Mompesson House
Mompesson House

A massive oak staircase is the centrepiece of this Queen Anne house located in the peaceful enclave of the Cathedral Close, opposite Salisbury's historic cathedral.
Elegant ground floor doorways
Elegant ground floor doorways

History

Mompesson House was begun in the last years of the 17th century by Sir Thomas Mompesson, MP for Salisbury, and finished by his son Charles, MP for the 'rotten borough of Old Sarum. The house was finished in 1701 and you can see Charles Mompesson's initials on water downpipes.

From the Mompesson family the house passed by marriage to the Longueville family, and eventually to the Townshend family. One of the Townshends was popular artist Barbara Townshend. In the 19th century judges at the Assiize Courts stayed at Mompesson House.

On one occasion pupils of the Cathedral School were playing cricket on Choristers Green and someone hit a ball through a Mompesson House window. The judge in residence put the fear of punishment into the schoolboys, but then relented and agreed to pay for nets on the cricket pitch out of his own pocket, to avoid any future damage to the house!

In 1952 it was purchased from the Church of England and given to the National Trust. It has been restored and presented as it would have looked later in the 18th century, after the plasterwork decoration had been added to the original design.

The house stands 2 storeys high, with pale brown Chilmark stone and ashlar quoins in typical Queen Anne style.

The interiors are an stylish mix of elegant plasterwork and fine furniture. One of the prize pieces of furniture is an 18th century dressing table by Hepplewhite. There are also displays of silver, porcelain from Derby and Bow, and stumpwork embroidery.

Mompesson was used as one of the major locations for the 1995 film of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, where it served as the set for Mrs Jennings' London townhouse. Look for the Turnbull Collection of 18th century drinking glasses. Behind the house is a small walled garden with lavender walks, roses, and a pergola to enjoy views of the colourful herbaceous borders.

Visiting

Mompesson House is very easy to find. It is well signposted, but you don't really need the signs. Just head for the Cathedral Close and you will immediately see the house, notable for its cream-coloured stonework. Visitors are free to explore, but there are volunteer stewards in many of the rooms. The decoration is elegant, and understated rather than opulent.