Gournay Court

High Street, West Harptree, Somerset

Completed circa 1650, for John Buckland (1611-1678) and his wife Elizabeth Phelips, demonstrated by the carved arms over the entrance of Buckland and Phelips with the motto, "Altogether Vanity". The rather grim north front faces West Harptree church and Rutter stated in 1829 that, "the present building was originally a large (Elizabethan) mansion... (part of) the front is remaining, with a square portico, carried up to the third story, where it terminates with an open balcony". It was long held by the Duchy of Cornwall and from at least 1829 was referred to locally as the "Prince's House" although by then it had already been converted into a farm house. Since 2010, it has been the country home of the ex-Minister for Brexit Opportunities, Jacob Rees-Mogg....

This house is best associated with...

Jacob William Rees-Mogg

M.P., Co-Founder of Somerset Capital Ltd., and ex-Minister for Brexit Opportunities


Helena (de Chair) Rees-Mogg

Mrs Helena Anne Beatrix Wentworth Fitzwilliam (de Chair) Rees-Mogg


The original manor was held by the Gournay (Gurney) family from the 13th Century. Arguably their most infamous kinsman was Thomas Gournay who murdered King Edward II, fled to Spain, but was captured and beheaded at sea in 1333. His fourth son, Sir Matthew Gournay, died childless in 1406 when his estates reverted to the Crown but were soon afterwards regranted to his widow's third husband, Sir John Tiptoft. When Tiptoft died in 1443, the manor fell into the possession of the Royal Duchy of Cornwall. It was leased from 1630 to John Buckland's father, Francis, who began building the new house in the Jacobean style but died before it was complete, leaving his son to finish the works.

In 1675, in renewal of the lease granted to his father, John Buckland was granted a 99-year lease on Gournay's Court (aka Gurney or Gurney's Court) with 297-acres valued at £120 a year for a fine of £60 from the Duchy of Cornwall. The manor was inherited by John's daughter, Elizabeth (d.1692), the wife of John Bluet (1638-1700) of Holcombe Rogis in Devon, but after he died it once again reverted back to the Duchy of Cornwall.

For the next 200-years the house was leased by the Duchy as a farmhouse and from at least 1829 was referred to locally as the "Prince's House". Between 1910 and 1913, under the instruction of King George V, the house was restored by the West Country architect John Duke Coleridge (1879-1934) at a cost of £2,000. There is no supporting evidence, but a rumour was circulated that the King wanted to house his epileptic son here. Either way, the outbreak of World War I in 1914 saw the house repurposed as a military hospital and Mrs B.B. Gough (Annie S. Longstaffe, former Matron of Great Grimsby Hospital) was appointed Commandant. Tragically, she lost her husband on the Western Front in 1916.

After the war, first as a tenant of the Duchy before buying it outright in 1928, the house became home to Colonel Sir Edward Geoffrey Hippisley-Cox (1884-1954), a distinguished solicitor, who contracted Messrs. Hayward & Wooster of Bath to continue with its renovations until he died in 1954. After holding an auction to sell off much of the furniture he'd collected here, his widow sold the house to Graham Egerton Lovell (b.1905), Managing Director of the Bristol Steam Navigation Co. (founded by his family in 1821) who'd lived with his wife, Margery Raworth, in nearby Blagdon for several years before.

The house and 28-acres was sold out of the Lovell family in 1971 for just under £60,000, and just shy of forty years later (2010) it was sold again for £2.9-million to Jacob Rees-Mogg and his wife to whom he was married three years earlier, Helena. His spinster great-aunt, Molly, had been a nurse and quartermaster here when it was a hospital. Following an extensive renovation by Ellis & Co., they live between here and London. 

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 07/03/2023 and last updated on 08/03/2023.

Delineations of the North Western Division of the County of Somerset, and of Its Antediluvian Bone Caverns, with a Geological Sketch of the District (1829) by John Rutter




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