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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 www.PlantFairs.com

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.”