Pix & Notes: Baddesley Clinton

I visited Baddesley Clinton (in 2009, my first research-only trip to England. It’s one of mybaddesley_clinton favorite stately homes, the one I would live in if I had a different life to live and wanted to spend it in the English countryside (which I love, but not that much.)

This is one of the places where I had to hoof it fleetly to catch the train back to Stratford-upon-Avon, where I was staying. This because I eccentrically refuse to drive a car whilst in England. Partly because of the wrong-side-of-the-road thing, partly because I like to rubber-neck, and partly because it seems rude to pollute other people’s countries by burning additional fossil fuels. Eccentric; I said it already!

bad_clint6I must have taken the train from Stratford to Lapworth and then walked 1.5 miles, which isn’t very far. So this isn’t the place I’m remembering, whence I had to walk as fast as I was able for about 3 miles. They do tend to run together over time.

The train lets you off at a station-less stop. You hike along a narrow two-lane road with high hedges on either side cutting off the view. Peugeots zoom past you at a hair-raising speed. You see no other pedestrians or cyclists. You reach the entrance to the stately property and gratefully turn onto a narrow lane, free of Peugeots, lined with graceful rows of ancient trees between whose trunks you admire the rolling greenery dotted with sheep or cows. Then at last you come around a corner and enjoy an artfully crafted first glimpse of the historical building you’ve walked so far to see.

A whirlwind history

(From the booklet.) A Saxon called Baeddi first cleared this site in the Forest of Arden. Then along came the de Clintons in the thirteenth century, undoubtedly Normans. They sensibly dug the moat. If you owned anything worth capturing, like a daughter with a dowry or a hall full of plate, you needed a defensible dwelling. Not to mention all the handy fish.

John Brome, a lawyer from Warwick, acquired the manor in 1438. That’s the guy that attracted my interest. They don’t say which Inn of Court he belonged to, but it could have been any of them. Gray’s is known to have existed from at least 1370. This is just the sort of house my legal gentlemen would reside in between court terms, if I ever let them leave London, which I don’t, because Francis Bacon rarely left. He stuck close to the royal court, which followed the monarch, usually to the palaces up and down the Thames. One of these books, though, they’re all heading out some rural county. Then they’ll stay in house modeled on Bad Clint, moat and all.

Brome’s heir was a daughter, who married Sir Edward Ferrers. He remodeled the place, leaving it in more or less the shape we find it today. The house remained in the Ferrers family until 1980, when they were able to leave it to the National Trust with a sufficient endowment to take care of it. Thoughtful people! There’s an Edward Ferrers in Wikipedia in my period of interest (c.1573–1639.) He gets a mention because he was a Member of Parliament. He can’t be a Bad Clint Ferrers, though, because his father was from Fiddlington in Devonshire.

The Quartet

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Marmion Edward Ferrers

We skip merrily past the intervening generations to the late nineteenth century. In 1867, Marmion Edward Ferrers married Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen, a name you could not make up. Shortly after, Rebecca’s aunt, Lady Georgiana Chatterton and her husband Edward Heneage Dering moved in too. The four friends devoted themselves to the arts and religion. That latter may have been mentioned to discourage the sorts of thoughts I know you were all thinking when you first heard about that foursome. Two Eds, a Dulcibella, and a Lady Chatterton? Which religion did they say they were practicing?

 

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Rebecca Dulcibella’s self-portrait
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Lady Chatterton

Rebecca and Ed Dering married after their other spouses died. I smell trouble, but the National Trust doesn’t indulge in such unsavory fantasies. Besides, Lady C, the oldest of the group, died in 1876 and Marmion in 1884 — a long time to wait between murders with a marital motive.

Rev. Joseph Kelly moved in to keep things kosher, Catholic-style, saying mass every Sunday in the private chapel. Edward and Rebecca married after Kelly left in 1885. Well, they pretty much had to, didn’t they?

Edward died in 1882; Rebecca held on until 1923. The house passed to Marmion’s nephew’s son, a Ferrers, who was forced to start selling off the furnishings to keep the house afloat. After a period of struggle, trying to figure out how best to preserve this lovely historic building, the family managed to hand it off to the National Trust.

Rebecca was an accomplished painter. Now that I’ve spent so much time on these folks, I have to show you the portraits she painted, which was not my intention at all when I first started this post!

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Lady Chatterton’s lover, Edward Dering

Floor plans should be mandatory

Even the National Trust booklet is better than average, with a handy floor plan right inside the front cover! Without a floor plan in the book, I have to stand in a corner trying to sketch the layout in my notebook, rigorously refusing to look up at the inevitable, helpful volunteers who stand around accosting visitors, eager to share their scanty knowledge of the worthies who last lived in the house. I have nothing against either the worthies or the volunteers, but that’s not what I’m there for. I need a hat that says, “Please don’t bother me; I’m trying to think.” A t-shirt won’t do, since in England, I’m probably wearing a raincoat.

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I feel like this is turned around… You walk in through the entrance hall and work your way to the left, not the right. The rooms toward the right — the darkened ones — aren’t open to the public, dash it all!

There’s plenty of space for two artistic, religious couples, both for sleeping and for spreading out to separate corners to read, write, and paint. Lady Chatterton and Edward Deering wrote novels, by the way; romances, which achieved some critical acclaim, but never the commercial success they hoped for. They’re on the shelves in the library, which is the room that most attracted me. A really nice place to work. Or loll about reading romances.

The house on the whole felt comfortable to me. Nice-sized rooms, neither big enough to be drafty nor small enough to feel cramped, lots of leaded windows set into deep stone walls, and the long landing and gallery upstairs so you could get to your room without passing through all the intervening ones — a floor plan I particularly dislike. 

Interior

Interior pix were scanned from the booklet. Now I remember the place, I realize I would rather live in Eastbury House in Barking, and not just because I’m a city girl at heart. But Bad Clint is the model for my characters who live in their country manors most of the time, like Benjamin Whitt. We never go there in the books, but I like to know what my people are up to even when I’m not with them. Nosy, huh? They think so. (Shhh.)

Also, I wouldn’t like living in a house with a moat, not without moat people to tend it and plenty of carp to eat the algae. Then the Labrador would be in there all the time, chasing the fish. A great big mess! But it’s fun to take pictures of moated houses.

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The great hall, in another of Rebecca’s paintings. Really not big enough for the roasting of oxen and feasting with many retainers. Definitely a quieter, more lawyerly, hall.
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The kitchen, as it was in the early 1900s.

 

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A bedroom, with a fireplace bigger than the bed. In Victorian times, when fuel was more scarce, it might only rarely have been lit.
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And the lovely library. I could work here, no problemo.

Exterior

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The inner courtyard and main entrance

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In case you take your boat across the moat

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The gardens

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A tree covered in deliriously fragrant eglantine
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They have a moat AND a lily pond.

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References

Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire. 1998. The National Trust.

 

 

 

 

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