Photo courtesy of Shelia Chessman
The manor house was built in the late 16th century by the Barry family, an exact date is unclear but it's estimated to be between 1580 and 1590. This was dated working out the architecture of the property and the different building methods used in various parts of the house. A find in Leigh Driver's book, 'Lost villages of England', says that in the Osney Cartulary of 1219 that there was already a manor house in Hampton Gay (before the Barry family bought the estate in 1544).
It was said to have gardens with a dovecote, the Barry's then presumably removed the old house which may not have been on the same piece of land and built the house, now the ruin that we see today. It has been impossible to find out who designed the building, there does not seem to be an architect's name associated with the design, but it is possible that the house was designed by the owner. This according to our research seems to have been quite common in the 16th century. A much larger house would have probably employed a well known architect, but as this manor house was on a smaller scale, it's possible that it was designed by the owner to meet his own requirements.
During this century, long galleries were popular and often the houses were E or H shaped.
We contacted The Oxfordshire Geology Trust to enquire about the stone used to build the manor house. We were told that the stone was probably sourced from nearby Greenhill Quarry near Bletchington or Kirtlington Quarry. The building stone used is from the White Limestone Formation and is middle Jurassic in age which means it is from approx 165-170 million years ago!
There is a floor plan available in Victoria County History (Volume 6) of the ground floor, sadly there seems to be no plans detailing the other floors. The stone built house had 2 1/2 or 3 floors including a basement. It's thought the ground floor had a few parlours as well as a large hall, we do know that the room SW of the house with the oriel window was said to have been 'a very fine paneled room with a splendid carved mantelpiece' ( Fea Allan:1860-1956, England - historic buildings)
We also know according to research that the hall and the staircase were made of highly polished oak, the walls in the drawing room had beautiful carved panels made from different woods from places of interest. The fireplaces were described as being elaborately carved in oak and very splendid. The library was stocked well with expensive books and all the latest periodicals." (unknown author) The most impressive find for us was that the manor was said to have had 36 rooms with 14 sleeping apartments (unknown author).
When Mr R.L.Pearson, a tenant of the nearby paper mill ( approx 1860s - 1880s) was living in the manor, the room with the large oriel window was said to be a conservatory full of beautiful plants and flowers that harmonized with the velvety lawn outside (unknown author). The garden at the front was oval shaped and records mention a fountain base. In the late 1800s we have read of a description of the garden as being a velvety lawn, closely cut, with elm and oak trees and tidy evergreens. There was a willow tree almost as tall as the house that was apparently very striking.(unknown author)
A question that remains unanswered to us is where the kitchen would have been, it wasn't unheard of to have had the kitchen on the same floor level as the main part of the house, but it's also likely the kitchen could have been in the basement which may have been a semi-basement; these started to become popular in 1575.
These were half the depth of a normal basement and had windows. In large manor houses these were work areas for the servants, so kitchens would have been here, some would have had high windows, one theory being so the servants could not see out and therefore not get distracted.
Although Shaw House is much bigger, we expect that the Hampton Gay building would have been a grand house, it did have oak wall paneling and the fireplaces would have been impressive, the family that owned the house initially, were wealthy. Sadly though we have no pictures of the interior and haven't come across any more descriptions, so we can only try to work it out.
As the house stood for nearly 400 years, very few alterations were made. We know that the house was divided into two separate dwellings, it's thought that this was in the 1880s, and research on the census and in directories show that the house was divided in 1862 as the Adams family lived there the same time as RL Pearson.
We have been lucky to see a new document handed into the history centre which states the rooms in the manor house and their uses,but more importantly it tells of the split of the house into two dwellings. The document is a valuation carried out on the property in April 1862. It tells us how the manor house was divided into the mansion part and the farm half.
The mansion part consists of hall, dining, drawing and breakfast rooms, 7 bedrooms and 2 dressing rooms, W.C, attics, kitchen, wash house, larder, pantry and cellars. Outhouses, flower and kitchen gardens and a small greenhouse. This was for use to a respectable family!
The farm half consists of a good kitchen, living room, parlour, 5 bedrooms, a large attic, a dairy, brew house and outhouses with a yard. Flower and kitchen gardens as well!
The document also tells us that these are in good repair but the cellars need new flooring and some plastering and ceilings. The brew house also needed new flooring.
Clearly we are talking about how the house looked, but what we haven't said yet is how it was destroyed. On April 29th of 1887, fire broke out in the manor house, we know a farmer occupied one half of the house and the New brothers who managed the nearby mill lived in the other half. There doesn't appear to be an official report on how the fire started, we know from newspaper reports that it lasted about 4 hours and was attended by the Woodstock fire brigade. The house couldn't be saved, luckily nobody perished in the fire but sadly the flames took the floors and the roof away leaving just the walls standing. It appears that no insurance was paid after the fire.
In a book we found a paragraph that mentions the ruin in the 1940s, the ruin was said to be surrounded by tall trees and had iron railings around it. It was described as being of considerable grandeur with no roof or inside walls and blackened from the fire. The author tells of a rumour that the last owner of the house had a wild party and the fire was set by the owner for the insurance money to pay for his debts, it mentions that the owner was a member of the Barry family. The problem with this is that the Barrys did not own the house at the time of the fire, and we know that it was divided into two tenements, this does seem to be something we keep coming up with, conflicting information but all the same, interesting. (The view from King Street - Christopher Hurst).
The fire at the house and the loss of the paper mill meant employment in the area suffered, today there are very few houses in Hampton Gay but it remains a quaint and desirable place to live; where history and modern life live comfortably together. Writer Penelope Lively in 1970 wrote a children's book called 'Astercote'. The story is about a medieval village wiped out by the Black Death. After visiting Hampton Gay, Penelope was like most people, taken by the village and she based the village in her book loosely on Hampton Gay. Many thanks to Penelope for writing and confirming this information for us.
The Barry Family:
John Barry a glover from Eynsham bought the Hampton Gay estate in 1544 for £1,100, he died in 1546 leaving everything to his son Lawrence, Vincent son of Lawrence in 1577 eventually inherited the estate. It was from here that the manor house was built and it remained with the family up till 1682.
From Jacksons Oxford Journal Saturday April 11th 1812 issue 3076:
Hampton Gay Manor House to let: An advert in the above paper adverised to let for a term of years with immediate possession a capital stone-built mansion house, fit for the reception of a large family, well calculated for a boarding school, or the residence of a sporting gentleman as there are foxhounds and harriers in the neighbourhood and who may be accommodated with the deputation of the above manor, and a right of fishery at the River Cherwell.
The premises comprise large and lofty drawing and dining rooms, a breakfast parlour with suitable bed chamber's and servants apartments. Good cellaring, a coach-house and stables, large garden and orchard together with a small quantity of land.
Woodstock Fire Bridgade 1895 Photograph Courtesy of John Banbury
Images of Paneling and Fireplace taken at Shaw House. Photographs by Hampton Gay Story Oxfordshire Copyright 2010
Evidence of the fire, burnt wood at the top of the window frame Photograph By Hampton Gay Story Oxfordshire 2010
Thanks to 'Images & Voices', Oxfordshire County Council for allowing us to use this picture, Sketch by J. Skelton 1820 -1830. Reference: Heritage search D294674a
In our quest to try and piece together how the house might have looked inside and what the decor would have been like, we visited Shaw House in Newbury. This was built around the same time. Unfurnished now, Shaw House has wonderful wall paneling and original doors which. This gave us a good idea of what Hampton Gay manor house interior could have been like.
The manor house as it looks today. Photograph by Hampton Gay Story Oxfordshire 2010
A glimpse of the ruined manor house around 1971. The building was, at that time, slightly more intact than it is now, insofar as the section of wall between the south wing and the projecting porch was still intact. This was graced by a mullioned and transomed window that would presumably have illuminated the hall.. Image and text courtesy of Stanley C Jenkins.
This site was written and created by Sally Bridgman and Jon Smart. If you would like to reproduce any of the information, please contact us. Copyright © 2010