The Dormers added Ascott to their numerous landholdings in 1518. Their manor house, so the story goes, was attacked and damaged by John Hampden in the Civil War.
In 1662 William Dormer built what a contemporary called a “very noble house “ to replace the old manor house, but just as the outside was finished some shavings caught fire and the house burned down.
The large hollow marks the site of the new house beside a terrace (the earth bank) overlooking the gardens. Excavations have uncovered the south wall and adjoining terrace walls. The notable absence of demolition material within the hollow may suggest preparations to rebuild or simply that the basement was cleared and landscaped to complement the gardens which were laid out in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.
After the fire the Dormers continued to live in their old manor house on the site of Ascott Park Cottage. The profligacy of William Dormer's grandson caused them to fall into debt and this may explain why building work was stopped, despite progress on the landscaping.