Visiting Moignes Court

The grounds of Moignes Court, the court room and old kitchen are open to the public between 9am and 1pm on the following dates in 2024:

Monday 1st April: Easter Egg Hunt Open Day

Wednesday 1st - 27th May

Monday 6th May: Bluebell Walk Open Day

A tour will be conducted by Ralph Cree at 12pm on each of these days

Entrance fee is £5 per person

For more information about visiting please email [email protected]

artist impression of medieval moignes court courtesy of john lowe

Moignes Court is the oldest inhabited house in Dorset built in 1267. We know the date because a grant was given from Henry 3rd’s wife to William Le Moyne. The grant stated that he may “close his house at Ogre, county Dorset, with a good dyke and stone wall but without making crenellations”. We feel this restriction was probably due to the experience Henry had with Simon De Montfort’s rebellion where he and his followers hid behind crenellated castles and were difficult to defeat. Henry’s son, who became Edward 1st, defeated Simon De Montfort at the battle of Evesham in 1265. 


The Le Moyne’s had held the land since the time of Henry 1st in exchange for sargenty of the kitchen where they would provide the king with food as he travelled via Dorset around the country. Moignes Court was probably not the principle residence of the Le Moyne family. They also held property at Shipton Moyne in Gloucestershire, and in Essex. We believe that the occupants of Moignes Court were likely to be tenants of the Le Moyne’s. The Le Moyne’s held this land until the reign of Edward 4th when their daughter married Lord John Stourton. The Stourton’s held the manor and Shipton Moyne until the reign of Mary. At that time Lord Charles Stourton was convicted of murdering his neighbours who lived near him in Wiltshire. He was hung with a silk chord due to his rank.


 The estate was sold to William Wake, a Dorset man who later became the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the 1720’s Wake sold the estate to Sir Theodore Jahnsen who originally came from Holland and was a non-executive director of the South Sea company that was involved in the infamous South Sea bubble. The company had recruited him to add respectability to their board of directors. As there were no limited liability companies in those days the directors had to pay out very large compensations to the share holders. Jahnsen had to pay £200,000 which would be a huge amount in today’s money, which left him with £50,000. Most of the other directors were allowed to keep only £5000. Jahnsen’s daughter married the youngest son of the Earl of Dorchester Lionel Damer. In 1826 the Jahnsens sold the estate to the Cree family.

drawing of moignes court in 1876

  West elevation:


There are two cut off chimney stacks, the one on the left would have heated the first floor hall and the one on the right serviced the kitchen. The arched window in the middle was moved from the north wall and replaced the chimney. You can see the arched remains of the original front entrance which led to a central cross passage. To the right was the kitchen and above it the buttery. In the Middle Ages, a buttery was a store room for liquor, the name being derived from the Latin and French words for bottle or, to put the word into its simpler form, a butt, that is, a cask. A butler, before he became able to take charge of the ewery, pantry, cellar, and the staff, would be in charge of the buttery. To the left of the passage would have been store rooms. To the right of the kitchen chimney was a spiral staircase leading to the 1st floor. The Southern and East wings were built by George John Cree in the 1890’s. At this time the spiral staircase was replaced with a more modern staircase on the eastern side of the building, the cross passage blocked and main entrance moved into the South wing. The roof was thatched which burned off in 1890. 


Northern elevation:


It is possible to see the faint traces of where the middle arched window used to be. Possibly the reason for moving it was to install a chimney that serviced the first floor hall. The East wing was built on what would have been the medieval solar wing where the senior members of the family had their private quarters and the rest of the family would have bedded down in the main hall.


Eastern elevation and courtyard:


The house would have originally had a U-shaped courtyard on the eastern side which contained buildings such as a brewery. The bricks for the house were manufactured in a brick kiln situated a field away to the south east of the house which went on to be a commercial enterprise providing local buildings with brick for a time. You can see the archway that would have been the entrance to the first floor hall accessed via a wooden external staircase. The ceilings of the ground and first floors were raised in the 1890’s, and you can see the evidence of this in the old entrance to the first floor hall. The arched window underneath would have been the exit of the central cross passage. Up until around 1900 the southern outbuilding was used as a coach house and stables, and the northern building for other animals and tools.  


The old kitchen:


The arch in the middle of the west wall was the location of the original cooker and chimney. The fireplace on the north wall was installed in the 18th century. Behind the north wall is where the original cross passage ran. Prior to 1890 the original ceiling height would have been about 1 metre lower than at present.


Pistol belonging to John Cree and his sabre which has the George 3rd imprint on the blade.


Miniatures of the Stickland family into which John Cree junior married. 


The stained glass window on staricase shows the Cree family Coat of Arms. The trading ship is sailing between the sun in the east and west.

The court room:


The arched window on your right as you enter was the original entrance to the courtroom which illustrates how much the floor was raised to allow for higher ceilings on the ground floor.


We believe that the middle of the three medieval arched windows was moved from the north wall of the courtroom in order to install a chimney. Originally these would have had window seats.


The arched wooden door would have led to the original medieval solar wing where the family would have been able to retire from the public life of the courtroom. The word ‘solar’ may have derived from the latin ‘souls’ meaning ‘alone’. 


Portrait of John Cree: John fought in the Napoleonic wars and inherited from his uncle who was also called John Cree. One of the conditions of the inheritance was that John change his surname from McMahon to Cree. At the time he was living in Dublin where his father was an apothecary. John Cree senior was a free trader based in Dakar who bought Indian cloth which he exported to Europe. He mainly used the Danish owned Asiatic trading company so he could get around the monopoly of the East India company. When he retired to London he also leased a country house called Thornhill at Stalbridge. John Cree junior decided to terminate the lease on Thornhill and in 1826 purchased the Owermoigne estate which included Moignes Court.


Grant of Arms to the Cree family dated 1815: Here you can see the Cree coat of arms and crest. Originally this was granted to John Cree senior in India and when John Cree junior inherited he was able to use the Cree coat of arms.


John Robert Cree (rector of owermoigne) and his brother James Cree (rector of Chaldon) both had no children but their sister Georgiana did with a rector from Devon called George stone. Their son George John Stone inherited Moignes Court from his uncle John Robert Cree. Once again, the condition of inheritance was that George change his surname to Cree. You can see a photo of the family at this time in their carriage which would have been housed in the outbuilding in Moignes Court courtyard.


George had 3 children Aubrey, Cecil, Adrian and Evelyn. Adrian died as a young man in 1916 in Ypres during WW1 and the family received a letter and medallion from the king. During WW2 the Crees had to vacate Moignes Court because it was used by the army. The family possessions were locked in the attic which was looted by soldiers and the medallion stolen and sold. Later a family bought the medallion from an antique shop and hung it above the fireplace of every house they owned. When they retired they decided to track down the family of Adrian Victor Cree as his name displayed on the medallion. The medallion was eventually given to Martin Cree and is now back in the house.


Cecil Cree inherited Moignes Court and married Dorothy Cree. They passed the house on to their son George. You can also see a portrait of his sister Cecily who is also pictured here as a girl tossing a white rose to the Prince of Wales (later Edward 7th) in 1928 while he was driving out of Max Gate having lunched with Thomas Hardye.

Ariel photo 1961: it is possible to see the original ditch around the village going through the field to the south of the house.

1920’s photo: you can see the croquet lawn installed by Dorothy Cree.

The moat:


This was dug in 1267 as part of the fortifications for the house, but also drained the area with was generally very wet. Currently we have many nesting water birds every year including Mallards, Mandarin ducks and Moorhens. Originally the moat went all the way around the house, Dorothy Cree (4th generation Cree at Moignes Court) filled in the western section to create a croquet lawn. The original entrance to the house was on the bridge to the east of the house and would have had a draw bridge.


Roman / Medieval village:


Owermoigne is a compound word: Ogre was the Saxon name for the village and Moigne is a reference to the Le Moyne family. The medieval village was deserted in the 13th century when the climate became much wetter. The village was moved to the South onto free draining chalk. The oldest part of the St Michael’s Church dates back to the 14th century. The large platform was a Saxon fort and the ancient village laid out to the north. The access would have been along Castle lane (currently the first part of Moignes Court drive and then part of the farm track heading east) 


The village was about 10 acres in size and surrounded by a ditch, half of the northern part still remains to this day, which would have extended all the way to the woods. You can see to the east, south along the edge of the wood and then coming back towards the house. The Saxon fort hasn’t been excavated, but the earthworks to the north were excavated in 1972 by archeologists and remains of roman as well as medieval artefacts were found. There was a long building running across the end of the field which was a barn. There was also aTudor farm house to the west and a cobbled courtyard. Martin Cree was involved in the excavations and found some shards of 11th century pottery. There was very little dressed stone remaining and we presume that this was taken to build the new village on it’s present site.


Information courtesy of Martin Cree

photo of moignes court 1960