08 June 2022

A manor house, a twisted
chimney and the influential
Prebendaries of Buckingham

The Manor House on Church Street, Buckingham and the adjoining and curiously named Twisted Chimney House (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Patrick Comerford

Three houses near the Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Buckingham show the extensive power, prestige, influence and wealth of the church in the 16th century: the Manor House on Church Street, the adjoining and curiously named Twisted Chimney House, and Prebend House on Hunter Street.

The Manor House on Church Street was built in the early 16th century. The house has been altered from the 17th to the 20th century and is now divided into two houses, the Manor House and Twisted Chimney House.

The building was the manor house of the Prebendal Manor of Sutton-cum-Buckingham, one of the best-endowed prebends in Lincoln Cathedral, and with the largest corps of any prebend in pre-Reformation in England, including properties across Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire.

The manor was held by successive Prebendaries of Sutton-cum-Buckingham. In the Middle Ages they included at least five cardinals, including: Neapoli Sancti Adriani (1303-1314); John de Albanum (1378-1381), later Dean of York; Perun de Sancti Georgii (1388); Cardinal Henry Beaufort (1389), grandson of Edward III and later Bishop of Lincoln and Bishop of Winchester, and Lord Chancellor of England; and Henry (1389), a cardinal of Naples and Archdeacon of Canterbury.

Later prebendaries included Robert Gilbert (1420-1436), later Bishop of London, and William Ascough (1436-1438), later Bishop of Salisbury.

Evidence for dating this house is found in the large original stone fireplace, with its deep hollow-chamfered Tudor-arched opening with foliage to the spandrels, and a frieze above with Tudor roses in quatrefoils alternating with heraldic shields. One of these shield bears three rings, believed to be the coat of arms of Richard Lavender, Prebendary of Buckingham in 1481-1507 and Archdeacon of Leicester.

The house remained the manor house of these prebendaries until the Dissolution, when Richard Cox (1542-1547), the last Prebendary of Sutton-cum-Buckingham, surrendered the prebend and manor in 1547 to the crown. Cox was also Dean of Christ Church Oxford (1543-1553), Chancellor of the University of Oxford (1547–1552), Dean of Westminster Abbey (1549-1553), and Bishop of Ely (1559-1583).

After the Tudor Reformation, the house passed into private hands and local lore says Queen Elizabeth I dined here in August 1568 when she was visiting Buckingham.

The house was used as a school at some time in the 18th century.

Manor House was at the centre of the Prebendal Manor of Sutton-cum-Buckingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Manor House is a timber-framed house with brick infill, a plain-tile roof and brick lateral stacks. The hall range is flanked by two cross wings, and the left cross wing has been separated from the main house and is now known as Twisted Chimney House, noted for its distinctive red-brick chimney, artfully crafted into a wonderful helix shape.

The interesting architectural features of this house include a six-panel door with a moulded wood surround and straight hood on scrolled brackets; leaded casement windows; leaded wood mullion and transom windows; a cat-slide roof; and large brick stacks. The first floor was probably originally jettied.

Inside, the ground floor hall has been divided in two, with a stone-flagged floor and chamfered cross beam ceiling with broach stops. The large, early mid-18th century wood chimneypiece in the inner room has egg-and-dart ornament on the fireplace surround, a central lion’s mask and foliage sprays on the frieze.

The drawing room has a Tudor-arched oak doorway to the hall with quatrefoil and foliage to the spandrels in a square panelled timber-framed partition wall. The dog-leg stair has widely spaced turned balusters and the first floor has struts from the posts to tie beams.

On the façade of the Manor House, a plaque showing a cherubic-like infant recalls the legend that has survived of Saint Rumbold.

Twisted Chimney House has a distinctive red-brick chimney, crafted into a helix shape (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

Twisted Chimney House or the left cross wing projects considerably at the front and has large arch braces from the end posts to a cambered tie beam, and sash windows, and a two-storey, possible former stair turret at the back of this wing. The large projecting stone lateral stack has a fine original barley-sugar twist brick flue, with an additional 18th century square brick flue behind.

Inside, Twisted Chimney House has a chamfered cross beam ceiling on the ground floor, stone-flagged floors in the hall and kitchen and a rebuilt stair with turned balusters. The three-bay roof has curved braces to the tie beams, queen posts to the collars and one tier of wind-braced purlins. The rear first first-floor room has part of original Tudor-arched fireplace with hollow-chamfer innermost and wave-moulding outermost.

The twisted chimney looks for all the world like a red-brick corkscrew.

The large projecting stone lateral stack has a fine original barley-sugar twist brick flue (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

The Prebendaries of Sutton-cum-Buckingham in Lincoln Cathedral also gave their name to Prebend House on Hunter Street, although the first clear evidence of Prebend House is in John Speed’s map of Buckingham in 1610.

The name Prebend or Prebendary is given to many buildings in this part of Buckinghamshire and John Speed’s map shows a large house, Prebend End Manor, on the site of the Island Car Park.

Like other houses on Hunter Street in the 17th century, Prebend House was probably occupied by a tanner and Speed’s map shows tanning pits in the gardens between the house and the river. The preparation of leather was then an important industry in Buckingham and much of it was sent to Northampton, which became the most important centre for boot and shoe making in England.

Prebend House was remodelled in the early 19th century to give it a more modern and fashionable exterior. Some elegant panelling was installed in ground floor and first floor rooms, although vandals have destroyed this in recent years.

AC Rogers, a prominent figure in the town and several times mayor, lived at Prebend House in the late 19th century and early 20th century. He was an agricultural merchant and a breeder of champion shire horses, and his business took up many of the buildings on Hunter Street.

Rogers was a supporter of the Temperance Movement and welcomed the Salvation Army of Buckingham. The founder of the Salvation Army, General William Booth, a regular guest of Rogers at Prebend House.

The University of Buckingham commissioned the restoration of Prebend House in 2010. Removing single- and two-storey additions to the south and north, highlighting the original proportions of this listed building with its imposing stucco classical façade, and stabilising the building.

As for Bishop Richard Cox, the last Prebendary of Sutton-cum-Buckingham, one of his grandsons, Richard Cox, moved to Ireland ca 1600, and was the ancestor of the Cox baronets of Dunmanway, Co Cork.

The Prebendaries of Sutton-cum-Buckingham gave their name to Prebend House on Hunter Street, although the house first appears in 1610 on John Speed’s map of Buckingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2022)

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