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Dorset Map

When Sir Walter Raleigh was granted the lease to Old Sherborne Castle by Elizabeth I in 1592 he set about trying to improve the old medieval castle.

This proved too expensive, so instead in 1594 he decided to replace what had originally been a hunting lodge with the rectangular building that now forms the core of the house.

In 1617, after Raleigh was accused of treason and executed by James I, the property was purchased by the diplomat Sir John Digby, whose descendants own it to this day. He added four wings to the house giving it an H-shaped ground plan.

After the Civil War the old castle was partially demolished, and what had up to then been known as Sherborne Lodge acquired the name Sherborne Castle.

In 1787 an extension was built on the west side to provide more bedrooms and improved staff accommodation.

For information on opening times, admission prices, etc. please see the official site detailed below.

In 1753, the sixth Lord Digby, employed a young unknown landscape gardener by the name of Lancelot 'Capability' Brown to build a lake between the old and new castles and to remodel the grounds.

The ruins of the old castle became a romantic backdrop to the view, enhanced by a folly erected in 1755-6.

Given how closely the two buildings are associated, and how the relationship between them is key to the layout of the grounds, it seems very odd that when you are standing by the locked door that leads through to the Old Castle's ticket office, you know that you have to travel about a mile by road to get the other side; particularly when English Heritage members get a discount on garden only tickets.

It seems strange that they can't come up with some sort of joint ticketing arrangement.

Unusually, in this day and age, photography is not allowed in the house.

The interior is interesting, if slightly unsettling. In the wings I couldn't figure out if the rooms were slightly too long or slightly too narrow. With the furniture of necessity being pushed to one side to allow for the free flow of visitors, the overall impression was of a set of interconnecting well furnished corridors, rather than a comfortable living space.

The rooms are better proportioned in the central core and in the 1787 extension, but it is difficult to imagine living here.