Hello! It’s been a LONG while since my last blog post, but I am BACK and so thrilled to finally be sharing a little more of my UK adventures (now seemingly a distant memory – earlier in January 2017!).
Specifically, I want to introduce you all to the rather majestic Dean’s Court, in Wimborne (Dorset), and to the beautiful family and team who run this property!
The lovely Ali, Lottie, William and Jonathan, generously welcomed me with open arms during my stay a year ago, and recently welcomed my parents who have stayed for Christmas and New Year!
The property (currently run by William and Ali Hanham) well and truly took my breath away, the overwhelming beauty of the main house, and the deep sense of history that encompasses the house, cottages and the grounds. From my short stay, I was mesmerised and deeply eager to learn more about the story behind Dean’s Court, and to share a little more behind the scenes of this beautiful, treasured piece of Wimborne, and the people behind it.
Without further ado – here is my in conversation with the lovely Ali Hanham.
1. Can you share a little about yourself and how you/your family found yourselves as custodians of beautiful Dean’s Court?
The Deans Court estate has been in Williams family for nearly 500 years. In 1548 an ancestor of Williams called John Hanham was the MP for Poole, he was called in and given Deans Court to confiscate Church property in Wimborne.
William is the 13th baronet, when his father died in 2009, William inherited the Deans Court estate and title. We actually moved here full time in 2010.
2. What are the hidden stories behind the majestic main house and grounds? Are you able to share with us a little about the property’s historical origins and purpose?
Deans Court has been inhabited for 1300 years, it is believed the house was built in early C.8th as the Royal Palace from where St. Cuthburga, sister of King Ine of Wessex, administered the important double monastery and abbey of Wimborne. In 1043 an ecclesiastical college was established in Wimborne, and the house became colleges Deanery until the Reformation.
3. How has Dean’s Court evolved to where it is today? Can you share with us a little about the journey from Dean’s Court as a private property to a place to visit, eat, shop, stay and explore?
Williams parents lived here for 40 years, his mother was very interested in growing organic vegetables back in the late 80’s, the kitchen garden is the first one in the country to be certified organic by the soil association. When we came to live here in 2010, we realised that to make everything work for us at Deans Court we would have to run it in a more commercial way. Firstly we renovated the cottages for holiday accommodation, started selling weekly veg boxes, converted the Squash Court into a shop a year later the 1930’s garage into the cafe, then restored the Gate House and started hosting weddings.
4. How important is community to Dean’s Court? Can you tell us about some of the collaborative projects and/or events Dean’s Court has been involved in?
The community of Wimborne is a very important part of Deans Court, we open the house for the local literary festival, the Wimborne architecture week, various church events and for 3 years we held the Feast Of Dorset here in the grounds, a very lovely food festival with many well known chefs giving demonstrations.
5. The beautiful Squash Court Cafe produces the most delicious, seasonal food – am I right in thinking that the menu is designed around the produce available from the property’s own kitchen garden?
The Squash Court opened about 3 years ago and it really has turned into a destination shop & cafe. People come from far and wide to visit the shop and taste the delicious home grown salad picked every morning, the menu is very much determined by what is being grown in the kitchen garden, the soups and quiches are very seasonal. We always have a good selection of homemade cakes, again trying to use the fruit and vegetables that are grown in the garden such as blackcurrant & lemon drizzle cake, parsnip & apple vegan cake, beetroot & chocolate and our top seller the courgette & lime cake.
…And the beautiful Lottie, Ali and the lovely Julia (one of their talented cooks/bakers) have been generous enough to share with us a recipe for this ‘Rhubarb and Almond Cake’ – a repeat visitor on their cake counter when rhubarb is in season!
Rhubarb and Almond Cake
150g butter at room temperature
150g golden castor sugar, plus 2 tbsp
2 medium eggs
200g ground almonds
100g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
400g rhubarb, chopped into 4cm lengths, fat pieces also need to be cut in half lengthways.
2 tbsp flaked almonds
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, 160 fan or gas 4.
Grease a 22cm cake-tin, line the base with baking parchment and lightly flour the sides to make it really non-stick.
Mix the butter and sugar together in a large mixing-bowl.
Add the eggs, spooning in a little flour at the same time to stop it curdling.
Spoon half the mixture into the cake-tin, spreading it to the edges [ I found a fork best for this], then arrange half the rhubarb on top [keeping it away from the edge] and sprinkle a tablespoon of the extra sugar over the top.
Place the rest of the cake-mix on top and spread it out as above, arrange the rest of the rhubarb on top in a circular pattern, gently press them into the mix, then scatter the top with the extra sugar and the flaked almonds.
Bake for an hour, cover with tin-foil and bake for a further ten minutes if necessary.
Let it cool before tipping it onto a wire-rack.
*Recipe copied with permission from the ‘Dean’s Court’ blog – originally shared by http://growingnicely.co.uk/
Daydreaming of Dorset? I don’t blame you one bit. Perhaps it’s time to book a trip!