Astonishingly this true gem of Wimborne could easily be missed in a visit to the delightful market town if you didn’t know about it! Hidden amongst 13 acres of tranquil gardens, on the edge of Wimborne is the enchanting Deans Court.
There is great depth to the history of this house as the ownership passed from the Saxon Church to a family of adventurers, politicians, churchmen and soldiers.
The origin of the grade I listed building comes from the 8th century when a home was built for Saint Cuthburh, the Abbess of the nunnery. By the middle of the 10th century the building became home to whomever was the head of the Wimborne Minster, and continued to be so until the 16th century, when it became a private dwelling as chantries were dissolved by an Act of Parliament.
In 1548 Deans Court was granted to John Hanham, MP for Poole, and since then it has been home to successive generations of the Hanham family. Having been in the Hanham family for nearly 500 years, Deans Court is currently run by William and Ali Hanham. Today the estate hosts a wedding venue, vintage lifestyle shop and health-food café, holiday cottages & houses. Additionally, organic produce grown in a walled kitchen garden and there are tours of the house and ancient gardens.
In 1725, the fine redbrick structure was built on the foundation of this original nunnery building and around the Saxon hall, with some Renaissance stained glass still surviving from the earlier house. The north and east facades are of elegant early Georgian brick, while to the south and west is a Victorian extension built in 1868.
In this ancient setting lies 13 acres of peaceful gardens, with the river Allen meandering down one side and a picturesque Saxon fishpond. Mature specimen trees stand tall, while lawns and rose borders frame this idyllic picture. There is an apiary – where hives of honeybees are kept, a herb garden, and the first kitchen garden in the country to be accredited as Organic by the Soil Association. The long ‘crinkle crankle’ wavy brick wall, enclosing this kitchen garden, is believed to have been built by French Napoleonic War prisoners. There is also an apple orchard where wildflowers abound and a beautiful Palladian bridge. A true horticultural paradise.
In a converted 1930’s garage is the sumptuous Squash Court Cafe. A mixture of vintage and modern design provide a quirky backdrop for simple, healthy and delicious food, all homemade and mostly created with produce grown in the kitchen garden, just a wheel barrows push down the drive. Taking inspiration from the seasons and always provide gluten free, vegetarian and vegan options. They have created a little oasis of calm in the heart of Wimborne, with plenty of outside seating in the summer and a cosy, warm environment to snuggle up in for the winter. With free parking too!
The home store sits opposite the cafe, in an original 1930’s Squash Court. It offers a mix of old and new products, hand selected from independent makers, designers and suppliers across the world, vintage sourced from English markets and French brocantes. It is a joy to pursue the home wares, clothes, candles, organic beauty products, lifestyle and cookery books and textiles and materials.
The Home Store is a very much a destination. It’s the perfect place to whittle away an afternoon browsing, and our cafe opposite means a trip here can be a real occasion – very child and dog friendly with a courtyard for outside eating between the shop and cafe.Owned and run by Ali Hanham, the shop was first opened in 2012. Ali’s love for decorating and interiors has led her to be featured in books and magazines, including House & Garden, Homes & Gardens, Country Living, and recently, The World of Interiors.
Throughout the year, Deans Court hosts the most magical and memorable weddings set in idyllic, semi wild gardens. The marquee overlooks the 8th century lake, where Saxon monks fished. Today, the venue retains a romantic, rural atmosphere. Stunning venue, delectable food & drink, beautiful flowers and cosy accommodation are all attentively managed. We recommend you look at their weddings gallery.
There is frequently something inspiring and interesting taking place at Deans Court. Examples from their website include:
Public Openings and Private Tours – The house & grounds are open to the public by guided tour only.
Garden Open Days (NGS) – Monday 21 May, Tuesday 19 June (11am – 5pm). Admission £4.00, children free.
Fishing – The River Allen, one of England’s most unspoilt chalk streams runs through the estate. The stream holds a strong wild brown trout population and is occasionally stocked. The Mayfly hatch is particularly good, and the river is open for Grayling in the winter. Generally best fished by wading, with varied deep & shallow water. Upstream dry fly & nymph, catch & release.
Deans Court is a truly remarkable hidden gem. If you explore just only one piece of this amazing jigsaw – you will leave feeling enriched!