old sarum house

old sarum house

An Eighteenth Century Town House


Today it is in Princes Street but, when it was built, Old Sarum House was the last house in Hendford. The western side of today's Princes Street, from Westminster Street all the way to Park Road, had once been in the Manor of Hendford and consequently this section of the western side of the road was considered to be Hendford until the middle of the nineteenth century.

Old Sarum House is a fine, large three-storey house built in poor local limestone which has worn badly with Ham stone dressings. It was built about 1730 by Samuel Dampier senior (d1744), a wealthy clothier.

The house passed to his son, Samuel Dampier the younger (who scratched his name and the date 1761 on the wall of one of the rooms) and then, in turn, his daughter Susannah inherited the house. She later married Yeovil glove manufacturer John Ryall. John Ryall owned the house from 1778 until 1815 during which time Mrs Dampier was tenant, followed by John Ashley the Elder then his son John Ashley the Younger in 1810. The Ashleys were briefly followed by a Mr Mountford as tenant. Or, as John Ryall wrote in his will "formerly in the possession of Samuel Dampier the elder afterwards of his Son Samuel Dampier since of Mary Bright and Sarah Bright since of the said Mary Bright and wife of John Ashley the elder" John Ryall's daughter, Christian, married yeoman farmer George Mayo and their son, John Ryall Mayo, became occupier of the house on his marriage in 1815 but inherited the house outright in 1818. He became Yeovil's first mayor in 1854. The house was one of the properties attacked and damaged by the mob of hundreds of protesters in the Yeovil Reform Riot of Friday, 21 October 1831. Mayo gave up, without compensation, part of the forecourt of his home to help widen Princes Street.

On the death of John Ryall Mayo (in Old Sarum House) in 1870 the house was bought by private contract for the sum of £2,400 (around £3,500,000 at today's value) by wealthy glove manufacturer Henry Bryant Phelps who remained the owner until 1885, although he and his family lived in their house, Convamore, in Higher Kingston.

The sale particulars give a good description of the house (reproduced in full in the Gallery below) "All that capital Messuage or Dwellinghouse, situate in Princes Street, late in the occupation of JR Mayo Esq., comprising large entrance hall, dining, drawing, and breakfast rooms, eight bedrooms, dressing room and WC, kitchen, scullery, laundry and other large offices, very superior underground cellars, large yard, stable, coach house, good kitchen garden and conservatory, together with the two cottages adjoining....".

Draper Benjamin Samuel Dunn Penny bought Old Sarum House in 1888 for £1,900 (around £2,250,000 at today's value). Certainly from 1898 solicitor William Marsh was the tenant - the last person to use Old Sarum House as a private residence and, indeed, died there.

Following the death of Benjamin Penny in 1919 Old Sarum House was sold (see Gallery) for £2,000 (just over £500,000 at today's value) to fellow solicitor James Bernard Paynter of Hendford Manor. In 1926, the year before Paynter's death, Old Sarum House was leased to the Yeovil Electric Light and Power Company who, sadly, later completely ruined its appearance by converting the ground floor to shop frontages.

In 1934 ownership passed to Sidney Rowland Wilson, a dry cleaner, and in 1938 it was purchased by Mary Ann Lord of Poole for £6,000 (around £1,750,000 at today's value) She, in 1939, leased the ground floor to Wessex Electric Co, followed in 1944 with the lease of the first and second floors. In 1946 ownership passed to Joshua Bower of Devizes, Alice Ridley-Thompson of Surrey and Ann Ward of Berkshire for £14,000 (around £2,250,000 at today's value) who held it until 1951.

In the 1940s that part of the ground floor on the corner of Park Road became 'The Jolly Farmer' coffee bar, later Pam's Pantry, the Matador and later still it was the Chessman coffee bar of the 1960s and San Remo Italian restaurant. In 1961 the first and second floors were leased to accountants Harvey Preen, followed in the early 1980s by accountants Baker Rooke. Recently it was an outlet of the Prezzo Italian restaurant chain but is currently (September 2020) the premises of a dental practice.

The original doorway with stone steps and a small railed garden in front were sacrificed for the present shopfront. When the owners gave the building a facelift in the 1990s they were refused planning permission to restore the original ground floor because the pavement would be narrowed! Why am I not surprised by that statement?




The sale particulars of Old Sarum House as seen in the 29 April 1870 edition of the Western Gazette. It was bought by private contract for the sum of £2,400 (around £3,500,000 at today's value) by wealthy glove manufacturer Henry Bryant Phelps.


Old Sarum House photographed in 1906.


This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'

This photograph dates to about 1910 when the house was still a private residence.


The notice of sale of Old Sarum House from the 12 September 1919 edition of the Western Gazette. 


This photograph features in my book 'Yeovil From Old Photographs'.

Photographed around 1920, by which time the garden railings had gone but the Yeovil Electric Light and Power Company hadn't yet added the shop windows to the ground floor.


From my collection

An unusual view of Princes Street taken from the roof of Vincent's car showroom (now Batten's). The postcard is dated 1962. Old Sarum House was, at this time, the Jolly Farmer Café.


The Jolly Farmer snack bar remained for many years - this photograph was taken in 1942.


From my collection

An advertisement for the Jolly farmer in the 1961 Yeovil Rural District Official Guide.


A photograph dating to the mid-1960s when the corner was the Chessman coffee bar. It had earlier been the Jolly Farmer, styled on the American soda parlour.


Looking south along Princes Street from Park Road, with the Chessman Café (later Prezzo, now a dental practice) in Old Sarum House at right. Photographed around 1965.


From the Cave Collection (colourised), Courtesy of South Somerset Heritage Collection

Old Sarum House, photographed in the 1960s from the grounds of Glenthorne House. At this time, the left two-thirds of Old Sarum House were occupied by Wessex Electric Co. and the right third was the Chessman coffee bar.


The interior of the Wessex Electric Co. showrooms in a colourised photograph of 1951.


A colourised photograph of the 1951 Christmas decorations in the Wessex Electric Co. showrooms.


This photograph features in my book "A-Z of Yeovil"

Old Sarum House photographed in 2013.


This photograph features in my book "Yeovil In 50 Buildings"

...and seen from the other direction.