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Merley House

A Grade I Listed Building in Merley & Bearwood, Poole

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Latitude: 50.7845 / 50°47'4"N

Longitude: -1.9891 / 1°59'20"W

OS Eastings: 400864

OS Northings: 98321

OS Grid: SZ008983

Mapcode National: GBR 31T.MYD

Mapcode Global: FRA 67Q0.NWM

Entry Name: Merley House

Listing Date: 14 June 1954

Last Amended: 13 September 1995

Grade: I

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1275387

English Heritage Legacy ID: 412556

Location: Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole, BH21

County: Poole

Electoral Ward/Division: Merley & Bearwood

Traditional County: Dorset

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Dorset

Church of England Parish: Canford Magna

Church of England Diocese: Salisbury

Find accommodation in
Wimborne Minster

Listing Text


958-1/2/116 (South side)
14/06/54 Merley House
(Formerly Listed as:
Merley House, Flat Nos 1, 2 & 5-11


Formerly known as: Merley House HIGHER MERLEY LANE.
Country house, now museum and flats. 1752-1760. For Ralph
Willett. Wings added 1772. Altered c1805 for his heir John
Willett Adye. Wings demolished c1813. Various C20 alterations.
Red brick in Flemish bond with Portland stone dressings,
rendered to sides and garden front. Hipped slate roofs and
rendered ridge stacks. Modified double-pile plan.
Basement, 2 principal storeys and attic storey; 7-window
range. Slightly projecting 3-bay centre consists of 2
principal storeys only and is faced with Portland stone.
Double-leaf, 6-panel door approached by 6 stone steps with
fanlight, recessed in smooth rusticated projecting stone
surround with round-arched, key-blocked head, moulded cornice
and blocking cornice. Door is flanked by 15-pane sash windows
with Gibbs surrounds and moulded cornices.
First floor has attached portico of 3/4 Ionic columns and
full-length sash windows with moulded, round-arched heads, key
blocks and curved iron balconies. Swagged ornament above
central first-floor windows. Plaques with 'feet' above windows
either side. Columns bear entablature with pulvinated frieze
and pediment. Ground floor windows to outer bays have 15-pane
sashes and moulded stone surrounds. 6-pane attic windows with
similar surrounds.
Rusticated stone basement with pairs of windows either side of
centre which have key blocks; that to far left altered C19 to
tripartite windows. Rusticated quoins, stone storey band at
first-floor level and moulded stone cornice. Brick stone-coped
parapets broken by sections of balustrade above window, and
with stone pedestals either end and to middle of each section.
Lead rainwater and down pipes between outer windows with
initials RW above date 1756 to heads.
5-bay garden front has slightly recessed 3-bay centre with
central glazed garden doors approached by 4 stone steps;
moulded stone surround to door with segmental pediment on
console brackets. Ground-floor windows have 15-pane sashes and
moulded stone surrounds with pulvinated friezes and pediments.
12-pane sashes to first floor and 6-pane sashes to the attic
storey, all with moulded stone surrounds. Rusticated basement
has 4 windows with key blocks. End bays are defined by
rusticated quoins. First-floor stone storey band, moulded
stone cornice and rendered stone-coped parapet broken by
sections of balustrade above windows, with stone pedestals
either end. 3-bay side elevation with similar treatment; C19
rendered porch to left side elevation.
INTERIOR: hall has stone-paved floor and stone
bolection-moulded chimneypiece. Niche opposite front door
flanked by Roman Doric pilasters, which formerly held
Rysbrack's statue of Ralph Willett's uncle John Willett now in
Musee Royale des Beaux Arts, Brussels. Enriched plaster panel
mouldings to walls. Doric plaster frieze with metopes and
triglyphs. Compartmented Palladian-style enriched plaster
Staircase hall: stair has column newels with pendant acorns
below upper newels, balusters of columns on spiral fluted
urns. 2 to a tread, scrolled tread end and ramped wreathed
handrail veneered with lignum vitae. Walls have enriched
plaster planel mouldings and drops of fruit and flowers. Band
of Greek key ornament at first-floor level. Enriched rococo
plaster ceiling.
Morning room to south-east corner has eaved wood surround to
fireplace with swag of fruit and flowers to tablet. Ceiling
enriched with papier mache rococo ornament. Frieze with
alternating palmette and anthemion.
Old Library or Saloon in middle of south front has late C18
statuary marble chimneypiece with verde antico slips and large
tablet with Apollo attended by the 3 Graces and Muses.
Enriched plaster ceiling with sunburst and clouds to centre
enclosed by linked garlands of fruit and flowers and
attributes of the Arts to each corner in cartouches.
Drawing Room has similar chimneypiece with playing cherubs to
tablet. Important enriched plaster ceiling with Judgement of
Paris to large central oval panel in low relief and outer
scrolled border with allegorical figures to cartouches at each
cornice. Bracketed cornice and enriched frieze with continuous
floral garland upheld at intervals by alternating masks,
cherubs and seated lions.
Dining Parlour has painted wood Georgian-style chimneypiece
and enriched panel mouldings to walls. Panel above fireplace
has cartouche to top framing prancing horse. Door between hall
and this room is a later insertion, breaking panel moulding at
this point. Fine enriched plaster ceiling with Ceres pouring
wine for Bacchus in large central oval panel in low relief.
Cartouches in each corner with profile heads representing the
Seasons with appropriate attributes and signs of the Zodiac.
Swags of fruit and flowers to frieze upheld alternately by
baskets and urns. Cartouches to middle of each wall in frieze
with symbols of the 4 Elements: a dolphin for Water, an eagle
for Air, an ox for Earth and the Phoenix for Fire.
Large first-floor room above hall rises into attic storey and
has fine aspect with prospect of Wimborne Minster. Painted
wood chimneypiece with eaved surround, flanked by consoles,
convex frieze decorated with acanthus leaves and tablet with
swag of fruit and flowers. Enriched rococo plaster ceiling and
bracketed cornice. Brick vaulted basement.

The builder Ralph Willett was a prominent book collector. His
celebrated library was first housed in the Saloon, then in one
of the demolished wings added c1772. Original marble
chimneypiece to principal rooms were probably sold at same
time as Rysbrack statue in 1878. Present marble chimneypieces
are replacements and probably late C18. That to Dining Parlour
is almost certainly C20. The ground around the house has been
raised to partly conceal the basement, probably at the same
time as the front door was altered, possibly by John Nash (qv
stable block). Ground floor now houses a model museum; upper
floors have been converted into flats with exception of large
room over hall.
(RCHME: County of Dorset (South East): London: 1970-: 208-209;
Buildings of England: Pevsner N & Newman J: Dorset: London:
1972-: 129-130; English Life Publications Ltd, Derby: Merley
House and Model Museum (Guide Book): Derby: 1990-).

Listing NGR: SZ0086498321

This text is from the original listing, and may not necessarily reflect the current setting of the building.

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