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pythouse estate

Pythouse Estate History

Pytte House Kitchen Garden

Pythouse Gardens: Peace and Traquility

Just outside Tisbury, the original Pythouse once belonged to the Abbess of Shaftesbury, who sold it to the Bennett family. John Benett, no relation, built two subsequent houses at the turn of the century.

He rebuilt the house in 1802 as the gracious neo-Grecian house it is today, but very nearly lost it in the violence of the Swing riots of 1830, which swept the country, as desperate agricultural labourers blamed landowners, and the industrialisation of farms, for their hardships. Disaffected workers fought a pitched battle with Hindon Yeomanry Cavalry at Pythouse, Benett was knocked unconscious, one rioter was shot dead and another 29 taken prisoner and conveyed to Fisherton Gaol. Benett rode behind them and wouldn't let them stop for water.

A farm labourer who witnessed their journey later wrote: "We had to get our farm horses and wagons and take them to Salisbury - and the blood did trickle out of the wagons the whole way to Salisbury. When we got to Blackhorse at Chilmark they did cry out for summat to drink, poor fellows, but the cavalry wouldn't let them have nothing. It was awful cold night and they were most shramm'd with the frost and some on `em couldn't wag a bit. When we got to Salisbury we took one load to 'firmary and t'others to jail." Landlord of the Boot Inn, Ron Turner, thinks it's one of these poor souls - possibly the blacksmith also named Turner who was later transported for life - that has returned to haunt his pub. "A lot of people feel something strange," he recounts. "The glass on the clock has shattered twice so we don't bother to repair it any more and the Jubilee trophy exploded one night."

Pythouse has its own macabre tale in the downfall of Molly Peart, a chambermaid who murdered her baby and gained her footnote in history as the last woman to be publicly hanged in this country. Her mortal remains were eventually returned to Pythouse and her coffin placed in the wine cellar. Tradition grew that she would haunt the place if she was ever moved, but John Benett's great grandson Mad Jack, ignored the warning and had her moved to Brighton. Strange noises were heard in the night and misfortunate befell the family. Molly was quickly returned to her vault so the whole house could rest in peace.

If the romantic ruin is haunted at all, it is surely by the spirit of Lady Blanche Arundell who defended its walls against the parliamentarians during the Civil War. Eventually she surrendered, but her husband was determined to win it back and laid siege to it for 10 long months, but rendered it uninhabitable by blowing up the keep.

Now it is run by English Heritage and visited by royalists and republicans alike. Tisbury likes to recycle buildings.--Tony Bishop



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Copyright 2012-Updated 19 September, 2012