The 12th century Saltford Manor House is considered to be the oldest, continuously inhabited private house in England. Located in Saltford, Somerset, this stone house was designated as a Grade II listed building. The original Norman construction was made by William Fitz Robert, the 2nd Earl of Gloucester, who was the most powerful man in the West Country. Previously, the house was owned by Geoffrey de Montbray, the Bishop of Coutances, during the time of the Domesday Book. Historians claim that the house was built before 1150, only a few years before Bristol Abbey was constructed.
One of the historians who support that claim is John Goodall (the head of research for the Country Life magazine), who believes that it was built during that period due to its ornate window, which was of the kind built around that time. Also, similar features can be seen on the Hereford Cathedral built in the same century.
The British scholar Nikolaus Pevsner points out the importance of the surviving fragment of a medieval painting, and many other historians highlight the significance of the medieval Tudor fireplace. According to Anthony Emery, on each floor, the house originally had large single rooms, and on the ground floor, there was a vaulted chamber.
Additionally, other remaining details and items of significance are the religious wall paintings from the 13th century; the kitchen from the 17th century; and the Norman window in the main bedroom. The paintings are illustrations of the Virgin and Child, and there are scenes with the Wheel of Fortune.
The house has three floors, and inside there are five bedrooms, a utility room, three reception rooms, a dining room with a 17th-century kitchen, and a cloakroom. In the surrounding area outside, there are beautiful gardens, a workshop, and a garage. The medieval fish ponds, located north-east of the house, were probably used as a food source.
There is an unusual memorial for the legs of Frances Flood in the porch of the manor. The story goes that while this stranger passed through the village in 1723, she lost both her legs to gangrene after contracting smallpox, and so left them to be buried there.
The Manor is close to St Mary’s Church which was the village church that still has its Norman tower and font. Until 1603, the house was owned by the prominent family of Somerset, the Rodney family, and it had various owners later on, including the Flower family.
The Flower family owned the house between 1645 and 1878, and a few of its members were buried in the church. During the 20th century, many people lived in the house. In 1997, it was purchased by James Wynn who lived there with his wife and two daughters. He made major renovations and decorated the interior in a minimalist style, adding chrome furniture and halogen lighting.
After the house won the contest sponsored by the Country Life magazine in 2003, in which it was found to be the oldest continuously occupied house in England, Wynn wrote a history book about it in which he describes the restorations he made in 1997. In 2008, the Manor was put up for sale, and two years later it was sold for £1,375,000.