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The history of Baddesley Clinton

An interior view of Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire
An interior view of Baddesley Clinton | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

The story of the house and estate at Baddesley is one of survival; as a safe house for Catholic priests; through Civil War and its aftermath, the Commonwealth; and turbulent finances. It was the home of the same family, the Ferrers, for 500 years. In the 19th century Baddesley became a haven for four friends who lived there together as ‘The Quartet.’

Baddesley's beginnings

Baddesley has Saxon origins, although no buildings from the time remain. A man called Baeddi, Badde or Bade drove his cattle up to the Forest of Arden and made a clearing in the wood for extra grazing. It would have been protected from predators with a ditch and wooden palisade. Such a clearing was known as a ‘leah’ or ‘ley’ – hence Badde’s Ley.

Lords of the Manor

After the Norman Conquest the estate was granted to Geoffrey de Wirce ‘of noble birth’ and later to Nigel d’Albini ‘an Andegavanian knighte.’ In about 1100 the then Lord of the Manor, Roger de Mowbray, gave the Baddesley estate to Walter de Bisege. Baddesley remained in the Bisege family for four generations until Walter’s great-granddaughter, Mazera, who was heir to the property, married Sir Thomas de Clinton in about 1290, and the name of the estate became Baddesley Clinton.

The de Clintons

The first generation of the de Clinton family to live at Baddesley Clinton was Sir Thomas and Mazera’s younger son James in the early 14th century. It is probably James de Clinton who had the moat dug, and the earliest buildings built. The thicker walls of the eastern half on the south range may be all that is left of the de Clinton’s house.

The Bromes

John Brome

The estate changed hands several times until it was acquired by an influential lawyer who went on to become Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer, John Brome, in 1438. Baddesley was improved by Brome into a house of status to befit his ambitions. He provided sophisticated garderobes (toilets) and a sewer under the west wing.

His bailiff’s accounts for 1442-58 provide a glimpse into the running of the estate. ‘Thorns and undergrowth’ were cleared to grow cereals, though most of the estate was devoted to pasture for the fattening of beef cattle.

Brome supported the wrong side in the Wars of the Roses and was stripped of his Court appointments. He quarrelled with John Herthill, steward to the ‘Kingmaker’ Earl of Warwick, over a mortgage, and in 1468 was murdered by him in the porch of the Whitefriars church in London.

The exterior, entrance range of Baddesley Clinton in Warwickshire. A stone built house, with stone mullion windows, surrounded by a moat.
The round-headed windows by the gatehouse were installed by John Brome | © National Trust Images/Andrew Butler

Nicholas Brome

Nicholas, John Brome’s second son, avenged his father’s murder by killing Herthill in a duel in 1471. He received a lenient punishment: to pay for a priest to say daily prayers for the souls of both his father and John Herthill, and pay Herthill's widow 33 shillings and fourpence.

Nicholas inherited Baddesley on his mother’s death in 1483, along with the right to appoint the parish priest. In 1478 he appointed William Foster to the position. Seven years later Nicholas returned home unexpectedly to find Foster in Baddesley’s parlour, stroking his wife under her chin. He flew into a rage, drew his sword and killed the priest.

As penance, Nicholas raised the height of the church and built the tower of Packwood Church. The two towers are known as the ‘Towers of Atonement’.

In 1496 Nicholas received a pardon from King Henry VII for the two murders he’d committed. Nicholas died ‘extremely humble and penitent’ in 1517. In his will he asked that he be buried ‘Within the Church door as the people may tread upon mee as they come into the church.’

Baddesley Clinton and the Ferrers: a timeline


The first Ferrers 

Sir Edward Ferrers married Constance, Nicholas Brome’s daughter, in 1497 and on Nicholas’ death in 1517, Baddesley Clinton passed into the hands of the family who owned it through 12 generations and nearly 500 years.  

Who were the Ferrers?  

They were descended from Henri de Ferrières, a nobleman who was Master of the Horse to William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. As a reward for his bravery, King Norman granted him 210 manors and he went on to become one of the most powerful Anglo-Norman magnates. 

Painting for four people in the Great Hall at Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire. The two married couples, known as The Quartet, lived together at Baddesley in the 19th century. Three can be seen sat in chairs reading, while one lady stands with her back facing the viewer, this is the artist who painted the piece, Rebecca Dulcibella Ferrers.
The Quartet in the Great Hall at Baddesley Clinton, including the artist Rebecca Dulcibella Ferrers. | © National Trust Images/John Hammond

Baddesley Clinton’s restoration

Gilbert Thomas Walker (1887-1970), a distant relative of the Ferrers bought Baddesley from Iliffe in 1940 and the following year changed his name by deed poll to Thomas Ferrers-Walker. For the next 30 years Thomas and his wife Undine gradually restored the house into a home where they could entertain. After Undine’s death in 1962 and Thomas’s in 1970, a housekeeper, Miss Joan Pugh, lived alone at Baddesley.

For everyone, for ever

Thomas and Undine's son, Thomas Weaving Ferrers-Walker (1925-2006), didn’t live at Baddesley, but visited most days. He decided to save the property for the nation but found that wasn't straightforward.

The cash needed was eventually found from The National Land Fund, but an endowment of £300,000 was required to release it. Baddesley was put back on the market, in the hopes that someone would come forward with similar aims, but none of the potential buyers were prepared to open Baddesley to the public.

Two strokes of good fortune saved the day. Thomas was presented with a cheque for the £300,000 needed. Then a chance meeting with the Minister for the Environment who had responsibility for agreeing the Land Fund money, gave Thomas the opportunity to persuade him to agree to release the funds.

And so, in 1980, Baddesley Clinton came to the National Trust. Since then further repairs, restoration and continuing conservation have all contributed to the place that enchants so many visitors today.

Baddesley's women

Throughout history there have always been women at Baddesley, but their lives and achievements have often been overshadowed by those of the men. Here are the stories of just four of the important women who contributed to the history of this place.

The women of Baddesley Clinton


Anne Vaux

Born around the year 1562, Anne was the youngest of four children born to Elizabeth and Sir William, 3rd Lord Vaux of Harrowden, Northamptonshire. Anne never knew her mother as she died soon after giving birth to her and her father soon married Mary Tresham and had five more children. All of Anne’s family were devout Catholics and she was no different. 

In a century which had seen the country break from Rome, set up the Protestant Church of England, revert fiercely back to Catholicism and then convert once again back to Protestantism, anti-Catholic views ran high. 

Aged about 25, Anne became the protector of Father Henry Garnet, Jesuit Superior of England, a very high profile target for those protecting the Protestant faith. Posing as his sister under the false name ‘Mrs Alice Perkins’, the pair travelled around the country via the network of safe houses which her brother had helped to set up. 

Baddesley Clinton was one of these safe houses. Its owner, Henry Ferrers, was working in London and rented his home to Anne and her sister Eleanor in 1588. The women employed Nicholas Owen (‘chief designer and builder of hiding-places in England’) to create hiding places for up to 12 priests. 

In 1591 Garnet arranged a Jesuit meeting at Baddesley. In the early hours of the following morning, Baddesley was surrounded by some unwelcome visitors – priest-hunters looking for the very priests who were in hiding in the house.  Anne challenged them:

Do you think it right and proper that you should be admitted to a widow’s house before she or her servants or her children are out of bed? Why this lack of good manners? Why come so early? Why keep coming to my house in this hostile manner? Have you ever found me unwilling to open the door to you as soon as you knocked? 

For the next few hours, the house was thoroughly searched. everything was turned upside down and closely examined. Finally, Anne invited the pursuivants to breakfast; the house was searched once more, Anne paid them for their ‘trouble’ and the pursuivants departed. 

On this day alone Anne had saved the lives of the five priests she had hidden in her home. Evidently, she had been visited by these pursuivants before and we can only guess as to how many times she went through this harrowing ordeal, risking everything. Her status and femininity did not guarantee her safety - three women were executed during Anne’s lifetime for the harbouring of priests. The Vaux sisters’ tenancy of Baddesley is believed to have ended soon after this whence they moved closer to London, their faith never wavering. 

The Great Hall at Baddesley Clinton, Warwickshire

Baddesley Clinton's collections

Explore the objects and works of art we care for at Baddesley Clinton on the National Trust Collections website.

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