South Wraxall

South Wraxall Manor is a Grade I listed country house which dates from the early 15th century, located at South Wraxall in the English county of Wiltshire, near Bradford on Avon. According to popular legend, South Wraxall was the house where the first tobacco was smoked in England, by Sir Walter Long and his friend Sir Walter Raleigh (although this has also been said of other houses related to Raleigh).

The Long Family

The first known member of the Long family to own land in South Wraxall was Robert Long, a lawyer who was on the Commission of the Peace in 1426 and represented Old Sarum in Parliament in 1414, and Wiltshire between 1421 and 1442. He had a house there in 1429 and a few years later he exchanged lands in Wraxall with the Abbess of Shaftesbury. He died in 1447. His great-great grandson Sir Robert Long altered the doorway to the Long chapel in 1566, having his initials and badges carved into the stone above it.

Over the generations, the Long family acquired more and more land, until eventually they owned all the property within South Wraxall that had once belonged to the Priory of Monkton Farleigh. The manor was passed down through the Longs of Wraxall until it reached Walter Long who died unmarried in 1807, and his unmarried sister Katherine continued to live in it till her death aged 97, in 1814. By his will it then passed to his cousins, Richard Godolphin Long of Rood Ashton, and his brother John. It was over 150 years before another member of the Long family lived at the Manor for any length of time.

The house was first of all let from 1820-1826 to a Dr Knight who kept a school there for about forty boys. He disfigured the house by plastering over the carved ceilings and painting the oak paneled wainscots, but this was later reinstated in its original style by the 1st Viscount Long. Lord Long's initials WHL can be seen on many properties in the village but he never lived there. Throughout the rest of the 19th century the Manor was lived in by caretakers.

The manor was retained by the family and rented after the rest of the South Wraxall estate (including the majority of property in the village) was sold on 20 May 1919. In 1935 after the death of the tenant, the house was taken over by the 2nd Viscount Long who did further restoration work. By then the principal residence of the family at Rood Ashton had been sold. During World War II the Manor housed refugees from Kent, and in the 1950s it was occupied by the 2nd Viscount’s sister-in-law Anne, who was married to Lord Rothermere. (Anne later divorced Rothermere, to marry Ian Fleming).

The last member of the Long family to live at the Manor was Sara, the only daughter of the 2nd Viscount Long, and wife of Conservative MP, Charles Morrison. The Manor was finally sold in 1966, together with 830 acres (3.4 km2), after five hundred years of family ownership.

John Taylor (bass player with the band Duran Duran) and his wife Gela Nash (founder of Juicy Couture) purchased the house in 2005 and live there when Taylor's band is working in England.


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