Charborough House

Wareham, Dorset

Dating from circa 1652, the original house was built for Sir Walter Erle (1586-1665), the Parliamentary Commander whose first home at Charborough was destroyed by Royalists in retaliation for his (albeit unsuccessful) siege of Corfe Castle, some of the materials of which were used to build his new home. In 1728, the heiress of the Erle and Ernle families, Elizabeth, married her first cousin, Henry Drax, whose fortune was derived from the sugar trade in Barbados, where his family owned - and his descendants continue to own - Drax Hall. His son, Edward, built the tower folly in the parkland. Edward's son-in-law, Richard, took the surname "Erle-Drax" and in about 1810, to the plans of John Nash, remodelled the house to its present appearance....

This house is best associated with...

Henry Drax

Henry Drax, M.P., of Charborough House, Dorset etc.


John Sawbridge-Erle-Drax

John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle-Drax, M.P., of Charborough House, Dorset


Richard Erle-Drax was succeeded at Charborough by his son-in-law, John Erle-Drax (1800-1887), the last member of the family to profit from slave labour at Drax Hall before slavery was abolished in 1836. John "spent money prodigiously" on Charborough House, using 2-million bricks to build the park's famously long boundary wall, and erecting both the "Stag Gate" and "Lion Gate" entrances. In 1882, Charborough (portrayed as Welland House) and its tower were featured in Thomas Hardy's novel, Two on a Tower.

Although lacking in male heirs for several generations, as the principal seat of the Drax family Charborough continued to bump its way down the female line of their family through a succession of husbands and grandsons who took the all-important surname "Erle-Drax" necessary to unlock the trusts giving access to the Drax family coffers.

In 1916, John's great-grandson, Admiral Sir Reginald Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax (1880-1967) succeeded to the estates of Charborough etc. He was said to be a disliked acquaintance of Ian Fleming (the creator of James Bond) who used his name for the arch-villain (Sir Hugo Drax) in his book/the movie, Moonraker. Today, Charborough is home to the Admiral's grandson, Richard Drax M.P., who has come under increasing pressure to at least recognise his family's debt to the slaves/country that suffered to build their fortune.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 19/07/2021 and last updated on 21/07/2021.


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