Walking in the shadow of a President – Sulgrave Manor

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There have been forty-five presidents of the United States of America and I recently visited Sulgrave Manor, a beautiful country Manor House which had been built in the sixteenth century by Lawrence Washington, a direct ancestor of George Washington, the very first President of the United States from 1789-1797. Lawrence Washington had even been Mayor of Northampton in 1532!

Sulgrave Manor is a Tudor and Georgian house located in the picturesque village of Sulgrave, thirteen miles from Daventry, 20 miles from Northampton and just ten miles from Towcester.

Built of local limestone the Manor House retains many of the original features of Washington’s Tudor house, including the Great Hall. The hall has beamed ceilings and a stone floor, plus a very impressive Tudor fireplace which also includes a salt cupboard, carved with Lawrence Washington’s initials. Above the mantel is a treasured painting of George Washington attributed to Gilbert Stuart. Behind the Great Hall is a staircase with twisted balusters that takes you up to the Great Chamber or main bedroom and two smaller 18th century bedrooms. These contain examples of Tudor clothes, shoes, furniture and an 18th century baby-walker. The embroidered decorative hanging from the four-poster bed in the main bedroom depicting scenes from both English and American life is excellent.

In 1700 the North Wing was built which is at right angles to the Tudor section and contains the Oak Parlour and Great Kitchen on the ground level. The kitchen was full of interesting items. The large Inglenook fireplace contained three ovens and a charcoal brazier for heating irons. There is also a spit, which was turned by a series of wheels and chains. There were lots of pots and pans, utensils and menus showing some of the food of the time including Swan Pie!

The western section of the house had been destroyed before the house was purchased in 1914 but this has now been replaced by the Director’s quarters that were built in the 1920s, with the projecting two-storey porch in a central position at the front of the building. Set in plaster over the doorway are the royal arms of England and initials “ER” for Elizabeth Regina commemorating Elizabeth I. The doorway spandrels, between the arches above the door are decorated with the Washington family arms: two bars and three mullets or spur-rowels, the same coat of arms which can be seen above the fireplace at Mt. Vernon, the historic home of George Washington in the USA.

The gardens remain largely unaltered since the 1920`s when it was redesigned and today visitors can view the formal hedgerows, topiary, orchard, herb garden and flowering borders. A separate wedding venue and learning centre which contains several artefacts and objects associated with George Washington. There is also a small old blacksmith building at the far end of the gardens.

By 1840, the building had become almost derelict but in 1914 the house was bought by public subscription to celebrate a century of peace between the UK and USA since the War of 1812 and the house was finally restored between 1920–30. Since 1997 the house has been managed by the Sulgrave Manor Board and has been awarded a Grade I listing.

Sulgrave Manor comes to life with costumed interpreters and displays. Visitors can discover how the English Civil War, financial ruin, and a shipwreck led to George Washington’s great-grandfather seeking a fresh start in the New World for his family and the rest is history!

The tour guides are very knowledgeable and passionate about sharing their stories and factual history about George Washington, Tudor Life and the Manor House.

The Brewhouse Tea Room is the place to relax with a tea or coffee and cake in comfortable surroundings. The Gift Shop is where you can find souvenirs of your visit including books, stationery, postcards, fragrances and garden gifts. You could also put your partner in the Pillory stocks for a quick photo opportunity!

Sulgrave Manor’s fascinating history, compact size, beautifully maintained gardens and Brewhouse make it an ideal family destination for a short educational, relaxing experience. There is plenty of free parking for visitors and there is also a very welcoming pub in the village called The Star Inn, a short walk from the Manor House.

Sulgrave Manor, Manor Road, Sulgrave, Banbury, Northamptonshire

Jim Davis (4 Posts)


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