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The Manor of Charlton

The place name of Charlton comes from the Saxon ''Ceorltun" - the Tun or estate of the Ceorls (freemen). Places named Charlton are believed to have been closely associated with post-Roman estates. Charlton is at least as old as Shepton Mallet itself, and was important enough to be noted separately in the Doomsday survey of 1068.

Charlton House stands immediately adjacent to the Romano-British settlement, bordered by Frog Lane on the one side and Whitstone Road (a continuation of Kilver Street) on the other, and bisected by the Roman Fosse Road.

The Manor House

The Ames family held the Manor of Charlton from at least 1630, until it was sold to the Reverend Provis Wickham in 1804. The Ames were merchants, sometimes described as clothiers, and Roger Ames is said to have built Charlton House for his new bride (c1630-50). But Nicolaus Pevsner, one of the country's most noted vernacular architects, pointed to much earlier details and as we know that the Manor of Charlton was first mentioned in the great Doomsday Survey, it is reasonable to accept Pevsner's view that parts of the house are of a much earlier date. Therefore it is far more likely that Roger Ames undertook extensive alterations and rebuilding, just as successive future owners themselves imposed their own individuality on it.

In his book, "The Buildings of England", Pevsner has the following to say about the Charlton Manor House:

"The north front appears Elizabethan (1558 - 1603) with two projecting wings with bay windows. The porch is Victorian.· The east wing is the oldest part of the house. It has in the east wall (now inside) one two-light window with arched lights, probably . temp. Henry VIII (1509 - 1547). The other windows Elizabethan or Jacobean, where they are not renewed. Much remodelling circa 1884 - 87. The windows are mullioned and transformed on the ground floor, mullioned only above"

Part of the Ames family crest, the rose and the ring, is now used as the Charlton House emblem.

Roger Ames died on the 3rd December 1700, and was buried in the churchyard at Doulting. The house continued in the family until 1804 when it was sold to Provis Wickham, and the family moved to Bristol.

The 19th and 20th Century Alterations

At the time that the Wickhams purchased the property (1804) Levi Ames was still Lord of the Manor. The Wickhams were responsible for moving the road to Doulting to the other side of the stream; damming it up to create an ornamental lake and building the existing bridge within their newly created garden. Before this the road ran close to the front door of the House. They also built the existing Georgian front about 1810-11. The reception rooms also came in for extensive alterations with the mahogany doors bought from a house locally that was being demolished. The Rev. Provis Wickham continued to live at Charlton House when he became Rector at Shepton Mallet.

Col. Phipps bought the House from the Trustees of the Wickham family in 1847, and it was the Colonel who built the stable near the house, part of which was turned into a flat by the late owner (Mr K Seaton). The old stables belonging to the Wickham family were in the "top yard";'now separated from the property. The old Dovecote, Granary and Coach House were also in this yard. Colonel Phipps sold Charlton House to Colonel Clerk, a cousin, in 1882, and Charles Burnell JP, Managing Director of Charlton Brewery and Director of George's Brewery in Bristol, purchased the property in 1919 and lived there until his death in 1959. A "property dealer", a Mr Hughes, bought the House from Mr Burnell's trustees in September 1959 and sold it to Mr Dix of All Hallows School, Cranmore Hall. ·

Mr Dix, founder and Headmaster of All· Hallows School, moved ·into Charlton House in January 1960 and did little structural alterations, with· the exception of removing a ceiling of an upper room, exposing the rafters and turning the room into a chapel where mass was celebrated once a week (the Chapel - Room 11 f Considerable work had to be done on the roof and the house was completely redecorated, "painting brown pillars white etc., and outside we improved the stream. We had eight boys sleeping at the house. They had supper and breakfast and went up to All Hallows· each morning by mini-bus with me. I sold Charlton House to the Seatons in 1965".

Speaking of the day he went to see the house in 1959, Mr Dix said, "I was immediately enraptured by its intimate air of tranquillity. I walked into the grounds at 10 o'clock and captured by its mood, had purchased it before leaving it at midday".

In 1965 the Seaton Family purchased Charlton House and were one of the first to create a new breed of country house hotel and restaurant. They achieved not only a local reputation as being the place to go for special occasions, but also attracted a diverse international clientele with such eminent guests as The Duke of Edinburgh, Sir Cliff Richard and the King of Thailand.

After Ken Seaton died the hotel was owned by a number of different people before Roger and Monty Saul, the creators of the world-renowned Mulberry Design Company, acquired the property in October 1996. The hotel had "settled on its springs" and needed a complete restoration. Roger's aim was to present the Mulberry Home Collection to the outside world in a country house environment.