"...influx of French-speaking Huguenots.."
"...fined for 'bearing arms against the Parliament..."
"...one owner, Baker Broughton, was reputedly a 'hellraiser'..."
Bowlish is a small hamlet on the outskirts of the town of Shepton Mallet in Somerset UK.
From about 1450, the original sheep farm of about 60 acres was owned by a lesser arm of the Strode family. Their fortunes dramatically improved following an influx of French-speaking Huguenot weavers during the time of Henry VIII.
Bringing specialist skill which enabled the production of fine woollen cloth in England for the first time, the new business transformed the farm. The new dying, fulling and tentering production processes led to the evolution of the buildings in the hamlet from about 1550 onwards.
As a result, the fortunes of the Strode family dramatically improved such that they built two new family homes, the grandest of which is the 'Capital Messuage' or mansion that is Old Bowlish House.
Originally a Jacobean house built on a 'T' footprint and having a three gable-end frontage and stone-mullioned windows throughout, the principal rooms of the original Old Bowlish House included a large Hall with characteristic massive chimney piece, a Drawing Room and an intimate family Snug. There were also seven or eight bedrooms on three floors, all of which were for family use as most servants lived out.
Linking the rooms through three floors remains a massive oak stair with open scrollwork ballustrading, thought to have been made by John Bolton, who also carved the choir screen at Wadham College, Oxford, and the screens at nearby Crosscombe Church.
The front of the house was 'modernised' in the Palladian style during the time of George II, around 1735, with the Hall being split into Dining Room and Reception Hall.
The original family had a tempestuous time during the English Civil War, with the then owner, Thomas Strode, being fined for 'bearing arms against the Parliament'.
In the 18th century, the estate changed hands a number of times, went through bankruptcy and then a sustained period of wealth creation. One owner, Baker Broughton, was reputedly a 'hellraiser'.
Numerous 18th and early 19th century strikes meant that by 1820, the last woollen mill in Shepton had closed. The estate's fortunes revived a little during Victorian times as a maker of silk velvet cloth but, shortly after WW1, all manufacturing ceased and the estate was finally broken up.
During WW2, the house was sequestered by the Navy, who maintained Motor Torpedo Boat engines from all over the south of England in the safe town that was Shepton.
The present owners, the Keys family, have lived here since 2005 and have thoroughly and carefully renovated the house and gardens.