To tell the story of Baddesley in the nineteenth century we need to bring four people together, including two of the most important women to have lived here.
Marmion Edward Ferrers (1813-1884) inherited the house in 1830. He was a devout Roman Catholic and may have been considering entering the priesthood. Whatever the case might have been, he was over fifty when he eventually married.
Next, we must meet Lady Georgiana Chatterton and Rebecca Orpen. Henrietta Georgiana Maria Iremonger was born in 1806 to a wealthy and well-connected family. She ‘came out’ at her debutantes’ ball at the age of 17 in 1824. At the ball she met Sir William Chatterton and they were married in the August of that year. The couple lived a life of socialising in the highest of high society, often in the company of royalty. Some time in the early 1840s they became close to their niece Rebecca Orpen. As they were childless, they came to have a great affection for Rebecca and she soon came to live with them.
Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen was born somewhere in County Cork, Ireland in 1829 or 30. It was common practice at the time for girls’ births not to be recorded formally, so there is doubt as to the precise date and place of her birth. Soon after the death of her father, when she was aged about 6, Rebecca started to spend more and more of her time with her uncle and aunt Sir William and Lady Georgiana Chatterton at Castle Mahon, their home in County Cork.
The final member of this cast of characters is Edward Heneage Dering (1827-1892). His family were related to the Derings of Surrenden Dering in Kent, a connection which was socially very important. Heneage, as he was known, had a sheltered childhood but at the age of 17 joined the 68th Light Infantry as an Ensign. In 1846 he bought a commission in the Coldstream Guards, but by 1851 he had bought himself out of the regiment; he evidently decided the military life was not for him.
He met Georgiana Chatterton, by then a widow, and probably Rebecca at a private concert held by Lady Garvagh in London in 1858, and an enduring legend began.
The story goes that Edward fell for Rebecca and went to Georgiana to ask her permission to ask Rebecca for her hand in marriage. Georgiana, being hard of hearing, misunderstood, thought he was proposing to her and accepted. Edward, being too much of a gentleman to correct her, accepted the situation and married her in 1859. It's an endearing story but, sadly, there is no evidence that that is what actually happened.
For the next ten years the three of them, calling themselves ‘The Three Bears’, travelled extensively at home and abroad, lived at Seamore Place in Mayfair for the London ‘season’ and went to Finchden Manor in Kent for their summer retreat and rented several grand houses in England where they entertained lavishly.
Religion was important to them. Georgiana’s father was Prebendary at Winchester Cathedral, Dering’s father was Rector of Pluckley and a chaplain to Queen Victoria and Rebecca’s father had trained as a deacon in the Church of Ireland. They were all protestant, but, as Edward said he was “seeking after truth”, and they were received into the Catholic Church in 1865.
How Edward and Marmion met is not known, but certainly they became close friends and it was through their friendship that Marmion met Rebecca. They were married in 1867.
Baddesley Clinton was in a poor state at the time, certainly not a place for newlyweds to set up home in. Georgiana and Dering came to the rescue. They rented the nearby Wootten Wawen Hall and for the next two years the four of them lived there while Baddesley was repaired. Dering and Georgiana certainly paid for the work and paid off the £25,000 (£2.5 million today) mortgages which had been taken out on the estate. In 1890 Dering built the service wing.
The four moved in to the house and soon became known locally as “The Quartet”. They began a life of rural bliss. Georgiana wrote novels and other books and became a highly successful author; Dering tried his hand at writing but was nowhere near as successful as his wife; Rebecca took up painting and there are over seventy of her paintings in existence; Marmion played the part of a rural squire taking a great interest in the welfare of his tenants and staff.
This idyll, however, was not to last. After only seven years Georgiana died and eight years later, in 1884 Marmion also died. Rebecca and Dering were left on their own. For the sake of propriety, a priest, Father Kelly came to live with them. They were married, still dressed in mourning clothes, in the following year.
As Marmion and Rebecca were childless the estate passed to Marmion’s nephew Henry Ferrers Croxton, but Marmion’s will gave the house to Rebecca to live in for the rest of her life. She died in 1923 at the age of 93.