If Walls Could Talk

Published: 17/02/2023 By Stephen Hennessey

'Neglect not thy opportunities' is carved alongside the Strode family of Barrington coat of arms on this historically significant house in Martock. Stephen Hennessey and the vendors share its fascinating heritage.

When the writers Fiona Sampson and Peter Salmon were looking for a house with a literary history they could not believe their luck to find this astonishing Tudor House, not only built in the late 15th Century by Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII, and a literary translator herself but visited by and written about by Daniel Defoe in the early 18th century. Originally the town Court House – the stocks outside the church opposite attest to its first purpose, it was later sold to William Strode of Barrington who turned it into a schoolhouse. The Strode coat of arms and motto can still be seen above the door, as well as the cheery 17th-century motivational speech, ‘Neglect not thy opportunities’.

Under Strode, Court House became a school ‘for the breeding up of youth in the fear of God and good literature.’ A ‘Charles Darby’ was the first schoolmaster, at one time with more than 100 pupils attending.  His friend. Daniel Defoe visited the school in 1725 and wrote about it in his A Tour Thro' the Whole Island of Great Britain, expressing his astonishment at the incomprehensible Somerset accents of the students. The Court House still carries evidence of the presence of the 17th-century students – holes in the window sills for marbles, and a great deal of graffiti carved into the stone – a child named William being particularly active.

The next record is in the 1860s, when the property, now known as ‘Church House’, become home to a variety of activities, The Martock Penny Bank, a Lending Library, and the Temperance Society. In later years, it was used by Scouts, Guides, Brownies, the Martock Women’s Institute, Martock Young Farmers, and a school again during WWII. In the 1970s, Church House was sold into private ownership, and reverted to being ‘The Court House’. Substantial works have restored the property to a unique character home, with Tudor fittings throughout, including medieval stained glass and linenfold woodwork. Despite its lofty heritage, Court House has a beautiful domestic feel, and is a place where one can truly feel at home, while discovering more and more lovely features that can only come with over 600 years of history and preserved by its Grade II* status.

It has certainly been a productive home for Fiona and Peter, with each of them publishing acclaimed books while living in it, while the church bells have appeared in the background of more than one of their BBC radio appearances. ‘What we are hoping for,’ says Fiona, ‘is someone who will love it as much as we do.’It truly is a place to inspire you – remember – ‘Neglect not thy opportunities…’

Court House is offered for sale by Stephen Hennessey of Symonds & Sampson in Yeovil with a Guide of £1,250,000. 01935 423526
Freehold (Council Tax Band C, EPC Exempt)