Case Study 1: What you might find for an historic house: Athelhampton Hall, Dorset
Athelhampton Hall in Dorset is a country house dating back to the fifteenth century. The photographs and documents in the Historic England Archive record the Hall over the last hundred years and illustrate the events that have shaped its recent history.
The earliest item in the Historic England Archive relating to Athelhampton Hall is an album dating to 1892. This album is a contemporary photographic record of the period of major restoration work undertaken by AC de Lafontaine who bought the property in 1891. The photographs provide a glimpse of life at the Hall during the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Photographs of the interior of the building and the garden under construction illustrate fashions in décor and garden design at the time.
General view showing the Reverend WE Gibbons
and Harry in the Solarium, taken 25th July 1892
General view during construction showing gateway
and scalloped walls with obelisks surrounding
The Corona taken July 1892. AL0403/022/02
Exterior of the south west front from the driveway,
taken 1890-1910. AL0403/007/02
General view looking along pathway, taken 1890-1920
General view with gazebo or pavilion in distance,
taken 1890-1920 AL0403/021/03
Detail of room interior, taken 1890-1920.
Exterior view of south east from private garden with
the pond in foreground, taken 1900-1925
The estate left the ownership of Mr AC de Lafontaine in 1916. The sales particular, dated 20th July 1916, which was used to sell the estate at auction, provides not only detailed descriptions of the main house, associated buildings and a farm, but also of the gardens and the surrounding countryside. It is beautifully illustrated with contemporary sepia photographs of the exterior and interior of the house, the gardens and the other estate buildings and views. It’s interesting to compare these images with earlier and later ones. For instance, The Corona, photographed above in 1892 under construction, is shown here in 1916 complete and with the planting mature.
Estate sales particular dated 20th July 1916. SC00292
Detailed photograph of The Corona from estate sales
particular dated 20th July 1916. SC00292
Detailed description for the garden with
specific mention of The Corona, from estate
sales particular dated 20th July 1916. SC00292
In 1970, architectural historians from The Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England produced measured drawings of the Great Hall for ‘An Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset’. The drawings are cross-sections which show how the house was constructed. They appear in the published volume (HMSO, 1970) along with notes on the history of the house.
MD92/00932 Great Hall Cross Sections, drawn by RCHME, 1970
A photograph of 1990 (below) shows a change in the garden layout; the formal beds shown in the earlier photographs AL0403/007/02 (above) have been replaced by lawns.
Athelhampton Hall, exterior view showing front elevation.
Taken by Paul Barkshire, September 1990. DD001209
A photograph of 1992 shows the damage caused by a terrible fire in the main house, but a 1993 photograph records the successful restoration of the building.
Athelhampton Hall shortly after the fire. Taken by RCHME, November 1992
Athelhampton Hall restored post fire. Taken by RCHME, September 1993