Sulgrave is a small manor-house of local limestone, dating from c 1500. It was built by Lawrence Washington (1500-1584), a Lancashire man. He purchased it from Henry VIII in 1539. He married three times, two wives being rich widows, and had 11 children. Its fame lies in the fact that Lawrence was the great, great, great, great, great grandfather of the first US president, George Washington.
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Between 1700 and 1790 large parts of the original house were demolished. The manor was restored in 1929 and a west wing added. What remains of the original are the porch and screens passage, great hall, great chamber and two rooms above and an area on the south side. The roofs of the house are stone tiled. There are Elizabethan and Queen Anne chimney stacks. Above the south porch doorway is the royal coat of arms. A more modern Washington coat of arms has been added.
On view during the guided tour are the great hall, screen passage, great kitchen, great chamber, and Tudor and Queen Anne wings. Tudor and Georgian furniture are displayed in the rooms as they would have been used. The 16th century bed has modern hangings done in the old style. In the great hall is a salt cupboard and an Elizabethan livery cupboard. In the children’s room is an inlaid wooden chest. In the oak parlour is a long case clock made by Thomas Utting of Great Yarmouth between 1720 and 1760.
The gardens of the original manor had disappeared by 1914 as the house and grounds were used as a farm. The re-designed gardens, in the formal style, were done by Sir Reginald Blomfield. They include the National Herb Society garden, a rose garden, herbaceous borders, and an apple orchard with daffodils and snowdrops. There is a knot garden at the rear of the manor and a children’s garden and play area at the top of the paddock.
In the former brewhouse there is an exhibition on George Washington. A modern forge lies in the grounds and is used for educational purposes. There are special children’s events on Sundays and other times during the year.
In Sulgrave village is a 14th century church where Lawrence Washington and his son are buried. The family had a pew in the church, and there are memorial brasses to be seen. The village is home to a number of stone and thatched houses.
Manor Rd, Sulgrave, Northamptonshire
Off the B4525 near Banbury
Just south of Canons Ashby
Tel. 0 1295 760 205
Open: grounds, April-end Sep, 11am-5pm, Thu, Fri, Sun; house from noon to 5pm, last entry 4pm
Parking; light refreshments on weekends, drinks and cakes during week; picnic area; shop
Tip: The house tour is most entertaining and interesting. This is one of our favourite places.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard