For many English people in the 19th century the idea of the moated English manor house with its small agrarian community and long history going back to the Anglo-Saxons connoted the quintessence of their national identity. Baddesley Clinton could well stand as an icon of that view – a small moated manor house in rural Warwickshire in which a thousand years of history have gradually accumulated and remain an immediate and forceful reminder of it. Part of that history is its very long association with Roman Catholicism. The Ferrers family who have held it for nearly 500 years remained steadfastly Roman Catholic after the English Reformation and the house has its fair share of features from that troubled time.
Archaeological and historical opinion has it that there’d been an Anglo-Saxon manor here in the ancient Forest of Arden prior to the Norman invasion of 1066. Along with many others it was given to the Norman knight Geoffrey de Wirce and then later to Nigel d’Albini whose son later gave it to Walter de Bisege whose grand-daughter Mazer married a Sir Thomas De Clinton. Their son James and / or his father Sir Thomas are thought to have dug the existing moat about 1230 and possibly a second outer one as well and erected a gated entrance on the east side rather than on the site of the later present one on the north side. With the moated house came the demesne or land farmed by the Lord, and in addition to this the selions, or strips of land separated by raised banks farmed by the peasants. They were often serfs, bound for life to the Lord of the manor who held land in return for service. There remains clear evidence of their strip farming or “ridge and furrow” between the church at Baddesley and the house. Other than the footprint of the moat, nothing visible remains of the built C13th century structures, the earliest extant and visible evidence of buildings comes from C15th and C16th centuries and this has been absorbed as a patchwork into later buildings. The manor was acquired by John Brome in 1459 (murdered 1468) and his wife Beatrice built the eastern family ranges and the new east entrance. Their grand-daughter Constance married Sir Edward Ferrers (c.1468-1535) and Baddsley passed into the Ferrers family. It was Edward Ferrers between 1526-36 who substantially re-executed the east wing and also built a new sewer along the south front and a new gatehouse range and drawbridge, porters lodge and other rooms. Later, between 1570-1580 his grandson Henry Ferrers “the Antiquary” (1549-1633) constructed a new south range including new staircases, the Great Parlour and the present Great Hall. He also remodelled the interior and added much heraldic stained glass. The earlier medieval great hall survived as part of the kitchens until it was demolished at the end of the C18th century. In the C17th century a new Great Parlour was created over the main entrance looking out through a new, large mullioned window over the bridge. This has a magnificent barrel vaulted plaster ceiling. There was little significant new building work in the C18th century, merely maintenance and consolidation, re-roofing the south range and rebuilding parts of it in brick and a new brick bridge was built to the gatehouse in 1720’s. The present kitchen was created between 1747-48 out of what had become the servant’s hall which previously had originally been the great hall in the medieval period and was later demolished in the 1790’s. This work included building a new hearth and chimney, the flue of which passed through what is now the chapel’s sacristy. Another chimney was erected in the great parlour in 1752. In the late 1890’s new servant’s accommodation was added to the south west range by Mr Dering in black and white timber work (see image of the courtyard above). In the 1940’s Thomas Ferrers-Walker re-created the sacristy next to the chapel on the first floor, which had been removed to create the chimney from the Kitchen in the 1790’s. The National Trust acquired Baddesley Clinton in 1980 and since then has supervised a program of restoration, conservation and repair.
The Great Hall
A medieval manor was a complex social unit for communal living overseen by a Lord of Manor with extensive legal rights over the people and property within it. The Manor house’s main building was the Great Hall, a communal space for dining, receiving guests, entertaining, and dispensing justice and for sleeping. It often had a shallow dias at one end with a high table for the Lord, his family and guests of rank. It typically would have had a solar or sleeping chamber above or behind this end and perpendicular tables and long benches below the dias for everyone else. At the opposite end would be the screens passage and beyond that the kitchens, pantry and buttery – a place for keeping barrels or “butts” of beer and wine. Baddesley Clinton had such a timber framed great hall in its earliest form in the C13th century. The great hall as it was later re-created in the C18th century by Henry Ferrers, “the antiquary” was in a slightly different location on the site – where it is now – and although designed to look “medieval” was quite different in function from that earlier predecessor. It has three windows which face on to the courtyard and another north of the fireplace. The room is entirely lined in C17th century oak panelling.
The large chimney stack protrudes well into the hall and has a very beautiful late C16th century chimney-piece which was moved to the Great Hall from the Great Parlour over the gateway in 1752. The rectangular fire-place is flanked by half-baluster pilasters enriched with scrolls, conventional foliage, flowers, and lions’ masks. It’s surmounted by an over-mantle with a central, round escutcheon in round moulding enclosing a carved achievement of arms of Ferrers of Baddesley quartering Brome, Hampden, and White, with a crest of a unicorn all within a round moulded rectangular frame displaying six small shields of arms. There are flanking caryatids (Pevsner has them as Altlantides) in Elizabethan costume and a reticulated cornice above. The design of the over-mantle is reputedly modelled on plate LXIIIIr I, Book IV “On the Five Styles of Building” of Sebastiano Serlio’s Five Books of Architecture although the similarity can only reasonably be applied to the lower register of the fireplace opening, its jambs and lintel. The upper register or over-mantel of the Great Hall chimney-piece is entirely different, it has flanking caryatids / Atlantides rather than consoles, strap-work, a round rather than oval central escutcheon and it is without the surmounting, winged Scallop shell. If another example is sought from Serlio for that upper register it is closer – though only distantly – to Plate XXXIIIIv of the same book where the escutcheon is round but all else is different. The strap-work in the upper register in the Great Hall fireplace is certainly not Serlian at all, it’s more Flemish in feel and might indicate a design source from later published Flemish “interpretations” of Serlio – for example Hans Vredeman de Vries (1527 – c. 1607) or Hieronymus Wellens de Cock (1518 – 1570). Pevsner suggests Wendel Dietterlin the Elder (1550-1599) as a possible source and indeed his treatise “Le Livre de l’Architecture. Recueil de Planches donnant la division, symétrie et proportion des cinq ordres, appliques à tous les travaux d’arts qui en dépendent tels que fenêtres, cheminées, chambranles, portails, fontaines et tombeaux” does contain illustrations which are similar to those of Baddesley Clinton’s Great Hall over-mantle decoration. It is often repeated that the “…the parts of the upright section to either side of it [the fireplace] were re-installed in the wrong order.”1 p.45. A comparative examination of Serlio’s illustrations would indicate that this is not the case and that in fact the Georgian masons got it right. Chimney-Pieces of a similar compositional form though different detail can be found elsewhere in England from this period for instance at Red Lodge in Bristol and (although less elaborate and smaller) in the Parlour at Little Moreton Hall.
The Drawing Room and Dining Room
Next to the Great Hall are the Drawing Room and Dining Room. The Dining Room was once part of the medieval porter’s lodge and later in the 1630’s it was converted into a private parlour for the family. It has some good stained glass coats of arms of Henry Ferrers (d.1526) and his wife Katherine Hampden and of Sir Edward Ferrers (d.1535) and Constance Brome and Henry Hampden and his wife Elizabeth Ferrers, daughter of the aforementioned Sir Edward. It has late-16th-century oak panelling and the east fire-place sports a richly decorated, three-bay chimney-piece with four pilasters, the outer two of whichdescend to the floor. The central bay has a coat of arms of Ferrers. The Drawing room in the north-east angle was rebuilt along with the rest of that part of the house in the 1790’s and is lined with late-16th-century oak panelling and has a west fireplace flanked by fluted oak pilasters and a contemporary over-mantel with carved shafts and a heraldic shield of Ferrers and White. It also has stained glass windows one from the 1690’s and the other from the 1890’s.
The C16th century staircase in the SE corner of the Great Hall leads to the first floor, the bedrooms and chapel. Henry Ferrer’s bedroom (yellow on the plan) refers to Henry the ‘Antiquary’ (1549-1633) and his wife Jane (d.1586) who built a great deal of the south range, including the Great Hall and converted the upper rooms of the porters lodge into the Great Parlour. It was he who extensively remodelled interiors and added much of the stained glass. This bedroom is a remarkable survival not only in the quality of the elaborate carved and decorated chimney-piece, over-mantle and oak panelling (c.1629) but in that their construction was recorded in considerable detail by Sir Henry in his diary.
Next to Sir Henry’s bedroom is the Blue Bedroom. The chimney-piece and over-mantle here are attributed to Edward Ferrer’s (1585-1651), son of Sir Henry. The Oak panelling is of about the 1630’s but the Oak half-tester bed (which is very fine) is a much later addition, brought from an inn at Appledore in Kent by Lady Chatterton.
Upstairs on the 1st floor there is much of interest, in particular the chapel and the sacristy which are in the oldest surviving part of the house, in the position where in the medieval period the link would have existed between the Great Hall and the Lord’s private chambers. The room which is now the chapel was most likely used in the 1590’s as a bedroom and chapel by the family’s Jesuit priest. It went out of use for 60 years at the beginning of the 19th century but was re-consecrated in 1875.
The reredos depicting Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane was painted by Georgina Lady Chatterton (1806-76, m.1859) and there are other painted panels of scenes from the passion of Christ as well as the triptych of the Virgin and St John to the right of the altar painted by Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen Ferrers (1830-1923). There are fascinating Spanish leather gilded wall panels (now covered in Perspex) which were acquired by Lady Chatterton. The chapel was reconfigured and refurbished to its present state in 1940 by Thomas Ferrers-Walker, using early photographs and paintings as sources for the design as it had been in the C19th century.
In the north-west corner of the house is the library. At one time a bedroom, it was converted into a library in the C19th century by Marmion Ferrers. Like many other rooms in the house it is oak panelled and the fine carved oak over-mantle with three round-headed panels above a stone arched fire-place was installed by Edward Ferrers in 1634. A small chamber which cut off the south of it in 1754 is said to have some traces of old wall-painting. The book collection is mainly on history and genealogy and some of the collection dates from before 1760 when the first surviving inventory was taken.
Marmion Ferrers and Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen Ferrers
Baddesley Clinton’s survival into the C20th century depended in part on one of its more colourful squires in the 19th century, Marmion Ferrers (1813-84) who did much to retain and celebrate its historical uniqueness. He was it is fair to say a traditionalist with a penchant for the antique, both in furnishing, manners and personal dress. He was a squire of the traditional kind, a benign overseer of the household and wider village and agricultural community and as a Victorian gentleman he existed in conscious contradistinction to the industrial world of nearby Birmingham. His wife Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen Ferrers was a talented and active artist who filled the house with family portraits, landscapes and very helpfully pictures of the house. They were never a very wealthy family so when Rebecca’s wealthy aunt Georgina, Lady Chatterton and her second husband Edward Dering came to live with them at Baddesley Clinton because they liked it the fortunes of the house were improved greatly and the four of them got on very well. Edward poured substantial funds into the maintenance and development of the house which meant that it could remain in the Ferrers family. They were an artistic grouping with connections to Dickens and Wordsworth and Rebecca and the Derings became Roman Catholics in 1865. All four of them helped to restore the house and re-create the chapel, they dressed in historical clothes and were perhaps viewed as slightly eccentric by some of their contemporaries but by no means all. There was a taste for this kind of antiquarian lifestyle throughout conservative parts of Victorian society.
The last of them Rebecca died in 1923 leaving the estate to nephews and trustees who could not afford to keep it up. In 1932 the house was photographed by Country Life magazine and in 1939 it was put up for sale, what furniture was left was sold off (some of it to Baron Ash at Packwood House) and in 1940 the house itself was sold at auction. It was eventually acquired by distant relatives Thomas Walker (1888-1970) and his wife Udine (1894-1962) and they changed their name to Ferrers to continue the tradition of the association of the name with the house. Their son Thomas Weaving Ferrers-Walker (1925-2006) passed the house to the National Trust in 1980.
The most complete history of Baddesley Clinton is the Rev. Henry Norris of Tamworth’s 1897 volume, “Baddesley Clinton, its manor, church and hall. With some account of the family of Ferrers, etc.” London; Leamington. Art & Book Co., 1897. 1.The National Trust Guidebook “Baddesley Clinton” by Jeremey Musson, 2015, ISBN 978-1-84359-444-4 is also most useful. There is of course Pevsner, Nikolaus and Wedgwood, Alexandra, 1966, Buildings of England: Warwickshire p. 81-2.