OCKWELLS MANOR

One of the finest specimens of an old English Manor House that has played host to Kings and Queens.

Ockwells Manor is an historic and highly impressive Grade I listed timber framed manor house. Image: Knight Frank.

The Manor House of Ockwells, or Ockholt, as it was called when Sir John Norreys, High Sheriff of Berkshire, and a courtier of Henry VI, started to build it between 1440 and 1450, is one of the most complete and satisfying examples of an English manor house of the fifteenth century. It embodies all that is best in the design and workmanship of the Middle Ages and has some remarkably contemporary heraldic glass of eighteen shields of arms, two of them Royal, in the east windows of the Great Hall.

A comprehensive view from the south-west in 1952. The gateway in the buttressed wall leads to a main drive. Image: The British Newspaper Archive.

Norreys’ house, which stands on land at Bray, near Maidenhead, given to Ricardo De Norreys by Henry III in 1267, was completed in 1466, the year after his death. In his will, dated April 4th, 1465, he is recorded as having left a sum of £40 to complete the building of a chapel. When completed it formed part of the manor buildings, but fire destroyed most of it in 1720.

Ockwells Manor was described by Sir Nikolas Pevsner as “the most refined and most sophisticated timber framed mansion in England.” Image: Knight Frank.

Much of the uniqueness of Ockwells lies in the fact that it is constructed entirely of local materials. It still retains undisturbed today in its entirety the massive oak framework and timber which the Windsor forests originally gave it. It retains also the pleasantly symmetrical architectural features of Tudor building. Ockwells is built round its small Cloister Court. The Great Hall also has its notable features: the massive oak screen with complementary service quarters behind it, a 24 ft long table made of two planks, fine armour and furniture and a large, colourful Flemish tapestry.

The house is faithful to its period and boasts spectacular panelling, stained glass windows and herringbone pattern brickwork. Image: Knight Frank.

Nearly a century after Sir John had completed his manor house it passed, on the marriage of Elizabeth Norreys, to Sir Thomas ffetiplace. And Elizabeth’s daughter, Katherine, in turn, took Ockwells as part of her dowry on marrying Sir Francis Englefield. It was this Lady Elizabeth’s close friendship with Elizabeth I which is known to have brought the Queen to Ockwells on many occasions. King Charles I used it for some time as a shooting box and when George IV visited he was so pleased with its architectural beauty that the style was introduced at Windsor in the building of King’s College in the Great Park.

Ockwells has been greatly extended and restored since the first brick was laid, particularly since 1889, when substantial work was carried out. Image: Knight Frank.

In about 1600 a new staircase was added, the hall furnished with wainscoting and some new chimney pieces added. The fabric of the building then fell into decline until the late 19th Century when Charles Grenfell moved some of the glass to his home at Taplow Court for safe keeping. In 1885, his son William offered to return the glass if a new owner would grant him a 99 year lease of the manor in return. By this time, Sir Stephen Leach came to the rescue and he stripped the whole frame back and repaired it. It was then purchased by Sir Edward Barry, another enthusiastic antiquarian, who recast the building in its present form in stages, enlarging the dining room, inserting fireplaces and windows and moving the Jacobean staircase to its present position. By the 1950s, Ockwells was owned by Mr S.H. Barnett who, at the time, was praised for preserving rather than destroying the fabric of the house.

 The present owners have owned Ockwells Manor since 1986 and with the help of Mansfield Thomas and Partners of Hertfordshire, returned it to its present order.

Aside from its architectural and historical pedigree, the house functions as a beautiful family home ideal for entertaining or family living in equal measure. Image: Knight Frank.
The Jacobean staircase, 17th Century panelling and 15th Century stone fireplace are particularly striking features of the house. Image: Knight Frank.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s