The latest (and last) series of Broadchurch is currently gracing our TV screens, and with it a new location – the scene of the rape which forms the core of the latest investigation. The rape took place at a party in a manor house called Axehampton House in the series, but in real life the house is the privately owned Bridehead House. Originally the Manor of Brydian, owned by Cerne Abbey from 987 until the Dissolution, a new manor house was built on the site around 1600 by Sir Robert Mellor. In the 19th century the architect Benjamin Ferrey made substantial changes to the house on behalf of his client Robert Williams of the Williams Deacon & Co bank.
The house, situated between Bridport and Dorchester, is surrounded by the chalk hills of the Dorset Downs, at the head of the Bride Valley. The lake seen in Broadchurch is fed by the waters of the River Bride which gushes from nearby springs and tumbles down a waterfall. Although the house itself is private, there is a 5-acre site open to visitors, including the Victorian Walled Kitchen and Flower Gardens and a series of walks.
Along with the revamped manor house, Ferrey built the estate village of Littlebredy (bredy pronounced ‘briddy’) and he added a spire to the 14th century tower of the church of St Michael and All Angels. The church has a lovely carved font and in the churchyard is a memorial to the former Bishop of Wellington, New Zealand, Frederic Wallis, who returned to the UK to become Archdeacon of Sherborne. The attractive thatched village hall used to be the village school. The area around the village is dotted with signs of early occupation – stone circles, tumuli etc. The National Nature Reserve known as the Valley of Stones in the south of the parish was the source of building material for many of these early constructions.
|Photo by Mike Searle, via Wikimedia Commons|