Hawkesbury’s Manor House

The hearth tax record of 1662 assesses Sir Robert Jenkinson, then owner of the manor house opposite the church, at 15 fireplaces; the vicarage, occupied by John Pell, is rated at 5 fireplaces, and the Church House at only 1. The hearth tax record includes details of other manor house assessments as follows:

Alderley Matthew Hale 18
Horton Edward Stephens 7
Tortworth William Dury 16
Hillesley Edward Cousins 12
Great Badminton Henry Lord Somerset 37

The manor house at Hawkesbury probably had only four owners (excluding the Crown 1539-1545), only one of whom is likely to have been owner-occupier.
Arthur Crewe probably lived there for a short time between 1613 and 1621.

A section of Isaac Taylor’s map of 1777

A section of Isaac Taylor’s map of 1777

An aerial view of St Mary’s church and the manor house site

An aerial view of St Mary’s church and the manor house site.

The hearth tax record, apart from confirming the existence of the manor house in 1622, offers a good indication of the size of the building at the time, probably a little smaller than Matthew Hale’s house at Alderley, but larger than that of Edward Cousins at Hillesley. The location of the manor house is known to have been to the north of the church, although there is no longer any visible indication of its exact position.

An edition of Gloucestershire Notes & Queries of the early 1890s contains an article by Cecil G. S. Foljambe, grandson of Sir Charles Cecil Cope Jenkinson 9th Baronet Hawkesbury, that includes an account of the tragic death of Amelia, 1st wife of the 7th Baronet at the age of 19 during her journey from London to the manor house at Hawkesbury (see 1770), and goes on to say that: ‘the house, which stood just across the road to the north of the church, was soon afterwards pulled down, and all that now remains is the wall and the arched doorway which formed the entrance to the courtyard of the house which was built as three sides of a square; a small portion of the foundations, with part of a cellar or basement window of the eastern wing, was also in existence, as well as part of the stables in 1888.’

Abandonment of the manor house soon after 1770 is confirmed by Samuel Rudder, writing in 1779, who says that: ‘the manor house having been uninhabited for some time is gone to decay.’

A map of 1777 by Isaac Taylor shows the manor house as an image break in the name of its then owner, Sir Bankes Jenkins^on, but unfortunately only as a standard icon used to represent a large house.

As the manor house fell into disuse, the stonework and other re-usable fabric of the building would soon have been dismantled and used elsewhere, and thus there is no representation on any later maps. Part of the foundations seem to have remained for some time, however, and a horse-drawn cart is said to have fallen into the part-filled basement at some time during the mid-1900s.

The doorway from the manor house grounds to the church

Illustrations and, below, photograph showing the doorway from the manor house grounds to the church.

The only pictorial evidence so far discovered is of the doorway between the manor house and church; this appears in a sketch accompanying Cecil Foljambe’s article in Gloucestershire Notes & Queries, also in an early photograph, probably taken around 1900, and again in a painting by R. R. Tomlinson (see also 1885).
The manor house was in the ownership of the Jenkinson family from 1621, when Sir Robert Jenkinson purchased the manor from Arthur Crewe, but it is unlikely that any of the family took up permanent residence there, and manorial business was probably conducted during periodic visits. The principal family residences, meanwhile, were at Walcot, near Charlbury, Oxfordshire (acquired during the early-1600s, and eventually sold to the 3rd duke of Marlborough in 1759), and Eastwood Park, Falfield (purchased in 1688), and it would appear from family accounts that income from Hawkesbury estates (around £700 p.a. in 1730), was of greater priority than upkeep of the manor house, which was described by Sir Robert Atkyns in his ‘Ancient and Present State of Glostershire’ of 1712: ‘Sir Robert Jenkinson has a large old-built house near the church, and keeps a court-leet there’ (the manor house at this time and earlier was also referred to as the Nether Court, (meaning the ‘lower’ court i.e. at the bottom of the hill, under the Cotswold edge), to distinguish it from courts held by other manors within the parish.

The manor house certainly pre-dates the Jenkinson purchase of 1621, and a document of 1615 contains a reference to: ‘8 acres upon the Hill or Knowle above the dwelling house of Arthur Crewe.’ This suggests that Arthur Crewe, who had acquired the manor of Hawkesbury from Nicholas Boteler, lived at the manor house for a short time after leaving Hillesley in 1613, and before moving to Wiltshire.

The doorway from the manor house grounds to the church

The Boteler family of Great Badminton had owned the manor of Hawkesbury since 1545, following the dissolution of Pershore abbey, and brief ownership by the Crown, until it was sold to Arthur Crewe; it is recorded that Silvester, widow of John Boteler (1510-1551), lived at the manor house for a time.

An even earlier document of 1506 refers to a lease of the Nether Court by the abbot of Pershore, and it is therefore most likely that the manor house was originally built as a court-house by Pershore abbey, and was probably occupied by the ‘warden’ of Hawkesbury.

From Cecil Foljambe’s description the manor house as it last appeared was built on three sides of a courtyard, and a 1669 lease by Sir Robert Jenkinson includes details of parts of the service quarters: ‘to Nicholas Dring, broadweaver, all that Barne belonging to the Cort house And also the little stable comonly called the old stable, And also the New enclosed garden adjoining to the said barn, And also the little Back yard with the little Houses thereon built, And also the Room called the Barn House wherein the Brewing vessells now stand. And also those rooms of the great house, viz: the Wett and Dry larders, the Kitshon, the Dayry house where the cheesepresse stands, the use of the roome over the Brewhouse called the old Nursery, the little room next it and part of the Gallery to dry cheese. The roome by the storehouse where the dayry maid used to lye And the Garret adjoining to it called the Cheese chamber.’

A view across the manor house site to the church

A view across the manor house site to the church, with two surviving walnut trees in the foreground.

The lease included the liberty to ‘pass to and from the same rooms through any part of the said house and the use of the surrounding fields.’ Permission was further given to: ‘digg and make a garden except only where ye asparagus, Artichokes, Chestnuts, Wallnuts and Crabstocks are planted’, though Sir Robert and his family reserved the right ‘to passe through upon occasion the sd. Corte and roomes and also to make use of them.’

An undated early-18th century document refers to the part retained, stating ‘it appears by the Deeds of settlement above mentioned, that the Mannour house of Hawkesbury with an Orchard and Close adjoining being together about 5 acres was held by Sr. R. J. the Father and said to be of the yearly value of £22 pr. an.’

A fragment of floor tile found on the manor house site

A fragment of floor tile found on the manor house site.

An article in the ‘Gentleman’s Magazine’ in 1823, referring to Ralph Bigland’s ‘Gloucestershire’ of 1786, observed that: ‘the Mannorial House at Hawkesbury, though once occupied by the (Jenkinson) family was not well constructed or situated and was, it is believed, then a ruin.’

In ‘The Brown Ringlet of the Hawkesbury’ (see 1886), a fictional work, although perhaps based on old memories, is a description of the manor house: ‘Around old country houses may frequently be observed walls of various lengths; a seven foot wall around a goodly sized kitchen-garden will frequently have an enclosed space for a courtyard or tennis court on the other side, and another wall will divide off the orchard, whilst a lower wall will protect the flower garden. So it was at Hawkesbury Manor-house. One side of the courtyard was made by the Mansion itself, and the remaining sides were surrounded by walls about seven feet in height. Overlooking this space was the window of the housekeeper’s room. On the other side of the north wall of the courtyard was the orchard, wherein the carpenter’s sheds, workshops, and rough timber were placed. The wood was being seasoned for cutting up into spars and boards for the repairs required on the Manor estate. A staff of labourers was kept by the squire for doing such work on his estate as necessity required. There were two masons, two carpenters, two sawyers, two blacksmiths, besides the grooms and the gardeners and assistants in all, a goodly establishment.’

A plan showing the manor house location

A plan showing the manor house location.