The name of Dodington Hall, near Nether Stowey, in Somerset has only recently found its way into the official book of historic houses open to the public, although unofficially one has always been able to visit it or to show it to a party of students through the kindness of its owner, Lord St. Audries, and of its farmer tenants, the Fewings.
Like a number of historic and often beautiful old farmhouses in this region, it is so remotely tucked-away off the usual routes that many people living within a few miles radius have never visited it.
The tiny sparse village of Dodington - now 50 inhabitants - lies a mile or two off the main Bridgewater - Minehead road between Nether Stowey and Holford, and when Domesday Book was compiled the settlement there was not regarded separately from Stowey (as it was then called).
Stowey was held by Dodo, the Saxon Thane, whose house stood on or near the site of the present Tudor manor house, a man of considerable importance, Forester of Exmoor, who bequeathed to the Dodington line that lived there down to till 1740 his armorial device of three forester’s bugle horns, still recognizable on the stonework of the porch.
Dodington is reached through lanes sunk between high hedges shiny with holly, lanes thick with ferns and tangled with wild flowers, purple vetch, primrose, rugged robin, white campion, stitchwort, blue bugle, for every lane is well-watered by streamlets that run down to the Bristol Channel from the slopes of the hill called Danesborough.
Danesborough, the second highest hill of the Quantock range, is crowned by an oval-shaped Iron Age camp, complete with fosse and earthworks, and clothed in scrub-oak and bracken ….. [unreadable] …. bugle-horns, very weather-worn, sculptured on its porch and above a window.
Barns, burtons, and orchards containing walnut trees lie in front of, and around, the manor house. There is a big concrete tank fed by the Dodington brook. For many years flocks run on the Quantock hill commons have been driven down to be washed there with the Dodington [unreadable] early on [unreadable] Apple Day, May 23 [?].
Formerly sheep-washing was followed by a procession of men to church in Nether Stowey, wearing Sunday clothes and "buttonholes" and carrying brass-topped beribbonnet staves, and by dinner at the George Inn.
These pleasant ceremonies are now extinct like many others that coloured the rural calendar.
The manor house itself stands on a raised terrace approached from the farmyard by two flights of steps.
Without any pretentions to grandeur, the long building has grace and dignity, with its [unreadable] Tudor chimney, gables, bell-cote, mullioned windows, and stone porch displaying over its doorway the grotesque head of a giant, much defaced by time and weather, holding a child in its jaws. The red Quantock sandstone has weathered almost to gray.
It came, no doubt, from the old quarries in adjoining fields, one of which is now called the mangold-quarry, as the farm uses it for storing roots.
The outstanding feature …. [unreadable] …. recently completed, from the ravages of the death-watch beetle.
The magnificent roof-beams have the carved uneven lines of the original branches and the roof panels are of irregular shapes . The oak corbels, seen at their best from the gallery, are carved angels, six holding song-books, six holding shields.
All this work reveals the hand of a Tudor craftsman, skilled, strong, yet without sophisticated refinement. The same may be said of the plasterwork cornice and the very attractive garlanded chimney-piece at the far end of the Great Hall.
The chimney-piece bears the date 1581, the motto "Support thy Patrimonie", and various armorial devices: the Dodington bugle-horns, the tripod of the Trivetts, (seen on the arms of Bridgewater) and the lion of the Warres, who lived at Hestercombe, near Taunton - all local families connected with Dodington.
Two grotesque caryatids, half-man, half-lion, with a jewel hung round the neck, flank the fireplace. During the recent restoration a new head was made for the badly-chipped plaster-work stag.
The heraldic glass of the Great Hall windows repeats the devices of the Dodington families. During restoration, which was handled by a Martock firm accustomed to ecclesiastical work, all the panes were releaded.
A little Elizabethan parlour called the Oriel opens out of the Great Hall. This is now used as a … [unreadable] … a water-wheel made of [?]. Mrs. Fewings tells the [?] was used to drive the roasting [?] and was powered by one of the Dodington streams.
This cellar also contains a vast copper cauldron in which in living memory beer was [?] in an open hearth in the kitchen.
In the walls of [?] leading to the cellars [?] into a low dark [?] where one may pass [?] emerge through exit covered by [?] little gate into [?] near the [?] and opens into the church [?].
This parsonage may have served some utilitarian [?] but romantic people [?] as an escape way for [?] of the Dodingtons led adventurous lives and the Royalist [?] committed [?] dead like hanging 14 Parliamentarians after promising mercy [?] fly the country [?] and his estates.
His first wife, a [?] her own [?] Sydenham [?] Taunton. He [?] a French widow when [?] restored his fortunes.
The copper water [?] in the cellar was probably [?] local copper. At a time when the Duke of Buckingham owned Dodington - hence Duke’s Planting on the hillside - a copper mine [?] flourished there [?] 1820.
In woods near the [?] one may find [?] fields near Dodington almost picturesque stone mine festooned with ivy that [?] plainly seen from the minehead road. [?] miners’ cottages.
Part of the mine and [?] adit lay on the other side of the Minehead road and a pleasant dwelling-house now called the Counting House undoubtedly occupies the site of the copper mine’s account house.
[the rest is unreadable]