“Our first halt was at Clifford Chambers – a village of a few well-to-do cottages on the Stour. But the pride of Clifford is its Manor House. Tall white gates in a high brick wall form the end of the turf-bordered road, called by courtesy the village street. Within the gates stands the old house.
We peeped through the bars of the white gates that rose so stately between their stone pillars, and were presently invited in by the courteous owners.
A delicious old garden lay inside the high walls. A straight broad gravel drive led up to the front door, with smooth borders on either side, filled with every kind of fragrant old flower – clove pinks, white pinks, pansies and columbine, snapdragons and gorgeous larkspur. Beyond the borders, quince and apple, and nut trees grew among the peas and potatoes beside green alleys under sunny walls. On a side lawn near the house stood an ancient mulberry tree, propped with many posts, yet still bearing plenty of fruit.
Inside the house, everything of course was oak. In a delightful little sitting-room with a high carved mantel-piece, priceless old Worcester china heaped and crowded every table. We felt certain that, hidden away in corners, we should find great jars of pot-pourri made from the petals of the fragrant Damask Roses. It was a pretty summer picture altogether, as we turned away – open doors and windows, roses everywhere. Beyond the old moat, now part of a meadow, the pink and white stars of the wild rose shone twenty feet high among branches of black fir trees.”
- from an article written by Miss Kingsley appearing in ‘English Illustrated Magazine’ 1866
The first known owner of the Manor plus land, plus 2 Mills – and more land! –was Algar, a great Saxon Thane (holder of lands by military service in Anglo-Saxon times ranking between nobility and freeman). It passed, on his death, to his son Brictic – and here comes the interesting bit! Brictic was sent by Edward the Confessor (who died in 1066 – just so that you know the period we are talking about!) to the Court of Bruges as an English ambassador. There, he caught the eye of a noble lass called Matilda. She was very much impressed with him. In fact, it seems she was besotted with him. He rejected all her advances, came back to England, and promptly forgot her!
She didn’t forget him! Her later marriage to William of Normandy brought her, eventually, to England. When her husband became King, she took her revenge on poor Brictic. He was sent to prison. His lands were confiscated and passed to – Queen Matilda! So, for a while, the Queen of England was our Lady of the Manor. I was so intrigued by this, that I named my daughter after her - much to her present disgust!
Soon after the Domesday Book was completed, the Manor, Mills and land were passed to the Benedictine Abbey and convent of St. Peter at Gloucester, and it remained in their hands for four centuries. And here comes another interesting bit! Up until the time the property came under the ownership of the Church, the Manor, plus buildings and land were known as Clifford. Nothing more! Now we have the ‘Chambers’ bit added! Any money or lands given to the Church were designated into different funds within the Church. This particular ‘offering’ called ‘Clifford’, was placed in a fund – or office – which kept the Abbot’s Chamber properly furnished. The one in charge of this fund or office was the Camerarius or Chamberlain – though I really do not know why ‘Chambers’ had to be added onto our particular village, when probably other areas were also financially helping this fund without having an ugly name like that added to their identity!
The book ‘Clifford Manor,a history’, lists names of free tenants, customary tenants and other tenants in 1266, but the only names I could recognize as village names were William ole Winnecote, Henricus de Wilicote and Rogerus Silvestre, though an interesting one was Adam Bruggemon (Bridgman) who had to keep the bridge in repair.
As for the owners, - once the property was taken away from the monks by Henry VIII (which, by now, boasted a Church and lands called Mounckes Close and Moorse Hill) - two were knighted, one was involved in the Civil War (and as he was a Royalist, was on the losing side, taken prisoner, then escaped!) One was a barrister-at-law and two were Vicars and became Rectors of Clifford Chambers. Their names you will recognise – Raynesford (later Rainsford), Dighton, Annesley, West.
When I first came to the village in 1968, people could just remember a Mr. Gratrix as owner; “a very strange gentleman”; but their greatest memory was of Mrs. Douty, later Mrs. Rees-Mogg. She bought the Manor as Miss Kathleen Wills, younger daughter of Sir Frederick Wills (who made his fortune in cigarettes!) in 1909. On 21st September 1909, Miss Wills married Dr. Douty who was in practice at Cannes.
Wedding of Miss Kathleen Wills
The wedding of Miss Kathleen Wills and Dr. Edward Douty of Cannes took place on Tuesday afternoon at St. Paul’s, Knightsbridge. The bride was given away by her brother Sir Gilbert Wills and wore a white satin dress draped with old lace. Her five bridesmaids wore white chiffon dresses and pink and mauve sashes and their white chiffon hats were trimmed with pink carnations and silver leaves. No reception was held after the wedding owing to the recent death of Sir Frederick Wills, and the bride and bridegroom left early for their honeymoon which was to be spent at Stratford-upon-Avon.
Many costly gifts were received from the numerous friends of the bride and bridegroom. Among those who gave gifts were the Dowager Lady Cairns, Lady Carnarven and Princess Pless. It is stated that the newly married pair intend taking up their residence at Clifford Manor House.
- FROM THE STRATFORD-UPON-AVON HERALD dated 24th September 1909
In 1910, Dr. and Mrs. Douty restored to the Manor everything that had been sold in 1865 by the Annesley Family to the West Family of Alscot Park. (The Rev. Francis Annesley had bought back just the house from the West family in 1891 at the price of £2,079.). Now, in 1910, the Douty’s bought back the Manor Farm (and lands) from the Wests and, in 1911, bought from the Wests the advowson (the right to be Patron of Clifford Church and appoint Rectors), plus many cottages in the village.
Two years after her marriage, Mrs. Douty was left a widow with a baby son, Gilbert to bring up.
However, back to the Manor, Mrs. Douty, in the book she had printed in memory of her husband (compiled by Philip Hope Bagenal), had a description of how the Manor (or rather Priest’s house) might have looked in the days of long ago - “with clay and thatched outbuildings round it. A granary, a hall for the Court of Justice, a bakehouse, stables, a dovecot arranged round it, a moat on three sides, the river on the fourth, and the villagers’ clay houses forming a wide street approaching the Manor and Church.”
This original Manor or Priest’s house, dated about late 15th/early 16th Century, was still standing when, in 1918 an ancient but smouldering timber in a chimney spluttered into life one night. Mrs. Douty and her 8yr old son were in Bournemouth where Gilbert, the young boy was recovering from chicken pox. Only 2 maids and an odd-job-man were sleeping in the house, and they only became aware of it at 6.00am the next morning! One maid rushed down the village street in her nightgown and made enough noise to bring every man and boy out into the street. David Simmonds galloped on a farm horse to Stratford to summon the fire brigade. By the time the horse-drawn fire engine arrived, the fire had taken such a hold due to a strong wind blowing, that little of the original Manor was left.
This was a great shock to Mrs. Douty, for in her book that Mr. Philip Hope Bagenal had written, with her approval, came the following:- “A single stack of flues is grouped in the centre of the house with the stairs beside it. The fireplaces and flues are built of stone, and the stairs, though now of timber, were probably of stone in their original state. The masonry work would thus be a solid core in the centre of the house, and the danger of fire be minimised.”!!!!
The enclosed letter printed in the Stratford Herald dated 5th April 1918, is interesting:-
“Sir, I feel sure the deepest and most sincere sympathy is felt for our kind and generous neighbour Mrs. Douty, in the calamity that has fallen upon her in the destruction of her beautiful old manor house.
This lamentable fire has caused many to discuss the adequacy of the existing means available for dealing with such disasters. I am told the Stratford-upon-Avon fire engine did not arrive on the scene till one hour and a half after the fire had been discovered, and, but for the promptitude of Mr. James of Clifford in sending in his horses to bring out the fire engine, a further delay would have occurred. We all know that promptitude of action is all important at the outbreak of fire. I should like to ask what means are being taken to prevent the recurrence of such disastrous delays in the future? Are any arrangements being made to horse the fire engine, or is it to be left till the outbreak of a fire to hunt round the town for horses? Considering the valuable historical property in Stratford and the immediate neighbourhood, it seems to me – and I know I am expressing the opinion of a great many influentual people – it is time the town should possess a motor fire engine?
Francis H. Hodgson
Clopton April 3rd 1918”
Another letter followed from him in the Herald dated 17th April, stating that he was willing to subscribe £50 towards the purchase of an engine and two guineas per annum towards the upkeep. This offer was repeated in a letter the following week; this time from Mrs. Douty.
After the fire, another timbered and beautiful building was built on the ashes of the old Priest House, and Mrs. Douty had placed in the high brick wall running alongside the tradesmens entrance, a large bell to ring in emergencies to awaken the village!
When I first arrived in this village in the late 1960’s, many people in the village could remember The Wedding, especially two ‘children’ who were invited with their parents to St. Margaret’s, Westminster, to see Mrs. Douty marry Col. Rees Mogg. Kath Salmon could remember with delight, how the car in which they were travelling back to Clifford, was mistaken for the bridal car. Mr. Ainley, Mrs. Douty’s Agent, had to hurriedly get out of the car to persuade the lads of the village to hold on to their ropes until the right car came along. Eventually it did, and the lads tied ropes round it, and the newly married couple were pulled along the village street to the Lodge (the Manor still being rebuilt after the fire) with Col. and Mrs. Rees Mogg regally waving to the villagers standing either side of the village street. Then, on arrival at The Lodge, they both stood up in the car and gave speeches even more regal! The bride had been treated very regally in the village for many years, due to Miss Wilding’s insistence that her pupils must either curtsey or take off their caps (depending on sex) when her car passed them.
FROM THE STRATFORD-UPON-AVON HERALD Friday June 30th 1922
MARRIAGE OF MAJOR REES-MOGG AND MRS DOUTY
(it is interesting to read that two of the bridegrooms’ guests at the wedding were Viscount and Vicountess Althorp – Princes Di’s grandparents!)
“On Wednesday afternoon at St. Margaret’s Church, Westminster, the marriage was solemnised of Veterinary-Major Graham B. C. Rees-Mogg 1st Life Guards, younger son of the Rev. H. J. and Mrs. Rees-Mogg of Midgham, Berkshire, and Kathleen, youngest daughter of the late Sir Frederick and Lady Wills of Northmoor, Dulverton, and widow of Mr. Edward Douty.
Sir Gilbert Wills, the bride’s brother, gave her away and Captain Astley, a brother-in-law of the bridegroom was best man. Troopers of the 1st Life Guards formed a guard of honour and trumpeters blew fanfares in honour of the bride and bridegroom. The bride’s dress was of deep cream charmeuse, veiled with pleated net draped with lace, and she wore a gold net toque with a gold lace veil, and carried a shower bouquet of red roses. She had no bridesmaids, but during the ceremony, her little son stood near her and held her bouquet.
The Dean of Westminster performed the rite assisted by the Rev. the Hon. Edward Lyttelton, and the Bishop of Gloucester gave the address. The second hymn was sung to a tune written by Mr. G. F. Bloomer of Stratford-Upon-Avon.
Among those present were……..Viscount and Vicountess Althorp, and the Rev. F. H. and the Hon Mrs. Hodgson.
The village of Clifford Chambers was gaily decorated with flags and floral arches for the auspicious occasion, and on the arrival of Major and Mrs. Rees-Mogg in the evening, the villagers assembled en masse by the New Inn, attached ropes to the motor-car, and so escorted the occupants to Clifford Lodge. Rose-petals and confetti were showered upon the happy couple, and a tiny jet-black Persian kitten was handed to the bride as a mascot.
The bride and bridegroom thanked the villagers for their kind and hearty reception. Peals were rung on the Church bells during the evening. Presentation
Last evening (Thursday) practically the whole village assembled to make two presentations to the bride and bridegroom.
The Rev. F. H. Hodgson (Rector of Clifford) presided, and among those present were the Rev. W. A. and Mrs. Pippet, Miss Pippet, Messrs. J. R. Black and John James (Churchwardens), Mr. J. R. Steele, Mr. and Mrs. Matters etc. The Rev. F. H. Hodgson said that he felt that was a great red-letter day in the history of the Parish of Clifford. They were met there that evening to give a hearty welcome to Major and Mrs. Rees-Mogg. He was sure they all wished them every happiness in this world, and they were there to present them with a parish gift. The speaker proceeded to graphically describe the wedding service at St. Margaret’s, Westminster at which he was present, and he mentioned that in all his long life (and he had been to a good many marriage services) he did not think he had ever attended a more beautiful ceremony, or a more impressive one.
The gifts, Mr. Hodgson continued, had been subscribed for by the parishioners and tenants, and also Mr. Oliver Baker who had his share in it as well. It was an expression of their affection and gratitude for all Mrs. Rees-Mogg had done for the parish since she had come to live at the Manor and he was sure she would accept it with a great deal of pleasure.
Mr. Hodgson then presented the bride and bridegroom with a Cromwellian leather settle, with oak feet, which is about 300 years old, and also a Ruskin bowl from the children.
In reply, Mrs. Rees-Mogg said that she did wish to tell them how deeply she appreciated the splendid present that they had given them. They had shown to her husband very clearly that which she knew already – that at Clifford they were surrounded by most kind, warm and hearty neighbours and friends. Through the days of sorrow and years of loneliness and through the dreadful disaster, they had all given her proof of their goodwill and sympathy. She was glad that their marriage did not mean saying goodbye as so often was the case after marriages. In that case, it only meant that instead of finding two friends at The Manor (for they must count her son Gilbert) they would in future, she hoped, find three. (applause). They had made their homecoming delightful with the glorious welcome they had given them, and she thanked them all a thousand times for it, and for the beautiful presents they had given them. Those were tokens of good wishes which they would value all their lives.
The bridegroom also spoke, and in the course of a short speech thanked them all for their hearty welcome the previous night. He was not unacquainted with village life, having had his home, when on leave, at a village rectory or vicarage, and he added that he was sure they would be lenient with him if he did anything which might not meet with their approval. He again thanked them for the welcome and the presents, after which the bride announced that there was a piece of wedding cake for each one. Loud cheers were given for the bride and bridegroom following the presentation and after each had received a neat packet of wedding cake, the ceremony terminated.”
Gilbert was sent to a boarding school and was only seen in the village during holidays. However, on his 21st birthday, he was given a sports car by his mother – and everyone saw him in the village then! In fact, his mother, very concerned at the speed with which Gilbert drove his new possession through the village, made a point of finding out from her son when he was intending to go out his in his car! Then word was sent round the village, so the mothers would keep their small children off the street until Gilbert was safely on his way out of the village. There was not much warning however, when he came home from his excursions, and the villagers would watch him roar up the village street, and hope children would have the sense to scurry out of his way. Those working in the Manor gardens would see the cloud of dust as Gilbert’s car came up the drive, and the car, with a quick turn, would skid to a stop with the gravel spitting against the front door of the Manor.
Mrs.Rees-Mogg was quite an attractive woman, not tall; in fact she looked quite small compared to Col. Rees-Mogg’s towering height. She suffered terribly from asthma, and was very sympathetic towards her tenants who also were ill, particularly those with breathing problems. She would go to great trouble at re-housing them in one of her other cottages in an attempt to relieve their suffering.
Her attempts at motherhood were not very successful however! With Gilbert losing his father before he was two, there was no man in his life to discipline him. In her loneliness of widowhood, his mother had given him everything he wanted. By the time Col. Rees-Mogg turned up in Gilbert’s life, Gilbert had become a very spoilt twelve-year-old child, and made it quite clear that he did not like his step-father disciplining him! I have been told that, as Gilbert became older, Col. Rees-Mogg stayed away from him as much as he possibly could, walking out of the back door as soon as Gilbert walked in the front!
Kath Salmon could remember, on sunny Sundays, the Misses Lupton cycling from Stratford to play afternoon tennis at the Manor.
Tragically, Gilbert died from an accident in his late twenties.
FROM A BIRMINGHAM NEWSPAPER dated 12th July 1938
“DEATH AFTER DANCE POLICE CONTINUE THEIR ENQUIRIES MEMBER OF MIDLAND FAMILY
A DETECTIVE OFFICER ATTACHED TO THE Chief Constable’s office at Northallerton, North Riding, is continuing his investigations today into the strange death of Mr. Gilbert Edward Frederick Douty (aged 28), member of a well-known Midland family, following a dance in the village hall at Oswaldkirk on July 2 last.
The inquest was opened yesterday and adjourned until July 21. Only formal evidence was given by the young man’s stepfather, Lieut.-Colonel Graham Rees-Mogg of Clifford Manor, near Stratford-on-Avon, and Prince’s Gate, London S.W.
Mr. Douty had driven away from the dance in his car, accompanied by a young woman, when a missile struck one of the windows. He got out to investigate, and it is believed that he was then struck over the head.
He was admitted to a York nursing home, where he developed pneumonia and died yesterday.
The police have made a number of enquiries in the village, but have been unable to trace anyone who saw anything of the incident.
‘No one knows anything at all about it. I don’t think it was anything to do with any of the villagers,’ the postmistress at Oswaldkirk told a reporter. ‘Ours is a very respectable village.’
A close acquaintance of Mr. Douty told a reporter that the incident occurred some time after 2.a.m. on July 2. After Mr. Douty had left the dance, he was knocked unconscious, and with the execption of a few brief intervals, he did not regain consciousness. The only person he recognised was his mother.
Mr. Douty, who was educated at Eton and Cambridge, was undergoing training in the estate office of the Earl of Feversham at Helmsley, a few miles away from Oswaldkirk. He is the son by her first husband of Mrs. Rees-Mogg, formerly Miss Kathleen Wills, sister of Lord Dulverton, chairman of the Imperial Tobacco Company.
Though ill herself, Mrs. Rees-Mogg travelled north with her husband the day after the accident, and she has not yet returned to Stratford-on-Avon.
The funeral has been arranged for Thursday afternoon July 14th, at Clifford Chambers Parish Church.”