Kingston in the Purbeck Hills

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Encombe House

Bournemouth Daily Echo, 9 August 2002

Listed estate house bought for £16m

One of the most expensive country estates ever to come on the market in Dorset has been sold.

Encombe House, which lies in a secluded valley in Purbeck, is believed to have been bought by successful American merchant banker Charles McVeigh for £16 million - £1 million more than its

asking price.

It is only the fourth time the grade-II listed country house set in 2000 acres of magnificent coastal grounds famed for its shooting opportunities has changed hands.

The estate includes St. Aldhelm’s Head, Chapmans Pool and Swyre Head, three lakes, 60 acres of formal garden, 12 cottages, swimming pool and a Grecian style temple.

The house includes six reception rooms, a galleried hall, library-cum-snooker room and 12 principal bedroom suites.

Prestigious estate agents FPD Savills were called in earlier this year to sell the property for the Scott family who had owned the estate since 1807. [The accompanying photo showed the previous owners Rupert and Sophie Scott.]

A Savills spokesman confirmed the house had been sold but refused to confirm the new owner. She said: “Because of confidentiality agreements we are legally bound not to make any comment on who the new owner is but we can definitely say it has been sold. We can also say there was considerable interest in this property.”

However national newspaper reports have revealed it to be Mr McVeigh who is one of the longest serving and most popular merchant bankers in the City. He began trading before the Big Bang date when the stock exchange was computerised. He is now co-chairman of Schroder Salomon Smith Barney.

The land on which the house is built was given in 948 A.D. to the Abbess of Shaftesbury by King Edred. It seems to have remained the property of successive Abbesses until the reign of Henry VIII who dissolved the Monastery.

In the middle of the sixteenth century the land was bought by Robert Culliford of Devon who built a house on the site of the present one, and his family owned it until 1734 when it was sold to George Pitt of Stratfield Saye, who gave it to his younger son John.

It is interesting to note that one of the Cullifords only prevented Oliver Cromwell from taking away his property by providing some men to help with the destruction of Corfe Castle.

John Pitt pulled down the Culliford’s house and built the present one on the same site. It is believed that Culliford’s house was a small one covering the area now occupied by the hall and drawing room.

Pitt was a cousin of Lord Chatham the famous Prime Minister. His son William Morton Pitt sold the house and the surrounding land in 1807 to John Scott 1st Earl of eldon, who was then the Lord Chancellor, an office which he held for 25 years during the reigns of George III and George IV. He was a great friend of George III and the confidant of many members of his family.

The Lord Chancellor was very fond of Encombe and came down as often as possible although the journey from London took three days.

The architect of Encombe is not known, but it appears probable that it was John Pitt himself who was, apparently, an amateur architect.

The design is in the current architectural idiom of the day, the style of Vanbrugh-Hawksmoor, but it “is used in an independent and intelligent way”. It also shows the influence of Palladianism, but the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments says “there is no decisive obligation to either. The design shows much original thought (for instance in the highly unusual East elevation) and must be accepted as the work of an accomplished amateur architect, John Pitt the owner”.

In 1870 the 3rd Earl of Eldon commissioned Anthony Salvin to make alterations, the main one being to move the entrance from the South to the North (and all that involved in internal re-planning) and the resulting impression is of a few vast rooms and a fine main staircase of 19th century workmanship, but in early 18th century style.


Originally two rooms with a staircase between them and an outside entrance where the middle of the three west windows are now. At one time there was a sea-water bath at the Northern end. The ram which pumped water up from the sea can still be seen at the top of Freshwater steps more than half a mile to the South of the house.

Morning Room

The only room which was not altered in 1870. The fine plaster ceiling dates from 1734. The hearth and consoles are very recent and are Purbeck marble. They came from the same bed as stone used in the repair of Lincoln Cathedral during the past few years. Sadly supplies of this beautiful stone are now almost exhausted and the whereabouts of the few remaining pockets are known only by one or two quarrymen.


This was originally the dining room and at one time had a staircase at each end. It is believed to be a part of Culliford’s house. The bust is of the 2nd Earl of Eldon, grandson of the Lord Chancellor. The miniatures are of this bust and that of the 1st Earl by Cheverton, who had invented a very ingenious way of copying larger busts. The sideboard was presented to the 3rd Earl by tenants of the Estate on his marriage.

Drawing Room

This was originally the hall, the front door being where the centre window is now. The front drive was on the east side of the lake and continued past the front door to the stables to the south-west of the house.

Sitting Room

Originally a room with an open colonnade as was the one where you entered the house. Later it was a billiard roomand later still a dining room.

Dining Room

This was originally the kitchen. It then became the dining room and after that a childrens’ play room and now back to a dining room again. While the pillars are Purbeck marble, the fireplace is wood and painted.

Mary Frampton, the daughter of a prosperous landowner in Dorset, recorded her thoughts on the Reform Riots in her journal on 5th November 1831:

The riots at Bristol were quieted and a sufficient force fixed there, two troops of the 3rd Dragoons returned to their headquarters at Dorchester. This morning intelligence was received that a mob from Poole were intending to attack Lord Eldon’s place at Encombe, and also Corfe Castle. Mr Bond’s troop of Yeomanry were in consequence called out, and stationed  on and about the bridge at Wareham, thus effectively guarding the only approach from Poole.

Bournemouth Daily Echo, 30 June 2009

Airline tycoon snaps up Encombe estate

AN AIRLINE tycoon is believed to have snapped up a vast country estate.


The Encombe Estate in the Purbeck countryside was put on the market in September last year for £25 million by American merchant banker Charles McVeigh, who paid £11m for it in 2002 and spent millions restoring it.

Now it is reported that James Gaggero, a 49-year-old former officer in the Irish Guards, has paid £20m to become only the sixth owner of the plush pile in its 1,100-year history.


The Gaggeros built their fortune operating an airline and ferries to the Moroccan port of Tangier. The airline, Gibraltar Airways, eventually moved to Britain as GB Airways and was bought for £103m by easyJet two years ago. Gaggero’s Bland Group of companies now encompasses travel and hotel firms. Mr Gaggero is the second airline boss linked to the estate, with Sir Richard Branson thought to have toured it earlier this year.

The 2,000-acre estate includes 60 acres of formal gardens, a swimming pool, three lakes and a Grecian-style temple. The house itself has 13 bedrooms, a galleried hall, dining room with a double-height ceiling and Victorian library with marble fireplaces.

Mark McAndrew, head of country homes at Strutt and Parker, the estate agent which had been instructed to sell the property, said: “It is exceptional – one of the biggest estates that have come to the market in the past few years.”

Encombe is considered one of the best pheasant shooting estates in the country. It has carp in ornamental lakes and also offers fly fishing for sea bass off its rocky coast. Another agent who is familiar with the property confirmed that Gaggero was the buyer, adding: “I imagine he is buying it for the shoot.”

Pop star Kylie Minogue is also thought to have been interested in the estate.


There was no one available for comment at the Bland Group’s offices.