Slape Manor is situated 4 miles north of Bridport near the village of Netherbury. Built in the 17th century as an ecclesiastical court house, it was converted to a manor house in the 18th century, and was sold by the Diocese of Salisbury in the mid-19th century. A library, designed by Thomas Hardy, was added to the west end of the house in the 1870’s. The house takes full advantage of the open view across the sweeping main lawn to the trees and lake beyond. It is interesting to note that there is still a seat for the Canon of Slape in Salisbury Cathedral.
Set in the sheltered valley of the River Brit, the gardens are well protected from the worst of the winds, and have a particularly friendly and welcoming feel. This protection ensures the early flowering of many plants and shrubs.
The current owners have undertaken considerable planting of camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas, all of which produce a magnificent display in the Spring and early Summer. Thanks to the warm location, some varieties have been known to flower from October onwards. The gardens also contain a splendid white wysteria as well as several large magnolias. One area currently under development is the Italian garden containing a sunken lily pond completely surrounded by yew and beech hedges. It is hoped to restore the original fresh water feed to the pond. A stream with pools and waterfalls meanders through the garden to the lake.
Approximately half a mile further down the valley is Slape Mill which, up until the end of the Second World War, was used to manufacture flax. Flax was a most necessary raw material for the long established rope making industry for which Bridport was, and still is, famous.