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Garsington Manor, Oxfordshire, England

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Garsington Manor, Oxfordshire, England

Garsington Manor, in the village of Garsington, near Oxford, England, is a Tudor building, best known as the former home of Lady Ottoline Morrell, the Bloomsbury Group socialite. The house is currently owned by the family of Leonard Ingrams and has been the setting for an annual summer opera season, the Garsington Opera up until 2011 when the opera relocated to Wormsley, the home of Mark Getty in Oxfordshire.

The manor house was built on land once owned by the son of the poet Geoffrey Chaucer, and at one time had the name "Chaucers". Lady Ottoline and her husband, Philip Morrell, bought the manor house in 1914, at which time it was in a state of disrepair, having been in use as a farmhouse.

They completely restored the house in the 1920s, working with the architect Philip Tilden, and creating landscaped Italian-style gardens. The parterre has 24 square beds with Irish yews at the corners; the Italian garden has a large ornamental pool enclosed by yew hedges and set about with statues; beyond, is a wild garden, with lime-tree avenues, shrubs, a stream and pond.

Garsington became a haven for the Morrells’ friends, including D. H. Lawrence, Siegfried Sassoon, Lytton Strachey, Aldous Huxley, Mark Gertler, and Bertrand Russell. In 1916, they invited conscientious objectors, including Clive Bell and other "Bloomsberries", to come and work on the home farm for the duration of World War I, to avoid prosecution. Aldous Huxley spent some time here before he wrote Crome Yellow, a book which contains a ridiculous character obviously intended as a caricature of Lady Ottoline Morrell; she never forgave him. The Morrells moved out in 1928. The house was then owned by Sir John Wheeler-Bennett until it was sold in 1981 to Leonard and Rosalind Ingrams and their family.

Pond at Garsington Manor

In 1086 the king had an estate in Garsington which, as later evidence shows, was attached to the royal manor of Headington. In 1255 the Countess of Warwick, who held Headington, held the view of frankpledge in Garsington. (fn. 45) In 1279 her successor supervised the views held by the lords of the two manors in Garsington, of which at least one was clearly derived from the earlier royal estate. (fn. 46) In the early 17th century and in 1744 the then lords of Headington held courts leet for the 'manor of Garsington', apparently with jurisdiction over both manors. Presumably their claim to be 'lords of Garsington', as Thomas Whorwood was described in 1744, was based upon this ancient connexion. (fn. 47)

The king's estate in Garsington is only incidentally referred to in Domesday in the account of the lands of Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 48) Royal ownership nevertheless is recorded in 1122, (fn. 49) proved for 1128–30, (fn. 50) and commemorated in the 13th-century field-name 'Kyngeshull'. (fn. 51) In 1255, the jurors said that the avus of king Henry III had given his land to Ida de Tony pro servicio suo. (fn. 52) Ida, presumably one of Henry II's many mistresses, was a daughter of Robert of Chaumont, (fn. 53) and wife of Roger de Tony, (fn. 54) a tenantin-chief and member of a junior branch of the Tony family, the caput of whose barony was at Flamstead (Herts.). (fn. 55) It is possible that she was given Garsington by Henry II as a maritagium. (fn. 56) She was in possession in 1201, when Adam Bucuinte, a London merchant, quitclaimed his right to the property during her lifetime. (fn. 57)

Ida was alive in 1203–4, (fn. 58) but apparently dead by 1206 when her son Baldwin de Tony (fn. 59) was trying to prove in the king's court his father's right to property in Garsington. (fn. 60) His mother's hide of land is not mentioned in the suit and it may be that the Tonys had other land in Garsington. The outcome of the suit is not known and there is no information about the descent of Ida's property until 1241, when it is stated to have been in the possession of Roger de Akenny, (fn. 61) son of Baldwin. (fn. 62) But Baldwin is known to have made grants of land in Garsington, (fn. 63) and a Ralph de Akenny represented Baldwin de Tony in the suit over Garsington land in 1206, so it is likely that the Akennys were in possession earlier. (fn. 64) The de Tonys and de Akennys are found in close association in many counties, (fn. 65) but their exact relationship has not been established. As Roger de Akenny's widow Joan was claiming dower in 1241 from her husband's lands in Cambridgeshire, (fn. 66) it is likely that he had recently died. His Garsington manor was being farmed for the Crown by the Warden of St. John's Hospital outside the East Gate of Oxford, and was in the king's hands on account of the minority of Roger, the heir of Ralph (VI) de Tony, (fn. 67) who had died in 1239 on a voyage to the Holy Land. (fn. 68) This is the first record which has been found of Garsington's connexion with the senior branch of the Tony family. The male line of the senior branch ended with the death of Robert de Tony before 1309, and in 1315 Garsington was said to be held of his heirs in free socage. (fn. 69) Robert's sister Alice, daughter of Ralph de Tony, succeeded. She married Guy, Earl of Warwick, as her second husband, (fn. 70) and then William la Zouche, Lord Mortimer. (fn. 71)

Roger de Akenny's lands passed to his two daughters, of whom Isabel, the younger and a child at his death, received Garsington for her share. In 1242 Bernard of Savoy was given seisin of her manor and custody of her person. (fn. 72) He leased the manor to the Warden of the Hospital of St. John, who already held the farm of it from the Crown. He reduced the rent from £20 to £15, allowed Joan to occupy the manor-house and enjoy her dower lands, and sent Isabel to the convent of Wherwell (Hants). (fn. 73) Four years later in 1245 the abbess was directed to deliver her to Matthew de la Mare, (fn. 74) a member of a family already connected by marriage and feudal ties with the Tonys. (fn. 75) She was probably then married to Pain de la Mare, who thus became lord of Garsington. (fn. 76) He was often employed on the king's service, and went to Gascony in 1244 as the king's messenger and in 1256 to Jersey in the service of the Lord Edward. (fn. 77) He was almost certainly in possession of the Akenny manor of Garsington by 1250 and of other Akenny lands. (fn. 78) By 1251 he was receiving dues from the Mimekan fee, (fn. 79) and was granted free warren in his Oxfordshire lands in 1254. (fn. 80) In 1255 he was said to hold his hide of land, valued at £20, by no service beyond suit to the hundred court. (fn. 81) By 1279 his widow Isabel was recorded as lady of the manor, which she held of Roger de Tony as ½ knight's fee. (fn. 82)

But by 1284 Isabel had taken as her second husband John Pecche, a member of another local knightly family, and he was holding in her right. (fn. 83) The date of Isabel's death is uncertain, but her successor was John de la Mare, (fn. 84) her son perhaps by her first husband. He was a man of eminence, who was perhaps related to the de la Mares of Marsh Baldon and Lower Heyford, an important family with estates in many counties. (fn. 85) He died childless in 1315, leaving his sister Isabel, widow of Thomas de Maydenhatch, as his heir. (fn. 86) She died three years later; her four daughters were the coheirs of her estates. (fn. 87) Sibyl, the second daughter, received the manor of Garsington as a part of her share in 1318–19. (fn. 88) For the next twenty years the precise descent is uncertain, but it is possible that the Joan Laxman who joined her husband in a grant of the manor in 1340 was the daughter of Sibyl. The Laxmans were not a local family and in 1340 they sold their Garsington manor to John, son of John de Louches of Garsington, a member of a widespread Oxfordshire family. He was the second husband of Joan, the widow of John de la Mare. (fn. 89)

The Garsington branch of the family was to hold this estate, henceforth known as LOUCHES manor, for sixty years or so. They also held land at Clapcot and West Wittenham (fn. 90) (Berks.), and played a minor part in the administration of both counties. (fn. 91) After 1391 (fn. 92) no further trace of the family's connexion with Garsington has been found. By 1428 Thomas Chaucer was in possession. (fn. 93)

In the time of Abbot Ordric (1052–65) the thegn Thovi gave an estate assessed at 7½ hides in Garsington to Abingdon Abbey. (fn. 94) Abbot Athelhelm (1071–84) later granted it to Gilbert Latemer or the Marshal, (fn. 95) who was doubtless the tenant recorded in Domesday. In 1086 Abingdon also held another estate in Garsington, which was assessed at 1½ hide and was held by Sueting. (fn. 96) The later history of this second estate is unknown: it may have some connexion with the later Godstow Abbey holding in Garsington of the same size, (fn. 97) but it is also possible that it was connected with the manor of Wheatley. (fn. 98)

A list of Abingdon tenants in the 11th century says that one Walter de Garsington held ½ knight's fee and owed service at the abbot's chamber: (fn. 99) presumably he was Gilbert's subtenant in Garsington. Gilbert, who had no sons, gave his lands to his three daughters and their husbands, Ralph Percehai"', "'Picot, and William. Gilbert and Ralph both died in the time of Abbot Rainald (d. 1100). By an arrangement made with Rainald after Ralph's death, all three shares were to be held for life only, and Picot performed the service for the whole fee. (fn. 100) Abbot Faritius (d. 1117) received confirmation from Henry I of lands in Garsington formerly held by Percehai. (fn. 101) William son of Abbot Rainald held land in Garsington early in the 12th century, (fn. 102) but this probably did not comprise the whole estate, which was soon afterwards split into two equal shares, each owing the service of ½ knight's fee. (fn. 103)

The first evidence of this division is the grant of 3½ hides in fee to Simon the king's dispenser by Abbot Vincent (1117–30). This grant was made in recognition of Simon's surrender of the claims he had made on the grounds of relationship to the lands of William son of Abbot Rainald. (fn. 104) Simon's rights evidently descended to Thurstan le Despenser, (fn. 105) who claimed in 1224 that his father Aymer had been the abbey's tenant, and that he himself held of Abingdon ½ knight's fee in Garsington, which in turn was held of him by William de la Mare and of William by Walter de Garsington. The abbot replied that Walter had held directly of the abbey for the past forty years, (fn. 106) but in 1279 Thurstan's son Adam le Despenser and John de la Mare, presumably the lord of the other main manor, (fn. 107) were said to be mesne tenants of the ½ fee. (fn. 108) The William de la Mare mentioned in 1224 may have been the same as the William de Mora or Mara who in 1214 and 1221 was suing Walter de Garsington for homage and services due from his tenement in Garsington. (fn. 109) His relationship to the John of 1279 is not known. Whatever the position of the mesne tenants, who are not mentioned after 1279, Walter de Garsington was evidently the demesne tenant in 1214, 1221, and 1224. Roger, Walter, and Adam de Garsington all held land in Garsington in the 12th century. (fn. 110) They were probably members of the same family as the early-13th-century Walter and also the 11th-century Walter, but the relationships and line of descent cannot be traced. In 1206 Walter de Garsington was disputing the land in Garsington with Baldwin de Tony. (fn. 111) In 1242–3 and 1255 Walter Pain, who may be the same as Walter de Garsington, or his son, held the fee of the Abbot of Abingdon. (fn. 112) In 1279 it was held by John Pain, who owed service at the abbot's chamber. (fn. 113) The Pain family appear to have held at least part of the property for several more generations, for in 1428 reference was made to ¼ fee lately held by Thomas Pain and then held by Roger Radley. (fn. 114) This is the last mention of the Despenser fee, which had evidently already been split up. Probably part of it was comprised in the lands held by the Radley family in the later Middle Ages. (fn. 115)

The other half of the original Abingdon fee apparently returned to the family of Gilbert the Marshal, though the relationship between Gilbert and the later Marshals is not clear. (fn. 116) John the Marshal (d. 1165) and Gilbert the Marshal (d. 1166) are mentioned in connexion with Oxfordshire and other lands, (fn. 117) and John the Marshal (d. 1194) held land in Garsington in 1189. (fn. 118) In 1247 the Garsington fee, along with other Marshal lands, was assigned to William de Valence, who had married a niece of the last Marshal Earl of Pembroke. (fn. 119) This mesne tenancy was ignored in 1242–3 and 1255 but mentioned in 1279. (fn. 120) The first mention of a subtenant of the fee was made in 1242–3, when it was held by Reynold de Hauville, from whose family HAVELS manor, as it later became called, took its name. (fn. 121) In 1247 it was said to be held by Hugh de Garsington, (fn. 122) but in 1253 Hugh conveyed or quitclaimed his rights in 4 virgates in Garsington to Alice, wife of Hugh de Hauville, and her husband. (fn. 123) In 1255 Hugh de Hauville held 3½ hides and a virgate of Abingdon barony and did the service for it as ½ knight's fee at Windsor castle. In 1279 the fee was again held by a Hugh de Hauville. (fn. 124) He was alive in 1285, but possibly dead by 1296 when a William de Hauville witnessed a charter along with the chief landowners in the parish. (fn. 125) By 1315–16 Isabel de Hauville held the manor. (fn. 126) From this time members of the family are often mentioned, though not directly as lords of Havels. Philip appears in the early 14th century, (fn. 127) Thomas in 1340, (fn. 128) and John in 1388. (fn. 129) John's son William de Hauville is mentioned in 1404, but in 1428 Thomas Chaucer was described as holding ¼ fee in Garsington formerly held by John de Hauville. (fn. 130) William de Hauville is known to have been disposing of other lands in Garsington and the Cowleys at this date. (fn. 131)

Thus the two manors of Louches and Havels became united in Thomas Chaucer's hands. (fn. 132) They shared the same ownership until the early 17th century and during that time were sometimes referred to as the manor of GARSINGTON. Thomas Chaucer was the son of the poet, and was active in the government service, as well as in local affairs. (fn. 133) He died in 1435 after having vested his Garsington manors and other properties in trustees for the use of his wife Maud. (fn. 134) She died in 1437 and was buried with her husband in Ewelme church. Garsington and all the Chaucer possessions passed to their daughter Alice, wife of William de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. (fn. 135) After her death in 1475, the lands of her inheritance, which included Garsington manor, descended to her son John, Duke of Suffolk. But within a short time they were forfeited to the Crown with all the Suffolk lands as the result of the unsuccessful rebellion of the duke's eldest son John, Earl of Lincoln. (fn. 136) He was killed at the battle of Stoke in 1487, and a month after the passing of the Act of Attainder against him, Garsington was granted to Oliver St. John of Lydiard Tregoze (Wilts.). (fn. 137) The grant, which apparently included both Louches and Havels manors, was confirmed by Act of Parliament in 1487 (fn. 138) and Garsington was especially exempted in 1495 when some of the Suffolk lands were restored to Edmund de la Pole, Parliament having petitioned that it should remain with the king. (fn. 139) Oliver died in 1497 seised of Garsington, and other manors in Kent and Essex, and was followed as lord by his son John, who was killed in 1512, having previously settled Garsington on his wife Joan. (fn. 140) In 1532 her son John, who had been a child when his father died, obtained a confirmation of Henry VIII's grant of Garsington to Oliver St. John, (fn. 141) and in 1535 and again in 1544 there were complicated resettlements of the manor, which secured Joan's life-interest and the rights of her son John and the heirs male. (fn. 142) Joan died in 1553; (fn. 143) her son John St. John (d. 1576) (fn. 144) and then her grandson Nicholas (d. 1589), (fn. 145) remembered at Garsington for the survey he had made of the manor, (fn. 146) succeeded her.

His son and heir John settled Garsington in 1591 on his wife Lucy with remainder to their sons and their heirs male. (fn. 147) He died in 1594 and was buried at Lydiard Tregoze where impressive monuments to his father, to himself and their respective wives testify to the family's wealth and pride. (fn. 148) His widow Lucy lived until about 1602; but as two of her sons had died already and the heir, their brother John, was still a minor, (fn. 149) her jointure, comprising Garsington and Purley (Berks.), passed into the hands of the Crown. In 1602 Sir Thomas Leighton asked the queen for Garsington, if the jointure should be split up. (fn. 150) If he ever got his request he can have held the manor only for a few years, as John St. John came of age in about 1607. He was knighted two years later and in 1611, the year of his creation as a baronet, he sold the manor to John Wise and John Smith, (fn. 151) who may have been acting for John Doyley, said to be in possession of the demesne land of Louches manor in about 1607.

In 1612 George Melsam, who had been Doyley's tenant of Louches manor-house and property in North End and South End since 1607, (fn. 152) acquired the manors of Havels and Louches with all manorial rights. (fn. 153) Although he immediately sold part of his Garsington estates, (fn. 154) he seems to have kept both the manors, for he was dealing with the 'manor of Garsington' in 1618. Sir George Greene of Kent was in possession of a part of the property by 1621, (fn. 155) but Melsam paid the subsidy of 1623 on land in Garsington. (fn. 156) It is impossible to get a clear picture of the precise course of events at this period from the surviving documents. They indicate, however, that Melsam's property was being considerably broken up, and the two manors ultimately came under separate ownership. By this time the names North End and South End were commonly used to describe the two hamlets and their sets of fields, in which the manors of Louches and Havels lay. The original names continued, however, to be used in legal documents dealing with the manors.

In 1633 Thomas Plumer of Mitcham (Surr.), the younger son of a merchant tailor of London, who had been leasing land in Garsington from 1622 or earlier, obtained Louches or North End from Sir Gervais Elwes, alderman and sometime sheriff of London. (fn. 157) This family remained lords of the manor until the 19th century, but were never resident in the parish. Thomas, who had married the daughter of Sir Gervais, died at Mitcham in 1639 (fn. 158) and was followed by his son Walter. Walter Plumer was created a baron at the Restoration and died unmarried in 1697. His cousin's son, John Plumer of Blakesware (Herts.), inherited, and was followed by his son William, later to become M.P. for Yarmouth and then for Hertfordshire. The family's increased influence and wealth enabled William to marry his son William to the daughter of Viscount Falkland, on whom Garsington was apparently settled in 1760. (fn. 159) Her husband died in 1822 after a long and active parliamentary career. As their son died without issue, William Plumer's property ultimately passed to the descendants of his aunt Jane Plumer, who had married the Rector of Widford (Herts.). Their son Joseph took his wife's family name of Halsey, and their younger son Thomas Plumer Halsey of Gaddesdon and M.P. for Hertfordshire became lord of the manor of Louches. By 1887 F. P. Morrell was lord. (fn. 160)

Meanwhile Havels manor seems to have gone to one Bastian, who also had property in Great Milton and Chippinghurst. (fn. 161) He contributed to the subsidy of 1623 (fn. 162) for his Garsington land and in the 18th century Rawlinson believed that he had held the South End estate. In 1625 William Wickham, the son of John Wickham of Rotherfield (Suss.) and a descendant of the Wykehams of Swalcliffe (Oxon.), came to the manor-house, presumably as lord of the manor, after his marriage to Jane, daughter of Nicholas Brome of the Vent, in Forest Hill, and the sister of Henry Brome of Clifton, near Banbury. (fn. 163) William died at Garsington in 1643. His family remained squires of South End until the mid-18th century. Most of the manorial rights may already have lapsed as members of the family are usually termed 'principal landowners' and not lords of the manor, though on one occasion Mrs. Wickham is described as its lady. (fn. 164) Uncertainty about their legal, though not their social, position may have arisen as the court leet was held by the Bromes of Holton and their successors, as lords of Headington manor. (fn. 165)

After William Wickham's death, his widow lived on at Garsington until her death in 1657. Her son John succeeded to the property and died in 1683. He was followed by his son John, who died in 1691, leaving land to his wife in Chippinghurst and Cuddesdon and the use of certain rooms in his house. William, their son, was to have part of the estate when he was 21 years old and the rest at 25. (fn. 166) He was the Mr. Justice Wickham who received Rawlinson with 'the reserved coolness of a magistrate', but afterwards unbent and treated him to very good beer. (fn. 167) He died young in 1727, but his widow lived on at the manor-house with her family. (fn. 168) Her eldest son William, Rector of Stoke Talmage, died in 1770, (fn. 169) leaving his daughter Ann as heiress. In 1780 she married Thomas Drake Tyrwhitt-Drake, M.P., of Shardloes (Bucks.), (fn. 170) but by the time of the inclosure award in 1811 she was a widow. She and the Revd. John Drake were then described as lord and lady of the manor. (fn. 171) The family never resided at Garsington and in 1914 the manor-house and estate were bought by Philip Morrell, a well-known Oxford solicitor.

// Frosty Topiary Paths at Garsington Manor


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