Dunshay Manor



Dunshay Manor breathes history, lying hidden in its own hollow a couple of miles from the Dorset coast. This ancient house received an Arts & Crafts refurbishment in the 1900s, giving it a friendly, open feel. Corfe Castle appears across the fields and the Swanage Steam Railway passes close by.

Free public Open Days: 7-8 September 2024


  • Dogs AllowedDogs Allowed
  • CotCot
  • Fire or StoveFire or Stove
  • Open SpaceOpen Space
  • Logs availableLogs available
  • Parking AvailableParking Available
  • BathBath
  • DishwasherDishwasher
  • MicrowaveMicrowave
  • ShowerShower
  • Washing MachineWashing Machine

Beds 2 Double 2 Twin 1 Single

4 nights from
£828 equivalent to £23.00 per person, per night

A perfect Dorset manor house

The manor of Dunshay dates back to the early 13th century, when Alice Briwere gave its marble for the columns in Salisbury Cathedral; more recently, the local stone also inspired renowned sculptor Mary Spencer Watson (1913-2006), who spent her life here. 

Today’s house began life as a simple farmhouse in the 16th century and was extended in the 17th-century by the Dollings family - a fine lead hopper head dated 1642 records John and Anne Dolling’s time here. Later let as a farm, a notable resident was Benjamin Jesty, who moved here in 1797 and was the first to use cow pox to vaccinate against small pox (even if Edward Jenner later took the credit).

Home of the Spencer Watson family

Dunshay was rescued from dilapidation in the 1900s by local architect Philip Sturdy, who gave its interiors an Arts and Crafts feel. In 1923, it became the home of George and Hilda Spencer Watson and their daughter Mary. George was a renowned society painter, Hilda an astonishing mime and dance artist. As a girl, Mary roamed across the Dorset fields and cliffs, as you can too. We were honoured when Mary bequeathed Dunshay to Landmark, and our gentle refurbishment seeks to evoke the Spencer Watsons’ time here.

Dr James Fox at Dunshay Manor

Art historian, writer and broadcaster Dr James Fox and his family stayed at Dunshay Manor. Join him as he opens the doors to its fascinating history.

Watch video

Drone video

Floor Plan


5 stars
4 stars
3 stars
2 stars
1 star

Independent feedback based on 57 verified reviews.

Filter reviews
Map & local info

Dunshay Manor is tucked in a pocket of rolling countryside, a few miles from the edge of the Dorset coast. With areas of natural beauty all around, there are plenty of picturesque villages and local markets to explore.

Visit Corfe Castle, easily accessible from Corfe Castle station, and wander through one thousand years of history, shaped by warfare. From here, no trip is complete without a trip on the steam train at Swanage Railway. Alternatively, enjoy a walk or cycle ride through the Isle of Purbeck, celebrating the famous local stone that dominates the history and building of Dunshay Manor.

The scenic Swanage Bay has sandy beaches and is the most easterly town on the Jurassic Coast and iconic chalk shelves of ‘Old Harry Rocks.’ Close by, in Studland, the Pig on the Beach is an ideal place to break for a meal. And if one steam train trip wasn’t enough, you can hop back on and travel to other surrounding towns, including Harman’s Cross and Wareham.  

For a greater sense of hustle and bustle, Wareham is full of quaint coffee shops, stalls overflowing with local produce and a farm shop also recommended by Country Living magazine, called The Salt Pig. Moreover, on Saturdays Wareham Quay Market sells a kaleidoscopic variety of vegetables, flowers, fresh fish, BBQ meats, cheeses, collectibles and more.

For other short day trips from the Manor, Kimmeridge Bay is not far, while Lulworth Cove is a popular spot on the Jurassic Coast and speckled with rockpools in low tide.

Discover local walks for dogs with our friends at, the dog walks community.

Please Note: The Landmark Trust does not take any responsibility and makes no warranties, representations or undertakings about the content of any website accessed by hypertext link. Links should not be taken as an endorsement of any kind. The Landmark Trust has no control over the availability of the linked pages.
Clear directions
Essential info
What you need to know about this building
  • Yes. You are welcome to bring up to two dogs. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if you have an assistance dog, for which there is no charge.
  • Via a track from the main road.
  • The nearest mainline railway station is Wareham at approximately 8 miles from Dunshay Manor. During certain times of the year the Swanage Heritage Line runs trains from Wareham to Corfe Castle and then on to Harmans Cross, less than ½ mile from Dunshay Manor.
  • Yes, there is parking for four cars.
  • The building is heated by oil central heating. There are multi-fuel stoves in the sitting room and dining room.
  • Logs may be purchased and delivered under a private arrangement. Further details will be provided with your booking confirmation.
  • To check up-to-date mobile network coverage in the area, visit* Due to the location and structure of many of our buildings, signal strength may differ to those indicated.
  • The kitchen is fully equipped with all plates, cutlery, fridge etc. There is also an cooker, freezer and microwave.
  • There are 3 shower rooms and 1 bathroom.
  • No
  • Yes, there is a garden. 
  • Although Dunshay Manor is in a rural location, at times there is higher than usual background noise. 
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
Booking and Payment
  • If the weather is bad, please contact our booking office who will be able to tell you whether the Landmark is accessible. If the housekeeper can safely get to the building to prepare it then we consider that it is open and available for guests. However if we cannot undertake a changeover then we will do our utmost to transfer your stay to another Landmark, depending on what we have available. It may not be of a similar size or in the same part of the country as your original booking. If the building is accessible but the customer cannot travel due to poor weather in his/her local area then please be aware that Landmark will not provide a refund. However the customer may be able to claim on his/her own travel insurance. We recommend that all guests take out travel insurance when they first secure a booking.
  • We accept Maestro (if issued in the UK), Visa, MasterCard, direct transfer and sterling cheques drawn on a UK bank. Cheques should be made payable to the Landmark Trust except for Lundy stays and boat/helicopter tickets which should be payable to The Lundy Company Ltd. All payments must be in sterling.
  • The key arrangements will be included in the Further Infomation document which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • If your stay starts more than two months from the date you make the booking, you are required to pay a deposit of one third of the cost of your stay (or £100 per booking, if greater) at the time of booking. Camping on Lundy and The Bunk House at Llwyn Celyn must be paid for in full at the time of booking.
  • If you wish to cancel or change your booking, please contact our Booking Office on 01628 825925
  • At the moment we only accept payment in sterling.
  • Our housekeeper will leave the key in a suitable place, the details of which will be sent to you prior to your stay.
  • It depends. Some of our most popular Landmarks are booked up a long time in advance, but many can be booked at short notice. We will always have Landmarks free for the coming weekend so it’s always worth checking our availability list.
  • No, Landmarks are available to be booked for anyone.
  • No, all the information you need can be found on our website, although we’d like you to buy one anyway as it will be a pleasure to own!
Staying at a Landmark
  • Some of our Landmarks are suitable for people with disabilities or limited mobility. However, many Landmarks have steep or narrow staircases, uneven floors and thresholds, changes of level, low ceilings or beams, as well as indistinct colours on steps and in corridors. We recommend that you call Booking Enquiries on 01628 825925 if you would like to find out the suitability of a particular Landmark for anyone with a specific disability.  Further information on access when visiting Lundy can also be found here.
  • Yes, Landmarks are only available as self-catering accommodation. We do not offer bed and breakfast.
  • Landmark does not provide catering, but we can recommend Greycoat Lumleys who can arrange for expert and well-trained staff to cater for one evening or for your entire holiday. Their cooks and chefs are able to work with you to meet your specific requirements
  • You may bring up to two dogs to properties where dogs are allowed (please see specific property details for exemptions however dogs are not permitted on Lundy except assistance dogs). They must be kept off the furniture and under proper control. A charge of £20 per stay is made for each dog. Please contact booking enquiries if a registered assistance dog is supporting one of the guests, for which there is no charge.
  • Apart from two dogs (see above) no other pets are permitted.
  • Arrival is from 4pm and departure is by 10am.
  • We do not carry insurance for breakages. However we appreciate that accidents do sometimes happen. If you have a breakage during your stay, please let the housekeeper know and if appropriate we reserve the right to invoice you accordingly.
  • Yes, most of our Landmarks are perfect for children, with gardens to play in and secret places to discover. Our furniture is surprisingly robust and we positively encourage families to stay. However, some of our buildings may not be suitable for small children; for example, some of them have steep or uneven spiral staircases. We recommend that you call the Booking Enquiries team if you would like to find out the suitability of any of our Landmarks for young children.
  • Unfortunately, most of our Landmarks are not licensed for weddings. However, you may get married on Lundy.
  • All our larger Landmarks are perfect for gatherings of family or friends. You may invite an additional two guests to visit you during your stay, however they must not stay overnight. This is very important because our fire regulations specifically note the maximum number of people in any one building. In addition our properties are prepared, furnished and equipped for the number of people specified and greater numbers cause damage and excessive wear and tear to vulnerable buildings. Should this condition be ignored we shall make a retrospective charge per person per day (whether or not they stay overnight) for each guest over the permitted limit, the charge being pro-rated on the total cost of your booking.
  • We deliberately do not provide televisions and find that most people appreciate this.
  • One of the challenges of restoring unloved buildings is gaining access to them. We frequently have to negotiate rights with our neighbours and share tracks with them. In many cases tracks do not belong to us and we have no right to maintain them. Wherever possible we work with our neighbours to provide you with a good quality surface, but where this is a problem then you will be warned at the time of booking.
  • Yes, we have standard electricity sockets for UK appliances. If you are coming from outside the UK, you will need to bring your own adaptor plug(s). If you are visiting one of our European properties we have standard European electricity sockets. If you are visiting from the UK, you will need to bring your own adapter plug (s).
  • Landmark’s electrical systems have not been designed to provide continuous power from one socket over several hours.  If an ordinary socket is used to charge an electric vehicle, there is significant risk of an electrical fire and consequent danger to life.  Therefore, we are unable to allow electric vehicle charging from most of our Landmarks at present.

    We are working to provide Type 2 Electric Vehicle charge points at our properties where there is private parking.  Where this is available, please request this facility when booking the property to ensure the outlet is enabled on your arrival.  There is a small charge to cover the cost of electricity provided.  Please book this facility in advance.
  • No, we do not allow smoking in any Landmark.
  • Sometimes our kitchens and bathrooms have to be imaginatively fitted into the available space in buildings where before there were none, but they are all planned and equipped to a high and modern standard.
  • Yes, Landmarks are fully equipped with sheets and towels. All the beds are fully made up for your arrival. Except for the Llwyn Celyn Bunkhouse.
  • Yes, our kitchens are well equipped with cookers and fridges. There are freezers and dishwashers (in larger buildings) and, where space allows, microwaves as well as a wide and standard range of utensils. A full equipment list is available at time of booking.
  • Logs are provided at many of our Landmarks for an additional cost.
  • Mobile coverage varies. Some Landmarks have an excellent signal, but others have none at all. If you are concerned, you can check with the housekeeper before your arrival.
  • No. At the moment, we have decided not to implement Wi-Fi in our buildings following a consultation with our customers. Many said that they would find it useful, but many also felt that it would somehow damage the experience of staying in a Landmark. As the responses were so split, and as we have so many other initiatives requiring funding, we have decided to put this on hold for the time being.
    Except at Llwyn Celyn Bunk House where a password is available in the property when you arrive.
  • A welcome tray with tea and sugar awaits your arrival and you will find a pint of milk in the fridge. We also provide toilet rolls and a bar of soap per basin, but no other toiletries. Hairdryers are provided.

A fine example of a 16th-century manor house

With its twin gables and elegant 17th-century gateposts, Dunshay Manor must be everyone’s idea of an English manor house. In fact, this ancient house has evolved over many centuries. Dunshay sits on a seam of fine Purbeck stone and this has shaped Dunshay’s history and its people. In the early 13th century, Alice Briwere of Dunshay gave its blue grey marble for columns at Salisbury cathedral; more recently, the local stone also inspired renowned sculptor Mary Spencer Watson (1913-2006) in her work, who spent her life here.

A simple farmhouse

The current manor house probably began life as a simple farmhouse in the 16th century. Henry Dolling of Worth bought the manor in 1560, and probably rebuilt the earlier medieval house. Various generations of Dollings also left their mark - a fine lead hopper head on the porch for example, dated 1642, records John and Anne Dolling’s time here.

The manor passed by marriage to the Pyke family in 1673, and for the next hundred years or so, Dunshay was let to tenant farmers. One notable resident was Benjamin Jesty, who moved here in 1797. Twenty years earlier, Jesty had inoculated his wife and children against small pox with injections of cow pox, possibly the first proof of vaccination, although Farmer Jesty did not publish his discovery, and posterity has credited physician and scientist Edward Jenner with the breakthrough instead. The cluster of outbuildings that surround the house – cider house, piggery, barn, dairy, stable block – evoke these farming years, and one of the windows in the house is still marked ‘Cheese Room’ for the avoidance of window tax.

Arts and Crafts restoration and refurbishment

In 1793, the manor was bought by the Calcrafts, local landowners whose descendants still hold a nearby estate. Guy Marston, who counted the poet Rupert Brooke and occultist Aleister Crowley among his friends, inherited the Calcraft estate in 1901. By now, Dunshay had fallen into considerable dilapidation and the north wing had collapsed.  Marston brought in local architect Philip Sturdy to restore the manor house. The North wing was rebuilt and the porch was raised in height as Sturdy sought to recover the pleasing Jacobean symmetry of the front elevation. He also refurbished the interiors in a warm Arts and Crafts style. Sturdy’s adaptation chiefly gives Dunshay its character today, interweaving sensitively with its earlier fabric and form.

Dunshay, the creative space

After the Great War, a local farmer bought the house and its land. Then in 1923, the house was sold to the artist George Spencer Watson, RA, and moved into its most interesting and evocative period of occupation. The Spencer Watsons had holidayed in Studland and Swanage for several years, the area made famous by the Bloomsbury set. George was an eminent painter, whose works survive today at Tate Britain and elsewhere, still much sought after. In his studio in the dairy at Dunshay he painted lovely intimate paintings of family life, blowy informal scenes in the Purbeck landscape, his daughter Mary’s childhood spend roaming free in Purbeck fields and across its cliffs on her pony.

George’s wife Hilda was a remarkable creative force in her own right, a dancer and mime artist in an inimical style that evoked both Isadora Duncan and the contemporary Ballet Russes. She was a client and friend of the psychoanalyst, Carl Jung who, with many other luminaries of the day, came to stay at Dunshay, signing its visitor book.

Mary inherited both her parents’ artistic talents. As a teenager, she danced with Hilda at her mother’s studio theatres in London, Studland and Swanage’s Mowlem Institute. Hilda also created a theatre barn in the stable at Dunshay, where the fittings still survive, for more local shows.

Mary also became fascinated with Purbeck stone from an early age, making friends with the quarrymen at the small local quarries where quarrymen were also masons, cutting and dressing the Purbeck stone by hand with traditional tools.  One gave the little girl a chisel to have a go, and as a young woman, Mary went on to study sculpture in London and Paris. She soon achieved renown and her career included many commissions for public sculpture in the interwar years. Her works are timeless, fusing the modernity of her time with an archaism inspired by Ancient Greece. And always, Mary came back to her beloved Dunshay. She was much loved by all who lived with her on Dunshay’s little estate, which she shared generously and openly with locals, deepening the roots of its artistic life.

Mary never married, and in 2002 asked if Landmark would take on Dunshay after her death. The wonderful paintings and sculptures that filled the place at Mary’s death in 2006 have been dispersed by her other legatees, but George’s paintings of those days provide the spirit we seek to evoke, of the later days of the Arts & Crafts movement as it blossomed into the twentieth century. Dunshay’s reincarnation as a Landmark is a celebration of the life and works of this remarkable family, and a continuation of their open hearted hospitality.

For a short history of Dunshay Manor please click here.

Click here to download the complete history album of Dunshay Manor.

To download the children's Explorer pack for Dunshay Manor please click here.


Beginning from the top

Landmark’s restoration of Dunshay Manor has happened in several phases. In 2014/15, we overhauled some of the roofs and repaired the piggeries before a hiatus while a long repairing lease option was in train. The potential lessor modernised the flat in the theatre barn and cleared most of the later partitions in the house, returning it to its early 20th-century floor plan.

Externally, the main Purbeck stone-tiled roof slopes on the north and south ranges were found to need completely stripping as the wooden peg fixings had generally failed.

Many tiles were held in place only by extensive and inappropriate cement pointing or wire. The stone tiles were carefully relaid in their diminishing course, any new, riven replacements being supplied by Haysoms Quarry, a few hundred metres up the hill, where Mary had observed the work as a girl. The tiles were re-fixed with copper pegs and include bat-friendly access details in accordance with the bat license from Natural England.

The central flat roof above the porch was completely stripped and relaid. In places, resin ties were used to stitch together cracks that had opened up in the masonry but cement pointing has not been replaced as it appears sound.

The final phase of repairs

In 2018 we embarked on further extensive works. The whole house needed re-wiring and re-plumbing; new central heating, and new kitchen and bathrooms. Laying new services required lifting almost all the stone flags around the house, which were carefully relaid.

The layout of the main rooms made the disposition of the Landmark fairly obvious, but careful planning was needed to fit in an easy access bedroom and bathroom on the ground floor, optimise the first floor landing and general circulation, and decide where to put the additional bathrooms. To avoid dangerous changes of floor levels and introduce more light, a corridor behind the kitchen was removed. A doorway was inserted off the entrance hall into the north wing, but there was nothing we could to do to improve Sturdy’s clumsy alignment of the hallway wall across the window.

One of the first decisions taken was to reinstate the original layout of the old kitchen area and Cheese Room space in the 16th-century part of the south range. This meant reversing the double height space the Spencer Watsons had created by removing the Cheese Room floor. The first floor ceiling above this was also in a state of near collapse and therefore needed replacement.

Sensitively restored in the Arts & Crafts style

Elsewhere, the interior had been quite heavily altered by Philip Sturdy in the early 1900s. Sturdy incorporated several unsightly steel beams, both in his reconstruction of the north range and in the 1640s extension of the south range, where the south elevation had moved alarmingly outwards.

It is not clear when the three massive external buttresses were added along the south range: Sturdy’s drawing shows two. All three were probably built/rebuilt in 1906. The steel beams were perhaps dictated by budget constraints on Sturdy. We decided to replace the most inappropriate ones with less visually intrusive support – removing, for example, the steel beams obstructed the window heads in the sitting room and parlour. Steel work also impinged dangerously on headroom in the stairwell, and so the this beam was cut back, the stairwell enlarged and the landing balustrade extended and repositioned.

Various other structural repairs were also needed where timber beam ends had decayed or were undersized. A full length T steel flitch beam was inserted in the Cheese Room floor, along with new oak floor boards.

The plank and muntin panelling in the south bedroom has been slightly realigned and a new door was was inserted from the landing, rather than directly at the head of the stairs as previously.

Throughout, repairs have been carried out in breathable material, both traditional and modern.  Sturdy had installed concrete floors in the main ground floor rooms of the house, replacing timber floors that were rotting because of ground moisture in this sheltered north facing valley. Sturdy had proposed that these floors be finished with wood blocks set in bitumen, but this was not done at the time (perhaps another cost-saving measure). The bare concrete provided an unforgiving surface that had cracked and deflected in places, and so it was decided to reinstate a timber floor on the ground floor. This new oak flooring is fixed onto battens above a lime-based screed, itself above foam glass insulation. On upstairs floors, simple wooden floor boards have been enhanced with cork panels laid between joists, under drawn with wood wool boards and lime finishes, enhancing both fire separation and sound installation. Where new wall partitions were inserted, these are wood wool board with lime plaster finishes avoiding any use of plasterboard.

A new oak fitted kitchen in the Arts & Crafts idiom was designed, made and fitted by Mark Smitten, Landmark’s joiner.

The Studio in the former dairy has also been comprehensively repaired and is now a table tennis room with a display of large-scale photos of Mary’s sculptures. The Cider House has been gently stabilised as an evocative agricultural space with all its fittings. Little has been done to the Theatre Barn. For now, it is kept locked except for public open days or by special arrangement.

Considerable tree clearance has been done, mostly removing self-seeded sycamores and re-opening the views to Corfe Castle. The dry stone walls around the site have been repaired, some, most appropriately, by a Pike of today’s generation, Tom, whose father Martin, as we open in 2019, still farms from Downshay Farm next door.

Availability & booking

Select a changeover day to start your booking...

What's a changeover day? and Why can't I select other dates?Explain MoreQuestion

A changeover day is a particular day of the week when holidays start and end at our properties. These tend to be on a Friday or a Monday but can sometimes vary. All stays run from one changeover day until another changeover day.