Visiting Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire

Happy Wednesday everybody! Today does not feel like a hump day because I finally made it back to the UK last week to see my parents, and so I’m full of excitement to share this blog with you about the history of one of my favourite National Trust properties: Baddesley Clinton, in Warwickshire.

I grew up in the Midlands, and have been visiting the Baddesley Clinton manor house, church and gardens for as long as I can remember. It was lovely to wander round there with my parents last week, and it struck me with fresh inspiration to do some more research and share the story of this lovely spot with you. In fact, I got so excited to write about it, I’m splitting it across a few posts, so stay tuned for part 2!

Baddesley Clinton manor house.

What’s in a name

Baddesley Clinton’s name probably sounds a little strange. Although the oldest parts of the house date to the early fifteenth century, the first half of the name, Baddesley, is Anglo-Saxon in origin. It evolved from Badde’s Ley: a man called Badde in the fifth century cleared the section of the woodland that became this site, which was known as a ley. 

Clinton came from the thirteenth century, when the Clinton family came into ownership of the house. The fabulous moat around the house, and some of the earliest buildings, were probably completed by James de Clinton in the early fourteenth century. 

The courtyard at Baddesley Clinton – the diamond pattern in the grass represents the Ferrers family coat of arms.

En route to the Ferrers family

The longest ownership of the house was when it was in the hands of the Ferrers family, who owned Baddesley Clinton for over five centuries. It first came into their ownership in 1517, having been acquired by John Brome in 1438, whose granddaughter Constance married Sir Edward Ferrers in 1497. 

The Ferrers family were descended from William the Conqueror’s Master of the Horse at the Battle of Hastings. 

Interestingly for anybody who knows this area of the Midlands at all (and who has an affection for Tamworth – my hometown – like I do), Ferrers had a connection to Tamworth Castle, built in the eleventh century. His grandmother Elizabeth Freville had inherited it in 1423. His grandfather, Thomas Ferrers, first built Tamworth Castle’s Great Hall.

Also in the Ferrars family: Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire.

Heraldry, history and windows

One of the most iconic features of the Baddesley Clinton manor house are these beautiful stained glass windows that feature heraldry. This tradition was started by Henry Ferrers, known as Henry the Antiquary, who inherited the house in 1570. 

The heraldic stained glass windows, begun by Henry Ferrars the Antiquary, who loved genealogy and heraldry.

The windows show the Ferrers coat of arms, which are joined by the heraldic symbols of other families to commemorate marriages. Henry, although by profession was a lawyer and sometimes politician, was very interested in genealogy, and I think it’s so interesting the way these windows tell the story of key moments in the history of the family who owned the house.

More of the beautiful stained glass windows.

A place of safety for Catholics

Something Baddesley Clinton is often known for is the priest holes around the house. The Ferrers family were Catholic, which of course was risky during this period. 

When Henry the Antiquary was going through a particularly hard period financially, he rented the house to Anne and Eleanor Vaux, from the year 1590. 

A Baddesley Clinton priest hole.

Anne and Eleanor were keen Catholics who had three priest holes built in the house, which could hide up to twelve priests at any one time. The house was raided a few times, but the hiding places were aided by the fact the house was quite remote, in the Forest of Arden, had thick and solid walls and also a moat that originally had a drawbridge going across it to restrict access. (The current stone bridge was not built until the early eighteenth century.)

Another fun fact: Henry the Antiquary actually sold his London house to Thomas Percy. Percy was one of the conspirators in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, and the home he acquired from Henry was where Guy Fawkes stored his gunpowder. 

Financial hardship and renewal

Although Henry’s son married into a wealthy family and eventually became High Sheriff of Warwickshire, the Ferrars family were consistently beset with money worries. During the Civil War, Baddesley Clinton suffered in particular, and following the end of the war, they campaigned for decades to receive compensation. 

Although an early eighteenth-century family marriage brought in some money which resulted in some changes within the house and building work (including that stone bridge!), it wasn’t until the latter half of the nineteenth century that substantial work was done on the house to cover the repairs that needed doing and mortgages paid off. 

Thomas Ferrers (1713-60) moved this fireplace, installed by Henry the Antiquary, from the upstairs Great Parlour to the downstairs Great Hall.

This was largely paid for by Lady Georgiana Chatterton, one member of the so-called “Quartet” who lived in the house: she and her husband Edward Dering, her niece Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen (as a child I was obsessed with her name) and her husband Marmion Edward Ferrers, who had inherited Baddesley Clinton in 1830. 

“The Quartet” are so fascinating that I’ll talk about them properly in my next post, but they lived together as a four within Baddesley once it had been improved, enjoying country life and the arts, and became known by that title in the local area. 

The road to the National Trust

Marmion had no children, so the estate passed to his nephew who didn’t have the means to keep it. The estate declined again, and in the 1930s furniture was sold off, and by the end of the decade, it was advertised for sale.

It was eventually bought by a distant relative of the family in 1940: Gilbert Thomas Walker, who later changed his surname to Ferrers-Walker to reflect the family connection. His mother had been good friends with Rebecca Orpen of “the Quartet”, and they felt a family duty to do right by the house. Gilbert and his wife Undine spent three decades restoring the house.

Of course, it was still expensive to maintain, and Gilbert and Undine’s son wanted desperately to try and save it for the nation to be able to enjoy. A difficult process of securing funding to do so ensued, but eventually, in 1980, Baddesley Clinton passed to the National Trust. 

The beautiful inner courtyard of Baddesley Clinton.

As you can see, despite remaining in one family’s ownership for five hundred years, the Baddesley Clinton history is still pretty fraught with lots of worries and changes – and even more fascinating stories than I could fit in this one post. Next, I’ll share more about “the Quartet”, and then some more about the fifteenth-century Brome family, whose ownership featured many dramatic happenings!


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