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Emma 2

An archival article pertaining to Emma 2 filming locations.

Emma 2 Locations: Mapperton House

Jane Austen in Hardy Country - Mapperton House in Dorset has a starring role in a new film of Emma, and readers are invited to visit it.

By Anne Campbell Dixon
The Telegraph, 1996

The film Emma, which was released in cinemas across the country yesterday, is the latest in a flurry of Jane Austen screen adaptations. For the actors in such period dramas there is always the danger of being eclipsed by their sumptuous settings. In this case, my feeling is that the cast successfully compete with the magnificence of Stratfield Saye and Claydon House but are thoroughly upstaged by the Dorset locations, Mapperton and Evershot.

Mapperton (which appears as Randalls, the home of Mrs. Weston) is the quintessential English manor house. Even Pevsner, who could be sneering about vernacular architecture, wrote lyrically: "There can hardly be a more enchanting manorial group than Mapperton."

He is right: built entirely of tawny Ham Hill stone, the house, with its integral church, stables, barns and dovecot, glows serenely in the sunlight, seemingly untouched since the 17th century. As the home of the Earl and Countess of Sandwich, the manor-house is not normally open to the public, but a special opening has been arranged for Daily Telegraph readers next weekend.

Combined with a visit to the nearby village of Evershot (Emma's native Highbury in the film), this promises to provide a field day for literary enthusiasts, because Evershot is also Thomas Hardy country. Thinly disguised as Evershead, it is where the tragic wayfarer, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, stopped to have breakfast at a thatched cottage by the church, and later came upon her seducer-turned-preacher in a barn. Tess avoided the Sow-and-Acorn Inn (real name: The Acorn), but visitors in search of a good meal should ignore her example. Hardy's barn is thought to be that of the Old Manor, a handsome Queen Anne house which is now the home of the Earl of Sandwich's brother, Robert Montagu, and his wife, the artist Marzia Colonna.

Their offspring, unusually, were brought up with his legitimate children.

It may seem odd to have chosen a village in Dorset to stand in for Jane Austen's Highbury, Surrey, but the explanation is simple. No Surrey village today is as unchanged as Evershot, which needed little more than penned sheep and straw strewn over its road to turn the clock back 180 years.

Robert Montagu entered with enthusiasm into the project, lending his own house to be used as Mrs Goddard's school, and even auditioning for the part of butler. There is no real-life butler at Mapperton today, and although its panelled rooms with their strapwork plaster ceilings are beautiful and filled with treasures, they are not grand. This is essentially a comfortable, lived-in family home - though its families, past and present, are certainly more colourful than most.

The first Earl of Sandwich, who can be seen in portraits by Lely and Feliciano, was Charles II's first general-at-sea and the "My Lord" of Samuel Pepys's Diary - Pepys was the Earl's younger cousin and protégé. Thanks to the first Earl, Mapperton contains a marvellous collection of marine paintings by Samuel Scott and Van de Velde the Younger, who intrepidly sketched his battle scenes from a small boat in the thick of the action.

The third Earl was married to Elizabeth Wilmot, whose portrait is in the hall; she was the daughter of the Restoration rake and poet Lord Rochester, and her grandson, the 4th Earl, clearly inherited rakish tendencies. He can be seen, painted by Joshua Reynolds, in the drawing-room, beside a portrait of his mistress, Martha Ray, a staymaker's apprentice who became an opera singer; the musical 4th Earl (he played the kettledrum) was initially attracted by her voice, which he heard coming from the back of the staymaker's shop.

Their offspring, unusually, were brought up with his legitimate children. Poor Martha was eventually murdered, by a young clergyman she had spurned, at the entrance to Covent Garden Opera House.

Morgan men were generally named Robert or John.

Although the 4th Earl is best known today for having invented the sandwich, by calling for rare roast beef slapped between bread slices during a 24-hour gaming session, he was also a distinguished statesman and sponsor of Captain Cook in his discovery of the Sandwich Islands (now Hawaii). The exotic bird paintings on the staircase are mementos of this historic voyage.

The present Earl's father, Victor Montagu, bought Mapperton in 1955. As South Dorset's MP, he disclaimed his titles in the hope of continuing his career in the House of Commons. He was only the second owner to have bought, rather than inherited, the manor; his predecessor, Ethel Labouchère, who lived there from 1919 until her death, is gratefully remembered for restoring the house's renaissance ceilings.

From 1166 to 1919 Mapperton was occupied by only four families, all linked through the female line: of these, we must thank the Morgans and Brodrepps for the house we see today. Morgan men were generally named Robert or John, which would be confusing if they did not divide so neatly into hotheads (John) and "cold" heads (Robert). In 1425, Robert Morgan was granted a "bonnet patent" by Henry VI, allowing him to keep his hat on in the king's presence, because of the "diverse infirmities which he hathe in his hedde". A similar patent was granted to a later Robert by Henry VIII.

Two John Morgans were tried for murder - the first, in 1533, was pardoned on the grounds of self-defence. His grandson was less lucky: he was hanged for murdering his brother-in-law in 1580. Between these two killers came a third Robert, who built the Tudor house.

The upper level was laid out as an Italian garden between 1919 and 1927.

After the second murder the manor passed to a Morgan niece, Mary, and her husband, Richard Brodrepp. It is recorded that a Richard Brodrepp rebuilt all but the north wing of the house in the 17th century, but the question is, which Richard? Mary's husband, or their grandson, who inherited the estate in 1660? The historians cannot agree - except in saying that the result is idiosyncratic and delightful.

Mapperton's other claim to fame is its hidden valley gardens, which are stunning. The upper level was laid out as an Italian garden between 1919 and 1927. Centred on a large fountain pool, it has intricate topiary, a pergola, orangery, pretty urns and ornaments, and stone summer-houses thoughtfully provided with fireplaces. This, too, has been a movie location - for the film of Rose Tremain's Restoration.

Below the Fountain Court is a second formal area of clipped yews, flanking oblong pools, overlooked by a 17th-century garden-house; then there is another drop into a wilder area, densely planted with choice trees and shrubs by Victor Montagu.

Like her father-in-law before her, Caroline Sandwich is a notable gardener. As chairwoman of the Dorset Gardens Trust, she campaigns for the provision of maintenance grants for historic gardens. Her own garden richly deserves its Grade II listing on English Heritage's garden register.

Getting there... Mapperton House and Gardens are just off the B3163, between Beaminster and Evershot.