Discover the history of Moonfleet Manor in Dorset

Our history

Built over 400 years ago, our grand old house's story includes countless families, soldiers and even smugglers, and it's even been immortalised in books and film.

18,000 BCE

Chesil Beach formed

Our manor house is nestled on the shores of the world-famous Jurassic Coast, Britain's only natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chesil Beach was formed at the end of the last Ice Age, around 20,000 years ago, creating the stunning landscape you can see today.


Estate bought by Robert Mohun

After his father bought the estate in 1566, Maximillian Mohun set about building Fleet House, which was completed in 1603. The Mohun family would live at Fleet House for over 170 years, and in that time stories would be told about smugglers and shipwrecks. Dorset was a hotbed of smuggling, and the tunnels leading out from our cellar are rumoured to have been used to hide contraband such as tea, lace and brandy. The tunnel has since been blocked up, but it is rumoured that it led all the way to the Old Church in East Fleet, and we know there's a tunnel leading away from the Mohun crypt at the church.


Fleet House passes to John Gould

When Sarah Gould, sister of the last Robert Mohun, died, the house passed to her husband - John Gould. The Gould family renovated Fleet House extensively, hence its distinctive Georgian appearance.


The Great Storm

In 1824, the south coast was battered by hurricane-force winds. When the storm broke across Chesil Beach, East Fleet was flooded, and the majority of the village was submerged by the storm, with the Old Chuch being left entirely in ruins. It's thought that almost 60 people died. Rev. George Gould invited the displaced villagers into Fleet House until their homes could be rebuilt, and later paid for Holy Trinity Church to be built.

In the wake of this destruction, and the damage to Royal Navy ships, an early predecessor the Met Office was founded.


Rev. George Gould dies

The estate stayed in the Gould family until the death of the Reverend in 1841. It then passed to the Jacksons and the Goodens, before being let to the Pretor family, Sir Henry Peto and his wife, and the Turnors.


Fleet House bought by the George Family

By the end of the 19th century, the house belonged to the George family, who made significant alterations to the house, as recorded by the brass plaque over the front door. They later made further alterations under the direction of famous architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens.


Moonfleet published

Fleet House and the village of Fleet were the settings for J. Meade Falkner's iconic novel, Moonfleet. Published in 1898, and set in 1797, the story is a classic tale of smuggling. Drawing heavily on the area's heritage, you'll find recognisable places and even references to the "Mohune" family.

In the mid-1800s, Falkner worked as a private tutor for the Noble family, and one of his students, Sir Saxton Noble, would go on to buy Fleet House in the 1930s.


Fleet House at war

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Lady Noble moved to Bath, and the house was requisitioned for use by British and US soldiers. If you travel halfway down the lane from the hotel, you'll find two old stone gateposts. They may look to be in disrepair, but in reality, one was removed to widen the approach for military vehicles.

Because of its proximity to the naval base at Portland, the area featured prominently in the war effort. The Fleet was used as a testing site for Barnes Wallis’ bouncing bomb, and before the Normandy landings, troops gathered there ahead of the operation.


Fleet House becomes a hotel

As the war ended and the military left, Fleet House was bought by Messrs Sidwell, Whetton and Austin, who turned it into a hotel. Since then, the house has remained open to guests visiting the coast.


Moonfleet Manor joins our family

When Fleet House was bought by Nigel Chapman and Nicholas Dickinson, they decided to pay tribute to the house's vibrant history by renaming it Moonfleet Manor, after the story that immortalised this region. And after a £1 million refurbishment project, they restored the house to its Georgian glory and added a little extra contemporary comfort.


Moonfleet Manor undergoes an extensive refurbishment of the main house

All existing spaces were given a new lease of life courtesy of the London-based design studio, StudioJill.


Moonfleet Manor unveils the new-look Fleethouse

Once a farm house, the Fleethouse was completed re-imagined and is now home to six rooms with unrivalled views towards Chesil Beach.