Mapperton House in Dorset is thought by some to be the finest private house in Britain. The residents are the Earl and Countess of Sandwich — that is, when they are not off practicing the glamorous careers that most European aristocrats aspire to these days. (He has held various government and foundation jobs in international development; she is a journalist.)
The oldest part of the house was built in the 1540s by Robert Morgan; it sports these fine twisted chimneys and heraldic guardians. Morgan's descendants inherited the estate in direct line down to 1919, although the family names kept changing when a daughter was the heir.
But as you can see from this photo the house grew by accretion over the centuries.
What shows as the central block in this view was built in the 1660s by Richard Brodrepp; you can see the gable end of the surviving Tuodor structure to the left.
Tudor "great chamber" with original mantle and 16th-century ceiling.
Much of the interior was remodeled in the 18th century by another Richard Brodrepp, with the help of two prominent west country builders known as Bastard Brothers of Blandford. The bones of the gardens were established at the same time, although they were much altered in the 20th century.
In 1955 the property was purchased by Victor Montagu, heir to the Earldom of Sandwich. A Joshua Reynolds portrait of his ancestor the 4th Earl hangs in the drawing room near a portrait of the 4th Earl's mistress, Martha Ray. This was the Earl who rather than get up from the gaming table put a slice of meat between two slices of bread and somehow got credit for inventing a way of eating that must have been done pretty much since the invention of bread.
Views of the formal garden behind the main house.
More garden views. The gardens are open to the public through most of the summer, the house only on weekend afternoons.