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.
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 was owned by Mr Bushnell of Wallingford. In 1833 Rev Bushell (Rector of Beenham nr Reading) sold it to Mr Philip Pusey. In 1909 the village was acquired by Bershire County Council for division into smallholdings.
The Manor was acquired by Mrs Lucy Grace Whitehouse in 1925 (nee Palgrave), widow of Paul Waterhouse ‘the distinguished architect, and herself an authority on historical associations, old furniture and‘ The Manor. An interesting article in ‘Brittania and Eve’ (Sunday 1 Feb 1931 – Other people’s houses by Pamela Murray) describes the house at that time.
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’.
The Manor today
The Society of Friends (Quakers) bought Charney Manor in 1948 and 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.
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
Sale of The Manor in 1924
The Manor was put up for sale June 1924 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]
Volume 12/4, 42-48, 43-44, 46 [Pub : 1970-1981]