Melbury Sampford

An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1952.

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'Melbury Sampford', in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Dorset, Volume 1, West, (London, 1952) pp. 161-167. British History Online [accessed 20 April 2024]

In this section


(O.S. 6 in. XXI, S.W.)

Melbury Sampford is a small parish 8 m. S.S.W. of Sherborne. Melbury House and the church are both monuments of importance.


Melbury Sampford, the Parish Church of St. Mary

(1) Parish Church of St. Mary (Plate 2) stands 50 yards E. of the house. The walls are of local coursed rubble with dressings of Ham Hill stone; the roofs are covered with lead. The church, including the Chancel, Central Tower, Transepts and Nave, was built about the middle of the 15th century. In 1874 the former W. porch was destroyed and the nave extended to the W.; the church was restored in 1878.

The church is of some architectural interest and the monuments and 15th-century helm are noteworthy.

Architectural Description—The details, unless otherwise stated, are of mid 15th-century date. All the walls are embattled and have modern figures of animals on the angles. The Chancel (21 ft. by 18¼ ft.) has an E. window of three cinque-foiled lights with vertical tracery in a two-centred head with moulded reveals and label with returned stops. The N. and S. walls have each two windows of two cinque-foiled lights in square heads with moulded reveals and labels; they are modern internally.

The Central Tower (11 ft. square) is of two storeys with an embattled parapet. The crossing has in each side a two-centred arch of two moulded orders, all originally springing from moulded and shafted responds with moulded bases and capitals carved with paterae, foliage, birds and beasts; the responds of the E. arch have had the inner order cut back and modern corbels substituted; the E. responds of the N. and S. arches have also been cut back for monuments. The bell-chamber has, in each wall, a window of two cinque-foiled lights with a quatrefoil in a two-centred head with a moulded label; the N., S. and W. windows have a stone filling of pierced quatrefoils; below the N. window is a square-headed window.

The North Transept (10¾ ft. square) has a N. window similar to the E. window of the chancel but now blocked by a monument. In the W. wall is a partly restored window similar to the side-windows of the chancel.

The South Transept (10¾ ft. square) has a S. window similar to the E. window of the chancel. In the W. wall is a doorway to the tower-staircase, with moulded jambs and two-centred head.

The Nave (22½ ft. by 13¾ ft.) has a modern extension at the W. end. The side walls have each a modern window and the W. doorway is modern; above it is a reset window similar to the E. window of the chancel.

Fittings—Bell: early 15th-century, London foundry, inscribed "Sit nomen Domine benedictum". Books: In chancel—book of Common Prayer of 1687 in original binding and a bible of 1685. Brasses: In N. transept— on W. wall, (1) to John Brounyng and Eleanor (FitzNycholl) his wife, also to William Brouning and Katherine (Dru) his wife, c. 1500, with three shields-of-arms: (a) Maltravers quatering Brouning; (b) the same impaling a coat cut away; (c) (a) impaling quarterly; (2) to Sir Lawrence Sampford and Hawsya (Basset), his wife, also to Sir Walter Foliot and Alda (Sampford) his wife, c. 1500, both the above formerly in crossing. In S. transept—on W. wall, originally on the floor, (3) to Sir Gyles Strangwayes, 1562, figure in armour with tabard-of-arms and head on helm, two shields-of-arms with inscribed labels. See also Monuments (3 and 4). Font: partly built into N. respond of W. arch of crossing—five sides of octagonal bowl with quatre-foiled panels enclosing paterae, panelled trumpet-stem with trefoiled heads to panels, moulded base, perhaps 15th-century reset. Glass: In chancel—in E. window, in tracery, a sun, two roses and two double roses, and shields-of-arms of (a) Richard, Duke of York, (b) Beaufort, (c) France, (d) France and England quarterly; in main lights, a crown, two double roses and shields-of-arms of (a) quartered coat of Marney, (b) quartered coat of Bourchier, (c) Trenchard, (d) Stradling, (e) Strangways quartering Stafford, (f) Stafford of Hooke impaling Cifrewast, (g) quartered coat of Blount, (h) Daubeny, (i) quartered coat of Herbert, (j) quartered coat of Paulet, (k) Maltravers impaling Aumerle, (1) Horsey; in N. windows, roundels with three fishes, two with W. and a crown, a mitre, a chalice and wafer, a helm, a skull, also with shields-of-arms of France and England quarterly with a label, Strangways, and quartered coats of Grey and Horsey; in S. windows, roundels with a crown, a skull, two with the initials Ihs., helm, mitre and chalice and wafer, also with shields-of-arms of (a) Strangways quartering Stafford of Hooke, (b) Strangways impaling Mordaunt, (c) Strangways quartering Stafford of Hooke and (d) quartered coat of Paulet. In S. transept—in S. window, shields-of-arms as follows: (a) quartered coat of Digby, first quarter modern, (b) France, (c) France and England quarterly, (d) Stafford of Hooke impaling Botreaux, (e) John Stafford, Bishop of Bath and Wells (1425–43), also four roundels with suns and a figure of a saint. In nave —in W. window, in tracery, roundels with chalice and wafer and foliage also shields-of-arms of (a) France, (b) France and England quarterly, (c) Bishop John Stafford and (d) William Ayscough, Bishop of Salisbury (1438–50); in main lights, crowns, roses and 17th-century quartered shields-of-arms of Sir Henry Montagu, Chief Justice of the King's Bench, 1616, of Sir Lewis Dyve and of Sir John Strangways, also roundels with suns, crowns, the arms sable a lion passant argent and a restored inscription referring to John Cryche, rector, 1547. Most of the above glass 15th-century and much of it formerly in Melbury House. Helm, etc.: In crossing—on E. wall, a tilting-helm of the second half of the 15th century (Plate 135) with large latten-headed rivets and roundel at the back, weight 18 lb. 6¾ OZ.; a late 15th-century sword; a late 16th-century close-helmet (Plate 18); an early 17th-century "pot" headpiece; and two 17th-century horsemen's swords, one in its original scabbard. Monuments: In chancel—on W. wall, N. of chancel-arch, (1) to Caroline Leonora wife of Henry Stephen, third Earl of Ilchester, and second daughter of Lord George Murray, Bishop of St. Davids, 1819, white marble wall-monument (Plate 111) with kneeling figure of a woman by Chantrey, 1821; S. of chancel arch, (2) to Stephen Fox-Strangways, Lord Stavordale, second son of Henry Stephen, third Earl of Ilchester, 1848, wall-monument in 14th-century Gothic style with canopied niche, standards and terminals. In crossing—under N. arch, (3) to William Brouning, and Katherine (Dru) and Alice (Burton) his wives, monument (Plate 136) erected by Alice in 1467, altar-tomb and canopy of Purbeck marble and alabaster effigy, altar-tomb with high moulded and panelled plinth, sides and end with upright and square panels, the latter with quatre-foiled and sub-cusped diagonal panels, moulded slab with brass inscription-fillet; effigy (Plate 23) in plate armour with ogee-shaped sallet and beaver, feet on lion, head on helm with grasshopper crest, collar of suns and roses; canopy on two attached and two free piers with shafts, supporting three-centred cusped and sub-cusped arches with panelled spandrels formerly enclosing brass shields-of-arms of which two remain, (a) Brouning impaling Basset and (b) Brouning quartering Maltravers, canopy with elaborately panelled and nearly flat soffit and finished with a frieze of quatrefoils and an embattled cornice. Under S. arch, (4) now ascribed to Sir Giles Strangways the elder [1547] and Joan (Mordaunt), his wife, but of the second half of the 15th-century and erected to commemorate a Brouning; altar-tomb, canopy and effigy (Plate 23), of the same materials and nearly the same design as Monument (3), but with original brass fillet replaced by a later one, now mutilated, grasshopper crest on helm and lion at feet mutilated, brass shields in spandrels missing and indent of shield on E. wall. In N. transept— on E. wall, (5) to Sir John Strangways, 1666, marble tablet with scrolls, cornice, broken and scrolled pediment and cartouche-of-arms; on N. Wall, (6) to Thomas Strangways jun., 1726, marble monument (Plate 68) with coupled three-quarter Roman Doric columns on pedestal bases supporting a full entablature with broken pediment framing a cartouche-of-arms; there are short flanking pieces with pilasters and with flaming urns on the cornice; according to Horace Walpole, the Latin inscription is by Dr. Friend [Dr. Robt. Freind]; on W. wall, (7) to Grace (Wood), wife of the Rev. William Samm, 1691, oval stone tablet with laurel-border, drapery and cornice. In nave—on N. wall, (8) to Susanna Strangways, widow of Thomas Horner, 1758, white marble wall-monument (Plate 20) on Purbeck backing with elaborate rococo frame including C-scrolls, draperies, winged skull and lozenge-of-arms flanked by cherubs; (9) to Susanna, 1678, Giles, 1698, Wadham, 1694–5, and Henry, 1706, children of Thomas Strangways sen., white marble tablet (Plate 20) with scrolls, cherubs and cartouche-of-arms; on S. wall, (10) to Stephen, Earl of Ilchester, eighth but eldest son by the second wife, Christiana Hope, of Sir Stephen Fox, 1776, marble wall-monument of similar design to monument (8), erected by his widow, Elizabeth, only daughter of Thomas Horner of Mells and his wife Susanna, see (8), and heiress general to the family of Strangways of Melbury; (11) to Thomas Strangways sen, 1713, Susanna (Ridout), his wife, 1718, and John Strangways, 1716, white marble tablet (Plate 20) with scrolls, cherub-heads, winged skulls and cartouche-of-arms. In churchyard—N. of transept, (12) to William Heel, 1652–3, table-tomb; N. of nave, (13) to William Formis (?), 1687, headstone. Plate (Plates 28, 137, 138, 139): includes a cup of 1607 engraved with the Crucifixion, given by Grace, wife of Sir John Strangways, a paten, also engraved with the Crucifixion, probably of the 17th century, a silver-gilt cup and cover with pineapple finial of 1683, given by Thomas Strangways in 1699, a silver-gilt stand-paten of 1698 given by Susanna, wife of Thomas Strangways sen., in 1699, a stand-paten and flagon (16 inches high) of 1748, both by Paul Lamerie, given by Mrs. Strangways Horner in that year, a silver-gilt box of 1753 and a knife from the same donor and a small stand-paten of 1808.

The Tilting-Helm in Melbury Sampford Church


Melbury House in the parish of Melbury Sampford

(2) Melbury House (Plates 140, 142, 144) and stables, stands 50 yards W.N.W. of the church. The House is mainly of two storeys with attics; the older walls are of local rubble, ashlar-faced; the late 17th-century walls are of brick faced with Ham Hill stone and with some dressings of Portland stone; the roofs are covered with slates and lead. The reversion of the property was acquired by Henry Strangways (ob. 1504) in 1500, and his son Sir Giles the elder built extensively here before Leland's visit of about 1540; Leland states that he built the lofty tower and used here three thousand loads of stone from Hamden quarry. This work included the staircase-block with the tower above it, the W. wing and three wings round the courtyard to the E. and a corridor-range along its W. side. In 1692 Thomas Strangways sen. remodelled the E. front and the central portions of the main ranges on the N. and S. of the courtyard and added ranges on the E., N. and S. of the courtyard; this work was from the designs of a certain Mr. Watson (Horace Walpole in 1762 says, of Thomas Sutton); these alterations probably extended into the 18th century and Susanna Strangways-Horner, daughter of Thomas Strangways sen., who succeeded her brother in 1726, is known to have repaired and beautified the house. The house was greatly enlarged in the 19th century by the fifth Earl of Ilchester who added the great library from the designs of Salvin in 1872 and the large range to the W. in 1884–5 from the designs of G. Devey.

The early 16th-century house possesses a highly remarkable feature in its lantern tower, and there are interesting 16th, 17th and 18th-century fittings.

Melbury House

Lower stage of Tower shewing squinches carrying hexagonal Lantern

The E. Front is of late 17th-century date and is of three main sections; the side sections project slightly and have rusticated angles; the middle part of the front is of five bays divided by engaged Doric columns on the ground floor supporting entablatures and a continuous cornice and Corinthian columns on the floor above supporting similar entablatures and cornice; above the three middle bays is a pediment enclosing an achievement of arms of Strangways impaling Ridout; along the rest of the front is a balustraded parapet. In the middle bay of the ground floor is a doorway with an enriched panel above, enclosing a cartouche of the same arms as those on the pediment. The windows are square-headed and have key-stones; the roof has a series of pedimented dormers. The N. Front has a late 17th-century central block but the two gabled bays are of early 16th-century date. The start of the original plinth-moulding survives on the inner face of the octagonal pilasters, showing that the former early 16th-century central block has been replaced by the existing feature. The central part of the front is somewhat similar to the corresponding part of the E. front but the bays are divided by pilasters instead of columns and the curved pediment extends only over the middle bay; it encloses a cartouche of the same arms as on the E. front; over the central doorway is an oval window; the other windows in the whole front are similar to those on the E. front as are the dormers in the roof. The side sections of the front are gabled and flanked by octagonal angle-piers terminating in twisted pinnacles with ogee cappings; the gables are finished with crocketted parapets with finials; between the gables is a balustraded parapet. The S. Front is generally uniform with the N. front but there are two windows adapted as doorways in the side bays of the middle block in place of a central doorway. The W. return of this front has a reconstructed two-storeyed bay window; between it and the S.W. angle are the marks of the junction of a gabled wing extending W. which contained an orangery and was built before c. 1750 and demolished in 1872; N. of the window are traces of a single-storeyed building. The W. return of the N. front has a number of 16th-century windows, some of them reset; they have four-centred lights and moulded reveals; the larger ones are transomed; projecting from the middle of the wall is a small garderobe-turret with an embattled parapet, a modern doorway with a four-centred head and one original window also with a four-centred head; further S. is an original chimney-stack with an enriched shaft. The W. wing of the early 16th-century house has angle-shafts and W. gable similar to those on the N. and S. fronts. In the W. wall are three original windows, that on the first floor of four transomed lights, that on the second floor of four lights and that in the attic of two lights; all have moulded reveals and labels. The N. side is partly covered by a modern building; against the E. part of the wall is a small wing probably a garderobe wing, finished with an embattled parapet and retaining an original single-light window. The S. side has two original two-light windows and a narrow window in the angle, lighting the staircase; the chimney-stack has two original enriched hexagonal shafts. The building adjoining this wing on the N.W. was a kitchen and was added probably in the 17th century; it was completely remodelled in 1884–5 to form the modern entrance-hall and the only original feature visible is the chimney-stack with restored baluster-decoration. The E. face of the Courtyard is of late 17th-century date and has modernised windows except for one of oval form with an architrave. The W. face of the same courtyard is of early 16th-century date; the ground floor has two original three-light transomed windows with moulded reveals and labels and on the first floor are two similar windows and a third probably partly destroyed by the late 17th-century work. The Tower (Plate 140) rises two stages above the junction of the N., S. and W. wings of the original building and has a stair-turret on the N.W. side. The lower stage has, on the E. face, two windows each of three four-centred lights and a doorway with a four-centred head opening on to the leads of the roof to the E.; further N. is an enriched chimney-stack. This stage is finished with splayed stone weathering at the angles bringing the plan from a square to a hexagon. The top stage has semi-octagonal piers or shafts at the angles terminating in twisted pinnacles; the parapet is embattled and the N.W. stair-turret is carried up above it and also embattled. Each face of the stage, except the N.W., has a window of six four-centred and transomed lights in a square head with moulded reveals.

Interior. The middle room of the E. Range, formerly the Entrance Hall, has early 18th-century bolection-moulded dados with enriched cornice and door and window-frames; the two fireplaces have marble surrounds and above them are reset carved festoons of musical instruments, birds, fishes, etc., ascribed by Horace Walpole to Grinling Gibbons. The S.E. room is similarly but rather more elaborately treated and has festoons over the fireplace by another hand; the wallspaces are covered with silk of 1735, from Redlynch (Plate 128); the fireplace has a marble surround. The N.E. room is lined with bolection-moulded deal panelling; the doorways have enriched architraves and entablatures; the fireplace has a moulded marble surround; the ceiling (Plate 148) has a painted design of birds, fruit and flowers of c. 1700. The main Staircase Hall has two late 17th-century staircases, back to back, that on the S. (Plate 152) being the principal one. It has turned and carved balusters, cut strings with carved brackets and the string under the landing is carved with swags of drapery, fruit and flowers; the soffit of the third flight has a painting of Fame (Plate 147); the soffit of the first-floor landing is painted with a lunette (Plate 147) showing cherubs on clouds above, by G. Lanscroon, signed and dated 1701. The walls of the staircase have bolection-moulded panelling, formerly with painted acanthus-decoration; on the N. wall is a large painting (Plate 146) on canvas of Thomas Strangways sen. with his family and, in the background, the church, the house and the Lion gate, now re-erected in Evershot parish (Evershot (2)); it was painted by Thomas Hill c. 1698. The ceiling is coved and has a large painting (Plate 145), probably by Lanscroon, of the Council of the Gods, with the monogram of T. Strangways; the ceiling over the landing has two monochrome panels (Plate 147) of Amphitrite in a chariot drawn by dolphins and two children with dolphins. At the ends of the landing are arched openings with moulded architraves, key-blocks, imposts and broken pediments. Towards the N. end of the E. wall is a two-bay opening with a square central pier and pilasters at the sides; the openings have a wooden balustrade. The northern staircase is of simpler character; it has turned balusters, close moulded strings and a balustrade carried along the landing; there is an archway in the E. wall similar to those of the other staircase; the hall is lined with moulded panelling with a dado. The two middle rooms of the N. Range are lined with early 18th-century bolection-moulded deal panelling with dado-rail and cornice. In the W. wall of the Writing Room is an early 16th-century doorway with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head with the initials G.S. in the spandrels. The early 18th-century ceiling has an oval wreath and panels with acanthus-ornament, of c. 1700. The W. room is lined with reset early 16th-century linen-fold panelling of very simple detail; in the W. wall is a 16th-century doorway with a four-centred head. The corridor to the S. is lined with reset early 16th-century linen-fold panelling. Reset on the S. wall are five 17th-century stone shields-of-arms of Strangways impaling the following—Arundel, Wadham, Trenchard, Edwards (?) and Stafford, and over the fireplace are six 18th-century shields-of-arms painted on metal with the owners' names on boards below, removed from the room above the Breakfast Room. Immediately to the E. of the fireplace are the hinge-pins for a door, apparently in the destroyed wall of the N. wing. In the S. Range, the Breakfast Room, at the W. end, has an 18th-century overmantel from Redlynch. In the bay-window are six panels of 16th-century heraldic glass with scroll-work, as follows— (a) Strangways quartering Stafford of Hook; (b) Stafford impaling Cifrewast; (c) Arundel quartering Dinham and Arches quarterly, Chideock and Carminow; (d) Stafford impaling argent six lions gules; (e) Courtenay quartering Redvers and (f) Maltravers impaling Aumerle. The Mortlake tapestries with the Labours of the Months are from Redlynch. In the Drawing Room is an 18th-century coloured marble fireplace, from the same place. In the room above the Breakfast Room is an early 17th-century overmantel (Plate 94) flanked by triple Corinthian columns supporting an enriched entablature; the main panel has an achievement of the quartered arms of Strangways with an elaborate scrolled surround on which are four seated figures bearing shields of Strangways heraldry. The late 16th-century plaster ceiling (Plate 149) has an elaborate geometrical design of broad enriched bands with foliage, heraldic and other beasts, doves, the arms of Strangways, etc., and small pendants; there is a cornice round the room with strapwork frieze containing forty-nine coloured shields-of-arms with modern repainting. In the bay-window are six panels of early 16th-century heraldic glass in round wreaths, as follows—(a) Strangways quartering Stafford; (b) Strode; (c and d) Fitzjames; (e) Stafford impaling Maltravers and (f) Strangways. The staircase to the attics in the N. range is of early 18th-century date and similar to the northern staircase in the E. range. The basement under the E. part of the house has groined vaulting springing from square piers with moulded cappings and moulded corbels against the walls. The Staircase Hall, partly under the tower, is entered from the N. range by an early 16th-century archway with moulded jambs and four-centred head; the W. jamb has been cut back and the arch carried partly on later 16th-century corbelling. In the S. wall are two doorways of the same period with moulded jambs and four-centred arches in square heads; one of them is now blocked; there is a similar doorway in the W. wall and N. of it is the staircase, entered under a moulded four-centred arch. The room to the W. has a four-centred barrel-vault springing from moulded corbelling on the N. wall. The stone staircase to the first floor is in three flights, the two lower having four-centred barrel-vaults finished at the ends with moulded cross-arches of the same form; on the first landing is a doorway with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head opening into the room in the W. wing; this room, much altered in 1884–5, has a fireplace with a moulded four-centred head. The main first-floor landing is spanned by a moulded four-centred arch carrying the E. side of the tower above. In the N. wall are three doorways, the easternmost probably of late 17th-century date; the middle doorway, now blocked, has moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head; the westernmost doorway is larger but of similar form. In the S. wall are two doorways similar to that last described. The staircase to the second floor of the W. wing has moulded copings to the enclosing walls; the doorway to the Muniment Room has a four-centred arch in a square head and spandrels carved with foliage, a blank shield and the arms of Strangways; in the N.W. angle is the spiral staircase leading to the tower; the doorway has the initials G.S. (Giles Strangways) in the spandrels. The Muniment Room has windows of two and four lights and a single-light window now opening into a passage; the stone fireplace is blocked. There is a moulded cornice round the room. The stage above has doorways with four-centred heads and a fireplace with foliage and the initials G.S. in the spandrels. Across the angles of the room are deep moulded squinches of horizontal corbelling and with cusped panels on the small triangular soffits; these squinches support the lantern above. The lantern-stage of the tower has a fireplace with moulded jambs and four-centred arch in a square head. Round the room runs a moulded stone cornice.

In the windows of the modern passage from the Breakfast Room to the Library are ten late 16th or early 17th-century glass quarries of Strangways heraldry. In three windows of the modern Library are twelve 16th-century and early 17th-century glass shields-of-arms in wreaths as follows—(a) quartered shield of Herbert; (b) quartered shield of Rogers; (c) quartered shield of Strangways; (d) Mallet; (e) Stafford of Hooke; (f) argent a saltire sable, badly worn; (g) as (c) but with modern first quarter; (h) quartered shield of Mordaunt (?); (i) quartered shield of Manners; (j) quartered shield of Stafford; (k) quartered shield of Grey; (1) quartered shield, attribution uncertain. A room in the tower of the modern addition has panelling and a marble fireplace with a painted and gilt overmantel, of c. 1735, from Redlynch. The fireplace and overmantel in the adjoining room are of the same date.

The Stables (Plate 143) N. of the house, are of two storeys, with stone walls and slate roofs. They were built late in the 17th century and then formed the W. range of a courtyard of which the other ranges have been destroyed; they now form the E. range of the modern stables and have been largely refaced on the W. side. The E. front has a projecting feature, near the middle, with a pediment and timber lantern, the latter not in situ. The embattled parapet is modern. The windows of the lower range are of mullion and transom type and the upper windows are of two lights. The central doorway has an eared architrave and an entablature.

The "Turret" (Plate 141), a garden-house just S.W. of the house, is of coursed rubble with ashlar dressings. It was built probably in the 16th century, with 18th-century additions in Gothic style; in the note of his visit here in 1762 Horace Walpole mentions the new decoration of shields-of-arms inside. It is an octagonal building with plinth-mould, moulded string and embattled parapet with crocketed pinnacles at the angles; the entrance on the S. side has a depressed-ogee moulded head springing from slender clustered jamb-shafts with crocketed terminals, over it is a tracery panel in two heights. The interior, in one stage, has a semi-circular niche opposite the entrance, with round head under an ogee label; the octagonal ceiling is ogee-shaped with moulded angle-ribs and is painted with shields-of-arms.