Jennie Elias

Zeals, A Biography of an English Country House

A fascinating and authoritative history of this famous Wiltshire country house

Zeals, a classic and very old manor house set in countryside just outside a village on the Wiltshire/Dorset border, has been a family home for nearly all its existence. Sadly, this once grand house, that played host to grand parties for “the great and the good” of English society, is now a shadow of its former self and is on Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ register. The house has a rich and fascinating history including as a place of refuge for the future Charles II on his flight to the coast after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, a time that saw a family member beheaded by Oliver Cromwell. The house’s evolution is equally enthralling from its medieval origins and its subsequent expansions over later centuries, predominately during the 19th century under the Victorian architect George Devey. The Chafyn-Grove family owned and lived at Zeals for 500 years until the mid-twentieth century, when the fate and decline of the estate mirrored that of many others across the country. Jennie Elias charts the joys and tragedies of generations of Zeals residents, with characters ranging from the haughty, the charming, the prejudiced to the downright eccentric. Her book provides a definitive history that explores and celebrates the architecture of Zeals and charts the family life of the Chafyn-Groves as they ultimately faced failure brought on by political levelling down and cultural change in society as well as mistakes of their own making.


Date and Time

11 October 2023 at 2:30 pm


United Reformed Church, Mere

Ticket Prices

£10 per person

Tickets for this talk will be available 01 September for Friends of the Festival, general sale will be available 08 September 2023.

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