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Campton Manor

Campton Manor by Thomas Fisher in 1812 [X258/88/84a]
Campton Manor by Thomas Fisher in 1812 [X258/88/84a]

Campton Manor was listed by the former Ministry of Works in January 1952 as Grade II, of special interest. The house was erected between 1581 and 1591 for the Ventris family, Lords of the Manor of Chicksands Priory, and has 18th and 19th century additions. It has a close-studded timber frame with colour-washed plaster infill, a rear elevation in red brick with flared header decoration and a clay tile roof. There is a hall and cross-wings. The hall has two storeys and the cross-wings are also two-storeys, but with attics above. There is a shallow 20th century Tudor-arched porch addition to the central gable. The rear elevation has been refaced and extended in the 18th century in red brick. The hall retains a 16th century projecting red brick chimney stack, with a 20th century single-storeyed addition in front. There is a two-storeyed polygonal bay extension to the left hand cross-wing, a rectangular two-storeyed extension to the right hand cross-wing, and extensions to the hall flanking-chimney, all 18th century. The ground and first floor of the hall feature Tudor-arched moulded stone fireplaces, each surmounted by panelling (apparently imported from elsewhere). The ground floor fireplace is incised "Robert Molar 1640". The ground floor rear room of the western cross-wing retains its original panelling with vine trail frieze and ornate carved fire surround. A painted plaque records an unsuccessful attempt on life of Sir Charles Ventris in 1645 (see below). The other rooms feature 18th century panelling and fire surrounds. There is an 18th century staircase to the west of the hall fireplace.

According to D J Cadman, the current manor house was built in 1591, on the foundations of an older building, by the Ventris family who were granted the Manor of Chicksands Priory following the execution of Sir Thomas Palmer. We know that in 1645, Sir Charles Ventris, a Royalist supporter, resided in the property with his family because of an incident which led to the damaged oak panelling in the house. In 1645 a "small armed band of Roundheads came to Campton, crept up to the House, peeped through the windows and saw Sir Charles in the main downstairs room. One of the band drew his firearm and fired. Fortunately his aim was poor and he missed and the shots were embedded in the oak panelling. The damaged panel, now covered with glass, is still to be seen". The plaque commemorating the event reads: "In the Year 1645 Sir Charles Ventris Knight Banneret Created by King Charles for his Bravery in the Civil Wars, Was (in the Night time) by Oliver's Party Shot at as he was Walking in this Room; but happily Missed". (Campton: The Story of a Bedfordshire Village – Pamphlet 130 CAM)

 The front of Campton Manor about 1900 [Z159/1]
The front of Campton Manor about 1900 [Z159/1]

The Victoria County History for Bedfordshire shows that the manor house transferred to the Osborn family along with the manorial rights in 1803. However, deeds in the archive suggest this may have taken place earlier, as some exist which show property in Osborn's hands prior to 1794 BS9-10].

In around 1782, Campton Academy was established at the manor, with the Reverend Thomas Wilkinson as master. In 1910 the Osborn family vacated the house, leasing it first to the Hanson family, then to the Fitzwilliams. A Mr Chapman became resident in 1922, and we are able to learn more about the Manor house during his occupation from our records.

 The rear of Campton Manor about 1900 [X254/88/85]
The rear of Campton Manor about 1900 [X254/88/85]

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. The Manor house was at this time still in the ownership of Sir Algernon Osborn, but as mentioned, in the occupation of W H Chapman, who had a 30 year tenure from 1922. The valuer observed that Mr Chapman was "Not at all keen to let me in at first argued!!", but was "later very nice". The valuer described the property as 17th century (not too far out for somewhere thought to have been built in the late 16th century). The front door opened into the hall ("very big"), which had a stone floor. The downstairs also featured a dining room ("can dine 8"), toilet, kitchen ("fair"), pantry, study and a drawing room. The inspector mentions that there is "Very fine old oak panelling". Upstairs was a small boudoir, four bedrooms, one of which was a "funny shape", another was not seen: "Mrs Chapman's Room. Did not see. Unwell". There were also two bathrooms. On a third floor were two small attics used for servants' beds, and there were two staircases. Outside was a woodshed and single garage, both in poor condition.

The valuer finished his description of the house with his own opinions, which read as follows: "A very nice old house, full of old panelling. Historic. Has been done up & put in good order. Very pretty ½ Tudor elevation. Stands well back from road. Drive up to house through grass". "Small but good garden, T [tenant] has spent a lot of money on low walls. Rose garden also… gay". "I think a most attractive house, would let easily, very pretty elevation". [DV1/C175/13].

Shortly after the property was valued many renovations were undertaken. These included work on the floors, windows, wooden panelling, heating, plumbing and electrics. We hold detailed schedules of work for these renovations along with plans in the collection of local builders firm Francis Newton Ltd. [Z839/6].

Ground floor plan about 1930 [Z839-6a]

First floor plan about 1930 [Z839-6b]

 Plans of Campton Manor about 1930 [Z839/6] to see a larger version please click on the relevant image

In 2000 the house was for sale. The particulars [Z449/1/27] list, on the ground floor: entrance porch; entrance vestibule; reception hall (25 feet 5 inches by 17 feet 4 inches); drawing room (27 feet 2 inches by 16 feet 8 inches); family room (16 feet 4 inches by 10 feet 7 inches); sun lounge (16 feet 3 inches by 11 feet 6 inches); feature archway through to inner hallway; cloakroom; games room/study (17 feet by 12 feet 1 inches); dining room (18 feet 9 inches by 16 feet 6 inches); old kitchen (18 feet 5 inches by 9 feet 9 inches); utility room (11 feet 3 inches by 8 feet 10 inches); L-shaped kitchen/breakfast room (22 feet 4 inches by 17 feet 4 inches); annexe with entrance hall and kitchen, lounge/diner, bedroom and bathroom. The first floor comprised: a galleried landing; three en-suite bedrooms; bedroom; nursery/bedroom; minster gallery. The second floor contained an attic. Outside were 3.5 acres of grounds, side and rear gardens an orchard, a sun terrace and a double garage.