Baddesley Clinton is a well preserved example of a medieval manor. The site acquired its name in Saxon times when its owner, Badde, farmed a small clearing in the Forest of Arden. By the time of the Norman Conquest, it was a small manor which formed part of a package of lands granted to Geoffrey de Wirce, a French Knight. It then passed through several owners before it was acquired by Sir Thomas de Clinton. It was either Thomas or his son, James, who built the moated manor and renamed it to Baddesley Clinton.
The centrepiece of the medieval manor would have been the hall, a large roofed building which served as the main dining facility and the administrative hub of the manor. The hall overlooked a courtyard which was flanked on all sides by ranges which incorporated the ancillary buildings such as a brewhouse, bakehouse, kitchen, storerooms and stables. A gatehouse provided access into the courtyard. This entire complex was enclosed within a spring-fed moat (possibly even a double moat) which provided protection against low-level looting and raids. The moat also clearly defined the boundary of the manor house and separated it from the rest of the site, a measure that enhanced the status of its owner. Finally, as part of a wider water management system which consisted of various pools and ponds, it also had a functional/economic purpose as it would have provided a source of fresh water, waste removal and a rearing ground for fish.
Baddesley Clinton was acquired by John Brome, a lawyer, in 1438 and he commenced a substantial rebuilding programme. The original footprint of the Clinton manorial complex did not change but the internal ranges were substantially upgraded. By the mid-fifteenth century John Brome had risen in prominence and served as a Member of Parliament and later as Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer for Henry VI. This firmly aligned him with the Lancastrian cause and in June 1450, as the country edged towards what would later become known as the Wars of the Roses, Baddesley was attacked by supporters of the Earl of Warwick, a prominent Yorkist. The overthrow of Henry VI saw John Brome lose his public offices and in 1468 he was murdered by Yorkists. Baddesley Clinton was inherited by his son, Nicholas, and he added the gun-ports doubtless as a reaction to the events of the preceding decades.
The manor was acquired by Edward Ferrers in 1517 through his marriage to Constance Brome. Edward was a soldier who later served with Henry VIII overseas and was knighted after he led a party that stormed and captured the Belgian town of Tournai. He also served in various diplomatic posts and was High Sheriff of Warwickshire (in 1513 and 1518) and Worcestershire (1528 to 1535). Edward rebuilt the cross wing and moved the Gatehouse from the east to the north. His great-grandson, Henry, rebuilt the East Range (incorporating the new Great Hall) and added the stained glass windows and wood panelling seen today.
By the late 1580s Henry Ferrers was struggling financially and leased out Baddesley to Anne Vaux. They were ardent Catholics and used the manor for harbouring Jesuit Priests, a treasonable offence under the Act of Uniformity (1587). Accordingly the Vaux sisters added a Priest hole under the kitchen. The hole was clearly successful as a raid by Government Officers in October 1591 found no traces of the nine fugitives hidden within. Whether Henry Ferrers knew that his property was being used for this illegal purpose is uncertain but he later leased one of his Westminster properties to Thomas Percy, one of the Catholic conspirators behind the 1605 Gunpowder Plot, who used it to store the gunpowder.
During the seventeenth century Civil War, the Ferrers family remained staunch Catholics despite the bulk of Warwickshire being under fiercely Protestant Parliamentary control. This led to several raids of Baddesey Clinton by Parliamentary troops during which cattle and stores were stolen. It is likely the then owner, Edward Ferrers, briefly conformed to the Protestant faith to avoid further raids. During the eighteenth century some remodelling of the manorial complex was undertaken including re-facing the south and east ranges. The final modifications were made during the nineteenth century when the entire complex suffered at the hands of Victorian romanticism.
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Dyer, C (1972). John Brome: a small landowner in the 15th century. Midland History.
Emery, A (1996). Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Haworth, J (1994). Baddesley Clinton. National Trust, London.
Historic England (1990). Baddesley Clinton, Listing Number 1035136. Historic England, London.
King, C.D.J (1983). Castellarium anglicanum: an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the Islands. Kraus International Publications.
Salter, M (1992). Castles and Moated Mansions of Warwickshire. Folly Publications, Malvern.
Williams, A and Martin, G.H (2003). Domesday Book: A Complete Translation. Viking, London.
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Baddesley Clinton is a superb example of a fortified medieval manor house, the typical residence of minor gentry during the late medieval and Tudor periods. The remains consist of a patchwork of updates over a 400 year period.
Baddesley Clinton Layout. The manor house was arranged around a central courtyard with ranges eventually added on all sides (although the northern one would later be demolished. Although the site was not protected by a curtain wall, the structures were robustly built and, aided by the moat, would have been able to resist a small scale attack or low-level raiding.
Gatehouse and Bridge. The gatehouse dates from the fifteenth century but the bridge is newer having been added in the early eighteenth century.
South Range and Courtyard.
Priest Hole. Baddesley's priest hole was constructed by Nicholas Owen, a carpenter and servant to Father John Gerard. Located under the kitchen, it was accessed via a shaft down to the gardrobe.
Baddesley Clinton was a medieval manor house and, despite extensive modifications to the interior, remains a good example of this type of lightly fortified structure that was once common across England. The manor passed to the Ferrers family in 1517 and their staunch support for the Catholic faith saw the manor embroiled in various suppressed activities.
Baddesley Clinton is found off Rising Lane bteween Hockley Heath and Chadwick End. The site is in the care of the National Trust and is well sign-posted. There is a large, dedicated car park on site.
Baddesley Clinton Manor House