HUNDREDS of people flocked to see inside a mock Gothic stately home on Saturday (July 1) and hear all about the illustrious ancestors of the couple who live in it.

And their curiosity helped raise £4,000 to support two villages.

Anthony and Harriet Coote Sykes opened the doors of Bellamont House to raise money for the villages of Long Bredy and Littlebredy.

A raffle for the new radiotherapy centre in Dorset County Hospital raised an extra £1,600.

The couple were kept busy all afternoon showing the 400 plus visitors around the home they built of breeze block and render in less than a year.

The house is full of Egyptian artifacts and ancient paintings - or so it seems.

There were copies of a table that graced the Prince Regent's home Carlton House, Venetian tables that appear to float over the floor and examples of Trompe-l'œil to fool the eye.

Mrs Coote Sykes, who was a Cavendish before she married - a family long associated with Chatsworth House, told visitors the 'paintings' were copies and prints of family ancestors and artwork adorning the walls of Chatsworth and replicas of Egyptian figures and military swords to reflect the family's connections.

And those connections include famous military figures, like the Duke of Wellington and the two Sir Eyre Cootes, uncle and nephew who made names for themselves with the British army in India and Egypt.

A perhaps less distinguished but maybe more famous ancestor included Mrs Coote Sykes' connection to Charles II mistress Nell Gwyn though her grandmother's line.

Mrs Coote Sykes told visitors they'd fallen in love with the land and bought it with planning permission but changed the plans.

She said planners tied to rescind the permission but couldn't.

She said: "As it went up there were 'oohs and aahs you've ruined this beautiful valley'."

But the house has been featured in TV’s The Curious House Guest when Jeremy Musson came to call, Hello magazine, Country Life, Farmers’ Weekly and the Architectural Digest, among others.

The afternoon also saw tea and cakes served by volunteers from the villages as well as stalls and a barn dance with Tim Laycock and friends.

One of the organisers Gwen Kinghorn from Long Bredy said: "Everybody said what a lovely afternoon they'd had. The weather was lovely and so was the atmosphere.

"It was nice because the children got involved organising the games and the teenagers got involved with the animal corner."