The History of Merley House, Wimborne, Dorset


Merley (originally spelt Myrle) was an ancient manor belonging to the Lords of Canford. In 1751, Ralph Willett purchased the estate and is responsible for the building of the larger and much grander house we see today.

Willett’s great enthusiasm for architecture led to the design of the three storey building, rendered on the north side in Portland stone, featuring three balconies and four ionic pilasters supporting the entablature. In 1772 two wings were added one of which contained the new library as Willetts vast collection had outgrown the existing library in the house. Unfortunately these two wings were demolished in the early 1800s following an auction of the books and paintings they housed by the then owner, John Willett.

A walled garden was built to the North East of the house with an Orangery on the south side. This has survived to this day and used to be known as the Merley Bird Gardens, home to many exotic bird species. It is now the Orangery Suite;a unique venue for conferences and events which can be hired in conjunction with Merley House.

In 1875 the whole estate was sold by auction but there is little information as to whom it was sold until it was bought by Ivor Guest, 1st Lord of Wimborne. In 1927, the MP for South Dorset, Angus Valdemar Hambro purchased the estate in a dilapidated condition, spending two years renovating it. In 1939 the out break of war meant that the house was requisitioned by the War office. When they left in 1946 the house was again sold at auction. Now down to just 270 acres it was sold in 14 lots and the house was converted into flats.

During the 1960s a holiday park was started, by the present owners, to help finance the restoration of the house. The ground floor was opened to the public and contained a collection of model cars, lorries, airplanes, ships and train sets. Most recently the downstairs was restored again to create spacious and elegant areas for different events and the upstairs for office space where views of Wimborne can be enjoyed.

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