Boston Manor House: Wikis

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The east front

Boston Manor House is a Grade I listed Jacobean manor house in Boston Manor, Brentford, in the London Borough of Hounslow, England. Set in 20 acres of parkland, it is Hounslow’s only building of the Elizabethan period.

Contents

Description of the house

The manor house is situated in beautiful grounds which gently slope down to the nearby River Brent, from which Brentford gets its name. The house has thick walls of red brick and stands three stories high. The windows are set into stone architraves and a stone cornice between the second and third storeys of the house. It has three gables on the longer sides and two on the shorter with stone Coping. The rainwater downpipe headers which collect from the roof gutters are each embossed with dates. The three on the original part of the house are dated 1662, this being the date that building began. Another is 1670, which was when the third gable was added, and 1915 for when improvements were made to the drainage system.

It was traditional with grand houses of this time to consider the front side of the house to be that side which looks out over an elegantly landscaped garden. However, during the ownership of James Clitherow (IV), the central ground floor window on the east side was converted into a doorway and a porch was added. It is fashioned from pale grit stone which has weathered to an almost light golden colour, with Elizabethan detail, and topped with a low ornamental balustrade. Considering its design and apparent age, it is thought to have been salvaged from another building.

Going through this porch and the new front doorway one comes in to the entrance hall. It extends to the west side of the house and the former front door. Halfway between, however, is a wooden divide or screen which was added around the 19c, and the east half was given a new ceiling. On the immediate left of the hall is the dining room. It is not very large and is painted in a bright yellow which was both popular and expensive when it was in fashion. It has a number of prints and paintings hanging on the walls of local scenes from times gone by.

Jacobean staircase

Once back in the hallway and walking through the screen, there is to the left-hand side a door to the library, which is about the same size as the dining room. It has some interesting features. Unfortunately the room now remains locked and cannot be seen by visitors due to the dangerous condition of the wall on that side of the house. Beyond the library door is the west side door to the garden.

The west side of the hall also has a mostly original left hand winding Jacobean staircase. The angle of ascent (or rake) of the stairs is more gentle than in modern buildings, with both a lower ‘rise’ to the next tread and deeper ‘run’ to the next step. The treads are bullnosed and obediently creak to each and every footfall a visitor may place upon them. Square carved oak newel posts support the ends of banisters with carved tapered balusters running between. The opposite side of the stairs are mirrored with a Trompe d'œil balustrade. For this period in England, this is an extremely rare example of this technique and so is now been preserved behind transparent sheets. The design has striking similarities to those at Hatfield House.

A 19c addition to the top of the newel posts are small plaster or composition castings of lions which are sitting on their haunches, with their bodies erect and both forepaws raised from the ground (i.e., holding ‘sejant erect attitude’), Each animal hold a shield bearing the arms of a different Clitherow member. These may have been added for the visit of King William IV and Queen Adelaide; for although the Clitherow’s were commoners they could nevertheless trace their family tree back to the rein of Henry V.

The two landings give a fine view over the garden with its cedar trees planted in 1754. With the commanding view that the house provides to the south and south west, one can almost imagine a little over a hundred years before that, when the then King Charles I could have been pacing from window to window with his loyal supporter Sir Edward Spencer, watching Prince Rupert’s troops engaging with the Parliamentarians during the Battle of Brentford. Apart from local folklore though, there is nothing to support this as having happened. It is almost equally disappointing to discover, that despite the historically rich ambience that follows one about from room to room, only one ghost has chosen to remain in residence. It is said to be that of the unquiet spirit of young master John Clitherow, who drowned at an untimely and early age.

The State Drawing room

After the second flight of stairs one arrives at the second floor. To the right it the door to a small anteroom on the west side of the house. Next to this is the state bedroom with a splendid Jacobean decorated plaster ceiling in high relief. The central panel depicts a female figure representing ‘Hope’ with her cross-anchor, below is the word in Latin. This symbol pre-dates Christianity: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Hebrews 6:19 (KJV). Despite this, Dame Mary Reade died childless.

From here and though the doorway to the east side is the state drawing room; so called because this is where the ladies would withdraw after dinner, leaving the menfolk to smoke and sample the cellar. This is the room that Boston Manor House is so famous for. It is large, with a high and magnificent Jacobean ceiling, some with elements designed by the seventeenth-century Dutch artist Marcus Gheeraerts, and engraved by Galle. In one corner is recorded the date of building, and Mary Reade's initials in another. An equally ornate chimney- piece over the mantel is based on a print by the Flemish-born engraver Abraham de Bruyn which depicts Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac on the Mount of Moriah. All of these high relief mouldings are all acknowledged to be excellent examples of the Jacobean period.

On the wall along the final top flight of stairs can be seen some 18c wallpaper, which was discovered during restoration work. While it has become distressed with time, it is considered to be among the best examples which have survived into present times.

Like most houses that have served as homes, it has when needs prevail, been improved and modernised, by the Clitherow family. The original windows were replaced by box-sash and unfolding wooden panels or screens. These would be unfurled across the windows at dusk to keep in the heat, as well as keeping the house more secure. Central heating was also installed, as was gas for the kitchens.

The wall have been hung with hand-printed flock wallpaper. Much of the furniture in the house has been lent by the Gunnersbury Park Museum.

History of the manor house

The manor house was built in 1622-3 for the newly-widowed, and sortly to be remarried Dame Mary Reade. whose late husband was granted a patent of possession for Boston Manor from James I. To the north of the house the Clitherrow family added extensions that contained the kitchen services and quarters for the domestic staff.

The unsafe south west corner

John Bourchier Stracey-Clitherow was the last private owner of Boston Manor which he sold in 1923. The house and the surrounding 20 acres was purchased by the Brentford Urban District Council which was opened as a public park in 1924.

The house was badly damaged during World War II by a V1 dropping across the road. For a time it was used as a school. After extensive restoration work, was re-opened in 1963 by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother as a visitors centre and Museum.

Due to its unique architecture and decoration it has been often used as a setting for period films.

Since then, the south west corner has been propped up by scaffolding. It was intended to be a temporary measure but has become a permanent feature for several years. English Heritage judge that urgent work is needed in order to consolidate the foundations to prevent further deterioration and possible collapse.[1] The lower courses of brickwork are visibly bowing out and a wide vertical crack can be clearly seen running up the wall. The Library room behind this corner has now been closed to the public due to these health and safety issues. The whole of the top floor is also closed off.

An organization called the Friends of Boston Manor now exists with the aim of helping to restore and maintain the historical aspects of Boston Manor Park and House.[2]

History of the former Manor of Boston

The earliest reference to Boston (or Bordwadestone as it was then spelt) was around the 1170s. It may mean Bord's tun or farm by the stone. It was situated towards the northern end of the Manor Boston. The lord of the Manor is recorded as Ralph de Brito. There is no record as to where he built his manor house. He founded a chapel at the southern end of the Manor call St. Lawrence on a site that is now derelict. The ecclesiastical boundary under this chapel was -or became over time- coterminous with that of the manor boundary. Today, this boundary would have been approximately to east side Boston Manor tube station's railway sidings and would have roughly followed Piccadilly line west as far as the river Brent. Turning south, it followed the Brent down to the Thames. After a very sort distance east, it turn north following Half Acre Road, then up along Boston Manor Road and thus back to the Tube station again The northern extent of the manor was marked by a boundary stone. Later a tree to the west of it, came to be the local Gospel Oak. Here the old pagan custom of blessing the field and crops took place whilst beating the bounds. Thus, thus the boundary of chapelry of St. Lawrence no only coexisted with that of the manor but was also a subdivision of the Parish of Hanwell.

The in about 1280 King Edward I granted this area of the township to the prioress of St Helen's Bishopsgate. It is a this point that one can consider that it becomes a district in its own right. For under the feudal system, lands could be divided up according to use, ownership, possession (right to take profit), and occupancy. The prioress received what amounted to both “constructive possession” and ‘ownership.’ Although the King did this was to make raising tax easier, it had the benefit of preventing alienation of any parts of the property by subinfeudation and thus keeping it more or less intact over the coming centuries.

The reason the King may have favoured this particular Convent which lay in Bishopsgate, was that it was full, with the unmarried daughters begotten by members of the Guild of Goldsmiths, and so by making them self supporting by given them the means to charge their new tenants rents and to sell the produce grown on their newly acquired demesne, he could justify taxing their fathers more heavily and collect the tax in the form of silver coinage, which was more convinent.

Christopher Clitherow (1666-1727)
3rd owner Boston Manor House

Things stayed this way until 1539 when under Henry VIII the convent was dissolved and these manor holdings returned to the Crown.

It passed out of the control of the Crown in 1547 and into the hands of Edward Seymour, 1st Duke of Somerset during the rein of King Edward VI.

After the Duke was forced to forfeit both his lands along with his head, it once more returned to the Crown until Elizabeth I granted it to her favourite Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester who immediately sold it to a Sir Thomas Gresham who had become a fabulously wealthy merchant and financier who had also bought Osterley as his summer residence. He went on to found the Royal Exchange.

As the neighbouring settlement of Brentford village grew, it expanded onto the property of this manor, and thus it became known as the Manor of New Brentford to reflect the fact that is was under a different Lord to that of Old Brentford.

The population had grown so much by 1621 that the chapelry council could no longer refer every issue back to the Hanwell parish council for direction but needed to take control themselves. Not yet have parish status the area covered by the Manor became a administrative township and known as the New Brentford Township. This is why the letters NBT can be seen on local boundary stone.

It was during the 1700s, that both the manor land holdings and the area of the New Brentford township, the boundaries of which were now coexistent, were being commonly referred to as simply Boston Manor rather than the Manor of New Brentford.

As Gresham died without issue, the property went via his wife, to his step son Sir William Reade, whom she had bore during a previous marriage. As Sir William resided in near by Osterley, he too had to obtain a Patent of Possession (1610) from James I so that he could legally administer the estate.

He went on to marry Mary Goldsmith. It was she who built Boston Manor House in 1662/3 immediately after his death.

She quickly married Sir Edward Spencer of Althorp (Northants). As Sir William’s second wife he did let her inherit the legal ownership, instead she came into legal possession of the property but only to last for her own lifetime. However, they appears to have had bought out the claims of the late William Reade's heirs to the property so that upon her own death (1658) the title in the property of Boston Manor passed to her kinsman John Goldsmith as they themselves had had no children to leave it to. On Goldsmith’s demise (1670) executors sold it to another very wealthy city merchant James Clitherow I. The price he paid for the house with its its then 230 acres for his own use, was £5,136/17s/4d.

It stayed within the Clitherow family for the next 250 years although over those years parts of the estate was sold off.

John Bourchier Stracey-Clitherow was the last private owner of Boston Manor and in 1923 he sold the remainder of Boston Manor estate. The house and the surrounding 20 acres was purchased by the Brentford Urban District Council which was opened as a public park in 1924.

The Green Flag Award scheme, which recognises and rewards the best green spaces in England and Wales, has given this award to Boston Manor Park in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009.[3]

Opening hours and events

The ornamental lake

The park is free and open to the public every day: 8am - dusk

It has a modern and fully equipped children's play ground, plus 3 tennis courts, and a basketball court.[4]

Friends of Boston Manor volunteers run a Cafeteria 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Recently a Nature Trail has been laid out. The are formal lawns and an ornamental lake with wild fowl.

Car Boot sales are held first Saturday of every month from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (tele: 07931 539282 or info@fobm.org.uk)

Each year Boston Manor Park hosts the Brentford Festival.[5]

The House is open free to the public April until October each year. Opening hours are 2.30 to 5 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays.

Getting there

Buse: London Buses route E8 & London Buses route 195

Train: Boston Manor tube station on the Piccadilly line

Google map of Boston Manor House in Brentford

Other historic neighbours

Bibliography

  • Daniel Lysons, The Environs of London (1795-1800)
  • Montague Sharpe, Bregantforda and the Hanweal (1904) ; Some Accounts of Bygone Hanwell and its Chapelry of New Brentford. Brentford Printing and Publishing Coy., Ltd. London. UK.
  • Arthur Oswald, 1965, "Boston Manor House" Country Life March 18 1965, 63-7
  • Janet McNamara, Boston Manor Brentford - A History and Guide
  • Cyrill Neaves, A history of Greater Ealing. S. R. Publishers 1971. ISBN 0-85409-679-5

Notes

External links

Coordinates: 51°29′31″N 0°19′06″W / 51.4919°N 0.3183°W / 51.4919; -0.3183

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