatehouse by 1550. Robert Martyn married Elizabeth Kelway. Sir Nicholas Martyn married Margaret Wadham. He was the last of the male line and was buried with his ancestors in the Athelhampton Aisle of St Mary's Church in Puddletown. Four Martyn daughters inherited equal shares.
The elder married Henry Brune, ancestor of the Prideaux-Brunes of Cornwall. The Brunes acquired to more shares, but the fourth remained with the Floyer family. A brune heiress married Sir Ralph Bankes of Corfe Castle, who sold Athelhampton to Sir Robert Long. Bankes would then go on to build Kingston Lacy.
Through the Long family Athelhampton reached the fourth Earl of Mornington, nephew of the Duke of Wellington.
In 1957, Mr Cook heard the padding of a catís feet on the bare boards of the Great Stairway. Knowing that the gardenerís cat had been ill, he decided to follow it, but could find nothing. The next day he mentioned the incident to the gardener and said that he was pleased that the cat had recovered, only to be told by the gardener that the cat had been killed the previous week, crossing the main road, outside the house, and was buried in the garden.
sometime after 1485. There is an interesting write-up regarding Sir William's pet ape.
1503 Christopher Martyn was Sir William Martyn's son. He was said to have built the west wing of the Great Chamber at Athelhampton.
1524 Robert Martyn added the gate-house to Athelhampton, sometime before 1550.
1550 Sir Nicholas Martyn was the last male heir of the Martyne line. He was buried in 1595 in Athelhampton Aisle. Nicholas was said to have had ten (10) daughters, but only four of them were given equal shares to the estate. The eldest daughter married Henry Brune. Another daughter married a Tichborne (who sold his part to Henry Brune), another daughter married a White (who also sold her part, in 1645, to Brune, and the last daughter married a Floyer who keep their interest until 1848.
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