Ockwells Manor

Ockwells Manor is a C15th manor house near Maidenhead built in 1450-54 by John Norreys Esquire, Keeper of the Great Wardrobe of Henry VI, and has been described by Nikolaus Pevsner as “the most refined and the most sophisticated timber-framed mansion in England” a perfection partly due to the C19th restoration by Fairfax Wade (click here for more).

In 1451 John Norreys and his brothers helped to found a guild based at a chapel in the middle of the High Street, a major purpose of which was to maintain the bridge over the Thames marking the origin of civic life in the town.  The Civic Society has marked this location with a commemorative plaque, on the ground in front of the Bear Hotel.

It is also famous for the armorial stained glass in the windows of the Great Hall which feature the arms of John Norreys Esq and his first two wives, together with those of his king and queen, lords, religious men, esquires and relatives that Norreys was close to. Almost all are still in their original position with glazing probably done by John Prudde, King’s Glazier to Henry VI.

     Our study has included: 

  • Re-identification of some of those represented in the glass by their arms.  Efforts to identify one particular armorial achievement (Hugh Mortimer) at Ockwells led to a study of the stained glass in Great Malvern Priory, and this has been published as a booklet by the Civic Society.  More on the identification of another, Edmund Brudenell, can be found here.
  • Discovering the main themes of Norreys’ armorial scheme.
  • Describing changes in ownership together with major changes to the structure of the house and grounds over the centuries.
  • Documention of the restoration of Ockwells in the Victorian period, when its dilapidated state gave rise to fears that it would be pulled down.  Ockwells was one of the cases that inspired William Morris to found the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.

Information gathered by this study has been used to help the National Trust to defend the covenant on the field opposite Ockwells Manor, most recently in 2012. The Society continues to comment on planning applications likely to impact on the setting of this important house.  Find out more here.

A 365-page full-colour book - Ockwells Manor - A history of the house and its occupants by Ann Darracott - has now been published by Maidenhead Civic Society.  The book clarifies the armorial scheme Norreys devised that commemorates those he was close to including his king and queen, lords, bishops and abbots, courtiers and relatives. Evidence indicates he put it up in 1450-1454, shortly after the death of his first wife and the summary execution of his colleague, William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk, when England was in uproar due to the loss of Normandy, with Suffolk being blamed.

Later owners of the house and the alterations they made are described as are the tenants who didn’t alter but also didn’t maintain. The book includes previously unknown photos of the Victorian restoration. The expansion of Maidenhead and the building of roads and motorways has threatened the setting of Ockwells. The book describes attempts to preserve the setting of the house by preventing the lifting of its restrictive covenants held by the National Trust.  Ockwells, which is privately owned, was on the market in 2019 and its future is uncertain. We hope that this present work will result in a greater appreciation of the historic and aesthetic value of Ockwells Manor House and help ensure its continued survival.

To obtain your copy please contact Maidenhead Civic Society on or by phone on 07796 834542, giving your name and postal address.  The book is priced at £35 per copy (£30 for Maidenhead Civic Society members).   We can offer free delivery in the Maidenhead area, but otherwise postage and packing is £4.50 per item.  Payment should be made by direct bank transfer to “Maidenhead Civic Society”, Sort Code: 30-95-36, Account No.: 00277876, quoting “Ockwells” as the reference.

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