A Day At Great Chalfield Manor, Wiltshire

Great Chalfield
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It is a winning combination: a moated medieval manor house with a glorious Arts and Crafts garden. Great Chalfield Manor, a National Trust property near Melksham in Wiltshire, makes an ideal day out for history buffs and garden lovers.

Great Chalfield Manor: From Fortified House To Film Location

Great Chalfield Manor is one of the finest medieval manor houses in England. It was built in the early 15th century, and later extended and fortified. The fortifications were added during the Wars of the Roses, but the moat and tall wall with guardhouses would also have protected the house in the Civil War.

The manor changed hands several times until it was acquired by the local entrepreneur Robert Fuller at the beginning of the 20th century. Under his ownership the house was restored, and the gardens were redesigned in the then-fashionable Arts and Crafts style. The property was gifted to the National Trust in 1943.

Great Chalfield manor house and church. In front of the buildings is a moat with tall plants on both sides
Great Chalfield Manor and church

Great Chalfield Manor is popular with film and TV companies: productions including The Other Boleyn Girl and Persuasion have been filmed here.

An Arts And Crafts Garden

The redesigned garden incorporated many of the original medieval features. The moat at the front of the house remains, as does part of the defensive wall and one of the guardhouses. There are also some old fishponds at the bottom of the garden.

Ancient wall and gatehouse. Beneath the wall is a grassy bank and a small stream with plants and flowers on either side
The lower garden with part of the old wall

The gardens are on two levels. The upper part is formally laid out, with flower beds, a raised walk and a lily pond. A particular feature is the yew topiary pavilions, where a shelter has been sculpted beneath the trees. The lower gardens, characterised by ponds, streams and wild flowers, are set on a grassy bank running down to the river.

Looking through an archway in the trees towards a lily pond and a second pavilion sculpted from the trees
Looking out from a yew topiary pavilion

A Medieval Manor House

By the time Robert Fuller purchased the house one wing had fallen into ruin. However it was restored and rebuilt, using the parts that still stood to recreate the medieval design. Much of it – including the roof – had to be completely reconstructed, but it is now virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the house.

Looking towards the manor house from the lower garden

It is this rebuilt part of the house that visitors now see, the other wing still being used by the Fuller family. Entrance is via a guided tour, and you are taken round by a very knowledgeable volunteer. You’ll see the Great Hall, with its minstrels’ gallery and wall hangings, and the wood panelled dining room. Upstairs is the solar – a grand sitting room – with a vaulted ceiling.

Despite the renovation there are all sorts of original features. I was particularly intrigued by the “squints” – faces high up on the wall with spyholes that would allow servants to observe what was being said and done and report back to their masters.

All Saints Church

Adjoining the garden is the 14th century All Saints Church. This has several notable features, including the remnants of some ancient wall paintings, a medieval stone screen, and a brightly painted organ.

Church organ with brightly painted pictures of religious figures
The organ in All Saints Church

Visiting Great Chalfield Manor

  • Great Chalfield is 3km from Bradford on Avon, and 15km from Bath.
  • Car parking is on the grass verge outside the gates.
  • Great Chalfield Manor is owned by the National Trust, and entrance is free to Trust members.
  • Tours of the house take place several times a day. Photographs are not permitted inside the house.
  • The church is not part of the National Trust property. It is free to visit, but donations are welcome.
  • There is a self service tea and coffee area – bring cash to pay for your drinks.
  • Some parts of the house and gardens have steps or uneven surfaces. If you have mobility issues have a look at the access statement on the website.

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WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren.

I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 70 countries at the last count), and I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way. Read more…

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