For ever, for everyone
It was in the twentieth century that Baddesley finally passed out of the direct Ferrers family line after 400 years.
Marmion and Rebecca had no children and so, on Marmion’s death, the estate passed to his nephew, Henry Ferrers Croxton (1848-1923), who assumed the name of Ferrers and became Henry Ferrers Ferrers in 1885. However, he never actually inherited the property because he died in 1923, just before Rebecca who died the same year at the age of 93. She had been left Baddesley for life by Marmion, so it passed to Henry’s son Edward (1881-1934), in a very impoverished state. It then passed to Henry’s brother Cecil (1887-1957).
Cecil didn’t have the means to maintain the house and so much of the furniture was sold off during the 1930s. Graham Baron Ash bought some of the tapestries and the long table for nearby Packwood House. In 1939 the house and estate were advertised for sale and a large sale of the contents was held in 1940.
As a “holding operation” Baddesley was bought by Coker Iliffe, who held it until a distant relative of the Ferrers, Gilbert Thomas Walker (1887-1970), stepped in.
The Walkers were a wealthy family who owned Thomas Walker Ltd. a company making buckles and other items in great demand for the armed forces. Gilbert’s mother, Theresa, became great friends with Rebecca Dering who was still living at Baddesley, so Gilbert developed a love for the place. Theresa suggested that, when it came up for sale, he, as a “distant relative”, had a duty to buy the property and restore it. He did so in 1940 and in the following year changed his name by deed poll to Thomas Ferrers-Walker. For the next thirty years Thomas and his wife Undine gradually restored the house turning it into a home where they could entertain, Graham Baron Ash of Packwood being a regular guest. When Undine died in 1962 a new housekeeper, Miss Joan Pugh, was engaged and she continued to live alone at Baddesley after Thomas's death in 1970.
Thomas's son, Thomas Weaving Ferrers-Walker (1925-2006), did not live at Baddesley, preferring to remain at the family home, but visited on most days. He decided to save the property for the nation, but soon found that it wouldn’t be a straightforward endeavour. Eventually the cash needed was found from The National Land Fund, but an endowment of £300,000 was still needed before the government would sign off on the Land Fund money. The property was put back on the market, presumably in the hopes that someone would come forward with similar aims. Among interested parties was Richard Branson, but none of the potential buyers would be prepared to open Baddesley to the public.
Two strokes of good fortune intervened and paved the way for the deal to be done. While he was watching the local hunt, Thomas was approached by Mrs and Miss Mellor, relatives of Baron Ash, who presented him with a cheque for the £300,000. Then, in a chance meeting with Michael Heseltine, the Minister for the Environment who had responsibility for agreeing the Land Fund money, in a British Rail buffet car gave Thomas the opportunity to persuade him to agree to release the funds.
And so, in 1980, Baddesley Clinton passed into the hands of the National Trust. Since then further repairs, restoration and continuing conservation have all contributed to making the place what enchants so many visitors today.
It is interesting to consider what might have happened had the Ferrers family had the money. Would they have built a brand-new Palladian-style mansion at the top of the hill and left the old one to moulder into the moat, or would they have entombed the ancient walls in a smart Georgian façade? We can only wonder, but perhaps we need to be grateful that their financial embarrassments might have actually led to the preservation of what we have now – for ever, for everyone.