A Manor House in the heart of the English countryside, perfect retreat for shooting parties, generations of families, special occasions or film settings. This stunning country manor where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed during a royal tour is on the open market for the first time in its 500-year history. Little Sodbury Manor, including it's Great Hall was built in the Tudor era, however, it also boast modern comforts including a heated swimming pool and extensive garden games.
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- Open Fire / Wood Burner
- Pub within 1 mile
- Shop within 1 mile
- Parking - x15
- Travel Cot - Sufficient
- High Chair - Sufficient
- Bedding & towels
- Swimming Pool
Gallery and Floor Plan
Full Description & House Rules
Protected by the overhanging hillside from the cold airs of the north, and from the outside world by a long tree-lined drive and 84 acres of magnificent landscaped gardens and wooded grounds, Grade I-listed Little Sodbury Manor, near Chipping Sodbury, south Gloucestershire, has been launched on the open market for the first time in its illustrious history. With more than 17,000sq ft of historic living space to play with.
Although Little Sodbury was a Bronze Age settlement and the location of a military outpost in Roman times, nothing remains of the dwellings occupied by successive lords of the manor from the Conquest until the early 15th century, when a family of Stanshaws lived there. According to a Country Life article by Christopher Hussey (October 7, 1922), they built a house around a courtyard, of which the hall, entrance porch and part of the gatehouse have been identified in the present building by the use of a hard Cotswold stone similar to that quarried at Minchinhampton.
In 1491 or thereabouts, the property passed by marriage to John Walsh, who rebuilt the kitchen and the eastern oriel of the Great Hall, extended the two-storey building at the hall’s northern end and carried out other work, which was later destroyed. The bowling green was also built at about this time. His son, Sir John Walsh, added the large wing with an oriel window to the south of the hall. In 1556, disaster struck when an electrical storm ripped through the house, killing Maurice Walsh and seven of his children. Later, in about 1608, the family sold Sodbury to Thomas Stephens, Attorney General to the sons of James I. Subsequent generations made numerous additions to the house, adding staircases and fitting panelling and stone fireplaces in his new or altered rooms.
In 1703, another raging storm caused extensive damage, especially to the north wing, which was then remodelled in the Queen Anne style. A fire in the drawing room in Georgian times nearly destroyed the floor above and necessitated further repairs.
In 1728, the manor passed down the female line to Robert Packer of Donnington Castle and through his spinster daughters to the Hartley family. From the 1820s, however, it was no longer lived in by the family, but let to tenant farmers and gradually fell into disrepair. In 1911, the property was sold to the 9th Duke of Beaufort and then to Lord Hugh Grosvenor, who commissioned the eminent conservation architect Sir Harold Brakspear to restore the house. When Lord Hugh was killed in the First World War, the Beaufort family bought the house back and Brakspear continued to work on the restoration of the house and garden.
The next custodian was the Duke of Beaufort’s stepson, Baron Francis de Tuyll, who lived there until his death in 1952. The manor then passed to his cousins, the Harfords, who eventually sold it to the Killearn family, the present vendors.
Despite its great age and stature, 500 years of history sit lightly on the walls of this rambling, friendly family house, where everything leads back to its centrepiece, the breathtaking Great Hall with its flagged stone floor, soaring ceiling and open timber roof—a striking contrast to the painted panelled drawing room overlooking the gardens and the ornate-ceilinged library next door. One of three staircases leads to the first floor and the light-filled master bedroom suite, four further bedrooms and a three-bedroom housekeeper’s apartment. A passage leads to the west wing, which boasts six comfortable bedrooms—among them the bedchamber where Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn spent the night of July 25, 1535, as the guest of Sir John Walsh—as well as four further bathrooms.
The manor’s crowning glory is arguably its wonderful, 10-acre garden—originally restored by Brakspear (who built the summer house for Baron de Tuyll) and lovingly nurtured by subsequent owners. A mix of formal, relaxed and wilderness areas, interspersed with woodland and water features, conceals a heated outdoor pool, a tennis court and a series of ponds, one suitable for pleasure-boating. The lawns in front of the house are laid out as terraces, one of which leads to a hidden garden with deep herbaceous borders and an intriguing kitchen garden that seen from the air resembles a Union Flag.
LITTLE SODBURY MANOR is situated on the steep western slope of the Cotswolds and overlooks Chipping Sodbury with distant views of the Severn Estuary and the Welsh hills. The manor, parts of which date back to the 14th century, owes its unusual character to its great variety of architecture, with the mediaeval porch and Tudor oriel window Jacobean mullions and Queen Anne wing.
The site is one of great antiquity and was mentioned by the Roman historian Tacitus (AD c.55-115). It takes its name, which derives from the Saxon words Sod-South and Bury-a camp, from the fortifications on the crest of the above the house. The Romans had converted these from a Bronze Age camp to form part of a defensive line to protect the area from marauding Welsh Tribes.
The site of the manor and village of Little Sodbury has been continuously inhabited since the Bronze Age. In 577 the Saxons entrenched themselves here before going on to the Battle of Dyrham where three kings fell, and it seems probable that there was a house on the site of the present one in Edward the Confessor’s time-the property of a Saxon, Aluard. There is no mention of Little Sodbury in the Domesday Book because at that time, and for 450 years after it formed one estate with Old Sodbury, described in the old record as ‘Sopeberie in Grumbleston Hundred.’ It was then the property of the Norman Bishop of Lisieux and lived in by Hugo Maminot who had ousted its Saxon owner.
In the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) John Bishop had the manor. It passed from him to the great De Clare family and on the partition of their estates in 1317 to Hugh Despencer (1262-1326), later Earl of Winchester, and Edward II’s favourite. This unpopular and avaricious courtier was hanged at Bristol after the landing of Queen Isabella and the subsequent murder of Edward II at Berkeley Castle.
At the beginning of the 15th century the Stanshaw family became the lords of the manor of Little Sodbury. They owned great estates in the area and sometime in the 1420’s made Little Sodbury their home, building a large unfortified manor house, a substantial part of which still remains. The Great Hall must have appeared then much as it does today.
In April 1471, Margaret of Anjou (1429-1482), wife of the Lancastrian Henry VI, landed at Weymouth to try and regain the crown for her husband who was imprisoned in the Tower of London. She marched north to join her supporters in Wales and on 29th April, she rested at Little Sodbury with the vanguard of her army. The Yorkist King Edward IV and his brother Richard, Duke of Gloucester, later Richard III, advancing from London, thought they would intercept Margaret and fight at Sodbury.
In fact the Lancastrians made a desperate march north to Gloucester to try to cross the Severn , leaving Edward and Richard to spend the nights of the 1st and 2nd May at Little Sodbury. Edward was woken early on the morning of the 3rd and told of the whereabouts of the Lancastrian army. Anticipating Margaret’s actions he sent word to the Governor of Gloucester to close the gates of the city to the Queen and the Yorkists were able to overtake Margaret’s army by keeping to the high ground of the Cotswold escarpment and defeat her at the Battle of Tewkesbury. Margaret was captured and her hapless husband murdered in the Tower thus ending the rule of the House of Lancaster.
Shortly after these historic events the lordship of the manor passed to Richard Foster who, having no son, married his daughter to John Walsh of Olveston and made him his heir in 1485. Walsh may well have been at the Battle of Bosworth, (1485) fighting on the side of Henry Tudor, later Henry VII, because he was in favour with the new king shortly afterwards.
Having come into his inheritance in 1492, Walsh carried out major alterations to the manor and the building started to assume its present appearance. Walche, says Leyland, a contemporary chronicler, writing in the 1540’s, is Lord of Little Sodbyri, and hath fayr place there in the syde of Sodbyri high hill and a park.
On the hillside above the house, Walsh built the small church dedicated to St. Adelaine, patron saint of weavers, the only church so named in England.
Walsh was succeeded by his son who became Sir John Walsh and lived much of his life at Court where he was in the household of the young Prince Henry and acted as his Champion at the coronation in 1509. He married first Ann, daughter of Sir Robert Poyntz of Iron Acton Court, by whom he had one daughter, and then Ann Dinley of Hampshire who bore him a son, Maurice, and three daughters. Sir John, twice High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, retained William Tyndale, the translator of the Bible, as chaplain and tutor to his children.
In August 1535, Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn made a progress through Gloucestershire and stayed at Little Sodbury as guests of the Walsh’s for a few days in August. The King was on his way to Bristol and Sir John, hearing of an outbreak of plague there, intercepted Henry and persuaded him to come to Little Sodbury instead. During this visit it is said that the King watched a tournament on the bowling green from the oriel window. In 1546, a year before his death, Henry VIII made a gift of Old Sodbury and Chipping Sodbury to Sir John’s heir, Maurice. He had lived at the Manor with his family for ten years when there occured one of the few documented cases of the phenomenon known as ball lightening, which killed him and many of his children.
According to Atkyns in his History of Gloucestershire: In 1556 died Maurice Walshe Esq., together with seven of his children, occasioned by a fiery sulphureous globe rolling in at the parlour door at dinner time, which struck one dead at the table, and caused the death of the rest. It made is passage through a window on the other side of the room.
Two sons, Nicholas and Henry, survived. Nicholas succeeded to the estate and married Mary, daughter of Sir John Berkeley. His young son was killed in a duel with Sir Edward Wintour and the manor passed to a cousin who sold it in 1608 to Thomas Stephens, Attorney General to Prince Henry and Prince Charles, later Charles I. His son, Edward, was the High Sheriff for the county and in about 1635 he began to make considerable improvements to the house.
The Stephens were at Little Sodbury until 1728 when the house passed through the female line to Robert Packer of Donnington Castle. His daughter, Elizabeth, became the second wife of Dr David Hartley (1705-1757), the distinguished philosopher. Hartley, although he never lived permanently at Little Sodbury, often stayed there for change and refreshment, and there entertained many of his learned friends, among them the Bishops Butler and Law.
Hartley had originally studied for the Church, but, dissenting from some points of the Thirty-nine Articles became instead a medical practitioner of considerable eminence and the author of the philosophical treatise Observations on Man, published in 1749. His son by his first wife was David Hartley, the scientific inventor and statesman. His friends included William Wilberforce and Benjamin Franklin, and with the latter he drew up and signed the treaty of Versailles, between Great Britain and America, in Paris on September 3rd, 1783.
The property next passed to Henry Winchcombe Hartley, but he did not care to live there, preferring his other country homes, Bucklebury in Berkshire and nearby Lyegrove. The family moved to Lyegrove in the 1820’s and the manor was let to a tenant farmer. The house was stripped of its decoration and allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and by the end of the 19th century parts of the building had begun to collapse.
In 1911 the Hartleys sold their Gloucestershire properties to the ninth Duke of Beaufort who was expanding his estates. The Duke sold the house to Lord Hugh Grosvenor, son of the first Duke of Westminster, who commissioned Sir Harold Brakspear, the architect, to restore the fabric of the building. Lord Hugh’s tragic death in France in the first weeks of the Great War, while work on the house was still in progress, resulted in its being sold back to the Beaufort family.
The ninth Duke of Beaufort’s wife, Louise, was a member of the Bristol banking family, the Harfords of Blaise Castle. By her first marriage to Baron Carlo de Tyull, she had a son, Francis, who took over the house in 1919 in order to be near his mother at Badminton. He continued the restoration of Little Sodbury Manor with Brakspear and lived there until his death in 1952. The house then came into the possession of his cousin Mark Harford whose son, Gerald, inherited it when he died in 1969.
The earliest house of which any substantial part now remains was built by the Stanshaw family in the 1420’s. It was grouped round an irregularly shaped courtyard, now the West Lawn, and entered on the south side by a gatehouse. The hall and porch still remain in the present building, identifiable by the hard Cotswold stone. Considerable alterations were carried out by John Walsh; the kitchen was rebuilt, as well the eastern oriel in the hall, and the western oriel was demolished to provide access to the new wing on the north side of the courtyard in front of the house. Fragments of window and fireplaces were found during excavations in 1919 when a new drive was cut into the hill behind the house, indicating that Walsh did a lot more work which later disappeared.
The buildings to the south of the hall date from the early sixteenth century and were built by Sir John Walsh. The oriel window on the first floor, typical of early Tudor architecture, remains untouched.
Edward Stephens, High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, whose father, Thomas, had acquired the property in 1608 began the next series of alterations in the 1630’s. He built the staircase to the south of the hall and fitted many of his new and altered rooms with panelling and stone fireplaces with his initials incorporated into the design. It was at this time that the original gatehouse buildings to the south were demolished and all that remains are the foundations under the turf.
During the great gale of 1703 which created Chesil Beach, the house was extensively damaged by fire and considerable repairs were necessary. The north wing was entirely remodelled, a new entrance hall was created in the centre of the north front and new windows, ceilings and a staircase were constructed. The Great Hall floor was dropped to the level of the north wing and new windows were inserted in the west wall beneath the mediaeval ones. There was a fire in the drawing room in the 18th Century which necessitated further repairs and repanelling. With the new Queen Anne windows, coved ceilings and garden ornaments the house made attractive country gentleman’s seat.
When the Hartleys left Little Sodbury during the early part of the 19th Century many of the more important items of decorative stonework, including an immense marble fireplace in the Great Hall, the magnificent gate piers and the baroque loggia were moved to Lyegrove where they can still be seen. The years of neglect which followed resulted in the house becoming little more than a farm building. At the beginning of this century the Tudor linenfold panelling was removed from the Great Hall and sold while the eastern end of the north front began to collapse.
It was thus a formidable task which faced Sir Harold Brakspear when he started to create a new home for Lord Hugh Grosvenor and he is primarily responsible for the appearance of the north front and the general layout of the house as it is today.
The Entrance Hall
This fine panelled room dates from the early 18th century. It forms part of the reconstruction necessary after the fire which destroyed so much of the north wing in 1703. The oval table was formerly the bank table from the Harford Bank, The Old Bank, in Cornhill, Bristol. The portraits are all of the Harvey family, ancestors of the present owner. They include a print of William Harvey (1578-1657) who discovered the circulation of the blood in 1619 and was tutor to Charles II (1660-1685) when Prince of Wales. The oil paintings portray, from right to left, William Harvey’s nephew Sir Eliab Harvey, the latter’s son Eliab and his grandson, William. The oval gouache in the archway is of Admiral Sir Eliab Harvey the last of that family, whose grand-daughter married William Henry Harford.
The Admiral commanded the Temeraire at Trafalgar and Turner made this battleship the subject of one of his most famous paintings The Fighting Temeraire. On the bank table is a small box made of the ship’s timber. Also on the table is a bronze of Edmund Burke (1729-1797), the author and statesman, and in the small display case are some articles associated with him which were inherited by the present owner’s mother.
The Harford family originally financed and promoted Burke as Member of Parliament for Bristol.
The Drawing Room
Although this room looks today very much as it did after the reconstruction in the early 18th century, it was in fact considerably restored at the beginning of the century after it had long been used as a farm storeroom.
Around the room are a set of six Italian chairs and some 18th century lacquer furniture. The large full-length portrait by Sir William Beechey is of Admiral William Hoste (1780-1828) who fought at Trafalgar and captured Kotor and Dubrovnik from the French in 1808. While Hoste was at sea the care of his daughter Harriet was entrusted to his great friend the second Earl of Kilmorey, supposedly then the last surviving member of the notorious Hellfire Club. The reprobate Earl seduced his charge who gave birth to a son, Charles Needham, a distinguished soldier and considerable gambler. His eldest daughter married Hugh Harford and his youngest was the novelist Violet Needham, both of whom lived at nearby Horton Hall.
The Great Hall
This is generally acknowledged to be one of the finest of the late mediaeval great halls in England. It was built by the Stanshaw family in about 1430 and remains little altered. The proportions of hall are unusual owing to the height of the walls and the steepness of the roof. Entrance was originally gained by the door behind the screen which is secured by a massive draw-bar. The screens are a particularly fine example of late 15th century domestic decoration and the one on the far left is entirely original. The gargoyle on the wall to the left of the fireplace is a spyhole or squint and the hall can be surveyed through it from an upper chamber.
The portrait on the wall opposite the fireplace is of the third Earl of Pembroke, Lord Chamberlain to Charles I, by Daniel Mytens. The two tapestries are Flemish, one 15th century, the other late 17th century.
Passing through the screens, one approaches the staircase built by Edward Stephens in about 1635.
The Dining Room
This part of the house was built by John Walsh in the early 16th century, the windows being replaced in the 18th century. The panelling is thought to have been brought from other parts of the house and installed here during the alterations carried out in 1919. At that time it served as the Baron de Tuyll’s smoking room, but is now the family dining room. The portrait over the fireplace is of Charles Needham, 4th Viscount Kilmorey (d. 1660) as a child.
The Oriel Room
This room takes its name from the early Tudor oriel window and has associations with Henry VIII. It may well be the room that he occupied with Anne Boleyn when he visited John Walsh in 1535 and from which he watched a tournament on the bowling green below. The fireplace dates from Edward Stephens’ improvements in the 17th century and bears his own and his wife’s initials in a love knot.
The staircase which gives access to the rooms at the southern end of the hall was built in the 1630’s and must have replaced an earlier one in the tower.
The Porch Room
This is a small mediaeval room with early 17th century panelling and a fireplace bearing Edward Stephens’ initials. The room is situated over the porch and is one of the most aesthetically pleasing in the house.
The Passage Room
A larger but similarly panelled room with a fine fireplace and an interesting partition dating from the late 15th century, which formed this room out of what was possibly a gallery overlooking the Great Hall.
William Tyndale’s Room
Tradition points to this attic being occupied by William Tyndale during his stay at Little Sodbury.
Tyndale was born near Slymbridge, a few miles to the north, in about 1494. He gained a degree at Oxford University, then went on to Cambridge, and when he came down Sir John Walsh offered him the post of tutor to his children at Little Sodbury Manor. While he was at Cambridge he had come into contact with reformers such as Frith, Barnes and Latimer, who influenced his already reforming spirit, and when he arrived at Little Sodbury in 1521, Tyndale became indignant at the ignorance of the local clergy. His outspoken views soon incurred the displeasure of the Catholic hierarchy.
Gloucestershire had always been a stronghold of the Church, having at that time six mitred heads, and Tyndale’s relationship with the clergy deteriorated seriously. He was summoned to appear before the Chancellor of the Diocese of Gloucester to answer for his public statements. In Tyndale’s own words the Chancellor
…threatened me greviously and revyled and rated me as though I had been a dogge…
It was in the Great Hall at Little Sodbury that he made his famous remark in answer to a reputed learned divine with whom he was arguing: If God spare my life, ere many years I will cause a boy that driveth the plough shall know more of the Scriptures than thou dost. It was at about this time that he became determined to translate the Bible into English, and probably did much of the preliminary work at Little Sodbury. During his stay with the Walshes. Tyndale translated Erasmus’s Enchyridion for his patron and his children, but Sir John, though he liked and admired Tyndale, feared that he might bring about the ruin of them all and so reluctantly asked him to leave, giving him a letter of introduction to a friend in London.
From London Tyndale went to Germany where his New Testament was published, and thence to Antwerp where the Old Testament was published. The first edition was smuggled into England by friendly merchants and distributed secretly. They were, however, not secret enough, for the Bishop of London bought all the copies he could and had them publicly burned. In buying all the copies the Bishop unwittingly provided enough money for the publisher to bring out a second edition. But Tyndale’s days of freedom were numbered; he was lured into a trap, captured and eventually charged with heresy. In 1536 he was taken out to the castle courtyard at Vilvorde and, in Foxe’s words …was there tied to a stake, and then strangled first by a hangman, and afterwards with fire consumed…
This room has long had a reputation for being haunted.
Just above the manor on the hillside are the remains of St Adelaine’s, the church built by Sir John Walsh in the early 16th century. It served as the parish church until 1858 when it was demolished and the new church built in the valley below. The doorway and some masonry are all that remain above ground, but under the turf are the foundations, indicating that it consisted of a chancel with a nave and a small tower. In front of the ruined doorway are two ancient yew trees.
The gardens were extensively remodelled in the 1920’s during Baron de Tuyll’s renovations, and it was at this time that the terraces came into being. During the last thirty years the acres of formal gardens and herbaceous borders have disappeared and have been replaced by ornamental trees and shrubs.
The bowling green below the house is of great age and is little changed from the time that a tournament was staged on it for the visit of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn in 1535.
The archway at the end of the west lawn was built in 1981. It was designed by Oswald Brakspear, the son of Sir Harold, and is a memorial to Mark Harford who, by taking on the responsibility of the house in 1953 almost certainly saved it from destruction.
Chipping Sodbury is a medieval market town edging the southern end of the Cotswold Escarpment. The High Street is home to a wide variety of shops, restaurants and public houses, including the traditional butchers, bakers and greengrocers.
The town has an unusually wide main street and there is a rich assortment of architectural style from early Tudor through the 16th and 17th centuries into the grander Georgian and terraced late Victorian. As a small market town Chipping Sodbury is proud of it’s heritage and many of the events and festivals that take place here have done so for centuries. The farmers market runs twice a month and the Town Hall hosts numerous fairs and sales throughout the year.
In close proximity to Bath and Bristol, Chipping Sodbury is also within easy reach of many other towns, places of interest, excellent shops and beautiful scenery. Nearby towns and villages include Badminton, Castle Coombe, Chepstow, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Stroud, Tetbury, Thornbury and Cirencester.
Chipping Sodbury’s History
Chipping Sodbury High Street is thought to be the widest street in England. This is partly because of the substantial markets held in the town from the Middle Ages, and partly because at one stage several buildings occupied the middle of Broad Street towards the lower end of the main thoroughfare.
From the outset, Chipping Sodbury was dominated by agricultural produce. By the 13th and 14th centuries wool from the Cotswolds was being traded, weaving became an important industry in the town as well as leather tanning. The facades of many of the buildings in the Town date from the 18th and 19th Centuries. Many of these often hide far older structures.
Today, the town is still a popular destination for shoppers and visitors. It retains the feel of a village and many local families have remained here for hundreds of years. The numerous fairs and festivals as well as the diverse range of societies and groups all play a part in making the town a successful and vibrant community.