Behind the scenes at renovated Hilfield Manor in Sherborne

PUBLISHED: 14:30 10 September 2014 | UPDATED: 14:30 10 September 2014

Hilfield Manor - a former Victorian hunting lodge

Hilfield Manor - a former Victorian hunting lodge


A renovated hunting lodge near Sherborne, which was popular with Thomas Hardy, has come on the market for only the third time since it was built in 1880. The current owners took Helen Stiles on a tour

The sitting room which is situated in the octagonal towerThe sitting room which is situated in the octagonal tower

It is not often that you can claim that Thomas Hardy has visited your house but the current owners of Hilfield Manor, a magnificent castellated 1880s hunting lodge built between 1880 and 1901, have the photograph to prove it.

“Hardy was a regular visitor here in the early 1900s,” says Rachel Tims, who bought the property with her husband, Nick, in September 2007. “He was a friend of the Dampier-Bide family who built the lodge and the previous owners gave us a photo of Hardy standing in our porch with his wife.”

When the Dampier-Bides decided on the lodge they had already bought the 600 or so acres surrounding it to ensure that they had the most spectacular views.

“There is such bucolic Dorset countryside all around us here,” says Rachel, who tells me that it was the excellent schools in nearby Sherborne that originally drew the family to the area. “The gardens sweep down to the woods and the house looks down across the Ribble Valley, it really is a proper Hardy landscape.”

The Tims are only the third family to own the house, and when they took it over it was in a sorry state requiring major refurbishment.

“The rooms were cramped and incredibly dark with small windows so our first priority was to let a lot more natural daylight in.”

As the property wasn’t listed the couple were able to open out the ground floor by knocking down some of the internal walls and putting skylights into the flat roof.

They also used special frameless 8 ft glass doors to allow the light to flow through the house. When it came to paint, Rachel has used a Farrow & Ball style neutral palette of soft greys and whites throughout the house.

This is complimented with luxurious soft furnishings such as thick linens, silks and velvets.

“We wanted simple modern elegance nothing chintzy or cluttered,” says Rachel, who had done up several houses in London prior to taking on this project.

While the interior had a 21st century makeover the outside of Hilfield has been carefully restored to its former Gothic glory.

Over the years the castellation that had originally crowned the entire house had gradually disintegrated and only the main octagonal tower retained them.

“The previous owners gave us pictures of the building in the 1920s which showed the original castellation. They looked so pretty and it’s one of the reasons that the house is known locally as the castle. I showed the picture to my builder and he replicated it.”

Inside Hilfield the high rooms give an airy luxurious modern feel to the property but where possible original features have either been restored or copied and replaced.

The original blue lias flagstones have been carefully taken up so that under floor heating could be put in, and then put back in place. New cornicing mimics the original castellated design and the hotch potch of Crittal and PVC windows replaced.

“We used architectural bronze framed windows on the front of the building which has given it a real feeling of grandeur,” says Rachel.

In addition to the beautifully restored manor, the coach house and lodge next door offers the same square footage as the main house. Originally split into five holiday lets Rachel and Nick have now restored it back to its original state and only finished work on it a couple of months ago.

“Currently the coach house is a games room, gym and my office as well as a three-bedroom cottage. It is a wonderful second space, and huge with double height rooms on the ground floor. The upper floor would make a great space for teenagers or a cinema room,” she adds.

When asked what she loves most about Hilfield Manor and what she will miss there is no hesitation.

“I love its remoteness and yet it is only 10 minutes from the heart of Sherborne. Lying in the bath you have the most beautiful views of Batcombe Ridge and only the deer outside can see you,” she laughs.

“Most of all I will miss the sheer beauty of Hilfield – it’s a stunning and hidden part of Dorset that few people know about and we have been very lucky to live here.”



Where: Hilfield

Location: Nearby villages include Chetnole and Cerne Abbas. Sherborne with its schools is just over 7miles.


The Property - Built in 1880 as an octagonal hunting lodge by the Dampier-Bide family, Hilfield Manor was significantly extended in 1901 by T W Dampier-Bide. This impressive unlisted Manor House, also known as ‘Bide’s Castle’, due to its castellations was beautifully refurbished throughout in 2008. A lodge and coach house offer additional accommodation.

Hilfield Manor Accommodation - (420 sq m /4,521 sq ft); Hall, drawing room, sitting room, dining room, kitchen / breakfast room, utility room, boot room / back hall, cloak room, WC, pantry, 7 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms

Hilfield Lodge and The Coach House - (375 sq m /4,036 sq ft); Hilfield Lodge provides self-contained ancillary accommodation with sitting room, dining room, kitchen, utility room, boot room/ back hall plus 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms for staff, guests or family.

The Coach House forms two parts. The first is a self-contained potential kitchen / dining area plus 2 bedrooms and bathroom on the first floor.

Secondly there is fantastic double height gallery/studio/gym/party room. There is also a games room/home office and 2 large storage rooms with a sitting room, two further bedrooms and bathroom upstairs.

Gardens, grounds and outbuildings - Garage, summer house, wood store, additional store rooms and kennel. Gardens, grounds and woodland totalling 14.68 acres (5.94 hectares)


Price: £2.85m

Agent: Knight Frank, 15 Cheap Street, Sherborne DT9 3PU

Tel: 01935 812236



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