Athelhampton HallOn a bend in the road between Puddletown and Bere Regis the average motorist is liable to miss one of the most interesting homes in England hidden behind the trees.

Athelhampton Hall is one of the finest examples of 15th century domestic architecture in the country. Essentially a medieval house, surrounded by walls and courts, with a great hall, an oriel window, and a unique timbered roof. Athelhampton has been a family home for centuries. A new wing was built at the beginning of the 16th century. Thomas Hardy painted a water colour of the buildings and his father probably worked on the restoration of the fine timbered roof in the Great Hall.

This place has quite a complicated name history. In the Domesday Book of 1086 it appears as simply Pidele, one of several estates named from the River Piddle on which it stands. From the mid-13th century, the name of an early owner Aethelhelm is added, in forms like Pidele Aleume or more fully Pidele Athelhamston, that is 'Aethelhelm's (estate on the) Piddle', from the Old English personal name Aethelhelm, ('noble-protector') and Old English tun. Finally, from the end of the 13th century, the Pidele comes to be dropped from the name, giving spellings like Athelhameston in 1303, Athellamston in 1327, and numerous other later variations like Addlemaston on Saxton's map of 1575.

Clearly the -p- of the modern spelling is quite unhistorical (it first makes its appearance in the 14th century). It is interesting, too, that the same name survives in a different form in South Admiston within the parish: Admiston is probably a more reduced and 'popular' form of the name Athelhampton itself.

The House and gardens open to the public.

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