Brightwell Manor, Brightwell-cum-Sotwell, Nr Wallingford
A distinguished Grade II Listed Manor House and cottage, portraying the very best of Tudor and Georgian architecture. Part moated, in grounds of almost five acres.
Main House: Ground Floor – Reception hall, drawing room, dining room, kitchen, sitting room, family room, study, utility room, boot room, cloakroom. First Floor – Bedroom with ensuite bathroom and dressing room, three further bedrooms, family bathroom, storage. Second Floor – Two bedrooms, kitchen, bathroom, storage. Cellar.
Annexe: Kitchen, sitting room, two bedrooms, music room, bathroom, shower room.
Cottage: Ground Floor – Kitchen, dining room, sitting room, room, cloakroom, storage. First Floor – Two bedrooms,bathroom, storage.
Outside: Double garage adjoining The Cottage, two stables, walled gardens, extensive lawns, tennis court, moat with mooring.
Brightwell Manor is a magnificent moated house, set in a secluded position at the heart of the picturesque and much sought after village of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell; the eastern gateway to the Vale of the White Horse. From the village war memorial, the driveway passes through borders of mature trees, banks of lavender and a large water-lilied pond with a central islet,crowned by a weeping willow. The drive opens onto a forecourt in front of the main Georgian section of the house presenting a substantial area for parking. Entering the property, a flagstoned reception hall allows access to the principal reception areas. Either side of the reception hall are the well-appointed drawing and dining rooms, both of which display beautiful Georgian features of high ceilings, dual aspect sash windows with shutters overlooking the gardens, Adam-style fireplaces and an overall sense of elegance and decadence. Also within the reception hall is the original staircase with square sectioned balusters, inlaid mahogany handrail and scrolled newel. Continuing through the house on the ground floor, the sitting room is found with exposed timbers, oak flooring and casement windows as well as a large fireplace. This section of the property represents part of the oldest area of the house and there is a studded oak door in the sitting room opening into what originally served as a study for William Inge, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral. Today this serves as a family room. Continuing through the house, the inner corridor passes a cloakroom and access to the cellar. Through what currently serves as a utility/laundry area and before arriving at the kitchen, there is a staircase leading to the single bedroom. The kitchen, with red tiled flooring, has a magnificent 1930s, solid fuel Aga, a walk-in larder and plenty of room for a dining table. A boot room and study are located nearby.Off the kitchen and before reaching what could be used as an independent annexe, is the study.
This is of particular interest as it is home to a mural painted by the neo-romanticist, George Warner Allen. Other examples of his work are exhibited in The Tate.
In the 1950s an extension was added to the back of the house in perfect keeping with the origins and various extensions over the centuries. Today this works well as a separate annexe with independent external access. In addition to the sitting room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bathroom provided on the groundfloor of the annexe, is a splendid music room on the first floor and at 35’ by 15’, it is large enough to house two grand pianosand a small musical ensemble. The music room is double aspect with lovely views across the Oxfordshire Downs from the balcony and wide bay windows fitted with oak window seats.
Returning to the main reception hall, the stairs climb to the half landing where the current master bedroom, steeped in history, is found. It is oak-panelled, has a wagon ceiling and a Tudor fireplace. A bathroom and a dressing room adjoin. Next to this master bedroom is the single bedroom. Climbing the stairs to the first floor landing in the Georgian section of the main house, there are two further bedrooms. Both have fireplaces and are beautifully light and airy thanks to tall sash windows and high ceilings. A family bathroom serves these three bedrooms. The second floor is currently configured for use as an independent flat. It has two bedrooms, one of which serves as a living room, a kitchen and a bathroom.
Built in the 1840s as the stable block and subsequently converted, The Cottage now offers detached accommodation over two floor with a double garage adjoining on one side and a storage area on the other. The ground floor comprises a sitting room, dining room and kitchen whilst on the first floor there are two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Gardens and Grounds
The gardens and grounds fully surround The Manor and The Cottage and are bounded on three sides by a wide moat fed by a stream and reputedly never dry. A dam controls the water level. Naturally there is also a mooring. Much of the garden is laid to lawn, some of which is dotted with fruit trees. There is also a walled garden as well as a few espaliered apple trees and numerous flower beds. On a quirky note, the grounds are home to a chestnut tree grown from a conker collected on Windsor’s Royal Mile many years ago. A tennis court completes the scene along with cold frames, two stables and outside storage in what used to be a row of sties.
History and Architecture
The villages of Brightwell and Sotwell date back to Saxon times. Brightwell was originally known as Beorht-Wille meaning ‘Bertha’s Spring’. Bertha was the Saxon goddess of sacred springs and the Moon. Sotwell may have meant ‘South Town Spring’. It is believed that King Stephen built a moated siege castle in the 1150s on the site where The Manor now stands.
This was delivered up to Duke Henry after the Civil War and probably promptly demolished. Originally, the moat also encircled the neighbouring Church of St Agatha which leads one to believe that the Bishop erected it as a garrison-church.
Two thirds of the moat, fed by ‘Bertha’s Spring’ still remain.
Today, Brightwell Manor represents two distinct periods of architecture, showing how it has adapted to the passage of time. It is thought that the heart of the house was built in 1605, giving us a valuable glimpse of domestic life in Tudor times. Built as a farmhouse, it displays half-timbered elevations and the rooms that are currently used as the sitting room, family room and oak-panelled bedroom suite make up the oldest part of the property. The estate included extensive arable farmland and which were sold in 1914. The large bell set within the chimney at the rear of the house is a nostalgic reminder of that period; it was used to call workers in from the fields for lunch.
Towards the end of the 18th century, the attractive, symmetrical Georgian frontage was added. The construction is typical of this area at that time: brickwork variegated by the alternate use of blue brick headers and red stretchers with string courses and cornice, surmounted by a parapet concealing the tiled roof from ground view. There are tall sash windows and a centrally placed entrance door with an elegant, delicately designed fanlight above. A red brick coach house with a tiled roof was also built in the 1840s. Latterly this was converted into independent cottage accommodation. The annexe, together with the large kitchen, were built in the 1950s and are very much in keeping
with the Georgian character of the main residence. Brightwell Manor has seen many owners over the centuries, perhaps most notably The Reverend Dr W R Inge, Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral and Knight Commander of the Victorian Order. He was a prolific author and used today’s family room as his study for quiet contemplation when he wrote. The current owners bought the property from his sons in 1971.
Sitting on ancient ground where King Stephen built his castle, Brightwell Manor stands proudly at the heart of this picturesque and much sought after Oxfordshire village, home to the Parish Church of St Agatha, Brightwell Primary School, the renowned Red Lion pub and a post office. The village lies between two of the Wittenham Clumps which are one of Oxfordshire’s most famous landmarks and famed for walking and cycling routes. Wallingford is nearby with a range of shops and services including Waitrose, several restaurants and a hospital. There is also good access to Oxford, Reading and Abingdon as well as excellent communications to London and the rest of the country
by road via the M4 and A34 and by rail.