Mapperton cream tea

Mapperton celebrates National Cream Tea Day in style

Please do come to tea at Mapperton on Friday 24 June – and help us celebrate National Cream Tea Day!

On that day a garden entry ticket will be £10, which will include a delicious cream tea – using Mapperton Jam – at the Sawmill Café.

And because we like to do things properly, here are the Top Ten cream tea etiquette tips, courtesy of the Cream Tea Society.

  • Loose-leaf is best. Brew loose leaves in a cup, but remember to serve a second pot of hot water – just in case you’ve over-brewed.
  • If you don’t want to pour, don’t sit near the pot. The person nearest the pot should pour for everyone (if you’re clumsy, best make sure it’s not you).
  • Make the perfect brew. Allow the tea to brew for at least three minutes before pouring – time enough for the full flavour to infuse.
  • Tea before milk. Pour the tea first, followed by milk (so you can accurately judge the required strength) and then sugar.
  • Spoons on saucers, please. Once you’ve stirred, place your spoon on your saucer (think of the table cloth).
  • No outstretched pinkies! Always hold the cup between your thumb and forefinger. Contrary to popular opinion, sticking your little finger out does not a lady/gentleman make.
  • No knives needed. The perfect scone should break apart with a simple twist but they’re very useful for spreading the jam and cream!  Just make sure you’ve got your saucer to catch the crumbs.
  • Spoon then spread. If the table is laden with bowls of jam and cream, spoon your desired amount onto your plate first, before spreading them thick on your scone.
  • Jam before cream. While there’s much debate around which goes first (a dispute dividing Cornwall and Devon), etiquette gurus Debrett’s say you should spread your jam before dolloping cream on top.
  • A final word. Never use whipped cream. It’s utterly improper.
Beaminster Gallery Quire at Mapperton

Beaminster Quire turns back the clock at Mapperton

The clock is being turned back a couple of centuries at Mapperton, near Beaminster, on 19 June.

All Saints’ Church, which is attached to Mapperton House, is hosting an afternoon concert of ‘West Gallery’ music by Beaminster Gallery Quire, who specialise in the lively village church music of former times.

Quire director Ron Emett said: “Beaminster Gallery Quire is part of the modern revival of West Gallery music, as heard some 200 years ago from the galleries of country churches.

“Sung and played by villagers using whatever instruments were to hand, it was necessarily homespun;  yet today it remains strong and vibrant with wonderful tunes and harmonies.

“This is the music so beloved of Thomas Hardy, whose father and grandfather were both gallery musicians at Stinsford in the early 19th century.”

Mr Emett said that anthems, metrical psalms and hymns (many still in use today) have been found in west country manuscripts. With dance tunes and some appropriate readings, they form an entertaining and not-too-serious afternoon of music with some opportunities for audience participation.

Mapperton House was a main location in the 2015 film version of Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.

The Summer Concert of West Gallery Music is on Sunday 19 June 2016, at 3pm in All Saints’ Church.  Tickets are £7.50 and are available from the Mapperton Estate Office 01308 862645.

The Sawmill Cafe at Mapperton will be open for refreshments.

Charity Plant Fair Mapperton

Mapperton hosts a treat for gardeners

Keen gardeners are in for a treat when they get the chance to visit Dorset’s largest charity specialist Plant Fair and spend a day discovering beautiful Mapperton House and Gardens.

This is the 17th year that Mapperton, near Beaminster, has hosted the Fair, being held this year on Sunday 10 April. The Earl and Countess of Sandwich have picked the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance as the charity to benefit in 2016.

Special ticket price

Entry to the Plant Fair alone is £3. There is a special ticket price on the day of the fair of £6 for entry to Mapperton gardens, or £9 for the guided house tour and gardens; under 16s free.

More than 30 nurseries and garden-related stands will be displaying plants of all kinds as well as honey, cider, willowcraft, gifts, cards and garden ironware.

The Fair is open from 10am to 4pm and The Sawmill Café will be open for tea, coffee, home-baked cakes and light lunches.

The autumn plant fair at Mapperton will be held on Sunday 18 September.

More information at

The Earl of Sandwich with the 1st Earl's journal at Mapperton

Mapperton’s piece of chocolate history

Mapperton House, now the family seat of the 11th Earl of Sandwich, opens its doors to visitors on Easter Sunday.

And chocolate lovers have reason to thank the 1st Earl of Sandwich for introducing the 17th century’s fashionable treat that could have led to today’s chocolate Easter eggs, via the choc-ice!

Almost a century before the 4th Earl, his great-great grandson, “invented” the sandwich, Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, was busy recording recipes for chocolate, then an exotic substance which was drunk, not eaten, often as a medical remedy.

And his 350-year-old journal containing what may be the very first recipes for iced chocolate desserts in England* will be visible during the guided tours of the Tudor/Jacobean mansion at Mapperton.

John Montagu, the 11th Earl of Sandwich, has made a particular study of not only the history of the sandwich, but also of his earlier ancestor’s fascination with “chocolatti.”

Dr Kate Loveman of the University of Leicester has also researched the illustrated manuscript, dating from 1668, which details a number of recipes, including King Charles II’s prized formula for spiced and perfumed chocolate cake, which Sandwich reported cost the king a staggering £200.

Lord Sandwich says: “The story of chocolate is a fascinating one.

“The 1st Earl of Sandwich had been ambassador to Spain and it was the Spanish who had previously held a monopoly over the trade in chocolate.

“The Restoration was an age of entertainment and leisure, of theatre and music and conspicuous consumption.

“We were learning a lot from Europe and chocolate houses were highly fashionable.”

The 1st Earl’s recipe involves putting a container of liquid chocolate into a flask of snow and salt, and shaking it until it starts to turn solid.

However, the 1st Earl advised those wary of such a strange cold concoction to make sure they drank a hot chocolate afterwards!

“It seems my ancestor was certainly one of those well-connected people who was introducing chocolate, and exceptionally, chocolate “ice cream” to England,” added Lord Sandwich.

“I am happy to tell the story, because I am certainly a chocolate drinker myself, as long as it is Fairtrade!”

An illustration from the journal at Mapperton showing the preparation of chocolate.

An illustration from the journal showing the preparation of chocolate.

The 1st Earl’s recipe for iced chocolate:

“Prepare ye Chocolatti…and Then Putt ye vessel that hath ye Chocolatti in it into a Jarraffa (carafe) of snow stirred together with some salt, & shaike ye snow together sometyme & it will putt ye Chocolatti into tender Curdled Ice & soe eate it with spoons, and eat also Naples Biskett alonge with it. This way is much used for pleasure in ye heate of summer, but is held unwholesome & one is oblidged for better security to Drinke Hott Chocolatti in ¼ of an houre after.”

Admiral Edward Montagu, who had been one of Oliver Cromwell’s staunch supporters, was awarded the title “Earl of Sandwich” in 1660, when he brought King Charles II back to England from exile abroad. 

Mapperton to open its doors to more visitors in 2016

Earl of Sandwich and Viscount Hinchingbrooke landscape

Following last year’s record number of visitors to Mapperton House and its gardens, the Jacobean mansion – which featured in the 2015 film of Far from the Madding Crowd – will be open for guided tours in the afternoons, five days a week, from Easter Sunday until the end of October.

The house overlooks the stunning Italianate garden with topiary, grottos and pools, leading to a wild garden which rolls into the scenic valley below.

Voted “the nation’s finest manor house” by Country Life magazine, Mapperton, near Beaminster, has been the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich for the past 30 years.  However management of the historic house and estate is now passing to their son, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, who intends to turn the property into a more widely-known tourist destination.

Plans to improve facilities for visitors this year include the conversion of part of a stable block into a new ticket office and shop, as well as the provision of a new car park.

The Earl of Sandwich says: “We are really looking forward to welcoming more visitors to Mapperton House this year. Until now the house has mainly been open on July and August afternoons, but this year we will be taking small groups on guided tours throughout the season (with the exception of Fridays and Saturdays).”

His son Lord Hinchingbrooke adds: “We have lodged a planning application for various changes which should make a big difference to visitors.  These include a new car park, shop and ticket office, as well as improvements to the area outside the popular Sawmill Café.”

“We hope to complete the first phase of work this year, while in the longer term we plan to build a new drive to the car park, which will provide visitors with a splendid view of the house as they arrive.”

“We’re delighted to open our home to visitors and we hope they will come and spend a day here, touring the gardens and getting an inside view of a very special historic house and family collection.”

Volunteer guides needed at Mapperton House

In 2016 Mapperton House opens to the general public and specialised groups from Easter Sunday to the end of October, 12 noon to 4pm,  Sundays to Thursdays, and we are looking for new volunteer guides to conduct house tours.

Volunteers should have a general interest in English history and heritage.  Above all they need patience and understanding of people’s needs, including the young, elderly and disabled.

Those who prefer not to be guides are valuable as stewards and as back up for other volunteers.

Volunteers are entitled to travel expenses of 45p per mile and light refreshments in the Sawmill Café for each visit.

Applicants should contact Anthea or Claire in the Estate Office on 01308 862645 or email


Green thought in a green shade

_1120651Lady Sandwich writes:

Peace, serenity, silence, contemplation, quiet, these are the sort of qualities we look for in gardens. They are places where we can lose ourselves in a “green thought in a green shade”.

Mapperton has quiet and lovely places for contemplation, and benches specially placed for this. I don’t know how many people go down to the arboretum but at its top there’s a bench looking down at the swamp cypress. At the bottom is a bench for people to recover on before they start the journey back up the gardens. Beyond that, at the very end of the Spring Garden is a bench from which to look down the valley and at a noble deodar in the woods.

Of course, it’s not always quiet. The blackbirds’ alarm call is shrill; rooks and jackdaws are noisy, and so are strimmers. We can’t always get all the mowing down before people come at 11am. And cars bounce down the drive, motorcycles wizz down the lanes, aeroplanes are overhead. But do listen for the ravens’ distinctive croak.

Returning to that great poet Andrew Marvell, I will leave you with his take on sitting in a garden:

Here at the fountain’s sliding foot,

Or at some fruit tree’s mossy root,

Casting the body’s vest aside,

My soul into the boughs does glide;

There, like a bird, it sits and sings,

Then whets and combs its silver wings….

The clematis viticella are coming out, Nelly Moser too


Lady Sandwich writes:

As England is sweltering in a heat wave, I just hope our clematis have got nice cool roots, which is what they want. Clematis come from the temperate zones and don’t want over heating, originating, like so much else, often from China.

The wonderful clematis viticella are just coming out in the gardens. We have lots of the viticella type: they are easy to prune (lop ‘em down to 18 inches in March), provide lots of colour as the roses go over and are easy to grow. One of the best is Polish Spirit on the grey wall just left of the big lawn; another is Black Prince in the front courtyard. Clematis viticella alba luxurians, white flowers with dashes of green, is by the garage. I think it’s in the wrong place. Comments please on our Facebook page. What do you think? Shall I root it out?


We grow other types including lots of different clematis montana, now over and pruned. You can see the pruning right up the house. There’s clematis armandii, an early scented evergreen clematis to the right of the Orangery. And it’s named after – guess who? Pere David Armand, the same French missionary after whom davidia involucrata is named (see my previous entry) and who discovered the Giant Panda.

Then there are the herbaceous clematis, like clematis tubulosa ‘Wyevale’; there’s yellow clematis flammula, the huge, rampant, autumn flowering clematis rehderiana, and its similar rampant friend on the pergola, a garden variant of clematis vitalba (Old Man’s Beard). We have a couple of the elegant clematis texensis particularly ‘Gravetye Beauty’ on the grey wall. You won’t find many large flowered clematis because they are difficult to prune and temperamental to us. But ‘Nelly Moser’ is around in the front; and another Nelly by the East Grotto faces purple clematis x jackmanii climbing the West Grotto and twining with rosa ‘Mme Alfred Carriere’.

Climbing and rambling roses everywhere in June

Lady Sandwich writes:

I look round Mapperton gardens in late June and I see climbing and rambling roses all over the place, mostly out of control and definitely out of reach. There are some on the pergola – Emily Gray, Parkdirektor Riggers, Veilchenblau, Blairii No 2; others are scrambling over the Red Wall – Goldfinch, Rambling Rector, Albertine, filipes Kiftsgate; and about the house and stable blocks are, amongst others, Zephirine Drouhin, Mermaid, climbing Iceberg, Niphetos, Aloha and the greatest and most difficult Gloire de Dijon. Also around are Mme Alfred Carriere, Lady Hillingdon and that hybrid from rosa gigantea, Cooper’s Burmese.

I’m only mentioning some of the roses we have at Mapperton and I have to admit I’m an old-rose enthusiast; you won’t find modern roses here except a self-sown heroine by the Orangery; we admire her for her bravado.

There’s quite a difference between climbing and rambling roses. Ramblers are bigger, in fact huge with some going up to 40 foot; they flower once a year, are mostly sweet scented and come from two main stocks, the Japanese multiflora, introduced in 1862, and the German wichuraiana in 1891 and named after its German discoverer Max Ernst Wichura.

And you prune them differently; in fact the pruning difference is probably the most important reason for knowing what sort of rose you are dealing with. Climbers are usually more controllable and can be grown up a pillar or a pergola or over a hedge. Just for your information, you may think that the wonderful New Dawn is a climber; she’s not, she’s a wichuraiana rambler.

The Pocket Handkerchief tree is dropping its hankies

The Pocket Handkerchief tree is dropping its hankies, like Beatrix Potter’s Mrs Tiggywinkle, at the top of the Wild Garden. This tree, davidia involucrata, is named after the famous Père David. Father Armand David (1826–1900, “Père David”), a French Vincentian missionary and keen naturalist living in China, found it first at 6,500 feet and sent dried specimens to Paris in 1869. Later Ernest Wilson (“Chinese Wilson”) found it again, brought it back and so we have it in our gardens.

It’s called involucrata because it has off-white bracts that fall and look like old-fashioned hankies. These hankies are not petals or sepals but bracts, the difference being bracts protect the flower and curl up round it. The best bract example is those red pointsettias at Christmas whose “petals” are bracts.

Many of the trees and shrubs we have in our gardens are named, like davidia involucrata, after the courageous and intrepid 18th and 19th century plant collectors. For instance we have magnolia wilsonii, rosa “William Lobb”, magnolia delavayi, paeonia delavayi and many, many others.

Looking at the lives of these great contributors to our 21st century gardens I see they mostly died in terrible conditions. Here are a few examples: Francis Masson (1741 – 1805) froze to death; Meriwether Lewis (1774 – 1809) died of malaria, syphilis, gun shot and suicide; Thomas Coulter (1793 – 1843) – ‘His health suffered severely in his travels’; David Douglas (1799 – 1834) – rheumatic fever, blindness, gored to death; John Charles Frémont (1813 – 1890) – frostbite, fevers, dehydration, diarrhoea; Pere David (1826 -1900) – malaria, typhus, pneumonia, poisoning, near drowning; Jean Marie Delavay (1838 – 1895) – bubonic plague; Ernest Wilson (1876 – 1930) – crush injuries after a motor accident.

Let us celebrate these great plant collectors and be grateful for their contributions to our gardens!