Sheldon Manor

(near Chippenham, Wiltshire, England)

[box type=”info” style=”rounded” border=”full”]This article was written by Ron Prentice [E2.5a.2b.2c] and originally published in HAFS Journal Vol 4 No 2 Nov 1997.[/box]

A study of the Hungerford family history from the time of Sir Thomas of the 14th century to the time of the loss of their estates through the excesses of Sir Edward (Spendthrift) Hungerford in the 17th century involves a study of English history from the end of the Crusades to the time of the Restoration of the Monarchy in Britain under Charles II.

Sheldon Manor (entrance)

The family, for 350 years, was involved closely in the affairs of the Court.  Their wealth and influence involved ownership of many fine manor houses which, in themselves, offer an interesting topic for study.  Those houses and manors which had been acquired following the purchase of Farleigh, are spread across Wiltshire into the neighbouring counties of Berkshire, Gloucestershire, Avon and Somersest.  There were also properties in London.

Farleigh Hungerford Castle and Down Ampney House have been the subject of earlier articles in HAFS Journals but there were almost 40 manor houses which were sold by Sir Edward in order to meet the costs of his extremely extravagant lifestyle. One of these homes is Sheldon Manor, near Chippenham in Wiltshire.  A brochure states that it is: Wiltshire’s oldest inhabited manor-house, sole survivor of a deserted medieval village, lived in for seven hundred years as a family home.

The same paper reports a writer in the 1987 Weekly Telegraph who claimed that “it embodies my ideal of England”.

The welcome visitors receive from the present owners, Major and Mrs Martin Gibbs, certainly provides a warmth which would be hard to equal. Their interesting comments and ready willingness to enlighten their guests makes this home a priority for HAFS Society members when visiting England.

Sheldon Manor’s history covers the time span from the known beginning of the Hungerford family to date.  It carries the fingerprints of our ancestors, for it stands today in the form given to it by Walter, first Lord Hungerford (1378-1449) who rebuilt it.  Sir Walter purchased it and The Hundred in 1424 for £1000 from Christina (Mrs Geoffrey Hales), surviving daughter of the Gascelyn family who had held the estate for 200 years.

Sheldon Manor
Sheldon Manor (rear view)

Originally, Sheldon Manor formed part of the Royal Estate of Chippenham but was divided in the reign of King Henry II late in the 12th century.  The Manor is situated one and a half miles west of Chippenham.  An earlier home had been built at the eastern boundary of the village but it no longer exists, although close inspection of the area carried out by the Wiltshire County Council reveals old earth works consistent with ancient village foundatiaons and a road to a ditch boundary.

The house was rebuilt by Lord Walter Hungerford about 1430.  The porch, said to be the finest in the country, together with the priest’s room above and part of the eastern facade was built in 1280 of Bath stone and is retained in the present building.

Lord Walter Hungerford, as High Treasurer of England and head of a great family, planned and built a fine home in a way that was to last through centuries until 1643, when the Civil War was fought.  The Battle of Lansdown was fought in the area and Sheldon Manor was severely damaged. It was rebuilt again in 1660 by the owners, William and Helena Forster, and restored further in 1911, but the house largely retains the features of the 1630s.

With the Hungerfords, Sheldon Manor had its coming and going. In 1461 Robert Hungerford, third of this name, was deprived of Sheldon Manor, with other Hungerford properties, by the Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III, but the Manor was eventually recovered by the Hungerfords. During the Wars of the Roses, Sir Walter Hungerford supported the Lancastrian cause and Sheldon Manor was again forfeited to the Crown but returned once more after Sir Walter distinguished himself in supporting Henry VIl at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

In 1540 the owner Sir Walter Hungerford was beheaded and his estates forfeited, Sheldon Manor going this time to Catherine Parr, widow of Henry VIII.  In 1554 the Manor was recovered again when Sir Walter’s heir, yet another Walter, came of age.  Finally the property was sold by Sir Edward Hungerford in 1684 to Sir Richard Kent, MP for Chippenham, by which the time the house had become largely what exists today.  Whilst the Hungerfords owned the Sheldon Manor for many years, they were knights and courtiers rather than active farmers and the Manor lands were in the hands of tenants.

Besides the house there are some very interesting other buildings.  The Chapel is detached from the Manor, built by the second Hungerford owner, the second Lord Robert, and retains its 15th century features and some original windows.

Sheldon Manor (entrance and Chapel)
Sheldon Manor (entrance and Chapel)

A small granary was built about 1770, set on mushroom shaped footings (called staddle-stones).  It stands a few feet above the surrounding earth, the floor being at a height suitable for transfer of grain from the cart into storage. This granary is of brick, covered with thatch, as is the roof of some of the adjoining ancient sheds.

Sheldon Manor granary
Sheldon Manor granary

Within the house is some fine panelling, a 17th century staircase, and Nailsea glass.  Indeed there are many features of the Manor house and its contents which deserve close inspection. The time spent in this lovely old home is both fascinating and rewarding.

The owners of Sheldon Manor (as stated by the Gibbs family) are:

  • 1174 Sir William de Wenderval
  • 1198 Sir Roger de Turberville
  • 1208 Sir William de Beauvilain
  • 1231 Sir Walter de Godarville
  • 1250 Joan de Godarville, (married Sir Geoffrey Gascelyn)
  • 1287 Sir Edmund Gascelyn
  • 1307 Sir Edmund Gascelyn Il
  • 1336 Geoffrey Gascelyn Il
  • 1375 Christina Gascelyn, (married Edward Hales)
  • 1424 Sale to Walter, Lord Hungerford
  • 1449 Robert, Second Lord Hungerford
  • 1459 Robert, Third Lord Hungerford, attainted 1461
  • 1469 Thomas Hungerford, Fourth Lord Hungerford
  • 1485 Walter Hungerford
  • 1516 Mary Hungerford, (married Edward Hastings)
  • 1533 Sir Walter Hungerford, (cousin of Lady Hastings beheaded 1540)
  • 1554 Sir Walter Hungerford
  • 1596 Sir Edward Hungerford
  • 1648 Sir Edward Hungerford
  • 1684 Sale to Sir Richard Kent, bankrupt 1687
  • 1687 Sale to Sir Richard Hart
  • 1711 Sale to William Norris
  • John Norris
  • 1732 William Norris
  • 1794 George William Norris
  • 1811 James Norris
  • 1828 James and Ellen Marshall
  • 1854 Sale to Sir Gabriel Goldney
  • 1902 Sir Prior Goldney
  • 1911 Sale to Major Bailey
  • 1917 Sale to HM Gibbs and Colonel WO Gibbs
  • 1952 Major Martin Gibbs
  • 1987 Antony William Hew Gibbs

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