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History & Heritage

Past to present

The history of wine in England began at least 2000 years ago when the Romans first brought it here. It is not clear to what extent vines were actually grown here by the Romans, but it is certain that by the time of the Norman Conquest vines were grown. Wine was made in a substantial number of monastic institutions in England – especially in southern England.

At the time of the compilation of the Domesday survey in the late 11th Century, vineyards were recorded in 46 places in southern England, from East Anglia through to modern day Somerset. When Henry II married Eleanor of Aquataine he got the vineyards too and wine became the universal drink in the 12th Century, at a penny a gallon!

By the time King Henry VIII ascended to the throne in 1509 there were 139 sizeable vineyards in England and Wales – 11 of them owned by the Crown, 67 by noble families and 52 by the church. It is not clear why the number of vineyards declined after this period. Some have put it down to an adverse change in the weather; others have linked it with the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

Around 1750, corks began to be used for closing bottles. This new technology meant that wine aged magically in an airtight bottle instead of turning into a vinegary liquid after a few weeks.

Apart from some evidence of various noblemen experimenting with growing grapes and making wine, there seems to have been no real commercial viticulture or winemaking during the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

The recovery that occurred after The Second World War was a haphazard process rather than a definite movement. However the revival is now well underway and England can boast a new generation of winemakers who produce wines of distinction. Our consistent award winning wines illustrate that beautifully! There are now nearly 400 vineyards across England and Wales, producing a total of around 2 million bottles a year.

Sharpham House and Estate

The Estate consists of 500 acres of mixed farmland owned by the Sharpham Trust. The house, designed in 1770 by Sir Robert Taylor, stands on a hill overlooking the vineyards, fields and the winding River Dart. The house is also home of the Sharpham Trust, an educational charity that promotes well-being and sustainable living. For more information please visit www.sharphamtrust.org