This is a story about a rise, a fall and a slow spiral upwards. The Ashley family has been documented for over a thousand years. The powerful and successful Ashley-Cooper family came about mid 17th century. To mark this upsurge it was decided to build a mansion in a 5500 acre park near what is now known as Wimborne St Giles.
Construction began in 1651. The house was built quadrangular and, when completed, the gardens were developed. A large serpentine lake is fed by the River Allen. A wide avenue of beeches was laid down (now very much mature) and the formal gardens and a grotto were added.
A painting of the house in 1862 shows that it was crenulated all the way round but 100 years later almost all of the crenulations were dismantled.
The family prospered and the house was well maintained, but slowly began to fade as we neared more modern times. In World War I the house was used as a hospital and in WWII it became a school. The slide had started.
By the turn of the present century the house was in a bad way and the incumbent Ashley Cooper was making a valiant but doomed attempt at recovery. The Earl then married a woman of whom his two boys disapproved.
Nick Ashley Cooper looked at the situation, accepted his older brother would eventually inherit, so he packed his bags and became a dance music DJ in New York. Then tradegy struck hard. First his father was murdered and then his elder brother died. He found himself in possession of and Earldom and a run down house.
Pulling himself up by his bootstraps, ably supported eventually by his new wife, the decision was taken to try to properly restore the house. His success is ongoing but palpable. Much of the house has been restored and eventually it is intended to open overnight accommodation for visitors.
Meanwhile the lucky ones can visit the house - with the Tapestry Room, North & South Drawing Rooms, the Library and Stone Hall already available to the public through staging weddings, conferences and concerts. The grounds are used throughout the year to host a number of events, including a 4 day Colourfest and the popular Grand Shaftesbury Run through the grounds.
St Giles House