Montacute House

Montacute House was built in about 1598 by Sir Edward Phelips, whose family had lived in the Montacute area since at least 1460, first as yeomen farmers before rising in status.[6] The site was bought from the Cluniac Montacute Priory by Thomas Phelips and passed to his grandson, also called Thomas, who started planning the house, but died before it was built and left the completion of the work to his son Edward.[7] Edward Phelips was a lawyer who had been in Parliament since 1584. He was knighted in 1603[8] and a year later became Speaker of the House. James I appointed him Master of the Rolls and Chancellor to his son and heir Henry, Prince of Wales.[9] Phelips remained at the hub of English political life, and his legal skills were employed when he became opening prosecutor during the trial of the Gunpowder Plotters.[10]

Sir Edward’s choice of architect is unknown,[a] although it has been attributed to the mason William Arnold, who was responsible for the designs of Cranborne Manor and Wadham College, Oxford, and had worked at Dunster Castle, also in Somerset.[12] Dunster has architectural motifs similar to those found at Montacute.[13] Phelips chose as the site for his new mansion a spot close by the existing house, built by his father. The date work commenced is undocumented, but is generally thought to be c. 1598/9, based on dates on a fireplace and in stained glass within the house. The date 1601, engraved above a doorcase, is considered to be the date of completion.[14]

Sir Edward Phelips died in 1614, leaving his family wealthy and landed; he was succeeded by his son, Sir Robert Phelips, who represented various West Country constituencies in Parliament. Robert Phelips has the distinction of being arrested at Montacute. A staunch Protestant, he was subsequently imprisoned in the Tower of London as a result of his opposition to the “Spanish Match” between the Prince of Wales and a Catholic Spanish Infanta.[b]

The family’s fame and notoriety were to be short-lived. Subsequent generations settled down in Somerset to live the lives of county gentry, representing Somerset in Parliament[c] and when necessary following occupations in the army and the church.[d]

Montacute House

Montacute House

Montacute House

10 Comments CherryPie on Jun 1st 2017

10 Responses to “Montacute House”

  1. Hels says:

    Amazing family! Edward Phelips was a lawyer, Parliamentarian, knighted, Speaker of the House, Master of the Rolls etc etc. But I had no idea that Phelips became opening prosecutor during the Gunpowder Plot trial.

    Many thanks. I will create a link straight away

  2. The Yum List says:

    The flowers lining the fence are stunning.

  3. Sigrun says:

    Oh, now I have found other pictures. Thanks.


  4. I like that folly in the garden.

  5. Such an interesting post and super photos. Montacute House is another place I would just love to visit :)