Tickets still available if anyone missed the emails –


We have organised this visit as a follow up to Stephan Pitman’s fascinating talk last year on his role as the architect supervising the restoration project of Sherborne House.

Sherborne House is a grand town house built by Benjamin Bastard in the first half of the 18th century which contains a stunning staircase mural by James Thornhill, which featured in my blog on Greenwich at the beginning of the year. It is listed Grade I. It has just opened to the public after completion of its restoration and is now a thriving arts and community centre. Stephan will be leading us on a “behind the scenes’ visit to appreciate the history of the building and of its restoration.

You will also visit the Shell House, another stunning Grade I listed building in the town, which is not normally open to the public. This building dates from the 17th century and was probably originally a dovecot and it is crowned by a conical thatched roof. In the mid-18th century, it was converted into a shell house and its interior walls and ceiling entirely decorated with sea shells sourced from the British Isles, the majority from the Dorset coast. The shells are incorporated into a series of rococo motifs, fashionable in the 1750s and produce a strong three-dimensional effect. This sort of feature became a popular addition to the attractions incorporated into aristocratic parks but is extremely rare to find such an early example and one in what was the garden of a member of the middling class. The restoration of A la Ronde, a late 18th century period shell house near Exmouth, recently featured in the opening episode of the BBC series of television programmes on National Trust treasures which can be found on the BBC I-player.

The visit will start at 11.30 at the Shell House which is in the centre of the town. Tables have been booked for participants at Sherborne House’s restaurant at the top of the town for 13.00. Attendees will need to fund their own lunch and a range of options are available. The tour of the house will commence at 14.30. Between the two you will have time to visit the Abbey, Sherborne Town Museum or the shops.

A small charge of £5 per head will be levied on Civic Society members, increased to £10 for non-members, to cover the visiting fee for the Shell House. You will be expected to provide your own transport. Please indicate when booking whether you are looking for a lift there and back or whether you will have a seat to spare!

Civic Society members will profit from priority booking until midnight on Sunday 30th June, after which we will offer any spare places to members of Dorchester Arts.

Do come, it promises to be a memorable day.

The Shell House is located near Harper House on Hound Street in Sherborne town centre and the nearest car park is the Old Market which is off Hound Street (post code DT9 3FE for satnav)