Visiting the 13th century Grade I Prebendal Manor House in Nassington is a step back in time in all aspects of the historical period in which it was built. Even the costumes of the owners reflect the historical times. There is much to see and learn about the farming, the gardening, and the history of the house. An excellent audio tape provides detailed information for your visit. History
In the grounds are re-created 13-15th century gardens. One is a poison and medicinal garden; another is a medieval pleasure garden. There are herbs of the time grown in another plot. The two medieval fishponds can still be seen. Two Tamworth pigs (named Mrs. Emma and Mr. Cnut) and two sheep lend authenticity. The tithe barn now serves up tea, coffee, and desserts and has a display on the history of the place.
In the house itself three rooms are on show. The entrance hall leads to what was the great hall that now has a floor above it with a bedroom. The medieval fireplace, windows, and beams are still in place. These rooms are not currently used by the family who live on the other side of the entrance hall in the private section of the house. In the village opposite the house is St Mary and All Saints church. It has Saxon stone work and the remnants of a Saxon stone cross.
The Prebendal Manor House is the oldest manor house in the county of Northamptonshire and one of the longest continually inhabited in England. The Saxon long hall was constructed of timber with a central hearth.
The site was a royal manor of king Canute, and he visited here after AD 1017. The king died in 1035 and the estate passed into the ownership of succeeding kings with the inhabitants continuing their almost self-sufficient lifestyle.
King Henry I gave the manor to the bishop of Lincoln in 1123. This is where the name prebendal originates as the term ‘prebend’ implies an estate owned by the church with its income given to a canon. It is thought that improvements to the hall were made by the church around 1160.
A stone building with solar replaced the earlier timber one in the early 1200s, but the central hearth remained. Further changes took place c1270 when the roof was raised with the aisle posts being removed. Tie beams and large timbers now supported the roof. Other buildings such as a kitchen and farm buildings were located nearby.
The 1400s saw lodgings added and improvements made to the great hall. The central hearth disappeared in favour of a fireplace, and the kitchen and buttery were moved to become part of the same building as the great hall. At the same time a gate-house was built, and a cobble courtyard was placed in front of the hall. The 16th century dovecote, built to house 1000 birds, is still in use.
After medieval times the manor declined in importance. By the 1500s it was rented to yeoman farmers, and in the 1600s came under the management of the earl of Westmoreland who continued the farming of the estate. It wasn’t until 1778 that the tithe barn now seen was constructed to replace a smaller one.
This same century saw the removal of the gatehouse, brewhouse, bakehouse, and solar. The lodgings were partially demolished and turned into a granary and stable. A garden was planted over the cobbled courtyard. The great hall was divided into smaller rooms.
In 1875 the manor was sold by the church authorities to the earl of Caetsfoot and again rented to tenant farmers. The entire property was derelict when purchased by the present owners, Jane Baile and family. They have restored it and the gardens and grounds and share their knowledge, enthusiasm, and history of the place with visitors. It's a fascinating journey into the past.
Prebendal Manor House
Nassington, nr Peterborough, Northamptonshire, PE8 6QG
6 miles north of Oundle, 9 miles west of Peterborough in the East Midlands
Tel. 01780 782575
Open: Contact the Manor House by phone or email for reservation to view.
Email: Prebendal Manor House
Web: Prebendal Manor House (For an interesting history of Nassington village, visit the website.)
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