Bishops Court Receptions

History of Bishops Court

After the Norman Conquest much of the area around Wimborne was owned by the Crown and held by the Earls of Lancaster, Lincolnshire and Leicester. The Doomsday book records a Royal Manor of 45000 acres. This estate was divided into three and the knights fee of Shapwick was given to Peter de Champagne as a reward for his support to William at the Battle of Hastings. The village was named Shapwick Champayne and the manor was described as a large dwelling with three farms and a fishery generating an income of £800 per year.

The Manor of Shapwick came into the De La Lind Hussey (Husey, Husee) family through marriage into the families of Champayne and Tourney. The heiress of the Tourney family brought her considerable wealth to the Husseys and they acquired Shapwick Champayne in the 1370s. The manor stayed in the Hussey family for nearly 300 years until being sold by Joseph Hussey in the 1640s to Colonel William Wake.

The Wake family gave Bishops Court its present name being the birthplace of William in 1657, their only surviving son of five children, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 1715. Initially called Bishops House it eventually became known as Bishops Court and slack punctuation during modern times allows Bishops Court without the apostrophe!

In 1750 the heirs to the Archbishop sold Bishops House to the Hon. John Spencer who became Viscount Spencer in 1762. In 1773 the village of Shapwick including Bishops House was purchased by Henry Banks and once again became part of the Kingston Lacy Estate. During the tenancy of a Martin Thomas the original 16th century house was greatly extended in 1857, a fine example of Victorian indulgence?!

The Cave family farmed Bishops Court for over 100 years. The 1891 Census shows E W Cave as head of the family with his wife M and five children aged under 8. The Butler family resided for 30 years during which time the Estate was bequeathed to the National Trust on the death of Ralph Banks. The present tenant John Chappell took up the tenancy in 1998.


1. Hutchins 111 The History and Antiquities of Dorset
2. Dorset County History 1977
3. Lord Archbishop Wate by Lina Wate
4. Vernacular Buildings Survey National Trust Oct 89
5. Buildings Survey National Trust P Hammond Oct 2002