Student volunteer Anna explores the Great Chalfield Manor in Melksham. Photographs of the Manor are held within our Archive.
Great Chalfield Manor and the connecting Church were built by Thomas Tropenell c.1465 as a new estate to show off wealth as a member of the landed gentry, making money as a clothier (someone who makes or sells clothing). It was built on the site of an earlier fortified house, with traces remaining evident today through the bases of two towers visible. The new Manor House, the fashionable country house of the Medieval period, had the Hall set in the middle, with symmetrical wings either side of it, unusual for the period. Nevertheless, the general layout is typical for the Medieval country house, with a courtyard, kitchen, and servants quarters. Initially, Great Chalfield Manor was surrounded by a moat, but little of it survives today. What does survive, however, near the entrance to the Hall, is a likeness of Tropnell on the wall, shown with 5 fingers and a thumb, a symbol that used to portray greed.
Over time, there were various owners who all changed the Manor to their taste and currebt style. In 1550, the house passed to the Eyre family, after the marriage of Ann Tropenell to John Eyre. It was in the Eyre family for three generations until Sir John Eyre sold it to Sir Richard Gurney, Lord Mayor of London, in 1631.
Skipping forward some time, it passed eventually to Robert Neale during the 19th Century, who altered the house dramatically, including converting the Great Hall into the farmhouse in 1837 and reducing the overall size of the house, but some felt that its original character was lost. In 1878, George Fuller of Neston Park acquired it. The family restored and furnished the Manor between 1905 and 1911, including a garden design to reflect what the Medieval layout would have been. However, during the Second World War, Robert Fuller, George Fuller’s son, gave Great Chalfield Manor and Garden to the National Trust, on condition that his ancestors may still live in it (currently this is his grandson, Robert Floyd and his family).
Today, the house is Grade I listed, including the barn, while the gardens are Grade II listed. Because of its aethetic and history, it has been used in a variety of historical films and TV shows, including, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’, ‘Wolf Hall’, ‘Poldark’, and ‘Wives and Daughters’. Despite its filming use, it is open to the public with guided tours provided by the currebt residents.