Charborough House

Charborough House is located between Sturminster Marshall and Bere Regis in Dorset, England. The Deer Park and estate adjoins the villages of Winterborne Zelston, Newton Peveril and Lytchett Matravers. Charborough Park is surrounded by one of the longest brick walls in England built between 1841 and 1842 by the then owner of the park John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge-Erle-Drax who had successfully had the new Wimborne/Dorchester turnpike moved further away from his house, a detour of over half a mile. More than 2 million bricks were used in the wall, but unfortunately for Sawbridge-Erle-Drax - who was also its chief promoter - the turnpike lost money, mainly because the railway between Wimborne and Dorchester opened shortly afterwards.


The wall runs alongside the A31 and is punctuated by 'The Stag Gate' at the northern extremity and the 'Lion Lodge' at the eastern most entrance. The current house is in the centre of the park and incorporates parts of the house built by Sir Walter Erle (1586–1665), the Governor of Dorchester and commander of the Parliamentary forces which besieged Corfe Castle in 1646, (stone and timber taken from Corfe Castle were used in the building).


Charborough House has been owned by the same family since Elizabethan times and their surname is now Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, the Earles/Erles having arrived in Dorset from east Devon circa 1500, and continued via several female lines. The current occupier is Richard Drax, the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Dorset.


In 1686, a group of conspirators met at Charborough House to plan the overthrow of "the tyrant race of Stuarts", this was hosted by Thomas Erle, MP for Wareham since 1678, and Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset since 1685. This meeting was effectively the start of the build up to the Invitation to William, signed by the Immortal Seven, which resulted in the Glorious Revolution, also called the Revolution of 1688, and the overthrow of James II of England in 1688 by a union of Parliamentarians and the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau, (William of Orange).


The church of St Mary at Charlborough was built by Thomas Erle Drax in 1775 and transformed in 1837 by John Sawbridge Erle Drax who had married Sarah Frances Erle-Drax, the heiress of Charborough, in 1826 and assumed her surname. It is now used only as the burial-place of the Drax family. Above the door of a small arched building nearby is an inscription, dated 1686, commemorating the meeting of the patriotic individuals, who concerted the plan of the Revolution in 1688.


Charborough House and its folly tower at 50°46′38.75″N 2°6′7.09″W / 50.7774306°N 2.1019694°W / 50.7774306; -2.1019694 is the model for Welland House in the novel Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy.


Charborough Park, the private grounds of Charborough House, are only open to the public once or twice a year, when the local villagers sell tea and cakes.


The Drax estate is thought to consist of nearly 7,000 acres (28 km2). Although the stag on top of 'Stag Gate' appears to have five legs, the 'fifth leg' is actually a 'tree stump' originally incorporated into the sculpture to add strength. There are quite a few comments on-line and in publications that the stag has five legs so that it appears to have four when viewed from any angle, which is clearly imaginative but incorrect.


Thomas Erle

Thomas Erle c 1650-1720, Lieutenant-General was born in about 1650, the second son of Thomas Erle of Charborough, Dorset. In 1678 he became MP for Wareham, then on 27 May 1685 was made Deputy Lieutenant for Dorset. In 1686 he hosted group of conspirators who met at Charborough House to plan the overthrow of "the tyrant race of Stuarts", which resulted in the overthrow of James II of England in 1688 by a union of Parliamentarians and the Dutch stadtholder William III of Orange-Nassau, (William of Orange).


In his military career Thomas Erle became Colonel of a foot regiment and on 8 March 1689 was sent to Ireland to fight the combined French and Irish Army of the deposed King James II of England.


In 1690 he took part in the Battle of the Boyne and the Siege of Limerick,


In 1691 he took part in the Battle of Aughrim.


In 1692 he took part in an expedition to Flanders and on 3 August was Colonel of Luttrell's Regiment at the Battle of Steenkerque.


On 22 March 1693 Thomas Erle was promoted to Brigadier-General, fighting in the Battle of Landen.


In 1694 Thomas Erle returned home as Governor of Portsmouth Hampshire, a position which he was to hold until 1712.


In June 1696 he was made a Major-General and in 1698 became MP for Portsmouth.


In 1699 he returned to Ireland as second in command to Lord Galway,


In 1700 he was both MP for Portsmouth once again and also Commander-in-Chief of Ireland.


In 1702 Erle was made a Lord Justice of Ireland and was MP for Wareham for a second time, then promoted to Lieutenant-General.


In 1703, he became MP for Cork in the Irish Parliament.


In 1705 Erle was made Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance (a post which he held until 1712).


In January 1707 he took part in an expedition to Spain, fighting the Battle of Almanza on 23 April.


In 1708 he was sent on an expedition to France. He then returned home, serving as MP for Wareham once again.


In 1714 he became Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance for a second time and was also made Governor of Portsmouth, until 1718. Erle died on 23 July 1720 and was buried at Charborough.


Parliamentary representation

Family members who were Members of Parliament for Wareham 1679-1698, 1701–1718, Thomas Erle (born circa 1650, died 23 July 1720) 1701, 1704, 1710, 1722 Sir Edward Ernle (born circa 1673, died 31 Jan 1729) 1718, 1734, 1751, Henry Drax (born circa 1693, died 24 May 1755) 1747, 1754, 1761, Thomas Erle Drax (born circa 1721, died December 1789) 1755, Edward Drax (born circa 1726, died April 1791) 1841, 1859, 1868, John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle-Drax (born 6 October 1800, died 7 January 1887)


The current owner, Richard Grosvenor Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (born 29 January 1958), was elected Member of Parliament for South Dorset in 2010.

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