Athelhampton House: A Brief History


Built at the beginning of the Tudor-era, the Great Hall of Athelhampton was built by Sir William Martyn in 1485 and is located in Dorset, England.

Martyn had also obtained a license in 1495 to enclose 160 acres for a deer park on the property. This original manor had a Great hall, Solar and Buttery. A Solar was located on the upper level of the manor and was the living quarters for the owner and his family, while a Buttery was a service room located near the Great Hall that held the liquor (wine or ale). The person in charge of the Buttery was called the Butler. In a royal household the same officer was titled, Marshall of the Buttery. This officer was responsible to serve the wine to the head of the household and his guests.

Great Hall, Credit:
Great Hall, Credit:

William Martyn was born in 1446 – his father was Thomas Martyn who died on the 14th of  September 1485; William inherited the manor of Athelhampton and estates upon the death of his father.

Quote about Athelhampton shared from:

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT The manor of Athelhampton, the name of which derives from its Saxon owner, Aethelric, was owned in 1086 by the Bishop of Salisbury. It subsequently passed to the de Loudres family, and the de Pydeles, whose heiress married Sir Richard Martyn of Waterston, Dorset (qv) c 1350 (guidebook). The present house was begun c 1485 by Sir William Martyn, who was also licensed to form a deer park in 1495 (ibid). When Nicholas Martyn died in 1595, the estate was divided equally between four heiresses, and remained divided until 1848. The house itself was sold in 1665 by Sir Ralph Bankes of Kingston Lacey, Dorset (qv), who had acquired it through marriage, to Sir Robert Long of Dracot Cerne, Wiltshire. The Long family did not reside at Athelhampton, and the house was used as a farmhouse. In 1812 the property was inherited by the fourth Earl of Mornington, nephew of the Duke of Wellington, and in 1848 the fifth Earl sold it to George Wood, who undertook repairs and alterations to the fabric of the house.

Athelhampton remained in the Martyn family for many generations until it was sold to Alfred Cart de Lafontaine in 1891.



Athelhampton is now considered one of the most haunted places in England. The Buttery that adjoins the Great Hall is said to experience a tapping noise (on barrels) from a ghost that is referred to as “Cooper.” Various other occupants and visitors of the manor have all seen a “grey lady.” She has been seen by some to wander through the bedrooms (and walls) of the east wing of the house during the early hours of the day.

There has also been reported a dark apparition that appears to look like a monk. This apparition was seen by a housemaid in broad daylight. The woman heard footsteps behind her and when she turned around she saw a monk standing outside the bathroom door. It is believed that the monk was the Catholic priest to the Martyn family.

The most well-known of all the apparitions at the manor house is the pet ape. The ape was owned by Nicholas Martyn and when he passed away in 1595 the ape was somehow accidentally entombed in a secret passage behind the Great Chamber during construction on the house. While he has never been seen it is said you can hear scratching from the behind the panels of the Great Chamber as if he is trying to escape his tomb.

Video of the Great Hall at Athelhampton to give you an idea of the room…

 While the beginnings of Athelhampton stem from before the Tudor-era the creation of the Great Hall and it’s beauty began during the reign of King Henry VII. With such a long history it’s no wonder the house has residents from the past that still reside within its walls.


Athelhampton House & Gardens – Our History
The Dorset Magazine, The Dorset Life – Athelhampton House
Britain Express (Attractions) – Athelhampton House
Visit Dorset – Athelhampton House & Gardens
Historic England – Athelhampton
Dorset Ancestors
British History Online – Athelhampton
Dunwich, Gerina – Phantom Felines and Other Ghostly Animals; The Spectral Ape of Athelhampton House

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10 Comments Leave a comment

  1. It’s so hard to believe that I found my ancestors so far back. To know that my many grandpas back lived in and owned this beautiful place. I really want to know more about my family and this place.

  2. This quite interesting. I have been researching my family genealogy and have found several of my ancestors (Martyn/ Martin) that lived at this estate. I hope that I can visit one day.

  3. Thank you so much, love anything British. Even own an English Bulldog. Lol. There is so much history that one could never indulge in all as a past time.

    • Thanks, Patricia! If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the blog (on the home page) to get an email every time I post a new article. 🙂 – Rebecca

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