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The Manor
The Manor

The Manor – History

The present Manor House was built, probably on the site of a timber Saxon house (possibly as long ago as 821), between 1250 and 1280 (and possibly as long ago as 1200), in limestone rubble, as a central hall with two-storey transverse wings at either end, together with various outbuildings. It has a 17th century wing as well as later alterations and additions. It is one of the oldest inhabited houses in Britain.

The name ‘Charney Manor’ is misleading as it was not a medieval Manor. It was built as a grange by Abingdon Abbey, to house the steward or bailiff appointed to look after the Abbey’s lands around Charney. These were extensive and the size and elegance of the bailiff’s house indicate what a rich estate they formed. The Abbey’s rule was strict – Charney had to provide the Abbey with a specified number of bushels of grain and barrels of fish every year, it was the bailiff’s job to see that these were delivered. The fish was principally salmon from the Ock (a pre-Saxon word meaning young salmon). Salmon was a staple part of the diet in the Thames Valley in the Middle Ages. The Ock also provided crayfish which were on sale in Oxford until c1900.

The first recorded copyholder tenant is in 1467. John and Cecily Rokys and their son John were copyholder tenants of Abbot Ralph Haam.

The Manor of Basses was subsequently let to John Croke and William Chester.

Until it was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538 Abingdon Abbey was one of the great Benedictine establishments not only of England but of Europe. In the report made by Henry VIII’s commissioners the rent for Charney Manor, together with its pasture lands, was assessed at £35 10s 8d.

Elsewhere there are references ownership by a great family called Fattipiece who died out in Elizabeth I’s reign and to renting by the Yate or Yates family and their family tree is given in Jasmine Howse’s Book ‘Charney Bassett through the Centuries’.

Calendar of Close Rolls, Henry VII: Volume 1, 1485-1500. Originally published by Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, London, 1955. 
1496. Indenture between Alice widow of Bernard Delamare of Spersholt, and John Fetiplace, ‘gentilman’ of Charney co. Berks, whereby Alice demised at farm to John with warranty the manor of Mauncelescourt in Pusey, with all lands and tenements, meadows, lesues, pastures, heriets, rents, fines and hereditaments etc. in Oxford and Berks, as widely as John Sely now holds, from the Annunciation next for a term of twenty years, paying five marks annually to Alice or her assigns, with the usual clause of distress and re-entry into the premises after half a year’s default of rent, and John shall be responsible during the term for the rents due to the chief lords of the fee, and for payment of the fifteenth to the king: and he will leave the manor in good repair at the end of the lease. Witnesses: John Pusey, John Harrys, Richard Combe, Thomas Praty, Thomas Godelake. Dated Spersholte, 3 September, 12 Henry VII.

Country Life notes that: In 1545 Charney Manor was granted to Gorfen of Reading, he died in 1547 and left it to his sister Alice Gorfen who subsequently bequeathed it to Chidiock Paulet (third son of the first Marquess of Winchester). His son sold it in 1582 to William Dunch of Little Wittenham (squire to Queen Elizabeth I and formerly auditor of the Mint to Henry VIII) who died in 1597. It remained in Dunch’s hands until Edmund Dunch, a descendant of the Pusey branch of the family, left it in 1705 to his sister’s husband Francis Keck of Great Tew (who had the map of the area drawn up). It was sold a century later and in 1806 [perhaps this should be 1807 or 1808 to tie in with the 1806 newspaper article below?] was owned by Mr Bushnell esq of Wallingford.

Oxford Journal – Saturday 15 January 1803

Oxford Journal – Saturday 15 January 1803

To be SOLD by AUCTION, early in the Month of February, 1803, (unless previously disposed of by Private Contract, of which Notice will be given) – MANOR of CHARNEY, in the County of Berks, and Four very valuable Freehold DAIRY and ARABLE FARMS, situate at Charney, in the several Occupations of William Dewe, James Keep, Richard Beesley, and Mrs. Woodbridge, Tenants at Will. Also, the Site of a WATER CORN MILL, well supplied with Water by the River Ock and two small Quantities of MEADOW GROUND thereto belonging. A well-accustomed PUBLIC HOUSE, situate in Charney, with the Garden and Orchard thereto belonging; and several COTTAGES, situate in Charney.

The Estates will be fold in Lots, and Possession may be had at Lady-Day next.

Charney is pleasantly situated about five Miles from Wantage, six from Faringdon, twelve from Oxford, ten from Abingdon, and within the Distance of two Miles from the Turnpike Road leading from Oxford and Abingdon to Faringdon.-Printed Particulars, and Conditions of Sale, will be ready to be delivered fourteen Days previous to the Auction. For further Particulars, and to treat by Private Contract, apply to Mess. Crowdy and Son, Solicitors, Highworth, Wilts; or Mr. Pinder, Solicitor, Wantage.

And guess who bought the manor? James Crowdy, William Pinder, the two solicitors mentioned, plus Thomas Price Belcher and Daniel Giles. Certainly Crowdy bought to make a profit out of enclosure, he sold his holdings in 1804. [BH]

Sale of The Manor in 1807

Star (London) – Monday 14 December 1807

Star (London) – Monday 14 December 1807
TO BE SOLD, either together, or in Lots,
THE MANOR of CHARNEY, with its Rights, Members and Appurtenances in the County of Berks, with the very desirable several Farms and Lands thereto belonging, in the occupation of Messrs. Woodbridge, Pyke, and Sims, Tenants, at Will, containing 492 Acres or thereabouts.
Charney is situate about ten miles from Oxford, eight from Abingdon, and six (from Farringdon, in a fine Sporting Country, and near the Turnpike Road, leading from Oxford and Abingdon to Farringdon, Cirencester, and Gloucester, and the Estate is well worth the attention of any person, either to let or occupy. For further particulars and to treat for the purchase of the whole, or any part of the Estate, apply to Mr. Morland, Solicitor, Abingdon.

Reading Mercury – Monday 27 July 1829

Reading Mercury – Monday 27 July 1829
MANOR OF CHARNEY, BERKS. TO BE LET for a term of years, the MANOR of CHARNEY, in the county of Berks, well stocked with Game. Full particulars may be had by applying to Mr. Graham, solicitor, . Newbury.

In 1832 an Act was created to enable the sale of the Manor or Lordship of Charney etc by Rev Bushnell (Rector of Beenham nr Reading) to Mr Philip Pusey.

8th June 1832 – Bushnell’s Estate Bill.
¶Hodie 2a vice lecta est Billa, intituled, “An Act to enable The Reverend John Bushnell, and the Trustees of the Will of John Bushnell Esquire, deceased, to effect a Sale to Philip Pusey Esquire of the Manor or Lordship of Charney, in the County of Berks.”

Ordered, That the said Bill be committed to the Consideration of the Lords present this Day:

Their Lordships, or any Five of them, to meet on the 19th of this instant June, at Ten o’Clock in the Forenoon, in the Prince’s Lodgings, near the House of Peers; and to adjourn as they please.

The Manor was purchased in 1906 by William Price, who employed the architect William Weir to convert it into a ‘gentleman’s’ residence in the Cotswold Arts & Crafts style. All existing barns and outbuildings were demolished, a new north wing was added, and the main block was remodelled. The main East front door coming from an Exeter goal! The Undercroft and Solar date from the 13th century.

William Price is the Price from Price, Waterhouse, Coopers the auditing firm.


In 1909 the Pusey estate sold the village which was acquired by Berkshire County Council for division into smallholdings.

Maud Ody notes that the Manor was owned by Hon R G Whitely (1920s) and he lived there and had a golf course at the (new) entrance. He put it up for sale in 1924 (see below).

The Manor was acquired by Mrs Lucy Grace Waterhouse in 1925 (neé Palgrave), widow of Paul Waterhouse ‘the distinguished architect, and herself an authority on historical associations, old furniture and‘ The Manor. An interesting article in  ‘Britannia and Eve’ (Sunday 1 Feb 1931 – Other people’s houses by Pamela Murray) describes the house at that time. Lucy Grace Palgrave was born 1862 in Reigate and died 1960 in Poole. She married Paul Waterhouse in 1887 in St George’s Hanover Square Belgravia. He was born 1862 in Fallowfield (District of Manchester) and died in Berkshire (Bradfield Registration District). They lived together in Hemel Hempstead before his death and Lucy was in residence in Charney Manor in 1939.

‘A History of Charney Manor’ by Harriet Salisbury was written in 1989 and can be downloaded as PDFs here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Youth Hostel?
Reading Standard – Friday 09 April 1948: Youth Hostels Last week-end walkers of the Reading group of the Youth Hostels Association stayed at the youth hostel at Holmbury St. Mary, which was specially built shortly before the war with the aid of a grant from the King George’s Jubilee Trust. The party reached the hostel from Guildford by way of St. Martha’s Chapel and the Silent Pool. The Sunday’s walk took them over Leith Hill. This week-end walkers and cyclists are visiting the Charney Bassett hostel in the Vale of the White Horse. The full programme of the group may be obtained from the hon. secretary at 126, Elm Park Rood Reading.

Reading Standard – Friday 16 April 1948 BERKSHIRE ANTIQUITIES Local Cyclists Visit the Downs Last week-end a party of cyclists of the Reading Group of the Youth Hostels Association stayed at the hostel at Charney Bassett in the Yale of the White Horse, to explore some of the antiquities of Berkshire. The outward run took them via Yattendon, Hampstead Norris and Wantage. On the morrow the that halt was at the ancient Tithe Barn at Great Coxwell built by the monks of the Cistertian order in the 14th century. and in continuous use since then, the original oak timbers still supporting the tallest tithe barn In Britain. The party moved on through Uffington to the famous Blowing Stone which local people say was used for summoning King Alfred’s men in times of trouble. The stone has been moved from its vantage point on the hills, to the safe custody of a cottage garden following an attempt to remove it by some over enthusiastic souvenir hunters. The Journey was resumed along the Berkshire Ridgeway to the ramparts of Uffington Castle. where a close-up was obtained of the White Horse itself seen only vaguely from the Vale, but now restored to its pristine grandeur after a temporary eclipse during the war on grounds of security. Close by, the party also admired the ancient monument of Wayland Smith’s Cave. After a run down from the Ridgeway, the party followed the Lambourn Valley to Newbury and thence returned to Reading. This week-end walkers are staying at the Hannington Hostel on the North Hampshire Downs, followed the next week-end by a conducted tour of London Airport at Heath Row.

The Manor today
In 1948 Lucy and Henry Gillett, from very active Quaker families, bought the Manor House, partly because of the Quaker presence in the village in the early years of Quakerism and gave it to the Society of Friends (Quakers) to be a centre of Quaker activities. It is now a Conference and Retreat Centre known as a quiet and safe venue for delegates involved in conflict resolution and international affairs. It also provides facilities for groups which include charities, businesses, medical and research staff, musicians, authors and artists.


Sheila Terry worked at The Manor for many years ending up as the manager helping it though some difficult years. Her fascinating memories of The Manor are given here.

The Solar

The Solar was usually a private room located on the floor above the great hall in a manor house. The solar served as a kind of parlour to which the family of the owner of the manor house could retire from the bustling communal living of the hall below.

The Western window of The Solar
The ‘missing’ window in the SW corner clearly showing that The Solar was shortened at the southern end.
The ‘Nuns’ head carving in the doorway of The Solar which would originally have been accessed by an external staircase.

The Chapel is on the first floor and accessed from The Solar and is described here.


Outside of leaflet
Outside of leaflet
Inside of leaflet
Inside of leaflet

A window in the 'Solar' by JM Macintosh, RBA From ‘Islands of the Vale’ by Eleanor G Hayden. 1908
A window in the ‘Solar’ by JM Macintosh, RBA
From ‘Islands of the Vale’ by Eleanor G Hayden. 1908
Solar and Chapel

c1960. The thirteenth-century solar and chapel in Charney Manor. 

[Vale of the White Horse – pocket images Nigel Hammond & Jim Brown]

‘Near Oxford’ by H T Inman M.A. published in 1904

Click to enlarge and scroll.

Reading Standard – Saturday 17 May 1924
The engagement is announced between the Hon. R. G. Whiteley, of Charney Manor, Berkshire; and Gladys Joan, only daughter of the late Mr. J. Lenton, of Bedford.

Sale of The Manor in 1924
The Manor was put up for sale June 1924 (by Hon R G Whitely) and the sales literature is held in The Berkshire Records Office, Reading ref DEP/7. Extracts, mainly relating to the gardens, are given below. 

The Grounds and Pleasure Gardens: which are mainly entered from the Entrance Hall by the West Porch, are quite a feature of the property, the present owner having spend a considerable amount of money in bringing them up to their present state of perfection. They were laid out but the well-known Landscape Gardener Norman Gauntlett, of Chiddingfold, Surrey, and are mainly surrounded by a high stone wall, covered with a great variety of flowering shrubs, and miniature stone walls flanked with masses of rock plants dividing the terraces. On the Upper Terrace there are two fine Irish Yews of about 500 years old. Stone steps to Lower Terrace which is surrounded by herbaceous borders, clumps of Rhododendrons and many other rare and uncommon flowering shrubs. There is a full-sized grass court, also a well laid out hard court (cinder).

The paddock adjoining has been converted by the owner into an excellent 5-hole miniature Golf course with 5 tees.

On the opposite side of the road there is a small full bearing apple orchard.


The Vendor at present rents the Shooting rights over 1,350 acres of Partridge land from the Berkshire County Council …. At the nominal rent of £50 per annum, which includes the fishing rights for 2 miles in the Trout Stream called “The Ock”.

The following are extracts from the Newbury and District Field Club [Founded in 1870 the Field Club is Newbury’s local history society with additional interests in all aspects of the Newbury district’s natural history, geology etc.]

Volume 10/1, 31, 32 [Pub : 1951-1958]

Capture 1 Capture 2 Capture 3 Capture 4

Volume 12/4, 42-48, 43-44, 46 [Pub : 1970-1981]

Capture 1Capture 2Capture 3Capture 4Capture 5Capture 6Capture 7

More recent archaeological investigations have taken place and these are described here.

  1. Manor Tennis Court Investigations.

2. Geophysical Surveys of the grounds.

Reading Standard – Friday 16 October 1953
Over 100 members of the Berkshire Archaeological Society attended the first meeting of the autumn session at Reading University on Saturday, when Dr. Margaret Wood, who has recently come to reside in Berkshire, gave a lecture on thirteenth century domestic architecture. Dr. Wood is an authority on this subject, and her survey of domestic buildings of this period remaining in England was published as a supplementary volume by the Royal Archaeological Institute three years ago. Dr. Wood showed that the 13th century domestic house even of kings was a collection of buildings joined together by connecting corridors. Planning and compactness did not seem to have been attempted, but there were generally recognizable features which were common to the period. The great hall at which manorial business could be transacted was a usual survival, then there would be a solar or day room, often with window seats and a small chapel. The Berkshire examples are Appleton Manor, which was built about 1210, having a ground floor hall with moulded entrance and two service doorways, and Charney Bassett (1280), which retains original work in the south wing with a solar and chapel on undercrofts. The remaining examples illustrated were taken from 70 or so other survivals of this period in England and showed the remarkable wealth of detail and fittings, which have come down from that early date.

Reading Evening Post – Thursday 11 April 1968

‘Gallivanting round stately homes THE BRITISH are good at stately homes. Like ceremonies, it is one of the things we “do well.”

It will probably surprise you to see just how many stately homes and castle are open. and what tremendous variety and richness there is in these country dwellings. Just to read the catalogue is absorbing. For instance ……… The oldest surviving open plan manor is Charney Manor dated about 1200 in Charney Bassett…….Apart from Charney Manor (open Thursdays and Sundays. 3pm to 5) in Berkshire there are the Abbey buildings in Abingdon….’

Marylebone Mercury – Friday 30 May 1975

Marylebone Mercury – Friday 30 May 1975

CHARNEY Manor – A beautiful medieval Manor House, walled garden, tennis, croquet. putting, golf within 4 miles. Ideal for that long-awaited rest away from it all. full board £5.30 day. – Tel. West Hanney, 206 or write John Godsall, Charney Manor. Charney, Basset. Nr. Wantage.
T 43-30

North Wilts Herald – Friday 01 July 1938 Manor Cook
North Wilts Herald – Friday 01 July 1938 Manor Gardener