Deans Court: William & Ali's Ancestral Home

House Tour

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Ali (right) explaining the room to Molly (left) in our group as she juggles the tea mugs

Name: Ali & William Hanham
Location: Deans Court, Dorset, England
Size: 18 acres & many, many rooms
Years lived in: 5 years recently and since 1548 before that

It is not an everyday occurrence that we get to tour someone's ancestral home, you know the kind which has been "in the family" for over 450 years, the building of which is even older. This past week I spent part of an afternoon hearing this family's story, taking pictures and wishing I had all day to spend here. This is a refreshingly real home in an ongoing state of renovation. This is not really even a home that you "own", it's more of a home that is much older than anyone around and that you can only "take care of" before passing it on.

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The first living room after the front hallway. This room is next in line for getting some attention.

The short story is that William's family have lived in the house for many, many generations, but he and his wife, Ali, have just recently taken residence since his father passed away five years ago (his parents didn't move in until he was a teenager, so he didn't spend much time in it until recently).

Trading in a life and career in London, William now has taken over managing the family estate and works full time on the various rental and events businesses related to the house, while continually fixing, upgrading and repairing the old thing. It's a stunning stately home that has been touched in various ways and in various styles over the hundreds of years, all of which are largely still visible as you walk around.

IMPORTANT LINKS - which links to all of the home's businesses including the shops, garden shares, and cottages for rent

Sharland & Lewis
- The shops, one of which is at Deans Court, are Ali Hanham's business and sell new and vintage off and online. The shopkeeper at Deans Court is an Apartment Therapy reader, which I love. :)

Deans Court Weddings
- a separate site with wonderful pics showing weddings on the property

Farrow & Ball
- who introduced us to the Hanhams, and who are responsible for sourcing all the paints and colors for the home.

The Hanham Baronets
- the family line as listed by Wikipedia

Deans Court Gardens
- great pictures here shot by Ben Pentreath last spring when he visited
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The first room that we stepped into was this main dining room, which has had all the walls repaired and painted in a deep Farrow & Ball red.

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Tea was served immediately and here William is making his was across the sea of a room to bring me my cup. The pictures on the walls are of all his ancestors. Among many emotions I can imagine a room like this would stir up, it certainly makes one feel a lot younger!

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This room hasn't been touched since the 1930's when William's great aunt spent some time fixing up the house to her tastes and with quite a bit of skill.

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William's office was a wonderfully real room, which is very much in use each day and even as we came by to visit.

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More beautiful Farrow & Ball paints up and through the hallway. There was no electricity in this house until the last 50 years, so all lighting was by gaslight and candles until relatively recently.

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There are many bedrooms upstairs, not all of which are in use except during parties when everyone is urged to stay rather than driving home late at night.

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This is the master bathroom, painted with Farrow & Ball Arsenic on the bottom, as well as a white and grey on upper walls and bath.


Exclusively the domain of the servants, women lived on one side of the attic and men on the other (and they were locked in at night!). Today the attic has been renovated for Ali's daughters and has taken on quite a different look.

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Kitchen and gardens have moved around the house over the years, but the current location reflects the proximity they have always shared. The Deans Court gardens consist of a "kitchen garden" (small and near) as well as much bigger gardens that produce a good deal of food not just for the house but also for townspeople who have shares in it. Garden produce is also for sale every weekend at the shop.

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This is the older part of the kitchen which will soon be redone... this is from the post war years...

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This is the main part of the current kitchen, where Ali and William are currently exploring paint colors to update the room. Each room's walls have required significant repairs, which has also included fixing electrical and heating, so they have been proceeding slowly room by room over the past few years.

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The kitchen garden is right outside... just a stone's throw away. Thankfully, they have no deer here to eat all of their plantings.

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Tour done, we all head out to the driveway and our cars. Thank you to William and Ali!

And thank you as well to Rebecca from Farrow & Ball for introducing us!

(Images: Maxwell Ryan)