Henry the Antiquary
Henry the Antiquary (1549-1633) was so called because of his extensive knowledge of heraldry, genealogy, and antiquities. He was only fourteen when his father died, so was unable to inherit Baddesley until he came of age in 1570.
He studied at Oxford and then was admitted to the Middle Temple to study law. He spent most of his time in London as a lawyer and, briefly, politician.
Most of the south/east range of the house, including the Great Hall was built at this time, though whether Henry himself or his mother and stepfather, who still lived there, instigated and funded these improvements is unclear. He also added new chimney pieces and panelling and started the tradition of heraldic stained glass windows showing the Ferrers coat of arms often with other arms to commemorate marriages, like the one at the top of this page.
By the late 1580s Henry seems to have been in financial difficulties. He was even imprisoned briefly for attacking a man in London’s Lincoln's Inn in an argument which might have been about money. He leased out Baddesley occasionally, and in 1590 it was rented to Anne and Eleanor Vaux, the daughters of Lord Vaux, who were ardent Catholics.
Because of its remoteness, its solid walls and its moat, Baddesley was an ideal hiding-place for Catholic priests and Anne took advantage of this by building three “priest holes”, the entrance to one of which can be seen in the kitchen floor. They were certainly used – Father John Gerard tells of such a raid in 1591 in his autobiography.
It would seem that they did all this without the knowledge of Henry, who was either very lucky or well-connected because he also sold his London house to Thomas Percy, one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder Plot, who used it for Guy Fawkes to store the gunpowder!
Following his mother’s death in 1582 and while Henry was still living in London, the Baddesley estates were mortgaged. It would appear that Henry was always short of cash, and mortgages were a way of realising cash without giving away ownership of the property. He came to live at Baddesley in 1600 giving up his legal and political careers to finally look after Baddesley as Lord of the Manor.
Money worries, however, were never far away, but Henry managed to secure a profitable marriage settlement for his son, Edward, who married Anne of the wealthy Peyto family in 1611. The Peytos were a Protestant family, and such a union was highly unusual for the Ferrers family. Under the terms of the settlement Henry was to keep half of the house, had fishing rights in the moat and the right to collect firewood. Edward and his wife lived in the other half of the house and Edward would manage the estate.
The Ferrers were a Catholic family in a time of great religious upheaval. Henry was born during the reign of Edward VI, a Protestant, and lived through the reigns of the Catholic Mary, Protestant Elizabeth I and James I. He eventually died in the early years of the reign of Charles I, having survived all the religious changes, escaped what would have been serious charges for being involved in hiding Catholic priests and even involvement in the Gunpowder Plot!