The first Bishop of the West Saxons was appointed in AD705 but the Bishop’s seat was moved to Old Sarum (later Salisbury) in 1075 and the church in Sherborne was taken over by the Benedictine monastery. When Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539, Sir John Horsey acquired the Abbey and most of its lands. Sherborne Boys School, founded in 1550, was built on the remains of the abbey buildings.
It was in the 12th century that the Bishop of Salisbury and Chancellor of England, Robert de Cean built a fortified palace. During the Civil War it was in Royalist hands until sacked by General Fairfax for Parliament in 1645. The romantic ruins remain and are now known as Sherborne Old Castle.
It is said that Sir Walter Raleigh fell in love with Sherborne when he saw the medieval castle as he was riding from London to Plymouth. Being a favourite of Queen Elizabeth, he persuaded her to secure the property for him, thereby beginning the historic connection of Sherborne with Sir Walter Raleigh and the American colonies.
Sir Walter tried to modernise the Old Castle but eventually built a new Elizabethan mansion in the grounds. It has been the home of the Digby family since 1617 and is now called Sherborne Castle. Prince William of Orange was entertained here in 1688 and George III visited in 1789. ‘Capability’ Brown created the lake in 1753. There are splendid collections of art, furniture and porcelain available for all to see.