30 May 2023

A Sunday afternoon at
Passenham Manor and
the two tithe barns

Passenham Manor was built ca 1626 and was altered in the 20th century by Sir Edwin Lutyens (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

During the bank holiday weekend, Charlotte and I enjoyed an afternoon in Passenham, visiting Saint Guthlac’s Church, which had an open day with cream teas. We also visited Passenham Manor and its two tithe barns, before walking back through the fields in the late afternoon sunshine and across the River Great Ouse to Stony Stratford.

Passenham is a small village in south-west Northamptonshire, a short distance south of Old Stratford. It is separated from Stony Stratford by open countryside and the river, which forms the boundary between Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire.

The Manor House to the immediate north of the church dates from the 17th century, when Sir Robert Banastre held the manor in 1623 and repaired or rebuilt the house. We also visited the two large tithe barns in the grounds, one of mediaeval origin and the other dating from 1626.

The nearby Manor Farm was built in the 18th century, perhaps after the Manor House ceased to be a working farm.

A nearby mill and early houses developed with the first settlement in Passenham in the post-Roman era. An indication of the Manor during the Middle Ages is shown in the remains of a moat at the east end of the village street. Pottery found there in 1967 dated from the 12th and 13th centuries.

After the Norman Conquest, most of Passenham formed a large royal manor in 1086, and included some land at Puxley, on the edge of Whittlewood, where a second estate was held by the Bishop of Bayeux. The two Puxley manors have separate histories until they were acquired by the Crown at the end of the Middle Ages and annexed to the honour of Grafton in 1542. Passenham remained a manor in the Duchy of Lancaster manor until it too was disposed of in 1623.

Two religious houses had small estates in the parish, as did several lay owners whose main estates were centred elsewhere in the district.

Saint Guthlac’s Church … between the Old Rectory and Passenham Manor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The king held a large tract of land in Passenham as a royal demesne in 1086, and some more land of his was held by Rainald, his almsman. Some land at Puxley also belonged to the royal manor of Passenham. Passenham was later incorporated into the honour of Tutbury in Staffordshire, possibly after the foundation of Cirencester Abbey in 1131, which held the advowson of Passenham or the right to nominate the parish clergy.

William Earl Ferrers held land in Passenham in 1242. After Robert de Ferrers was defeated at the Battle of Chesterfield in 1266, his lands were confiscated by the Crown and granted to the king’s son, Edmund, who became Earl of Lancaster in 1267.

Edmund was succeeded at his death in 1296 by his son Thomas, who took Passenham into his hands in 1299 as lord of Tutbury. He later granted the manor to Robert de Holland, who was Lord of Passenham in 1316. But Thomas was executed after his defeat at Boroughbridge in 1322. His lands were given to his brother Henry, who became Earl of Lancaster. His estates included Passenham, which was still linked with Tutbury in 1332.

Henry died in 1345 and was succeeded by his son Henry, who became Duke of Lancaster in 1351. His daughter Blanche married John of Gaunt, and her inheritance included Passenham. John of Gaunt, who became Duke of Lancaster in 1362, passed on the Manor of Passenham to his son who became King Henry IV in 1399. His honours merged in the Crown, but the estates of the Duchy of Lancaster continued to be administered separately from other Crown lands.

Henry V put trustees in charge of much of his Lancastrian inheritance, including Passenham, in 1415 before his expedition to France.

Passenham was part of the estates of Elizabeth Woodville when she married Edward IV in 1467. She granted the manor to her brother Anthony, Earl Rivers, who was executed in 1483. Passenham then reverted to the Duchy of Lancaster as part of the estates recovered by the Crown.

The Manor of Passenham was granted to Sir George Marshall and Robert Cancefield in 1623 and they sold it the following year to Sir Robert Banastre.

The River Great Ouse and the open countryside between Passenham and Stony Stratford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

The old rectory, immediately south of the church, is believed to stand on the site of the manor house where of Sir Robert Banastre lived after he acquired the manor in 1623. He built a new manor house and conveyed the old one to the rector and his successors.

When Sir Robert Banastre died in 1649, he left Passenham to his grandson Banastre Maynard, the son of Dorothy, his daughter by his third wife. Dorothy had married William Maynard of Easton, Essex, who in 1640 succeeded his father as the second Baron Maynard.

Even as late as 1664, the residents of Passenham, as tenants of a Duchy of Lancaster manor, were confirmed in their freedom from market and other tolls.

Meanwhile, Dorothy had died two months before her father. Her husband survived until 1699, when he was succeeded by his son Banastre Maynard, who died in 1718. His titles passed in turn to three of his sons. The youngest son, Charles Maynard, obtained a new barony and a viscountcy in 1766, enabling a distant cousin, also named Charles, to succeed to the titles in 1775.

The second Viscount Maynard died in 1824, and was succeeded by his nephew Henry Maynard. When he died without male heirs in 1865, all his titles died out with him. His elder daughter, Frances Evelyn, inherited most of the family estates, including Passenham. In 1881, Frances married Francis Greville, who in 1893 succeeded his father as Earl Brooke of Warwick Castle.

The earliest parts of the manor house as seen today date from the early 17th century. The oldest part is found in the front range. The house is of coursed squared limestone with plain tile roofs. The 18th century additions are in the five bays on the south-east side. Further alterations followed in the 19th century.

Wisteria at the tithe barns in the grounds of Passenham Manor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Lady Brooke tried to sell the Passenham Manor estate, with 840 acres of land, in 11 lots in 1911. Only the portion in Old Stratford was sold and there was a second sale in 1918 in six lots that included the Manor House, mill and three farms.

The Manor House, Manor Farm buildings and the mill were back on the market in 1922, along with parts of the Haversham Manor estate in Buckinghamshire.

George Ansley owned Passenham Manor and the lordship in the 1930s and 1940s. A nursery attic was added in 1935, and the house was re-roofed to designs by Sir Edwin Lutyens for George Ansley.

Commander Arnold Lawson and his wife the Hon Flora Lawson owned the house in the 1950s and invested in it heavily, developing the property. After they died, the 773 acre estate was sold in 1985. There is a plaque to them in Saint Guthlac’s Church.

The house remains a private residence today.

There are two large tithe barns in the grounds of Passenham Manor (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Beside the manor house are two large, stone-built tithe barns with plain tiled roofs, standing at right angles to each other. The larger barn is said to be mediaeval measures 110 ft x 25 ft, and has an elaborate tie beam roof. The smaller barn, which is 76 ft long, is dated 1626 and so was probably built by Banastre. Local lore says these tithe barns were used during the Civil War as a hospital by Cromwell’s troops after the Battle of Naseby.

A dovecote south of the house also dates from the 17th century but has 19th century alterations. It is built of coursed squared limestone with a plain tile roof.

In 1967, the Wolverton and District Archaeological Society found what is thought to be the site of the first Manor House. It predated the manor house on the site of the Old Rectory and was built at the time of Letitia de Ferrers in the early 12th century. Later, the de Passenham family lived there until the latter part of the 13th century.

The site appears to be indicated by the remains of a moat at the east end of the village street, in a field across the road from the church and mill. Pottery found there dates from the 12th and 13th centuries. Some of the stones may have been used in other buildings around the area before the end of the 16th century.

The Old Rectory may stand on the site of an earlier manor house (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (2) 30 May 2023

The Church of the Holy Spirit in the grounds of Prague Castle and Prague Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Fifty days of Easter season came to an end on Sunday with the Day of Pentecost (28 May 2023), or Whit Sunday, and Ordinary Time resumed yesterday (29 May 2023).

Before this day gets busy, I am taking some time this morning for prayer and reflection. In this first week in Ordinary Time, between the Day of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday (4 June 2023), I am reflecting each morning in these ways:

1, Looking at an image or stained glass window in a church or cathedral I know depicting Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, or the Feast of the Day;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

Josephine Butler … ‘God and one woman make a majority’

This morning, the calendar of the Church of England in Common Worship commemorates Josephine Butler (1906), Social Reformer; Joan of Arc (1431), Visionary; and Apolo Kivebulaya (1933), Priest, Evangelist in Central Africa, 1933.

Josephine Butler (1828-1906) was active campaigner against the way Victorian society and legislation treated prostitutes, most of whom were forced into their lifestyle activity through desperate poverty.

Josephine Butler was born on 13 April 1828 at Milfield House, Milfield, Northumberland, and was baptised on 30 May in Northumberland. She was the seventh child of John Grey (1785–1868) and Hannah Eliza Annett (1792-1860). Her father, John Grey, was an eminent agricultural expert, and the cousin of the reformist Prime Minister, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey. John Grey campaigned for the abolition of slavery and played a significant role in Catholic Emancipation. He lost most of his savings in 1857 with the failure of the Newcastle Bank.

In 1852, Josephine married the Revd George Butler (1819-1890), who encouraged her in her public work. From her 20s on, Josephine was active in feminist movements, and the Butlers had strong radical sympathies, including support for the Union in the American Civil War.

Josephine and George Butler had four children. While they were living in Cheltenham, where George was the vice-principal of Cheltenham College, their only daughter, Evangeline, died in 1863 at the age of six.

The family moved to Liverpool in 1866 when George was appointed headmaster of Liverpool College. There Josephine decided to seek solace by ministering to people with greater pain than her own. She became involved in the campaign for higher education for women, and with Anne Jemima Clough, later principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, she helped to establish the North of England Council for Promoting the Higher Education of Women.

Against the advice of her friends and family, she began visiting Brownlow Hill workhouse in Liverpool, which led to her first involvement with prostitutes. She saw the women as being exploited victims of male oppression, and attacked the double standard of sexual morality.

Her campaign took on an international dimension when she travelled through Europe in 1874-1875 addressing meetings. Her campaign succeeded with the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act in 1883. She became involved in a successful campaign against child prostitution in 1885.

She was a devout Anglican and a woman of prayer, and once said: ‘God and one woman make a majority.’ She modelled her spirituality on that of Saint Catherine of Siena, and wrote a biography of the Dominican saint.

When George Butler retired from Liverpool College, he became a Canon of Winchester Cathedral; he died on 14 March 1890. Josephine continued her campaigns until the early 1900s; she died on 30 December 1906.

Josephine Butler is celebrated in the Calendar of Common Worship in the Church of England both today (30 May), the anniversary of her baptism, and on 30 December, the anniversary of her death.

She is depicted in windows in the Anglican Cathedral, Liverpool, and Saint Olave’s Church, London.

Many of her papers are in the Women’s Library in London Metropolitan University and in the Josephine Butler Museum, Southend-On-Sea. Durham University honoured her in 2005 by giving her name to Josephine Butler College. A building in the Faculty of Business and Law in Liverpool John Moores University is named Josephine Butler House. Her former home in Cheltenham was demolished in the 1970s.

Mark 10: 28-31 (NRSVA):

28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29 Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age – houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’

Today’s prayer:

The theme in the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel) this week is ‘Pentecost.’ USPG’s Chaplain, the Revd Jessie Anand, introduced this theme on Sunday, reflecting on Pentecost and languages.

The USPG Prayer invites us to pray this morning (Tuesday 30 May 2023):

Let us pray for women in the Philippines. May their strong ties of kinship bring mutual support and may they find strength in solidarity.


God of compassion and love,
by whose grace your servant Josephine Butler
followed in the way of your Son
in caring for those in need:
help us like her to work with strength
for the restoration of all to the dignity
and freedom of those created in your image;
through Jesus Christ our Saviour,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

God our redeemer,
who inspired Josephine Butler to witness to your love
and to work for the coming of your kingdom:
may we, who in this sacrament share the bread of heaven,
be fired by your Spirit to proclaim the gospel in our daily living
and never to rest content until your kingdom come,
on earth as it is in heaven;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org