Village Life: Montacute

View down the drive to the west front at Montacute House

View down the drive to the west front at Montacute House - Credit: ©NTPL/John Millar

This month Andrea Cowan visits Montacute - think a National Trust property, a unique museum and residents with the longest life expectancy in England

It’s almost impossible to talk about the village of Montacute in South Somerset without starting at the statuesque Montacute House, sitting at the end of a formal drive in the village behind a pair of impressive gates.

Montacute House is considered one of England’s most beautiful Elizabethan houses. It was commissioned in the 16th century by Sir Edward Phelips, a wealthy lawyer and Member of Parliament who oversaw the trial of Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. It remained in the Phelips family until 1911, and was thankfully saved from falling into dis-repair when it caught the eye of the National Trust and in 1931 became one of the Trust’s first great houses.

Built in the estate of the house, the cottages and buildings in the village have been constructed almost entirely from local Ham Stone. The warm, mellow tone of the honey-coloured stone has resulted in a wonderful picturesque village and led to several on-screen appearances including the 1995 version of Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility, the 2004 film The Libertine, the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall and Channel 4’s Hidden Villages with Penelope Keith.

But the village is far from just a pretty film set. It boasts a thriving village school, All Saints Church Primary School, a Post Office with a convenience store and a garage. The village hall, recently refurbished by a team of volunteers, has a packed calendar including a table tennis club, film nights, a baby and toddler group and regular parties.

At the edge of the village are the Montacute Allotments. In 2009, a study by international business consultancy Watson Wyatt, analysed three million pension records to break down life expectancy for older people in the country by postcode. According to the study, Montacute residents were found to have the longest life expectancy in England, attributed by many to the fertile soil and to growing their own produce.

Cottages cluster around a large square in the centre of the village known as The Borough, along with one of the village’s two pubs, the Phelips Arms. A few doors down is the fascinating Montacute TV Radio Toy Museum. Capturing the world of television and radio from the 1920s to the present, this unique museum is a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

The village’s second pub and hotel, The Kings Arms, is situated opposite the parish church, St Catherine’s, a grade II listed building with Norman foundations. If walking is your thing, there are plenty of wonderful woodland walks from the village, including a climb up the wooded St Michaels Hill.

Did you know?

According to local estate agents, Orchards Estates, the average semi-detached house price in the village is £275,987.

In the 2011 census, Montacute village had a population of 831.