Brief History of Cricket St Thomas Estate
At the heart of the historic Cricket St Thomas Estate is the Manor House, known to millions of television viewers as the setting for the comedy To The Manor Born starring Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles. Now owned by Warner Holidays, it has been sympathetically restored and enhanced and offers a range of breaks just for adults in a beautiful and relaxing setting.
The Cricket St Thomas Estate (the name has nothing to do with the sport, but is derived from the Anglo Saxon cruc, meaning a hill or ridge) is first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086, where it is described as 'Land of the Count of Martin' paying tax to the king for six hides, or 720 acres. It also had two slaves, six villagers, five smallholders and a variety of livestock - all valued at 100 shillings.
The estate then passed to the De Cricket family and between 1328-29, to Sir Walter de Rodney, ancestor of Admiral, Lord Rodney. The nautical connection was continued when the manor was sold to the Preston family, one of whose members, Sir Anyas, captured the Admiral of the Galeasses of the Spanish Armada and launched a naval raid on Jamaica.
In 1775, the estate came into the possession of Captain Alexander Hood, who became a vice-admiral and second in command of the Channel fleet during the Napoleonic Wars. Created Baron Bridport in recognition of his wartime exploits, he died childless in 1814, the barony then passing to his great nephew Samuel Hood, who was married to Nelson's niece Charlotte.
The second baron was responsible for creating many of the landscape features which distinguish Cricket St Thomas today. He dammed the small river that runs through the grounds, creating the chain of lakes, and planted a wide range of ornamental trees and shrubs.
The baron rose to the rank of general and became lord-in-waiting to Queen Victoria before mounting debts that forced him to sell the estate, in 1897, to Francis James Fry, the chocolate manufacturer. The Taylor family bought the estate in 1966 opening the wildlife park in 1967 expanding and developing it over 32 years into what you see today. They also developed the farming on the estate planting many of the trees and woods that are spread across the estate. In 1998 Cricket House with the wildlife park was sold to Warners becoming a hotel in 1999. Despite its new role, the manor retains many original features - including the stunning Grand Hall.
The second Lord Bridport spent £250,000 on laying out the grounds and gardens between 1816 and 1860.
Lord Nelson and Lady Hamilton are believed to have spent many hours sitting under the large Atlas cedar that still grows outside the manor house.
A willow which used to grow on the estate was said to have been a cutting from the tree overhanging Napoleon's tomb on St Helena.
The bronze statues in the gardens are the work of local sculptor John Robinson.