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Willington Manor, Bedfordshire, England

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Willington Manor, Bedfordshire, England

  • Type of Building: Timber framed
  • Condition: Broken up
  • Location: Bedfordshire
  • Category: Grade II, of special interest
  • Date Listed: May 1984 by by the former Department of Environment. The 17th century (with one 18th century section altered in the 19th century) garden wall, which includes some remains of the former manor house, was also listed in May 1984 as Grade II
  • Coordinates
  • When Built: Early to mid 16th century, rebuilt, refaced and added to in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.
  • Architect:
  • Built for/by: Sir John Gostwick, Master of the Horse to King Henry VIII
  • Owned by: See below

Pictured right and below Willington Manor Farmhouse circa 1900



The original house was timber framed with brick infill (some timbering is still visible inside), with later work in red brick. The house has an old clay tile roof and two storeys in an L-plan. The external chimney stack to the north-east gable is substantial and the gable is possibly 16th century brickwork, except the top of the stack, which was rebuilt in the 20th century. See for a more detailed description. The auction advertisement description in 1903 details - "containing Entrance Hall, Spacious Drawing Room with Marble mantel, large Dining Room, Breakfast Room, Smoke Room, good Kitchen, Scullery, Beer and Coal Cellars, Dairy, Pantry, 7 Bedrooms, Attic, Bath Room with Hot and Cold Water supply &c.


See British History Online - Willington for earlier history of Willington and its Manor prior to the building built by Sir John Gostwick. Briefly -

  • 1086 - Hugh de Beauchamp (1055-1114) held Willington Manor
  • On the subdivision of the barony in 1265 the manor passed to Maud de Beauchamp (b. betw. 1229 and 1263 - 1273), wife of Roger de Mowbray(1218-1263)
  • Her second husband, Roger Lestrange, who survived her, holding Willington till his death in 1311
  • 1311 Maud de Beauchamp's grandson John de Mowbray (1286-1322), succeeded to the manor.
  • John de Mowbray settled it for life, in 1316, on William de Braose 2nd Lord Braose (c.1260-1326), whose elder daughter Aliva he had married.
  • In 1322 John de Mowbray was hanged at York for joining in Lancaster's rebellion against Edward II. His lands were transferred to the Crown, and Hugh le Despenser the younger was granted the reversion of the manor of Willington for himself and his wife Eleanor de Clare, Baroness Despenser.
  • On the accession of Edward III John de Mowbray's estates were restored to his son John de Mowbray, who in 1328 acknowledged the rights of his mother's second husband, Sir Richard de Peshale, in Willington Manor.
  • In 1362, after the death of John de Mowbray, the right of Elizabeth de Vere, his second wife, in Willington Manor was recognised.
  • John de Mowbray (1365-1383), created Earl of Nottingham at the coronation of Richard II in 1377, was succeeded in 1383 by his brother Thomas de Mowbray (1366-1399), subsequently 1st Duke of Norfolk and Earl Marshal. He was banished by Richard II in 1399 and died shortly afterwards. Thomas de Mowbray, 4th Earl of Norfolk (1385-1405) his son and heir was a minor and the custody of Willington Manor was granted to Sir Thomas de Rempston.
  • Thomas de Mowbray was executed for high treason in 1405, and the manor passed to his brother John de Mowbray, 2nd Duke of Norfolk, who died in 1432 and was succeeded by his only son John de Mowbray, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1415-1461).
  • At the death of the 3rd Duke in 1461 his only son, also John de Mowbray 4th Duke of Norfolk (1444-1476), was in possession of the manor.
  • Anne Mowbray, Duchess of York (1472-1481) his daughter and heir was the last of the direct line of Mowbrays. At her death in 1483 the manor passed to the Howard family
  • After the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, when Thomas Howard's Norfolk estates were forfeited, Willington Manor was granted by Henry VII to John de Vere Earl of Oxford and to his male heirs.
  • In 1489 Thomas Howard was released from prison and restored to his earldom of Surrey. The forfeited estates, which had been granted to the Earl of Oxford, were restored to him.
  • The Earl of Surrey was created Duke of Norfolk in 1514 for his services at Flodden Field. He was succeeded by his son Thomas Howard, 3rd Duke of Norfolk (1473-1554) in 1524
  • Thomas Duke of Norfolk sold Willington in 1529 to Sir John Gostwick (1491-1545), whose ancestors in Willington can be traced back to 1209.

The Manor House of this project is believed to have been built by Sir John Gostwick after he acquired the Lordship of the Manor of Willington in 1529, replacing the probably much larger previous manor house. In an article for The Bedfordshire Magazine in 1995 (Volume 25 page 20) Frank Godber' revealed that Gostwick’s monogram had recently been discovered in an ancient timber carving at the house. Folklore in Willington is that the majority of these buildings either burned or were pulled down (CRT130Willington9 - Reference:

After the death of Sir John Gostwick in 1545 the manor of Willington passed first to his son William, who died in the same year, and then to his brother William, who died in 1549.

The manor and manor house were owned by the Gostwick family until 1731, when it bought by Sarah Duchess of Marlborough. In 1739 it was sold to the Dukes of Bedford who owned it until until 1902. In November 1903 the Lords of the Manor, George and James Keeble of Peterborough, put the Willington Manor Estate properties in the village up for sale by auction. The sale particulars [X403/3] listed Manor Farm as Lot 11 and described the property as an "Important Residential Property" part of Willington Manor Farm, comprising a "Superior and Commodious residence" known as the "Manor House". Included were a range of brick and tiled buildings including Nag Stable, Coach House and Harness Room, Brewhouse and Stock Place. Also "nicely arranged Gardens and Lawn, Kitchen Garden (walled in) with Greenhouse, Orchard &c."

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 required every building and piece of land in the country to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Willington was assessed in 1927 and when the valuer visited the Manor Farmhouse [DV1/H36/54] he found it was owned and occupied by "Isaac Godber", who had probably purchased it in 1903. Cople and the valuer commented: “House good and cannot be classed as a mere farm house. Buildings very good but for 400 acres and only about a quarter used”.

The farmhouse had three reception rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, a dairy, a pantry and an office with seven bedrooms upstairs and a bathroom and an attic. Outside were a cellar, two garages and a bicycle shed. There were also extensive out buildings detailed at

Colonel Frank Shuttleworth of Old Warden and Messrs. Mark Young of Sandy being now [A History of the County of Bedford: Volume 3. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912] the principal landowners in Willington.

In 1948 some of the farm buildings built by the Duke of Bedford in 1850 were converted into bungalows. In 1985 a number of alterations took place at the Manor and in 1986 restoration work involved connecting the dining room with the old kitchen.

In 1995 Willington Manor was for sale (particulars and description at A carving in Bedroom 6 was described as:

"believed to depict Sir John Gostwick and his wife or family, with delicate lettering "JG" in Tudor Scroll, and elegant carving incorporating Dolphins and Tudor Roses".

// Dovecote// Dovecote Interior

Images - Left © Copyright James Wood and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Geograph and Right © Copyright PAUL FARMER and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. Geograph

Willington Dovecote

Built shortly after 1530 by Sir John Gostwick - lined with about 1500 nesting boxes for pigeons, believed to have been built with stone from Newnham Priory. It was completed in around 1541 Henry VIII named Sir John as Treasurer General, and visited Willington in 1541. A later visitor was poet John Bunyan, and a signature carved above the fireplace in the stables is traditionally said to be his. Today the dovecote is owned by the National Trust in Bedfordshire.

References, Sources and Further Reading

// this project is in History Link