Padworth House
Padworth, Berkshire

Padworth House, now a college, probably occupies the site of the old manor house of the Coudrays who had been lords of the manor since the early 13th century. This seems the more likely as, according to an arrangement commonly found in England, it stands in close proximity to the parish church. With the improvements and alterations made in Georgian and Victorian times, all visible signs of the fortifications that one would expect to find in a dwelling house of the Norman period have disappeared. There are, however, many traces under the surface of foundations of buildings all round the house, especially on the north side, and the pond which lies on the south side may formerly have supplied a moat. The oldest part of the house, as at present standing, is the block forming the eastern half which, though externally faced to match the other half, is inside constructed of heavy oak timbers much in the style of the oldest part of Ufton Court, which is supposed to date from the close of the Wars of the Roses, that is, the end of the 15th century. This part of Padworth House may well, therefore, be what is left of the dwelling house of Peter Coudray who died in 1528. Coudray's daughters sold up to the Littlefields who were parliamentarians, living at Padworth during the troubled times of the Civil War. In 1655, the house and manor were purchased by Thomas Brightwell, a London merchant and Governor of St. Thomas' Hospital. His descendants and relatives lived there well into the 20th century.

Mr. Christopher Griffith and his wife, Anne Chicheley, were cousins, nephew and niece of the last of the Brightwells. She was a descendant of the brother of Archbishop Chicheley and several relics of her esteemed co-lateral ancestor were kept at Padworth for many years. In 1759, Christopher married a second time, to Catherine, the daughter of Sir William St. Quintin, 4th Baronet of Scampston in Yorkshire, and his wife, Rebecca, daughter of Sir John Thompson, Knt, the Lord Mayor of London in 1737. It was during their married life, in 1769, that great alterations and embellishments were made in Padworth House. It was much enlarged - indeed largely rebuilt - by John Hobcroft and the hall and staircase received some extremely graceful stucco decorations executed in the style of the brothers Adam by Joseph Rose. The transformed building became an elegant cement rendered brick house of seven bays with lower three bay wings (nine and five bays on the north). It has a pedimented centre on both fronts and doorways with both Tuscan and ionic columns. A Gothic fireplace came from the fishing lodge. A big brick vaulted drain, large enough to allow the passage of a man stooping, runs down from the house to this lodge. Such drains were made in the times before the use of smooth glazed pipes, to allow for their being easily cleaned out. Christopher Griffith represented Berkshire in Parliament in 1774, and seems to have been a good and beneficent landlord. He and his second wife were both painted by Gainsborough and these portraits hung in the house for many years. The estate was eventually inherited by Mrs. Griffith's nephew, the famous general, Matthew Chitty Darby who changed his name to Darby-Griffith. In the late 1820s, Padworth House was rented by Thomas Bushby Bacon, the son of the great Welsh ironmaster, Anthony Bacon. He sold up his ironworks to move here.

Partly edited from Mary Sharp's 'A Record of the Parish of Padworth'(1911)

Padworth House is now a co-educational day & boarding school for both girls and boys. It can be seen from the small gate at the bottom of the adjoining churchyard.

 

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