Highwaymen & Dukes - The History of Round Chimneys

Round Chimneys Farm and more notably The Farmhouse and Churchill Cottage have had a host of interesting and influential inhabitants in their four hundred or so years of existence.

The land on which the house now stands was purchased by John Clavell of Barnston in 1573 after first being recorded as a manor in 1232. Clavell then built what is now The Farmhouse and Churchill Cottage with work being completed in the 1590s - the inscription ‘159-‘ still visible on one of the chimneys.

John Clavell died two decades later and the house was passed on to his son. Clavell’s grandson however was an interesting figure, living at Round Chimneys until he was 18, the boy, also christened John, attended Brasenose College, Oxford in 1619, but was caught stealing the college plate and was expelled from the university without a degree. From then on John fell into heavy debt and took to the road in 1624 as the leader of a group of highwaymen, referring to himself as ‘A Knight of the Road’. John was eventually arrested in December 1625 and was sentenced to death, although he did escape the punishment, spending two years in prison instead. Clavell then became a writer, finishing the book ‘A Recantation of an Ill Led Life’ while still in prison, he found fame through this, apparently able to name Charles I as a fan.

For a long while since his father’s death, John had tried to sell Round Chimneys but to no avail, until 1630, when the house was sold to a lawyer who went by the name of John Churchill. This was the start of the house’s strong link with the Churchill family, who boast Dukes, Generals and a Prime Minister among their family tree. John had a son, Winston in 1620, who eventually moved to Ashe in Devon to live with Elizabeth Drake whom he married in 1643. Although he no longer inhabited the house, Winston owned Round Chimneys (then known as Newton Montacute) until just before his death in 1688. His son, also named John, one of twelve children, went on to become John Churchill the 1st Duke of Marlborough, the great military leader who was recognised as England’s greatest general. John eventually resided in the famous Blenheim Palace where, in 1874, Wartime Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill was born.

Even though the Churchill family’s direct connection with Round Chimneys ended in 1688 the famed family still maintained their love for Dorset, Sir Winston often holidaying near Poole as a boy, and, even to this day there are still decedents of the Churchill family living in the county. Round Chimneys was subject to much renovation and change during the 1700s under ownership of the Wellman family. The property eventually became a farm house in 1839 when the then 800 acre estate was sold to Mr J.C. Dale.

The house and now 250 acre working farm has been owned and run by the Rich family since the early 1960s. The properties have been maintained and updated numerous times since then, caring for the remaining original features and becoming the holiday homes they are today.