HISTORY OF NYNEHEAD COURT - by A.J.Lock (January 2008)


The name Nynehead is unique as it is the only place with this name in the world. Documentary evidence of human settlement can be traced back to Saxon times. The first date Nynehead was mentioned was in AD737 when the Manor was granted to the Bishop of Winchester. According to Collinson 'At the time of the Conqueror's Survey it was included in the number of those lands which owed service to the Bishop of Winchester's court at Taunton and had been always held under that great lordship.' In A.D 890 land was granted to a Wulfhere Gidding, at a yearly rent of 20 shillings “on condition that the tenant shall be a follower of the Lord of the church”.

The actual name Nynehead is derived from the area of the Parish at that time which was nine hides i.e. Nigonhidon (AD 897) which then gradually changed over the years e.g. Nichehede (1086); Neghenhude (1327); Nyenhide (1410); finally Nynehead in the 19th century. The name Nynehead is of Anglo-Saxon origin, in Thomas Gerard's book ‘Particular Description of the County of Somerset’ in 1633 he said of the name “Whose very name shewes what quantity of grownd is comprized.” A hide is as much land as may be tilled and cultivated with one plough, and the beasts belonging thereto in a year, having meadow, pasture, and houses for the labourers and cattle belonging to it. The actual size of the hide varied from place to place depending upon the quality of the land i.e. a hide could vary from between one hundred and ten acres and one hundred and twenty acres. The hide was first mentioned in the laws of Ina, about the year 690 AD. At that time the land was owned by the crown and all rents were based upon the number of hides. This means that Nynehead was approximately 1000 acres.

A little more than 300 later the manor was given to the Bishop of Winchester. King William (after the conquest) gave land to his favourites i.e. the land became owned by lay people. The Norman Survey following the conquest was 1085/6. In 1091 the Manor and the church were granted to Ranalph de Fluri and the name then changed to Nynehead Fluri, which referred to the area around the church and Court. East Nynehead was Nynehead Monks, Monkton or Monachorum because at one time this part of the parish was owned by the Monks of Taunton Priory (13th century).


The house is situated near the Parish Church and was the original Manor House, it is approximately one and a half miles north of Wellington. The present building is a Grade II listed 17th century building, listed by English Heritage.

The house is approached by a short drive from the village which is shared by the church. In front of the house there is the forecourt which is dominated by a fine tulip tree. The Court is an attractive two storey mansion with projecting wings, a steeply pitched hipped and slated roof with dormer windows, and a stone entrance porch with a Venetian-style window over. The front of the house is rendered cream/yellow with white surrounds to the openings and white quoins, but behind the façade lies a complex of buildings of different materials - stone, brick and various recycled material - indicating development over a long period. To the rear of the house is a small attractive courtyard from which the former rear porch can be seen. Brick is the dominating material in this façade, as it is in the two storey range on the west side of the courtyard. Large quantities of brick were used in the area because of the near by brickworks at Poole.

Associated with the house are buildings which served a range of functions - the remains of an orangery to the right of the entrance, farm buildings and stables in brick and stone, a brick building now used by the gardeners but which once housed the generator for the main house, and the ice house. Behind the Court is a long low range of buildings in brick enclosing an open space in which a large mulberry tree is now the main feature.

The present drive from the village has been the main approach only for the last 150 years or so. Before, 200 years ago, the Court was reached from Wellington by a track through Stedmans Covert and across the three-arch bridge over the Tone below the Court. In the early 19th century the entrance to the Court was from Lodge Copse on the Wellington to Nynehead Road. The three arch bridge over the river Tone is dated 1817 and at that time the river was obviously a great deal wider than it is today. It is stated that the cascades were repaired in 1814.

This great bridge, which carried the carriage road over the Tone was built in 1817 to a design by Thomas Lee of Barnstaple, who was the architect and he also designed the Wellington Monument. By 1820 a new coach road had been built from the road near the present Wharf Cottage, but when the Grand Western Canal was built this was superseded in 1833 by a tree-lined avenue from the Wellington to Nynehead road. The carriageway was lined by Turkey Oaks that radiated from the bridge, but these were removed in 1960 in order to maximise agricultural production. In the 1830's the Grand Western Canal crossed the southern extremity of the park. This was followed within a decade by the Bristol and Exeter, later the Great Western Railway. Both of these crossed the line of the carriage drive. Edward Ayshford Sanford, son of the bridge-building William, could not prevent their progress but he could ensure that their intrusion complemented his landscape.

A viaduct marks the passage of the canal. One hundred yards to the south of the canal viaduct is a second arch bridge which supports the railway i.e. main line from Paddington. Built into the outer arch of the railway bridge was the lodge cottages where Mr Sanford's gatekeepers lived. This approach was used until the late-nineteenth century when the present entrance came to be favoured, although even then it was still used when the Hornsay road was flooded.


The earliest house dates back to 737AD and the most prominent families to have lived in the house were the Fluri's (1068 - 1318); de Wykes (1318-1599). John de Wyke became lord of the manor during the reign of Edward 1 (1272 - 1307), and the Sanfords (1599 - ca. 1902 although they didn't sell the Court until 1940). The de Wykes became owners of the Court because one of the de Wykes married a daughter of the Fluri family.

The Sanfords had been landowners along the Somerset/Devon borders and the family is traceable back to John Sanford of Brook Sanford (now Edbrook) near Winsford in the reign of Richard II (1377-99). The family also owned property in Milverton. There is little direct evidence about how the Court came into existence. By 1086 the manor was recorded as part of the Bishop of Winchester's Taunton estate and according to Collinson it had always been under that great lordship and it is probable that there was a house here at that time. Its position next to the church also suggests an early date and its site below the ridge shielding it from the south-westerly winds reflects a concern with practicalities rather than providing a prestigious position with good views across the Tone valley.

In the early days the house would have been very simple and lay north to south, consisting of the living area, covering what is now the hall and dining room and would have been termed the Great Hall. It would have consisted of one large room with a central hearth and a louver in the roof to let out the smoke. The roof would have been thatched, was single storey, built of timber probably on a stone foundation; while the floor would have been earth laid with rushes. The kitchen would probably have been a separate building in order to reduce the risk of fire. In the original house all members of the household lived, ate and slept together in the single room.

In the present day house, there is a difference in level of the floor between the hall and passage and this possibly went to the kitchen. The difference in level may also indicate where a raised dais was situated for the table and benches for the Lord of the Manor's family. There would have been a wooden screen behind the raised portion. In the 14th century during the reign of Richard II (1377-99) the house was rebuilt in stone and a gallery or solar was added. This gallery ran between the two present porches and was used to provide privacy for sleeping. Other than the original porch very little of this house can be seen today.

The original entrance to the house was from the courtyard through the porch, which is now closed. This porch faced west and therefore experienced less cold winds. This original porch is dated 1380. The door with its original knocker has since been moved to the front of the house. There is a half built up window visible on the outside of the porch i.e. in the courtyard, which suggests that it lit a spiral staircase to the gallery or solar. Another relic of the old house is the curve of a roof beam over the gallery or solar which is still visible on the landing of the first floor behind the present lift. The original roof level was also visible when the rendering was removed from the outer wall during the restoration in 1991.

In the old porch there is a curious little niche in the north wall (which evidently was not then blocked) which had an ogee-headed opening to allow light from a lantern to shine out. This porch seems to be mediaeval i.e. before the 15th century. The eastern porch is much later, but earlier than 1675 as shown by the blocked window of the wall running into the north wall of the south-east wing (i.e. east of the present dining room).

Further building took place in the 15th century (Tudor) and evidence of this can be seen in the great fireplace in the dining room. The original fireplace would have been a large open fireplace, as the present fireplace is more modern though the charming graceful swags of fruit and foliage carved into it still carry the Tudor rose. It was at this time that the earth floor covered with rushes would have been replaced with stone and wood floors and the Jacobean style wood panelling would have been placed in the dining room and hall.

The room on the west end of the south wing used to stand apart from the main building, as the Drawing Room does not appear in a picture of the house dated 1792. This was a dower house, a ‘hall’ complete in itself. It has a strong and simple shape with a mullioned window, gable roof and a great fireplace. The fieplace in the Drawing Room is neo-classical c1800-20. On the west side of the courtyard is a number of Tudor cottages, which were probably lived in by servants/farm workers etc. The room on the north end of these cottages used to be the old dairy and until the early 1990's it still had the slate tables around the room.


Martin Sanford (1571-1643) bought Nynehead Court from the Wyke family in 1599 and over the next four centuries succeeding Sanfords were to enlarge the estate, protect the interests of the local people, provide five High Sheriffs and two MP's.
When William Ayshford Sanford died in 1902 Charles Tite wrote “Nynehead without the Sanfords during the last three centuries would indeed be the play without Hamlet.”

Martin Sanford was married to Susanna Sydenham (1577-17/3/1661) who was the daughter of John Sydenham of Dulverton on Exmoor. Martin was the son of Martin Sanford of Halberton in Devon who had married Jane Champnies of Uffculme in Devon in the early 16th century.

Martin and Susanna had eight children: Henry born 1612; William born 1616; George born 1617; Jane born 1610; Mary + 2 other children who died young and many grandchildren. With this size of family who all had to be accommodated building began. Amongst the extension that he built was a nuptial chamber above the present dining room for his son Henry and wife Mary. The nuptial chamber had a lovely plaster bridal wreath in the ceiling and still has an ornate fireplace which bears the Sanford Arms dated 1633. The fireplace is part of the large chimney from the dining room and was originally part of an external wall. The wide west staircase with its "dog - leg" angles and shallow steps replaced the narrow winding spiral staircase which led to the gallery and the Jacobean paneling in the main hall was installed.

The Civil War (1642+) put an end to building for a while. Windows at that time were small like the mullioned window lighting the lavatory on the first floor, which must have been part of the gallery or solar reached by the spiral staircase. Martin's eldest son was Henry (1612-44) and he acted for his father in latter years as his father's health deteriorated. In fact Henry was High Sheriff of Somerset during the Civil war in 1642 and he had to defuse an angry confrontation between the citizens of Shepton Mallet and a Royalist force which was attempting to arrest one of the Parliamentary members. Henry fought in the parliamentary cause but respected the unity of the county. However he was pardoned by Charles II in 1644, the year of his death.

Henry being the eldest son succeeded his father as owner of the Court. Henry had married Mary (1607 - 62), daughter of Henry Ayshford of Ayshford in Devon which combined two of the oldest families of the Devon/Somerset border. The marriage brought the considerable Ayshford estates near Burlescombe into the Sanford ownership as Mary was the last in the line of the Ayshford family. Unfortunately all the children from this marriage died in infancy and thus the inheritance passed to Henry's brother John Sanford (1638-1711). John married Elizabeth Knightley and he was a cloth merchant in London, trading with the Dutch and Germans. John was a member of parliament for Taunton and later Minehead in 1690 having been defeated by his Whig neighbour Edward Clarke of Chipley Park. It was John who was largely responsible for the rebuilding of the house in 1675 as they had eleven children. Two of their sons later married two of the Clarke's daughters which brought Chipley into the Sanford family. The initials of John and Elizabeth, with the date 1675 are deeply inscribed into the stone over the doorway connecting the new building with the original hall. Fortunately John's grandmother had left him sufficient money for the building. John built the main block looking roughly east, the block to the west and the east projecting block. In the courtyard one notices that a great deal of the material used for the building was reclaimed material from other buildings.

It is thought that to achieve the rebuilding in a suitable prestigious manner John might have employed a London surveyor named William Taylor, who a few years later designed Edward Clarke's grand new house at Chipley.

An inventory ascribed to the year of John's death in 1711 shows that it was by then an impressive mansion. It is difficult to identify all the rooms listed but the ‘hall’ is interesting because clearly it was still one large room, not yet divided into hall and dining-room. The fire on the floor, with the smoke going through the roof, had been replaced by the large fireplace with an external chimney in the east wall of the present dining-room. There were three ‘parlours’ - ‘little’, ‘middle’ and ‘best’ - and on the first floor six ‘chambers’ or bedrooms. On the top floor were the “mayd's” room and an adjoining chamber and other spaces in which items were stored. There was a ‘Great Stair’ and two ‘camp chambers’ that are thought to have housed four-poster beds. The building identified as a possible dower house is not mentioned suggesting that it was not occupied by John Sanford.

The inventory does not refer to any of the rooms in the north range, which is not shown on the first known picture of the Court dated 1792. The house then passed to William their son who married Anne Clarke and William died in 1718. Their son William (1717-70), the grandson of John became High Sheriff in 1743. William married Anne Chichester. William and Anne's son John married the Hon. Jane Anstruther and their son John died in 1779 leaving a 7 year old son William (1772-1833) as head of the family. The Court at that time consisted of 27 acres. It appears that the Court was then let whilst William was brought up in London by his mother prior to him returning to Nynehead. William married Mary Marshall. There is a picture dated 1792 which is a pen, ink and wash drawing entitled ‘The S.E. View of Nynehead Court, the seat of W.A.Sanford Esq.’ In a corner in minute script is inscribed, in different handwriting, “As it was in 1792.” The drawing might have been done from memory, as there are some curious anomalies. The relative sizes and sites of the house and church are incorrect, while the drawing-room block, with its fireplace, attributed by Pevsner to 1760, is omitted. The east-west wing is missing from the drawing and a one-storey building of inferior type stands on the projecting site of the present kitchen. This projection was heightened in the 19th century. This wing had a doorway in the south-east wall which has subsequently been blocked in. The site of the orangery is occupied by a three-storey building of the cottage type, which blocks the present eastern archway. Adjoining this to the east is another building with a door (or windows), probably cottages. In front of the main block are shown rectangular lawns with a low wall, much as at present, but no drive. It is not clear if there was a main door to the house on this side, suggesting that the entrance from the inner court was still in use.

Another circular lawn edges this but the tulip tree is not there. It is probable that the Tulip tree was planted about 1837-39, as it is not shown on the 1792 map. Beyond this again is another low wall with a double hand-gate leading apparently to a drive. In front of the church is a building of some size, which might have been the church house, again no longer there.

The 1792 drawing coincides with a written description of the Court from a survey of the estate made in 1788 for William Sanford. The list of properties is headed: The Capital Mansion house of Ninehead, Courts Courtlage, pleasure ground, gardens, the Home Court Field now divided into 3 pieces, the Plott late a garden and part of Conygear Orchard now occupied by Mrs Elizabeth Acland - in all 27 acres.

Edmund Rack's description of Nynehead in the 1780s states that the Court 'belonged' to the Aclands. Presumably Mrs Acland occupied the house while the young William was living in London with his widowed mother. During the nineteenth century the house reached its present form externally, although internal alterations continued to adapt the accommodation to the needs of successive occupiers. The main changes were the construction of the north side of the Court running east-west, probably in the early part of the century. (The north wing does not appear in the 1792 picture.) The north range is not shown on the Tithe Map of 1837 but it does appear on the Ordnance Survey map of 1888. The junction with John Sanford's 1675 building is clumsily contrived, especially on the upper floors. The single storied building was heightened. This wing projects east at a curious wider-than-right angle and the size and height of the ground-floor room, now the kitchen, give the impression that it was intended to be of importance, as do the three tall north windows, embellished outside with stone panelling. It is thought that the odd angle is due to it being built on the much earlier building detached from the main house, possibly the original kitchen. The bell on the top of the building is dated 1747 and was used to summon the men to work and also for meals.

William was well aware of the distress caused by the agricultural depression following the Napoleonic wars and he thus provided work for local men by remodelling the parkland at Nynehead Court. In 1815 William also chaired a meeting in Wellington to raise funds for the building of Wellington Monument. William also acquired a holiday home in Lynton on the North Devon coast and he retired to Lynton in about 1820.

The estate was then managed by William and Mary's son Edward Ayshford Sanford (1794-1871) until the death of his father in 1833 after which he became the owner. Edward was educated at Winchester followed by Trinity College, Cambridge and at his coming of age there was a large party in the grounds of Nynehead Court. Later Edward married Henrietta Langham, a daughter of Sir William Langham which then brought a farm in Deptford, London into the family. Unfortunately Henrietta died in 1837 and Edward remarried Lady Caroline Stanhope in 1841. On Edward's death in 1871 his son William (1818-1902) inherited the Court. William served in the Colonial Service. When William died in 1902 Chipley became the family home. The house was obviously in good order by the start of the nineteenth century as the family were in a position to entertain minor members of the royal family. In 1809 the Duke of Cambridge, seventh son of George III, passed several days as a house guest of William Ayshford Sanford. Contemporary accounts record the ringing of church bells and the day-long roasting of an ox, which was “Liberally partaken of by over two-thousand spectators with bread and plenty of strong beer and cyder.” By the early-nineteenth century the main entrance had been moved to the east side of the house. The original entrance to the Courtyard, which has since been filled in to make another room, can be seen on the south side of the house towards the west end next to the Drawing Room. The window of this room has the shape of the entrance arch above it. The coach road from the north passed the west end of the church to a turning area in front of the Court.

The Drawing Room appears to be a later addition as it does not appear in a picture of the house dated 1792. It is thought that it has features of the 1830's but the white marble fireplace with the dancing figures is 1760.


In the days before refrigeration many estates would have an ice house or ice well. It was found that by packing the ice together into a large block it slowed down melting and by insulating the ice with walls and a roof it could be kept throughout the year. The most common designs involved underground chambers, usually man-made, which were built close to natural sources of winter ice such as freshwater lakes. During the winter, ice and snow would be taken into the ice house and packed with insulation, often straw or sawdust. It remained frozen for many months, often until the following winter, and could be used as a source of ice during the summer months. This could be used for simply cooling drinks, or allow ice-cream and sorbet desserts to be prepared, or to preserve food. The earliest record of an icehouse is in 1700BC in north west Iraq. In China, archaeologists have found remains of ice pits from the seventh century BC. In Rome in the third century AD, snow was imported from the mountains, stored in straw-covered pits and sold from snow shops. Ice houses became very fashionable in England when they became a symbol of wealth and prestige for the upper middle classes and the landed gentry. One of the first recorded icehouses in London was built in Greenwich in 1619AD.

The Court icehouse was built in 1803. The estate accounts show that Thos. Bond (the miller) was paid £18 10s 2d (approx £18-50p) on the 29th March for 'grinding and drawing bricks and lime for the icehouse'. The Nynehead Icehouse is typical in construction of icehouses of its time although it is larger than many found locally. It is brick built with an iron drain at the base. It was important to drain any melted water from the ice as quickly as possible to avoid temperatures rising within the icehouse. The present entrance probably had two or three doors to act as insulation between the warm outside air and the cool inside of the icehouse. It is surprising that the entry is on the southern side of the structure as this would be more likely to catch the sun rather than the northern side. However, there does appear to be a blocked up entrance on the northern side.

Ice was collected in the winter from the lakes in the parkland but later it was purchased from Scandinavia or Canada. The ice was packed in straw to insulate it during passage and was transported from the ships by wagons. The development of icehouses in the 18th and early 19th centuries was helped by the very cold winters of the Little Ice Age.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Icehouses might care to look at ‘Icehouses&Rsquo; by Tim Buxbaum - published by Shire Publications Ltd. (ISBN 0 7478 0150 9)


1/8/1799 Mrs Sanford paid Jane Cutley her own maid £12 12s per annum.
2/11/1799 Paid the cook Elizabeth Gilliard £6 6s per annum.

The next year the annual pay was split i.e.
25/3/1800 £3 3s and
9/10/1800 £3 3s.

From Christmas 1800 the cook's pay was increased to £10 per year.
The following were payments made to Adam Gilliard the groom:
2/11/1799 £12 12s per annum
25/3/1800 £6 6s
9/10/1800 £6 6s

Other payments were:-
Coachman Peter Chiddle £26 5s per annum;
Mary Perry kitchen maid £5 15s 6d per annum;
Arthur Donald gardener £54 12s for 2 years;
Sally Stevens housemaid £6 6s per annum;
Elizabeth Tucker kitchen maid £2 12s 6d per annum ;
Jane Dite kitchen maid £5 15s 6d per annum.
20/8/1801 Mrs Sanford paid Elizabeth Pawley her own maid £12 12s per annum.

By 1805 the Housekeeper Betty Fry received £25 4s per annum;
Charlotte Fry housemaid £7 7s per annum which increased to £8 8s per annum from 1810.

In 1911 the butler Thomas Griffiths received £52 10s per annum.
From the Sanford papers which are available in the Somerset County Record Office in Taunton there are references to the prices of goods at that time which the reader may find of interest:-

In the account book of the Housekeeper of 5th February 1811:

  • 2 dozen eggs 4s (20p);
  • 2lb of butter 3s 10d (Approx.34p);
  • 2 lemons 6d (2 ½p) ;
  • a cabbage 6d (2½p);
  • 2lb lard 2s 4d (approx. 12p);
  • sack of charcoal 3s (15p) (needed weekly during the winter);
  • 1lb currents 10d (approx. 4p);
  • caraway seeds 2d (approx. 1p).
  • The butchers bill for February was £2 6s 8d (approx. £2-34p);
  • the baker 16s 1d(approx. 80p);
  • fish £1 4s 6d (£1-22½p) ;
  • milk 6s (30p);
  • washing 15s (75p).

In the March account:-

  • 2 dozen oysters cost 2s (10p);
  • elderflower water 1s(5p);
  • a nail brush 2s (10p).

The food menus for January 1811 were:-

  • 16th Beef;
  • 17th shoulder of mutton;
  • 18th Haish;
  • 19th roast pork ;
  • Sunday 20th roast beef;
  • 21st small beef;
  • 22nd pork;
  • 23rd pork chops;
  • 24th boiled pork;
  • 25th mutton;
  • 26th pickled pork;
  • Sunday 27th Roast beef;
  • 28th Haish.

Much of the work carried out in the early 19th century was supervised by a Charles Bailey.
In the Sanford papers there are the Insurance Policies, the earliest of which is with Sun Fire Office policy number 700600 which was arranged through Mr Jones of Wellington who was the agent.

In the policy of 1898, policy number 2394435, the annual premium was £25-19shillings (£25.95p). The various items insured were :-

  • Household goods £3,100;
  • China earthenware and glass ware £250;
  • Mathematical and philosophical instruments £100;
  • Prints, paintings, drawings and sculptures £200;
  • Jewels and precious stones £1500;
  • Natural history specimens £1015;
  • the mansion, brew house, laundry and offices £14,000;
  • stables £900;
  • horses, carriages and harnesses £500;
  • Hot houses and sheds £200
  • Wood houses £25.
  • Giving a total value of £22,150.

Another policy of the same date Policy number 2394437 had an annual premium of £9-14s -6pence which was for Heirlooms in Nynehead Court which included:-

  • Books and plate £2,000;
  • china and articles of Vertu £1,000;
  • Childrens books £50;
  • a portrait of Frank Stone £100;
  • jewels and precious stones £400.

In the same year William Ayshford Sanford also paid an insurance premium of £113-11s-6d (£113- 57½p) for his estate which included:-

  • Havilands Farm;
  • Dollings Cottage;
  • Blockhouse;
  • Poor houses which were made of stone with equal parts of thatch and tile on the roof; 4 cottages called Round Oaks;
  • Hornsay Farm;
  • Upcott Farm;
  • the school house;
  • Nynehead School;
  • Milverton Heathfield and properties in Langford Budville, Burlescombe and Wellington.

From an inventory in the Sanford papers dated 1851 we get a clear picture that the house was rather grand:-

There were 14 portraits in the dining room including portraits of Mrs Sanford, Mr Sanford, Napoleon and John Locke. The dining room also contained 1 large bookcase in Oak; a smaller bookcase in mahogany; 1 dining table with rounded ends; 1 oval table; 2 marble sideboards; 1 wine cooler; 1 commode; 12 armchairs; 2 chairs; 2 Blue china vases; 2 green china vases; 1 dish holder; 1 fender and fire irons; 1 bellows; and a pail. The dining room also contained a very large number of books.

In the lobby outside the Drawing Room items included:- A portrait of Harry Vane and various other pictures of Landscapes etc; a flamingo in case; a linnet in a case; 2 low bookcases; 1 Indian cabinet; 1 marble table; 1 Blue china vase; 2 green china vases; 2 white, brown and gold saucers; 1 wooden bowl partly gilt; 2 chairs; 1 marble bust of Mr Sanford; an engraving of the death of Captain Cooke in a gilt frame; 2 red cloth window curtains.

Entrance Hall contained 8 large portraits including one of Lord Bosington painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds; a round picture of Mr Clarke and portraits of Lord Newark, Mr Spencer, Miss Clarke and Diana Swift. There were also 2 dining tables with Spanish covers; 2 other tables; 1 Lias Octagonal table; 2 arm chairs; 3 chairs; 1 hat stand; 1 Prayer Book box containing 12 Prayer Books and 11 Psalters; 1 door weight; 1 set of Stags horns; 1 set of Sharks Jaws and a curtain over the door.

Staircase: There were numerous portraits on the staircase including Mr Henry Sanford; Mr Martin Sanford; a lady; Mrs Sanford by Hudson; Mrs Clarke; Mrs Sanford by Sir Joshua Reynolds; Oliver Cromwell; a lady; a gentleman; Lady Langham by West and Sir John Chichester. 2 small round dutch engravings in gilt frames; 2 old armchairs; 1 cabinet; 2 Oriental China dishes; 2 large blue glass vases; 1 copper coal scuttle; 1 door weight; 1 barometer; 2 red armchairs; the painted widow of Beda; a pair of moose horns; a large case containing 11 gulls of various sorts, 5 terns, 2 petrels, 1 oyster catcher, 2 curlews, 3 godwits, 7 plovers and 8 sea sandpipers. 1 large moose horns; fossil of the leg of a bear; pair of fallow Deer's horns; a case containing 3 eagles of various sorts, 18 hawks of various kinds, 5 different owl eggs, a long eared bat; a pair of Carribo Horns and a pair of Roe Buck Horns. In 1882 electricity was installed in the Court which was probably produced by a water wheel. The generator was installed in a brick building near the house which now (in 2007) is the gardeners room.

The Sanfords also owned some land in Lewisham and Deptford and there were many streets named after places around Nynehead e.g. Hornsey Street, Blockhouse Street, Upcott Street, Lovelynch Street, Nynehead Street and Chipley Street.

Following the death of William Ayshford Sanford in 1902 the Court was inherited by Colonel Edward Charles Sanford (1859-1923) and he was High Sheriff of Somerset in 1908. However, in 1902 the family moved to Chipley.

In 1906 the Court consisted of 70 acres and was tenanted by Mr J.S.Lysaght. In 1919 it was taken over by Major Stobart who then died in 1935. It then stood empty until 1939 when a Dr Waterhouse took it over. He was a London mental specialist and used the building as a hospital. It was referred to as a Clinic of Psychotherapy. In the prospectus of 1939 it stated: "Nynehead Court provided all that was necessary for carrying out the different modern methods for treating neuroses, such as psychological analysis, treatment by suggestion, physiotherapy etc. Convulsive shock treatment and continued narcosis, etc in suitable cases. Occupational therapy was provided in workshops, specially arranged for all kinds of handicraft including carpentry, basket-work and wool-crafts. Tennis, bowls, gardening, excursions and other distractions suitable for each particular case were also provided". There was a home farm run in conjunction with the establishment where patients could avail themselves of the opportunity of learning farming.

In 1940 the Nynehead Court estate was sold to Colonel Kleinwort. At the end of the war it became the property of Kleinwort and Benson. Then in 1948 it was bought by Mrs Janson Potts who moved into the house. In 1960 it was transferred to a limited company of which Mrs Janson Potts was a member. Through her generosity it was registered as a charity and then became a retirement home with nursing facilities.

The Friends of the Elderly took it over in 1991. This charity spent a considerable amount of money on the house and gardens in order to return it to its original glory. The house then became privately owned in 1999 when it was purchased by Adam Marneros, who continued to run it as a residential home for the elderly. It was during the time that he owned the house that new pillars were built at the entrance near the road.

It was then purchased by the Stepping Stone Group in 2004 and the house was further improved. The Stepping Stone Group own 5 establishments i.e. Nynehead Court; Gittisham Hill House, Honiton; The Courtyard, Warminster; Lyme Bay Court, Lyme Regis; and a house at Somerton.

The Stepping Stone group sold all the properties except Nynehead and in 2009 they started developing independent living units etc. and reinstate the Orangery. The Residential Home is now called Nynehead Care.


Nynehead Court gardens are nationally recognised by English heritage as being important. The gardens, registered as Grade II*, are one of only six such gardens within the Borough of Taunton Deane. The other gardens are Cothelstone Manor (II), Hatch Court (II), Hestercombe Gardens (I), Poundisford (II) and Wellington Park (II).

The landscape park was laid out in the 18th century, although major landscaping works were carried out in the early 19th century. The parkland was crossed by serpentine loops of the River Tone, running west to east. The loops were originally part of a much larger man made lake measuring 1200 yards long by 45 yards wide but this has become silted up over the last two centuries.

Jeboult wrote in 1873 in his book on West Somerset: “Passing down through a beautifully wooded valley, it (the river Tone) reaches Nynehead, where art, stepping into its assistance, has converted this modest brook into a fine and handsome river. This was done, we are informed, by the esteemed owner of Nynehead (Squire Sanford) in his liberal endeavours to help the poor and to find labour for them during a time when work was scarce in the neighbourhood. We have seen large flocks of wild duck and other birds in these beautiful ponds. And here the Tone Regatta takes place and diving and swimming matches and other aquatic amusements are held. It's waters are crossed by a handsome stone bridge and the effect of the whole scene is very beautiful.” In the parkland is the three arched bridge which originally carried the driveway to the house. The Tone now flows under only one of the three arches but the contours of the surrounding fields show where a beautiful sheet of water with cascades enhanced the area. The lower cascade still exists, although modified at a later date for the production of hydro-electric power.

In the 1830s the Grand Western Canal crossed the southern extremity of the park. This was followed within a decade by the Bristol and Exeter, later Great Western Railway. Both the canal and railway crossed the line of the carriage drive. Edward Ayshford Sanford, son of the bridge-building William Sanford, could not prevent their progress but he could ensure that their intrusion complemented his landscape.

The centre piece of the garden on the south side of the house is the ‘partaire’, a complex pattern of low box hedges which was created in about 1850. It was certainly not there in 1837-9 as a drive crosses its site from east to west; but by 1885 the square within which the knot was planted is clearly shown (see the 1885 25” scale Ordinance Survey map). So by the time the Ordinance surveyors were at work, at least the layout existed. The influence of the Le Notre is evident in the garden. The Sanfords would certainly have been familiar with Versailles. It is probable that the French Box cuttings were brought back from France. The design was probably copied from Versailles.

The mediaeval house would have had a garden providing herbs and vegetables as well as flowers. In a survey of the Court in 1788 it was recorded that there were ‘pleasure grounds’ as well as gardens. The kitchen gardens were at Home Farm to the west of the Court.

In the nineteenth century plants and trees were bought from well-known nurserymen and exotic species from abroad were introduced. Within the grounds there are over 110 trees with at least 45 species represented, both deciduous and conifers.

Amongst the trees are: Lucombe Oak which attracts hornets and wasps because of the sap; Gingkos (maiden hair trees) were originally brought from China in 1758 but it is thought that the Gingkos in the Court were planted in the early part of the 19th century.

The large Spanish Chestnut trees were probably planted in about 1788. In the 1770's the silk industry flourished and it was at this time that a Mulberry tree was planted in the grounds. The Tulip tree in front of the house was probably planted in the mid 19th century. It is marked on a map of 1837 but is not shown in 1792, so it is likely to be of the late 18th century, which would agree with its size.

As one approaches the present entrance to the house, on the right are the remains of an Orangery. This was a building in which citrus fruits were grown and camellias over-wintered. It was heated by a furnace outside the rear of the building providing hot air through ducts in the floor and walls. The holes along the top of the rear wall were the flues. The orangery was certainly there in 1869 as it was used for church services while the church underwent major restoration. In a picture of 1892 it showed a two storey building at the end where the brick floor area now stands. It is reported that the iron framework was still in position in 1946 and at that time it had a tiled floor but all the glass had been removed. The orangery was rebuilt in 2010 as part of the new development and is now a community/meeting room with a small kitchen and toilets.

To the south east of the house there is a pinetrum of 1.2 acres which is surrounded by a high brick wall. The pinetrum was established in the nineteenth century for growing specimen conifers. Over time many of the trees were removed but it was replanted in 2005.

With acknowledgements to:

  • Notes on the History of Nynehead Court by Ruth Whitaker
  • The Book of Nynehead
  • Sanford Papers