Norrington Manor OS.184 (ST966238)
East of SHAFTESBURY, isolated in the hills below Tisbury at Alvediston.
The 14c hall and vaulted undercroft survive as does the vaulted porch and doorway with a kings head corbel. The exterior features three transom windows.
The house is thought to have been built by John Gawen who purchased the property in 1377. The Gawens were one of England’s oldest families being the ‘Gawaines’ from the times of King Arthur. The estate was bought by the Wyndhams in 1658 and they initiated some rebuilding.
By Michael Ford
Alvediston The small but attractive village of Alvediston rests tranquilly at the upper end of the Ebble Valley and it was in such quiet valleys that the old Celtic families and names lingered long after the Saxon and Norman conquests. One such family were the Gawnes who lived in the mediaeval Norrington Manor House.
It is said by John Aubrey that they lived here for '450 and odd years' up until 1658 and also mentions that the house was built during the reign of Richard II. He also suggests that the name may have come from Sir Gawain, one of the legendary knights of King Arthurs Round Table.
The manor house was probably constructed on an older foundation and was situated at Norrington. It was completed some time after 1377 and it still stands today; albeit parts dating to the 17th century.
Geoffrey Ashe believes that Gawain is more likely to have been a real person than many of the knights and he appears in a 13th century French romance, he is one of the knights in Geoffrey of Monmouth's The History of the Kings of Britain (1135 - 1140) and more reliably in 1125 William of Malmesbury mentions the discovery of his burial place in Pembrokeshire during the time of William the Conqueror.
The church of St Mary holds another speculation that leads one to suggest a tomb of a knight during the late 14th century is possibly that of John Gawen. The Wyndhams took over the manor after 1658 and are shown by several monuments and memorials that date from 1688. The church itself though was rebuilt by T.H. Wyatt in 1866 and its earliest remaining architectural features are 17th century.
The Manor House which is newer can be found situated not far away from the church and is constructed mainly in brick which is unusual, as the area is more famed as 'stone country'. The house is 18th century with two storeys and a fine shell hood over the doorway. It is encircled by curving garden walls and was the last home of the Prime Minister, Sir Anthony Eden (1955-57) whose tomb now lies in the churchyard.
Alvediston is an unusual name and there is uncertainty as to its meaning and origin. The most popular belief is that Aelgeat's farm but others do not agree with this. The name of Trow Down, which lies in the parish has also caused some confusion, as in the 10th century it was called Trogan, which referred to 'the great hollow below the down' and the later forms are corruptions of this.