The Manor House Museum

Welcome to the site of Kettering’s Manor House, a place steeped in England’s history, with an extraordinary collection of owners and occupants, ranging from kings, monks, Puritans, dukes and the Urban District Council.

The Manor House’s story starts with the gift of the manor (i.e. the prime land) of Kettering by the Anglo-Saxon King Edgar to Peterborough Abbey in 972. This was confirmed after the Norman Invasion, where it is noted in the Domesday Book of 1086. In about 1240 Abbott Walter ordered the building of a ‘noble hall faced with stone’ in Kettering, to be his residence when visiting the town and to act as the seat of his manorial court: the town’s Bailiff was the principal official of the manor, carrying out the orders of the Abbey’s Steward.

King Henry VIII and Thomas Cromwell’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1540 meant that, after over 560 years, ownership of the manor of Kettering reverted to the Crown. The benefits of the manor were granted to a number of people over the succeeding years before the site of the manor was sold to the Sawyer family in 1596, along with a share of the lordship of the manor – shared with Edward Watson of Rockingham Castle.

It’s likely that the Sawyers were responsible for the building you see today: it’s described by Historic England as 17th Century, re-fronted in the 18th Century, perhaps incorporating earlier structure of house, known as Abbot’s house, belonging to Peterborough monastery. The 2-storey, L-plan house was built of a typical mix of ironstone, squared rubble and ashlar (i.e. finely dressed, cut stone to the front and rear of the building), with a Collyweston stone roof. The carved shield below the centre of parapet is of the Sawyers.

The Sawyers, memorials to whom you can still see in St Peter & Paul’s Church, remained at the Manor House as one of the leading families in Kettering for over 120 years: from the time of the Civil War (where they, particularly the notorious Francis Sawyer, were strong supporters of the other Cromwell) through to the disaster of losing all their money in the infamous South Sea Bubble in 1720. They were forced to sell the house to Francis Hawes, a director of the South Sea Company, but could have taken some satisfaction when it was confiscated 4 years later to contribute to the fund for those whose lives had been ruined by the scandal, and sold to John, 2nd Duke of Montagu. Ownership of the house and surrounding land eventually passed in 1790 to the family of the Duke of Buccleuch.

The house remained part of the Buccleuch Estate for many years. A 2-story addition was built on the north side of the house during this time. The wide variety of tenants included the family of a retired soldier, Captain Charles Verey, who’d served with The Buffs and went on to be Chief Constable of Bedfordshire. They were followed by Stephen Eaton Eland, whose Eland & Eland Bank, had a branch in Market Place. The bank failed in 1888 and was eventually taken over by Barclays Bank, which occupies the original bank’s site.

Researched by Jonathan Badger

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