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Langley House

In 1657, the manor of Langley Burrell was sold to Samuel Ashe of the Inner Temple, London. Samuel was the youngest son of James Ashe, a wealthy clothier from Westcombe, Somerset. His estate included a mansion house. On his death in 1708, the estate passed to his son, Joseph. It has been suggested that several years after his father's death, Joseph built a new house at Langley Burrell around 1711. However, the architecture of the present structure suggests a later date. The listing by Historic England proposes that construction was around 1780, whereas the recent Buildings of England volume on Wiltshire suggests a date 'after 1758'.

A new examination of estate accounts for this project suggests that the present house was built by Joseph's younger son, Rev Robert Ashe, who inherited the estate and the mansion in 1758. The date for the construction was 1766-9. The new house was more extensive than its forebear. Although the architectural plans have not survived the descriptions of various design elements have, including the dozens of windows, 'rustick quoins' and the columned doric doorcase 'finished with a pediment at top' that cost over £4. The detailed design also extended to its sumptuous furnishings. A partial room-by-room listing reveals that in the 'great room', these included several mahogany card tables, ten mahogany 'Gothick' back chairs with 'hollow'd' seats covered with 'crimson stuff damask'. Armchairs with footstools covered in the same damask. Crimson damask was also used in the voluminous curtains at the windows. Robert Ashe had an eye on other items his guests might need for their comfort. Also ordered for the room was 'a mahogany bucket..on a stand' with a sliding lead drawer to secure 'waste water'. This was a commode, a piece of furniture to allow Robert's guests to relieve themselves, although how discreetly this was managed in a room with others present is open to conjecture.

When Robert Ashe died in 1774, the house passed to his son, Robert, and, on his death in 1855, to his son, the somewhat stern and austere 'Squire' Robert Martyn Ashe. On inheriting Langley House, Robert Martyn demolished the parsonage, likely his former home, that stood next door to the mansion. It may be that he was seeking privacy and seclusion, and it has been suggested that not a single house or farm building is visible from Langley House. However, Robert Martyn did sometimes share his home with others. In 1863, the Prince of Wales was married. To celebrate the whole village assembled in front of the house to receive 'favours'. Later that evening, 'the lights shone bright', and the principal inhabitants and tenants of his estate had dinner in the dining room, where 'abundance and elegance graced the board.' 'The genial influence of champagne was not wanting.'

A little later, the diarist Francis Kilvert was a regular dinner guest at Langley House during the 1870s. Sometimes Kilvert described Robert Martyn Ashe during these occasions as 'agreeable', passing time with the old squire over a glass of madeira or port in front of the fire. On one occasion, in 1875 Ashe may have been out of sorts, mingling among dinner guests in the drawing room still dressed in a long grey dressing gown and eating dinner, woodcock which he had shot in Bird Marsh, at a small table set apart. Although, he later enjoyed a discussion with Kilvert on the 'prayer book dissenters' until 10.30.

Samuel Ashe, cousin of the house builder, made a childlike sketch of the three storied 5-windowed west front a few years later. The likeness of the house remains accurate today. The building is still privately owned and is grade II*

 

Langley House,
Swindon Road,
Langley Burrell

 

NGRef: ST 92862 75785
Historic England 1199409 

Nearby Points of Interest

Langley House Stable Block

The present Langley House was built in the 1760s to replace an earlier structure. The original stable block to the north of the house, dating from the seventeenth century, was retained. It was subsequently extended in the nineteenth century.

 

Langley House,
Swindon Road,
Langley Burrell

 

NGRef: ST 92916 75785
Historic England 1363837