Newington Manors & Estates

What became Newington Parish belonged to Benson’s Royal Estate until the early-11thC, when Queen Emma Granted Canterbury Cathedral Priory an Estate comprising Newington, Brookhampton, Berrick Prior, and the detached Britwell Prior.  The Priory retained the combined Manor (called Newington) until the Dissolution, establishing a Manor House near the Parish Church. Thereafter the Manor passed into lay hands, Britwell Prior becoming separated in 1600. The rest of Newington Manor was broken up in 1856 when it covered 988 acres, its Manor House (Newington House) having been sold in 1776.


Britwell Prior Manor acquired a Manor House (Britwell House) in the 1720s, which remained the centre of a significant Estate into the 20th century. House & Manorial Rights were parted in 1882, the latter remaining with Owners of Brightwell Baldwin, with which both had descended for 50 years.  Holcombe, excluded from Emma’s Grant, emerged as a separate Manor from the 12thC, with a Manor House probably at Great Holcombe Farm.  Around 1600 it absorbed a separate Holcombe Estate formerly owned by Osney Abbey and from 1632 until 1911 descended with Brightwell Baldwin. Thereafter the Holcombe Estate (c.570a) was broken up.

Newington Manor
The large Newington Estate owned by Canterbury Cathedral Priory was granted them by Emma or Ælgifu, Queen Consort of Cnut, between 1017 & 1035, after it was forfeited by the Thegn Ælfric.  In 1086 (when it included 4 houses in Wallingford) it was rated at 15-hides, including one held by Robert d’Oilly and another by Roger, probably Roger d’lvry.  The Monks received Free Warren in their Newington & Britwell Demesne c.1155.  Small-scale additions by purchase & gift were recorded in the later 13thC, and in 1279 the Manor included Demesne in both Newington & Britwell, with numerous Villein Tenancies in all 4 of its Settlements.  In 1392 the Priory Granted 2 Marks a year from the Manor to Balliol College, Oxford, in return for an Oxford House which it sold to Canterbury College.  The King took over the payment in 1542, following the Priory’s Dissolution.

In 1544 Newington Manor was Granted to 2 London Agents, who in 1546 sold it to John Oglethorpe (d.1579) of Newington, a Kinsman of the Rector.  Johns son Owen (MP for Wallingford) divided the Estate in 1600, selling Britwell Prior to John Simeon, and the rest (known as Newington Manor) to Edmund Dunch of Little Wittenham (Berks).  Edmund (d.1623) was succeeded by his son Walter (d.1645) and by Walters nephew Edmund Dunch of Little Wittenham, although Walter’s Widow Mary retained the Manor House and some Demesne Lands for life. Both Edmund & Mary died in 1678 when the whole Estate passed to Edmunds son Henry (d.1686), who probably built Newington House.  Henrys Widow Anne retained the Manor until her death in 1690.

Henry’s daughter Elizabeth, at 1st a Minor, married in 1698 Cecil Bisshopp, son of Sir Cecil Bisshopp, Bart, of Parham (Sussex). Cecil succeeded to his fathers Title & Estates in 1705 and died in 1725, his Widow surviving until 1751 when Newington Manor passed to their son Sir Cecil Bisshopp, Bart.  He sold Newington House to George White in 1776 but kept the Manor until his death in 1778, when it descended with the Baronetcy to Sir Cecil (d.1779) and his son Sir Cecil (d.1828), who in 1815 successfully claimed the dormant Barony of Zouche de Haryngworth.  His Estates were divided between his daughters, of whom Katharine Arabella, wife of George Richard Pechell of Castle Goring (Sussex), received the Oxfordshire parts.  Her husband, a distinguished Naval Officer & Politician, sold Culham & Newington in 1856, the latter in 3 Lots: Ewe & Berrick Farms (799a), Meadow at Drayton St Leonard (3a), & Newington Manor with Brookhampton Farm & several Cottages (186a).  Manorial Rights subsequently lapsed and in the late 19th & early 20thC Members of the Deane, Thomson, and Franklin Families were the Chief Landowners in Newington, Brookhampton, & Berrick Prior.

Manor Houses
Before c.1679 The Priory’s Medieval Manor House, which had a Dovecot in 1479 and where 3 Chambers were reserved to the Prior in 1533, stood probably on or near the Site of Newington House and may have been the source of Medieval glazed floor Tiles found close by.  The Oglethorpes lived there after the Dissolution, and c.1578 either the existing Manor House was repaired or a new one built, using Stone from Oriel Quarry in Headington.  ‘Mr Oglethorpe’s House‘ was subsequently labelled on a Map of 1595, standing South of the Church, and (as Newington Place) was later occupied by both Walter & Mary Dunch.  In 1665 it was Taxed on 12 hearths.  The present-day Manor House, an L-Shaped dwelling of 2½-Storeys between the Church & Newington House, may incorporate part of the building, although much of the visible fabric (coursed Limestone rubble walls with Ashlar & Brick Dressings) is probably late 17thC.

Quarrying in Headington started in earnest in 1396, when New College built its Bell-Tower from Headington Stone. The Stone would have been dislodged by means of a puggle (a flat spear-headed piece of Steel on a long pole, the only method of Quarrying until the late 19thC), and Medieval Carters would have brought the Stone down to New College (in 1,386 loads) via the present Beaumont Road, Green Road, Old Road & Cheney Lane. Roads such as the present Quarry High Street, New Cross Road, and Pitts Road were just Cart-tracks leading to the Pits.  In the later 19thC Brick became more important than Stone, so that by 1900 more than half the Population of Quarry worked in the Brickyards, making Headington responsible for much of Oxford’s “base & brickish skirt”.  Many of the Stones used to build the walls along the Alleyways of Quarry are made of local Coral Rag and contain Fossils.

Photograph of Newington House in Newington, Oxfordshire [c 1930s-1980s] by John Piper 1903-1992
Newington House (built c.1679) from the East. The Stone Griffins on the Gate Piers represent the Bisshopps (Owners 1698-1776), and the Stone Cartouches their successors the Whites.

Around 1679 a new Manor House (known by the early 18thC as Newington House was built probably for Henry Dunch, of Classical Design and set back from the Road on or near the Site of its predecessor.  The double-pile building comprises a 3-Storeyed Block above a Basement and is built of coursed Limestone rubble with rusticated Quoins & Ashlar Dressings. The principal Façade has a central Doorway flanked by Triplets of sash windows, with 2 Rows of 7 windows above: the Top-Storey was raised as part of a remodelling for George White in 1777, when a hipped Welsh-Slated Roof (re-using elements of the original) was constructed and a Corinthian Porch added, together with a low Service Wing lit by Diocletian windows. Much of the interior, characterised by fine Marble Fireplaces & Plaster Cornices in each of the 3 principal rooms, dates from this remodelling, although 17thC features in the Basement include stop-chamfered Beams and remains of a large Fireplace. The Grounds contain a Stable Block built c.1679 and a walled Kitchen Garden of similar date. Contemporary Stone Gatepiers in front of the House were topped c.1700 with Griffins (representing the Bisshopp Crest), which hold later Stone Cartouches bearing the White Arms.

Newington House Entrance – Ethel Sands Artist & Hostess

The Houses Purchaser George White, a Principal Clerk in the House of Commons, died in 1789, succeeded by his Widow Letitia (d.c.1792), their son George (d.1813), and Georges son Thomas Gilbert White (d.1878). It passed to the Antiquary and Lexicographer Sir George Floyd Duckett, Bt, who sold it before 1887 to J Golby; his successor W A Golby sold it between 1907 & 1910 to the Tenant, the American Artist and Hostess Ethel Sands, who conveyed it in 1920 to Alex Wallace Gilmour.  He lived there until his death in 1946, later owner-occupiers including the former MP Alan Gandar Dower (1950–80), Christopher Maltin (1980–7), John Barratt (1987–91), and John Nettleton (Actor).

Britwell House’s main SE Front, with the Commemorative Column erected by Sir Edward Simeon.

Britwell Prior Manor
originated in Owen Oglethorpe’s Sale in 1600 to John Simeon, Lord of neighbouring Brightwell Baldwin. After Simeon’s death in 1618 it descended in the direct male line to Sir George Simeon (d.1664), sometimes of Watlington, and to James Simeon (d.1709) of Chilworth in Great Milton and later of Aston (Staffs), created a Baronet in 1677. James’s Roman Catholic (and bachelor) son Sir Edward Simeon, Bt, built Britwell House, where he lived from 1729 until his death in 1768.


Simeon’s heir, his Catholic great-nephew Thomas Weld, resided until 1775 when he inherited Lulworth Castle (Dorset) with his Family’s Estates.  His Britwell Estate covered 408a until 1797 when the greater part (including Priory & Coopers farms) was sold to his Tenant John Stopes. Most of the rest passed on Thomas’s death in 1810 to his 5th son James, who inherited the House on his mother’s death in 1830 and sold the whole to William Francis Lowndes Stone of Brightwell Baldwin 2 years later.  Later Lords of Brightwell Baldwin retained the Manorial Rights until at least 1939, but the Estate itself (Britwell House with 147a.) was Sold in 1882 to its Tenant John Smith (d.1888), succeeded by his widow Emily Jane (d.1914).  In 1920 Smith’s son and heir sold it to Walter Curran, who in 1926 sold it to Major George Cecil Whitaker (d.1959); he added Property at Brightwell Baldwin, and in 1960 the enlarged 578a Estate was bought by the Interior Designer David Nightingale Hicks.  He sold Britwell House with 150a in 1979, moving to Brightwell Baldwin, and following various sales the House was bought in 1986 by Thomas & Cecilia Kressner, who owned it in 2014.

David Hicks at Britwell House

Manor House (Britwell House)
The Britwell Estate had no Manor House until Sir Edward Simeon began the existing Britwell House c.1727, set in 59a inclosed from the Open-fields to form a Park.  The House was completed in 1728 and inhabited from 1729.  Designed probably by William Townesend of Oxford, it is built of red & blue Brick with Ashlar Dressings & hipped slate Roofs and comprises a compact Palladian Core of 5-Bays & 2½-Storeys with projecting Pedimented Centres, flanked by freestanding Pavilions or Service blocks linked to the main House by curved (and originally Single-Storeyed) corridors. The Interior is notable for the comparative grandeur of its Hall, Staircase, & 1st-floor Gallery at the expense of Bedrooms & Living accommodation. Original interior features include a heavy Doric Frieze and massive Baroque Chimneypiece in the Hall, twisted Balusters & fluted Corinthian Columns as Newel Posts on the cantilever Staircase, Ionic Pilasters & Pedimented Doorways around the walls of the Gallery.


Between 1767 and 1769 an oval Roman Catholic Chapel with a Copper Roof was built between the House & Southern Pavilion, designed probably by Simeon himself, although he died before its completion. The coved Chapel ceiling is particularly fine, displaying ornate plasterwork reminiscent of that of James Paine at Wardour Castle (Wilts). An adjoining 2-Storey Annexe containing a Sacristy, and perhaps originally a Family Pew in the room above, may have been added slightly later.

Former Roman Catholic Chapel in Britwell House, the Site of the Altar marked by the Fireplace

In the late 19th and early-20thC the Chapel was used as a Billiard Room, and the Altar was replaced with a Fireplace; further alterations attended the Room’s conversion to a Dining Room in the 1920s, including substitution of a Rosette for the IHS monogram in the plasterwork Ceiling.  In the early 20thC a Single-Bay extension was added on the North-West side of the Main House and both link-corridors were raised to 2-Storeys, while David Hicks’s restorations in the 1960s included installation of a Gothick Fireplace in the Drawing Room. Outbuildings include Stables & an early 19thC Brick Coach House.

Two Limestone Ashlar Monuments in the Grounds were probably also designed by Simeon. A composite Pillar supporting a Flaming Urnc.90M from the House in direct line with the Front Door, bears a Plaque (restored in 1970) dated 1764, inscribed to the Memory of Simeons Parents. A similar Obelisk in the Park to the North of the House is topped with a Pineapple Finial.

Holcombe Manor
A ½-Kights Fee held of the Honour of Wallingford in 1235 and known later as Holcombe or Up Holcombe Manor,  can be traced to part of the Royal Manor of Benson Granted to Gilbert Angevin before 1155. Gilbert was succeeded in 1179 by Reginald Angevin, in 1214 by Reginalds son Maurice, and after 1242 by another Reginald,  whose Holcombe Estate included ½-hide of Demesne and 12 Tenanted Holdings in 1279.  Ralph Angevin succeeded before 1300 and retained the Manor in 1341, but by 1356 it belonged to Richard English of Newnham Murren,  a King’s Yeoman Granted Free Warren and a Licence to Crenellate his Manor House at Holcombe in 1360.  The same year Richard settled the Manor on his son Richard; he or another Richard retained it in 1408 but Conveyed it in 1420 to Sir John Cottesmore, Lord of Brightwell Baldwin. Holcombe descended with Brightwell until 1528, when John (IV) Cottesmore sold it to his stepfather Thomas Doyley (d.1545).

In 1546 Doyley’s son Robert sold the Manor with other Holcombe Property to Ambrose Dormer of Ascott (in Great Milton).  Dormer enlarged the Estate and died in 1566, leaving it to his Widow Jane (d.1594), who in 1574 married William Hawtrey Ambroses son and heir Michael (Knighted in 1604) sold it c.1609 to George Carleton (d.1628) of Huntercombe in Nuffield, from whom it descended to Sir John Carleton (d.1637), Bt, & Sir George Carleton, Bt, Owner from 1639 of the Brightwell Estate in Brightwell Baldwin. Thereafter Holcombe (576a in 1859) passed with Brightwell until 1911, when it was sold to George Simmins of Croydon (Surrey).

Simmins broke up the Estate the same year, selling Little Holcombe Farm (114a) to its Tenant, and Auctioning the remainder (c.450a) in 14 lots including Great Holcombe Farm (189a) & Hill Farm (165a). The Lordship was sold to Henry Edwards Paine (d.1917) of Chertsey (Surrey), whose Trustees Conveyed it in the early 1950s to John L Beaumont of Lincoln’s Inn (Middx). In 1955 he sold it to L T Harris of London.

Manor House (Great Holcombe Farm)
The Angevins were Resident by the 1270s or earlier, and Richard English’s Licence to Crenellate in 1360 suggests a remodelling of their Manor House to include defensive features. 15th & 16thC Owners generally lived elsewhere, although Robert Doyley was apparently Resident in 1546, and George Carleton (d.1628) was often described as of Holcombe.  Later Lords all lived outside the Parish.

Traces of the early Manor House may have been encountered beneath the floor of Great Holcombe Farm in the early 1980s when a Hearth edged with Medieval Roof Tiles was found to overlie a solid lime-mortared Stone Wall, which in turn sat upon building debris containing 12th or 13thC pottery.  The West Range of the surviving Farmhouse preserves the Storeyed Upper End (with a 1st-Floor Chamber) of a high-status open-Hall House, possibly the Manor House. Timber-framed and originally of 5 or 6-Bays arranged North-South, it was partly constructed in 1475, and has a Crown-strut Roof which retains some smoke-blackened Rafters. In the 16thC, a massive central Brick Chimneystack was inserted and the entire House ceiled, 1st-Floor access being provided via a new Timber-framed Stair Turret to the East.  The House was later extended around the Turret, beginning c.1600 with the addition of a Single-Bay on the North re-used from another Medieval building, perhaps a detached Kitchen. The Medieval Houses Southern part was probably demolished around the same time, and the Principal Entrance moved from West to North.  Perhaps in the late 17thC an Eastern Range (South of the Turret) was built with a Cellar beneath, and in the early-18thC the whole House was remodelled to take on a unified double-pile Plan, the Timber-framing encased in Stone-rubble walls. Thatched Barns forming a 3-sided Farmyard to the East were removed in the 20thC.
Farmhouse. Early 18thC, possibly partly earlier. Colourwashed rubble & brick with some Timber-framing; old plain-tile Roof with brick Ridge Stacks. Double-depth Plan. 2-Storeys plus Attics. Double-gabled 2-window brick Front, with stepped brick Plinth and storey band, has, to right of centre, a 6-panel door under a tiled Canopy, and has 3-light casements at Ground & 1st-Floors; both Gables are Timber-framed with many renewed Timbers. Sides & rear are rubble with large dressed Quoins at Ground Floor; most windows have brick Dressings. Roof is hipped to rear. Interior not inspected.

Other Estates
Two Free Tenancies at Berrick Prior in 1279 included a hide perhaps identifiable with one of those held by Robert d’Oilly or Roger d’Tvry in 1086. The Tenant (Richard of Berrick) held it from the Archbishop of Canterbury as 1/5thKnights Fee, and owed Suit to the Archbishop’s Court at Harrow (Middx), having inherited it from his father Hugh (d. c.1271).  Its Ownership is otherwise unrecorded.

Most Medieval Freeholds were in Holcombe, for which Lords of Benson claimed Quitrents into the post-Medieval Period.  One at Newbury belonged to Osney Abbey from c.1155, when Henry II Granted it with Land in Warborough in exchange for a 24s Prebend in Benson Manor.  The Estate comprised a Ploughland (c.120a) c.1235,  and in 1270, when the Lord of Holcombe unsuccessfully claimed a part, it included a headquarters (curia) called ‘Kingsbury‘, adjoining Holcombe’s Fields.  The Abbot was Sole Taxpayer in Newbury in 1306,  and by the early 16thC, the Property (then a single pasture Close) was let to a local Farmer.  In 1542 it was Granted to Oxford Cathedral, but was returned to the Crown in 1545 and sold to Christopher Edmonds.  He sold it to John Doyley of Chiselhampton,  whose brother Robert sold it to Ambrose Dormer with Holcombe Manor in 1546.  Though still attached to the Manor in 1591  it passed shortly afterwards to George Calfield of Oxford, who sold it in 1593 to Owen Oglethorpe. He sold it to George Carleton in 1594 as 2 Pasture & Meadow Closes totalling 120a, and it remained part of Holcombe Manor thereafter.

A Holcombe Freehold called Skirmots (perhaps Little Holcombe Farm) comprised a House & Ploughland in 1427, and was sometimes called a Manor.  Sir Gilbert Wace of Ewelme granted it in 1407 to William Skirmot (d. c.1450), a Bristol Merchant succeeded by his son John, who lived at Holcombe until moving to Abingdon c.1479. In 1484 he Granted a 13-yr Lease to a Tenant, reserving a Parlour in the House & various Outbuildings.  By 1526 the Owner was Thomas Denton (d.1534) of Caversfield (Bucks), whose son John sold it in 1538 to William Doyley of Holcombe.  He added another Freehold called Bennetts, and in 1561 Thomas Doyley sold both to Ambrose Dormer of Holcombe Manor.  Michael Dormer sold them in 1589 to Owen Oglethorpe, from whom they passed to Sir William Glover (d.1603) of London following default on a Mortgage. Glover’s Widow & son sold them in 1606 to George Carleton, who reunited them with Holcombe Manor.

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