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Stepleton House


Stepleton House has a 110-hectare park and pleasure grounds, dating mainly from the late-18th century. This forms the setting for a country house.


The estate is situated in the valley of the River Iwerne.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

Pleasure grounds and a park developed in the second half of the 18th century by Julines and Peter Beckford.

Location, Area, Boundaries, Landform and Setting

Stepleton House is situated at Iwerne Stepleton, a village depopulated by the Black Death in the 14th century (Mowl 2003), which is itself situated in the valley of the River Iwerne about 5 kilometres north-west of Blandford Forum. The site occupies about 110 hectares and is approximately rectangular on plan, bounded to the west by the River Iwerne and the A350 road, while a minor road, Smuggler's Lane, and a track form the southern and northern boundaries respectively. A row of cottages to the west of the A350 road, opposite the present entrance to the site (outside the site here registered), were built as kennels for Peter Beckford's hounds in about 1770 and closely resemble a design published by Beckford in 1781 (Oswald 1959; Pevsner and Newman 1972).

To the north the site is adjoined by the Ranston estate, from which it is separated by the A350 road.

REFERENCES used by English Heritage

P Beckford, Thoughts upon Hare and Fox Hunting (1781)

Country Life, 71 (9 January 1932), pp 42-48

A Oswald, Country Houses of Dorset (2nd edn 1959), pp 159-161

N Pevsner and J Newman, The Buildings of England: Dorset (1972), pp 240-242

Stepleton House, Iwerne Stepleton, Dorset - A Preliminary Assessment of the historic Park and Garden, (Nicholas Pearson Assocs 1993) [copy on EH file]

T Mowl, Historic Gardens of Dorset (2003), pp 93, 95, 171-172


  • Isaac Taylor, Map of the County of Dorset, 1765
  • Tithe map for Iwerne Stepleton parish, 1840 (Dorset Record Office)
  • OS Old Series 1" to 1 mile, published 1811
  • OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1885, published 1891


  • F Sartorius, three oil paintings of Peter Beckford's hounds in parkland setting, 1785 (National Trust/Bearsted Collection, Upton House, Warwickshire)

Description written: December 2003

Amended: April 2004

Edited: January 2005

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


North of Blandford Forum


The following is from the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest


Soon after 1623, the Stepleton estate was bought from the Daccomb family by Sir William Pitt of Stratfield Saye, Hampshire. In 1634 it was sold by George Pitt to Thomas Fownes, who constructed the present house (Pearson Associates 1993). Fownes' descendant, also Thomas Fownes, a pioneer of the scientific breeding of fox hounds (Oswald 1959), sold the property in 1745 to Julines Beckford, brother of Alderman William Beckford of Fonthill, Wiltshire. Julines Beckford remodelled Stepleton House, and developed pleasure grounds and a lake formed by damming the River Iwerne. The park also appears to have formed part of Julines Beckford's improvements, with a public road passing to the south of the House being diverted to the west in about 1753 (Mowl 2003). At Julines Beckford's death, the estate passed to his son, Peter Beckford (1740-1811), Ranger of Cranborne Chase and author of 'Thoughts upon Hare and Fox Hunting' (1781). Beckford also published two volumes of letters describing his tour of Italy (1787).

Peter Beckford married a daughter of George Pitt, Lord Rivers, of neighbouring Ranston, and in 1828 their son, William Horace, assumed the name Pitt Rivers in order to inherit the Rivers title in right of his mother. When William's son, George, inherited the estate, Stepleton was let to Sir John Hadley D'Oyly. It was purchased in 1917 from the last surviving daughter of Lord Rivers by Sir Randolph Baker. It has subsequently passed through several ownerships, but remains (2003) in private hands.


  • 18th Century (1701 to 1800)
  • Late 18th Century (1775 to 1799)
Features & Designations


  • The National Heritage List for England: Register of Parks and Gardens

  • Reference: GD2284
  • Grade: II


  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The present house was built after 1634, and remodelled after 1745.
  • Earliest Date:
  • River
  • Description: River Iwerne.
  • Kennels
  • Description: A row of cottages opposite the present entrance to the site were built as kennels for Peter Beckford's hounds.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Parkland
Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


18th Century (1701 to 1800)





Open to the public


Civil Parish

Iwerne Stepleton