This section of the website includes entries describing over 100 individual properties in the village, all of which can be found by clicking on the links below. By way of introduction, the following narrative provides a brief history of two of the most important houses in Rode (with more information available by following the links below):

RODE HOUSES – a short note by Michael Hill, architectural historian, with the assistance of Peter Harris (2024)

The area around the clothing village of Rode became a location for the erection of fashionable villas – mostly for successful local cloth-making families – from around the end of the 18th century through to the 1820s and 1830s.

The largest of these is Langham House, built on newly-enclosed common land at Rode Hill, an area originally lying in Wiltshire but transferred to Somerset in 1937. The construction of Langham House took place between 1792 and 1805, when the land on which it stood was owned by its builder Thomas Whitaker Ledyard (d.1835), a clothier, and co-owner of a ‘clothing manufactory’ in Melksham. As he married in 1800 it would seem that this would provide a likely date for its completion (although Andrew Foyle reports its date as 1792 and notes Thomas Baldwin as its architect by repute).

As first erected it consisted of a five-by-four bay plain Neoclassical block of three stories with sash fenestration in plain openings, those to the ground floor within blind arches. The only external embellishments are a Doric porch with four columns on the south-facing entrance front, and a balustraded parapet with pineapple urns on the corners. Attached to this, cornerwise at the north east is a service and coach-house block and within, the hall has a Tuscan columned screen; there are also several rooms with fine plasterwork. In 1810 the house was extended by the addition of a grand, single-storey drawing room on its east side, this having three tall French windows with marginal glazing bars and also a balustraded parapet.

After Whitaker’s death, and to at least the 1940s, the house was tenanted. The most notorious occupants were the family of Samuel Savill Kent (1800-1872), a factory inspector, apparently living way beyond his means. In 1860 an infant son of Kent was murdered, a case that eventually involved Inspector ‘Jack’ Whicher of Scotland Yard. A later resident, from around 1915, was Sir Howard William Kennard (1878-1955), diplomat and as ambassador in Warsaw from 1935 to 1939 was the government’s key advisor on the Polish situation in the moments leading up to World War II.

The house name changed in the 1880s to Road Hill House (perhaps to dispel any memory of the murder), while ownership by the 1870s had passed to Abraham Laverton (1819-86) of Westbury, and by 1915 to Walter Greenhill (1869-1934) of Hilperton Marsh.

Merfield House was of a slightly later date, erected just south of the village. With a principal elevation facing north-west, over the Frome valley, its builder was Jonathan Noad (1780-1829) of a long-standing Rode clothier family. Built in 1810, it is a fine Neoclassical composition, the central three bays rising to a second storey above the two-storey flanks, and with a two-storey bow over the centre of the main façade, much like The Chantry near Mells (q.v). Whilst the latter is undoubtedly by John Pinch of Bath, the detailing of Merfield suggests that another, but yet unidentified, hand was involved.

With plain sash-window openings and a simplified cornice and frieze with blocking course, the corners are highlighted with panelled pilasters, the panels interrupted by a platband. Entry is (rather unusually) on the north-east facing side elevation, its central Doric porch having two Tower-of-the-Winds-order columns in antis, the pilasters panelled like those on the main body of the house. This is handled with considerable aplomb. Internally, rooms have typical, but unexceptional, plasterwork; the marble chimneypieces with reeded fire-openings are much more up to contemporary fashion.

Merfield remained in the Noad family until its sale in 1843 to Thomas Pooll (d.1859), younger brother of Henry Batten Pooll of Northfield House in Rode. It was probably he who commissioned H.E. Goodridge to design the lodge on a new driveway leading from the village (the drive paralleling the public road). This fine composition employs the architect’s characteristic Italianate style, with a run of diminutive arched and heavily keyed windows above the porch, and a pedimented projection below the road-facing end chimney, this with another arched window below the chimney. The bold rusticated gatepiers also belong to this period. The Poolls retained ownership until its eventual sale in 1966 to Commander W.J. Soames, and throughout the remainder of the Pooll ownership after the family had left in 1879, it was tenanted, one of the residents being the Hon. Charles French (1851-1925), a son of the 3rd Lord de Freyne, an Irish peer.


Langham House: J.W. Stapleton, The Great Crime of 1860, 1861; VCH, Wiltshire, VIII, 218-234; ODNB, 31, 225-6; Pevsner, Somerset: North & Bristol, 592; Kentish Gazette, 24 June 1800; Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 1 April 1802; Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 12 July 1860; Kelly’s Directories (Wiltshire & Somerset), 1866-1939; Census Returns, 1861-1911; Poll Books, 1774, 1781, 1819, 1832; SRO, D/P/, Marriage of T.W. Ledyard; SRO, Q/RDE/55, Rode Common Enclosure Map, 1792; Wiltshire RO, 523/19, Survey of North Bradley, 1805; Wiltshire RO, D1/25/TA/40, Tithe Map, 1846; OS Map 1/2500 Somerset XXXVIII.13, 1st edn., 1887, 2nd edn. 1901;,_Somerset, accessed 30 December 2023;, accessed 30 December 2023; ex inf. Peter Harris.

Merfield House: Pevsner, Somerset: North & Bristol, 592; London Evening Standard, 31 December 1829; Salisbury and Winchester Journal, 16 August 1843; Kelly’s Directories, 1866-1939; Census Returns, 1861-1911; Poll Books, 1818, 1846; NA, PROB 11/1560/496, Will of Jonathan Noad, 1814; SRO, A/AMZ/1, Will of Henry Batten-Pooll, 1862; SRO, D/D/Rt/M/156, Tithe map, 1839; OS Maps 1/2500 Somerset XXX. 3, 1st edn., 1886;, accessed 6 January 2024;, accessed 6 January 2024; ex inf. Peter Harris.

[For more information on Langham House, see the “Langham Place” link below; For more information on Merfield House, click the “Merfield House” link below]

9 February 2023
Last Updated
15 January 2024