The grandiose Chanters House, in Ottery St Mary, Devon, has astonishing links to history and literature: it was the place where Oliver Cromwell declared the Civil War, and where the Coleridge family created one of the West Country’s most impressive libraries.
It originally dates from the 14th century but first rose to national fame in the 17th century, when Oliver Cromwell hosted a meeting of local people in the dining room — and apparently declared the start of the Civil War from there.
A little more than a century later, the property became home to another illustrious family, the Coleridges, in whose hands it would remain for about two centuries. The Reverend John Coleridge was made headmaster of the Kings’ School in 1760 and brought his huge family to live in Ottery St Mary.
It was in the town that his youngest son, the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, was born in 1772. But it was his eldest son, James, a distinguished soldier married to local heiress Frances Taylor, who bought Chanters House in 1796 and turned it into the family’s home.
Still in use today, the 70-ft-long room houses the 22,000 books of the Coleridge collection in oak carved bookcases that occupy the entire ground floor of the house’s west wing.