Mapperton House named Historic Houses' Garden of the Year

Mapperton House named Historic Houses' Garden of the Year

Grade II-listed Mapperton House which featured in Netflix’s Rebecca and is home to the glamorous US-born Viscountess Hinchingbrooke is named Garden of the Year by Historic Houses

  • Mapperton House in Dorset is home to Earl and Countess of Sandwich and family
  • Their glamorous son and daughter-in-law, Viscount and Viscountess Hinchingbrook, live in the main house with their family 
  • Grade II registered early 20th-century formal Italianate gardens won top award 
  • Almost 12,000 votes were cast by public in total for the eight shortlisted gardens

Mapperton House, home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, has been crowned Historic Houses’ Garden of the Year.

The 15 acres of Grade II registered early 20th-century formal Italianate gardens, boasting a croquet lawn, formal topiary, an orangery and an arboretum, won the prestigious award last month, after a record-breaking public vote.

Historic Houses is a co-operative association of independent notable homes and gardens. Almost 12,000 votes were cast in total for the eight shortlisted gardens, with Mapperton – which featured in Netflix’s Rebecca – claiming almost a quarter. 

Surrounded by the stunning West Dorset countryside, Mapperton is home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich and their family, heir Luke and his US-born TV presenter wife Julie, the Viscount and Viscountess Hinchingbrooke.

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Mapperton House, home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, has been crowned Historic Houses’ Garden of the Year

The Earl and Countess live in the old rectory on the estate while Viscount and Viscountess Hinchingbrooke reside in the main house with their children (pictured together) William, 16, Nestor, 14, as well as Julie’s children, Emma, 22, and Jack, 19, from a previous marriage

Lily James and the cast of Rebecca filming outside the orangery at Mapperton House

The country home, which was built in the 1540s with additions in the 17th and 18th centuries, was previously dubbed the finest manor house in England by Country Life magazine.  

Speaking at the Historic Houses national AGM and awards ceremony, Caroline, Lady Sandwich, 78, said: ‘John and I are delighted Mapperton Gardens has won the Historic Houses Garden of the Year award. 

‘It’s lovely for us and it’s such a wonderful endorsement of all the work everyone has put into the garden. 

‘It’s not just the achievement of this extremely difficult year, but of all the work of the past years. Thank you to all the people who voted for us all over the world; we are very grateful. 

Almost 12,000 votes were cast in total for the eight shortlisted gardens, with Mapperton claiming almost a quarter. Viscountness Hinchingbrooke enjoys dips in its natural pool, pictured

Lady Sandwich praised their head gardener Steve Lannin and his staff for their hard work in keeping the gardens looking so beautiful especially during the autumn and winter months

The shortlist system adopted by the competition now gives lesser known stately homes like Mapperton a greater chance of winning, according to Caroline

‘We hope the gardens will have many more visitors to enjoy the peace and calm, and the special trees and shrubs. We are open till mid December. Come and enjoy the tranquility and autumn colour.’ 

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, the Countess told how she took on more responsibility for the garden when her father-in-law, Victor Montagu, who passed away in 1995, became increasingly frail.

She praised their head gardener Steve Lannin and his staff for their hard work in keeping the gardens looking so idyllic, especially during the autumn and winter months. 

The Earl and Countess live in the old rectory on the estate while Viscount and Viscountess Hinchingbrooke reside in the main house with their children William, 16, Nestor, 14, as well as Julie’s children, Emma, 22, and Jack, 19, from a previous marriage. 

Julie, known thanks to her role in the now defunct reality series Ladies of London , is also doing her utmost to make Mapperton more mainstream. She hosts an annual Christmas party for the local community which she said is their chance to share Mapperton House (pictured) 

The Montagus have had to embrace new business-savvy ideas to keep the manor house and the family’s 15 acres of Italianate gardens afloat – including virtual tours and yoga classes

Julie pictured with her husband Luke and children William, Emma, Nestor and Jack at Mapperton House – the family’s magnificent Jacobean pile in Dorset

The shortlist system adopted by the competition now gives lesser known stately homes like Mapperton a greater chance of winning, according to Caroline.

‘In the old days, we couldn’t have won it, as we are so far from population centres,’ she told the Telegraph.

Though Mapperton’s appearance in the recent Netflix adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, starring Lily James, is likely to have boosted its appeal. It was one of a number of historic houses used as a location to represent Manderley – the mansion central to the plot of the 1938 gothic novel.

Julie, known thanks to her role in the now defunct reality series Ladies of London, is also doing her utmost to make Mapperton more mainstream, with a new series, Welcome to Mapperton, which aired on the Smithsonian channel this month.

Julie told how immersing your body in cold water is ‘incredibly invigorating’ and suggested those of us not fortunate enough to have an outdoor pool on our doorstep try it in a bath or shower

Another instalment, Christmas At Mapperton, which aired on Tuesday, focused on British and American festive traditions.  

The family has also shared its horticultural endeavours on social media during lockdown, posting picturesque shots of the garden and the house’s interiors and notching up thousands of new followers.

Meanwhile Julie has enjoyed daily dips in the natural outdoor pool and shared videos of her chilly swims to the Mapperton Instagram page.

The Montagus have had to embrace new business-savvy ideas to keep the manor house and the family’s 15 acres of Italianate gardens afloat – including virtual tours and yoga classes.

‘Mapperton costs around £200,000 a year to run, but this year we’ve lost around £250,000,’ Julie told The Times earlier this year, adding that she was heavily relying on donations from those who watch her virtual tours of the estate.

Julie pictured with her husband Luke and children William, Emma, Nestor and Jack at Mapperton House – the family’s magnificent Jacobean pile in Dorset

Built in the 1540s with additions in the 17th and 18th centuries, Mapperton House is spread over three floors and three wings.

The house boasts 16th-century plaster ceilings and 18th-century panelling, as well as the Sandwich collection of pictures and furniture that reflect the family’s contribution to Britain’s naval history. 

The fourth earl is said to have invented the sandwich some 250 years ago when he decided to wrap his food in bread to avoid dirtying his hands as he ate. 

But it is also said that in the 17th century the first earl invented the choc ice when he chilled down liquid chocolate from Spain with snow and salt.

To bolster their finances, the Montagus let the house out as a film location and it was seen in both the 2015 film Far From The Madding Crowd with Carey Mulligan and the 1996 adaptation of Emma starring Gwyneth Paltrow. 

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