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The Sawmill Mapperton

Brassica restaurant to run The Sawmill at Mapperton

Mapperton House and Gardens is delighted to announce a new partnership with an award-winning West Dorset restaurant.

Cass Titcombe and Louise Chidgey of Brassica restaurant in nearby Beaminster will take over the management of Mapperton’s café, The Sawmill, from the beginning of April.

Brassica is the only restaurant in Dorset to appear in The Sunday Times list of the UK’s Top 100 Restaurants in 2017.

Viscount Hinchingbrooke, who runs Mapperton, the family home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, said: “Over just a few short years Cass and Louise have developed an outstanding reputation at Brassica for delicious food, and this has now been recognised by The Sunday Times in their Top 100 listing.

“We are really pleased that they are now partnering with us at Mapperton, and customers at The Sawmill can look forward to scrumptious lunches and teas.”

Brassica Chef-Director Cass Titcombe said: “We are delighted to be taking over the The Sawmill at Mapperton at a very exciting time.

“We are looking forward to offering visitors homemade cakes, cream teas, a range of light lunch dishes and of course, some memorable sandwiches, all with some of Brassica’s signature touches!”

Brassica Director Louise Chidgey added: “We have given The Sawmill a small revamp, and put in some new lighting, while retaining its friendly feel.

“We will also be exhibiting artwork from the Room at the End gallery at Little Toller Books at Toller Fratrum, near Dorchester, which we hope our customers will enjoy looking at while they eat.”

The Sawmill will open on Sunday 2 April until the end of October, every day except Saturdays, from 11am to 5pm.

Mapperton Gardens open on 1 March and the house opens for guided tours from 2 April.

snowdrop sundays mapperton

Snowdrop Sundays herald the coming of spring

Snowdrops – they’re only tiny, but here at Mapperton we love them because they are one of the first signs of spring!

We want to share them on our two popular Snowdrop Sundays on 5 and 12 February 2017.

The humble Galanthus nivalis (that’s ancient Greek and Latin for milk-white flower of snow) is among the first of the flowers to show their face.

Come to the Gardens and see the carpet of white spreading under the beech trees and alongside the paths in the spring garden.

The daffodils should be on their way too and velvety buds are appearing on the trees.

Snowdrop Sundays – two chances to visit

The Gardens will be open from 11am to 4pm on each of the Snowdrop Sundays.

Admission is £4.50 for adults and under-16s can come in for free. Proceeds will support the National Gardens Scheme and Perennial, the gardeners’ charity.

Thanks to the volunteers from the National Gardens Scheme locally, tea, coffee and a wonderful array of cakes will be available in the cosy Sawmill Café.

Don’t miss the chance to see the back of winter and join us soon.

“All the snow will melt; the cold winds will be driven away; we shall rule; all will become green, and then you will have companions, syringas, laburnums, and roses; but you are the first, so graceful, so delicate!” 

Extract from The Snowdrop, by Hans Christian Andersen.

Maggie Wattling volunteer at Mapperton House

Volunteers needed to join the Mapperton House team!

Mapperton House is recruiting more volunteer guides.

Due to a significant increase in visitor numbers this year, extra members of the team are needed to show people round our beautiful Jacobean manor house, family home of the Earl of Sandwich.

Maggie Wattling, of South Perrott, has been taking tour groups round the house since the start of the season at Easter.

She says it is exciting and enjoyable and would appeal to anyone who loves meeting and talking to people.

“My husband and I had moved to Dorset from France last October. I am retired, but I thought I would like a little job,” says Maggie.

“Then I met a local lady who had rented a house on the Mapperton estate and she told me that Lord Sandwich was looking for people to be volunteers at the house.

“Lord Sandwich took me round to start with. He was so kind and he is a fund of stories.

“Being a guide here is all about people. I like to talk to and meet people and you meet so many here – different nationalities and visitors from all over Britain.

“We all have a set of notes and then we tell the tale in the way it works for us.

“I enjoy it very much and people are so nice. You need to be able to look somebody in the eye and speak to them, and perhaps put on a bit of a performance!”

Lord Sandwich says that ideally guides would have an interest in English history and heritage.

“Above all, they need patience and understanding of people’s needs, including the young, elderly and disabled. People who prefer not to be guides are valuable as stewards and as back-up for other volunteers,” he adds.

Volunteers are entitled to travel expenses and light refreshments in the Sawmill Café for each visit.

Anyone interested should contact the Estate Office on 01308 862645 or email office@mapperton.com

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.

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.”

Far from the Madding Crowd released nationwide today

Far From the Madding Crowd, the film adaptation of the novel by Thomas Hardy, is released today in cinemas across the UK.  While Carey Mulligan plays the role of Bathsheba, the true star is of course Mapperton, which was turned into the location of Everdene Farm.  Scoring 83% on Rotten Tomatoes, the film has been mostly feted by the critics, with Tony Medley of the esteemed Tolucan Times claiming that it is “one of the best films I’ve seen this century.”

Mapperton was turned into a farmyard in Far from the Madding Crowd

Mapperton’s elegant front courtyard was turned into a mud-caked 19th century farmyard for the filming of Far From the Madding Crowd, which is released in cinemas on 1 May.  “The whole thing was turned into a complete swamp, all earth and stone,” reveals Lady Sandwich in an article in the Sunday Times today.  “They put a heavy tarpaulin of some sort over all the grass in the courtyard, and on top of that they scattered mud and sand and stone and turned it into a very rough surface.”

Today the mud (and the chickens and the longhorn cows) are long gone, and visitors won’t find any trace of the transformation.  Except perhaps for the sapling walnut tree, whose progenitor was sacrificed to make way for all that muck.