Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire by Harry Gordon Slade

Broughton Castle by Harry Gordon-Slade,  reprinted from The Archaeological Journal, Volume 135, for 1978. Published by The Royal Archaeological Institute

“You stumble upon them in a drive or walk. You catch a glimpse of an ionic front at some mid-most point of wide acres, and taking your way, by leave of a serious old woman at a lodge gate, along an overarching avenue, you find yourself introduced to an edifice so human-looking in its beauty that it seems for the occasion to reconcile art and morality.

To Broughton Castle, the first seen in this beautiful group, I must do no more than allude; but this is not because I failed to think it, as I think every house I see, the most delightful habitation in England. It lies rather low, and its woods and pastures slope down to it; it has a deep clear moat all round it, spanned by a bridge that passes under a charming old gate-tower, and nothing can be sweeter than to see its clustered walls of yellow-brown stone so sharply islanded while its gardens bloom on the other side of the water.”

Henry James, English Hours, 1877


The first view of the Broughton Castle suggests a great Elizabethan house which has been grafted on to an earlier medieval house of the first half of the fourteenth century. Like many first impressions this is a dangerous oversimplification.

The early fourteenth-century core is there, but covering an earlier thirteenth-century house which, like the ghost of a family face, has left its impression on all its descendants. Another hundred years passed and in the mid fifteenth century a further extensive re-modelling and extension of the house was carried out which left it considerably larger than it is now. With walls and lodging ranges surrounding the present entrance court, and a great service court beyond the main house with another gate house and bridge across the moat. Most of this has now disappeared, but much of it could still be traced in the early years of the eighteenth century.

In the middle years of the sixteenth century the house was again enlargedwith the building of new upper floors and the addition of two great state rooms in the shell of the old kitchen wing. The redecoration of these rooms was not completed until the end of the century, and as a result there are two distinct styles visible; the short-lived Renaissance style of the 1550s derived from Italy and France, and the more usual and fully developed Elizabethan manner in the 1590s.

The now well-developed pattern of major re-building every hundred years with lesser works at the half century received a rough check in the seventeenth century. Broughton was attacked by Prince Rupert in 1642 after the Battle of Edgehill. How much damage was done was not recorded but it suffered badly judging by the clumsy repairs in the hall, and Celia Fiennes’ description of the house in 1647 as being ruinous.

By the middle of the eighteenth century Broughton was back into its hundred-year cycle with the redecoration of many of the principal rooms in the newly fashionable Gothick taste in the manner of Sanderson Miller –; who was a connexion as well as a neighbour of the family – and with the building of the low, battlemented east wing.

In the mid nineteenth century a further phase of work was started which concentrated on the restoration of the medieval house. At first this seems to have been in the hand of Mr Fortescue, the agent of the estate, but late it was taken on by George Gilbert Scott Jr. this is the first phase for which there is any direct documentary evidence, the bulk of the family papers having been dispersed or destroyed, possibly at the time of the disastrous sale in 1837.

The tradition has been carried on, for in the middle of the twentieth century the house was again put in order and re-cast by the present Lord Saye and Sele and his father.

As the documentary evidence is negligible, in order to interpret and discover the building history of Broughton it is necessary to have recourse to that most primary of all sources, the building itself; there are certain outside aids although initially these are speculative. Who was likely to have either the reason, or means, to build, and if the reason was there were the means there as well? At the beginning someone lived at Broughton and by the same token there was a house to live in; although there is no direct evidence for either until 1242 – 43 when John Broughton is recorded as holding the manor.

This date, c. 1243, accords well with the beginning of the ‘hundred-year cycle’, and with the ghost of the early house which has controlled all the later development and the remains of which may still be buried in the existing walls. By the end of the thirteenth century John de Broughton II had acquired enough money to enable him, and his son John de Broughton III to enlarge and improve the house in the fashion of the day. Whether this rebuilding strained the means of the de Broughtons to the point where they could no longer go on living there, or whether some other reason caused the sale as not known, but by 1377 the estate seems to have been bought by William of Wykeham. As he had both the means and the inclination to build it is hardly surprising that further alterations were made, and it was no doubt the Bishop’s money that enabled his great nephew and heir Thomas de Wykeham to crenellate and fortify his house in the 1406. From Thomas the estate passed on to his son William and then to his grand-daughter Margaret, who had married Sir William Fiennes. He had succeeded his father as second Lord Saye and Sele in 1450, after the latter’s murder in the course of Jack Cade’s rebellion. The Fienneses had become very great people in the time of James, first Lord Saye and Sele, Treasurer of England, and had acquired a taste for fine and expensive building which had flowered in 1440 in the creation of Herstmonceux.

William Fiennes succeeded in right of his wife to Broughton in 1457 and was killed at the Battle of Barnet in 1471, so that his works can be dated to the years 1457 – 71; no doubt they were financed by monies from the sale of Hever in 1462 to Sir Geoffrey Bullen.

By what means Richard Fiennes financed his alterations in the 1550s we do not know but his son, also Richard, sold a considerable amount of land in Hampshire and Somerset, almost certainly to finance his own building programme, and possibly pay off debts incurred by his father.

When Celia Fiennes records in 1674 that Broughton was ‘much left to the decay and ruine when my brother come to it’ is she suggesting that repairs had been put in hand by William Fiennes, third Viscount Saye and Sele? If so the money for these might well have come from the sale of Brumby Hall estate in Lincolnshire. This had been bought in the 1630 by William Fiennes, first Viscount and eighth Baron, for his second son, Nathaniel, but by 1700 it was in other hands, having been sold sometime after 1660 presumably by William, third Viscount Saye and Sele, or his son.

The next recognizable building period is the redecoration of parts of the interior, notably the Long Gallery, the Great Hall ceiling, and the little library in the fashionable Gothick style. This can be dated fairly accurately to 1768 – 69. in 1767 Thomas Twisleton of Broughton married Elizabeth Turner, and to gratify his bride embarked on this redecoration, the cost of which was no doubt borne out of the sale of Horsmans Place, and other Twisleton properties in Kent in 1768. the certain connexion of Miss Turner with Sanderson Miller, and his possible responsibility for this work will be examined below.

The castle began to decay again during the life of Gregory William, fourteenth Lord Saye and Sele. The extravagances of his son as a man of fashion and a member of the Prince Regent’s set led to the great sale of 1837, in which the castle was stripped of its contents even to the swans on the moat.

The succession in 1847 of Frederick, later to become Archdeacon of Hereford, to the title, as sixteenth Baron, saw a programme of restoration and repair from the early 1850s onwards. George Gilbert Scott Jr was responsible for much of this work, which was done with such care and sensitivity that it is difficult to discover without documentary aid. To pay for this and to clear other debts a large acreage of land in Lincolnshire was mortgaged, which had come into the family on the marriage of the Archdeacon’s uncle Gregory William, fourteenth Lord of Saye and Sele, to the daughter of Sampson Gideon, first Lord Eardley. The collapse of agricultural land values in the 1880s brought this building period to stop, and it was not until 1957 that with aid of grants from the Historic Buildings Council, and the sale of further land at Shutford, the present Lord of Saye and Sele and his Father were able to start the repairs and redecorations that were necessary to remedy the neglect of eighty years, and the alterations without which it would have been impossible for Broughton to remain in use as a house, and which are still going on.


THE EARLY HOUSE C. 1224 – 50

The late Herbert Farjeon once wrote an essay entitled ‘Was Ophelia Really Mad?’ in which he proved to his satisfaction that she was not. The evidence for this was contained in one scene which had been lost, and of which no copy remained.

In describing the first house at Broughton one is rather in the position of Herbert Farjeon: no visible evidence remains but the conviction of its existence is there. Such a house, had it existed, might have been built by Ralph de Broughton some time before 1224 – by which year he was dead – or by his son John de Broughton I, c. 1250, and its form would have been that of a large first-floor hall over an undercroft, with a small block at right angles to it, and an external staircase. The reason for this belief is that the curious planning of Broughton seems to have resulted from the incorporation of the main walls of this earlier house in the building of post . 1290. These have formed the main walls of the later chapel and great chamber, and would have given a plan similar to Little Wenham Hall – that is if one discounts the theory that Little Wenham is really the chamber block of a larger hall house. The first-floor hall, measuring 45 ft x 15 ft (13.72 x 4.57 m), is of uncomfortably elongated plan and may well have had a solar at its northern end, the right-angled wing containing either a private chamber, or a chapel as it does now. The entrance would have been at the southern end by means of a staircase ascending against the eastern wall. This would perhaps account for the bridge and gate tower on the east side of the island, of which S. and M. Buck show the ruins in their print of 1729. The reorientation of the castle under the later de Broughtons made this gatehouse of secondary importance.


The great rebuilding of Broughton by Sir John de Broughton II ( . 1315) and his son John III may have been financed by the plunder of war. Sir John was one of Edward I’s captains, and it is possible that his son married the well-dowered daughter of another. John of Seagrave ( . 1325) held the manor of Newington in1299, but by 1316 John of Broughton was said to be lord of both Broughton and Newington. Possibly he married a daughter of Seagrave, and the manor of Newington formed part of the dowry.

The additions which the two Johns made to the old manor house were on the grandest scale. They consisted of a three-bay hall built to the west of the older house, with a service at its western end. The kitchen seems to have been in a detached building on the site of the present wing. To the east of the hall the space between its upper end and the old house was filled by a block containing a chamber on the first floor, and on the ground floor, a porter’s room and an elaborately planned vaulted corridor. In the re-entrant between this new block and the old house was a turret stair, and at right angles to the old house, possibly occupying the site of an earlier wing there was an undercroft with a chapel over it. At the south-east corner of the house was a square, evidence this is a slightly later and separate build. The present gatehouse also dates partly from this period.

During the great de Broughton rebuilding between c. 1290 and 1315: Sir John II enlarged the old manor house by converting the hall and chamber into a chapel and great chamber and by adding a fore-chamber and parlour, a great hall, a service, a chamber above the service, a detached kitchen and a gatehouse. Between 1315 and 1331 his son, Sir John III, recast the plan by adding a further block of Very Private chambers, by re-planning the ground floor to ensure better circulation and greater privacy, and presumably by completing the chapel.

Just as Louis XV reacted against the excessively public life of Louis XIV, and formed his own smaller and more intimate apartments at Versailles, so possibly did John III react against his father John II. The greater elegance and smaller scale of his work should perhaps be seen as an expression of personality and of protest.

Apart from the gatehouse nothing now remains of the outerworks of this period but early eighteenth-century engravings and drawings of the house show that the present low east wing had not been built, and that its site was occupied by a ruinous mural tower and section of curtain wall; these may date from the years after 1290, but they were so re-worked in the eighteenth century that the evidence of the original date remains.

In the east wall of the chapel stair is the rere-arch of a blocked doorway: the staircase cuts across it, and its outer side is covered by the re-faced loggia. It is difficult to explain unless it at some time provided access to an external stair to the chamber block. If this dates from the alterations of John de Broughton II it makes it more likely that the chapel stair and the corridor vaults are part of his son’s remodeling of this part of the house.


There is some confusion over the exact date that Broughton came into the possession of William of Wykeham, Bishop of Winchester. Sir Thomas de Broughton, last of the male line, died before 1377, and between that year and 1392 a number of deeds were drawn up conveying the manors of Broughton and Newington to group of feoffees. These in turn conveyed the manors in 1392, subject to a third life interest on the part of Elizabeth de la Chambre (possibly Thomas de Broughton’s widow) to William of Wykeham. The fact that the manor was not conveyed until 1392 does not necessarily mean that William was not in occupation of the house before that date. His reason for acquiring Broughton must have been in order to have a base for overseeing the building of his foundation, New College; Oxford was in the diocese of Lincoln so there would have been no episcopal palace of Winchester convenient. The charter for New College is dated 1379, and the building, under the direction of William Wynford, was going on from 1380. it seems reasonable under these circumstances to assume that the Bishop was in possession of the castle from c.1377 onward.

If William of Wykeham was in possession of Broughton at this date, and if he made alterations to the house, this is of great interest for this is the only secular, or more especially domestic building (for it could be argued that both New College and Winchester College are secular buildings), which can be attributed to him.

There are three pieces of work which, either by dating, by their sequence in building, or by their stylistic evidence, fall between the de Broughton buildings of before 1377 and the Fiennes buildings of after 1457. These are the crenellated curtain wall, parts of the gatehouse, and part of the infilling between the chapel and the south-east tower. The curtain wall is simple and can presumably be dated to 1406 when Sir Thomas Wykeham received a licence to crenellate his house. The gatehouse appears to be a straightforward extension of an earlier building with a strong family resemblance to the gatehouse at New College.

The infill building is however a most extraordinary piece of work and, so far as I know, without parallel in England. The south-east tower and chapel were linked by an arcade of two bays, the arches being supported by a large rectangular pier, with chamfered angles and a moulded base. The space enclosed by this arcade and the buildings was covered by a ribbed stone vault. The arcade was two full floors in height and being open on one side the space so formed was in the nature of a loggia. Above this loggia was an open platform or belvedere , reached by a straight stone stair from the first-floor room in the south-east tower. This stair was narrowed part way up so that a flight could return, giving access to the second floor of the same tower. This arrangement, which was to disappear in the alterations of Sir William Fiennes, was discovered by Scott in his restorations in 1869, although he did not appreciate its significance until 1876, and in his own words ‘the meaning of this arrangement I cannot guess’.

Nor is its purpose any clearer today. The loggia certainly sheltered the door to the undercroft chapel, but this was hardly of sufficient importance to warrant such a swagger piece of architecture. The planning of the entrances at this end of the castle had been curious at even an earlier period, but the building of the de Broughton hall with its porch would have rendered them of little moment. If the arcade and loggia had a purpose it was to support the belvedere. A belvedere in such a position would have been very pleasant, sheltered on three sides and open to the south-east; an airy and elevated position with one drawback: its prospect was limited. The view which is now greatly curtailed by planting, can never have been very extensive for the ground rises on this side of the castle, though not to a sufficient elevation to be awful. Had it been built in the eighteenth century by a rich man of taste with a clever architect one would not be surprised, but to find a fourteenth-century bishop embarking on afolly is unusual.

If this was built for Wykeham it is reasonably certain that the designer would have been his master mason, William Wynford. In his work, both at Winchester and at New College, Wynford showed a predilection for arcades in which the height was greater in proportion to the width than usual. This liking he shared with Henry Yevele, who made use of the same relation of height to breadth in his design of the nave of Canterbury Cathedral. It may heave derived from Westminster Abbey, with its French proportions, or it may have had an older and more honourable descent, harking back to the great arches of the naves of Gloucester, Tewkesbury and Pershore, or to the false arcades of Romsey and Christchurch, Oxford.

The gatehouse has been restored twice since the fifteenth century: in 1655 repairs were made to the battlements, presumably to repair damage caused during the Civil War; and in 1855, when it was repaired at a cost of £107.5s. 2d. Most of this was for work to the roof in order to make it habitable, and Mr Fortescue recorded in a letter to Lord Saye and Sele (31 January 1856) that ‘Mr and Mrs Dyson appear to be very comfortable in the old Tower …’

Later than the gatehouse, and presumably dating from 1406 when Sir Thomas Wykeham, the bishop’s great-nephew. Obtained his licence to fortify and crenellate his house, is the length of curtain wall running from the gatehouse towards the west wing. As a defensive work, although it has both crenellations and a wall walk, it is ornamental rather than useful.


When Margaret Wykeham and her husband, Sir William Fiennes, second Lord of Saye and Sele inherited Broughton in 1457, Knole had already been sold in the previous year to the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Hever Castle had become their home. This was sold in 1462 to Sir Geoffrey Bullen and the money from this sale was in all probability used to finance Sir William’s building programme at Broughton, which coincided with the ten comparatively peaceful years from 1461 when Edward IV came to the throne. The tragically futile rising of the House of Lancasterin 1471which cost Sir William his life – he was killed at the Battle of Barnet fighting for Edward IV – ended the work at the castle.

The work undertaken by Sir William considerably enlarged the house; the hall was extended by one bay taking in the old service; a new service was built on the site of the kitchen passage, and a new and considerably larger kitchen block was formed to the west. At the east end of the house a new chamber was built over the great chamber, the stairs up to the roof of Wykeham’s loggia were blocked, and a new chamber over the loggia and between the chapel and the south-east tower was added. This was reached from the main turnpike stair, by way of the new upper chamber and the south-east tower. Above this chamber was built a small penthouse now known as the Guard Room. The result of these alterations was to create what was, in effect, a tower house which could only be entered from the two doors at the upper end of the hall, or from the door in the loggia. At the same time alterations were made to the ground floor arrangements to the east of the Hall, further confusing the already complicated planning sequence here. In the north court a range of lodgings, part of which are incorporated in the later stables, were built and it is likely that the extensive buildings of the south court, which have now largely disappeared, were erected or enlarged.

The extension of the hall to four bays involved the demolition of the west gable wall, the destruction of the service and the chamber above, and of the north porch, and presumably necessitated the provision of a new roof. Of the new fenestration only the western jamb of the westernmost window on the south sides remain; the building of the west stairs in the 1550s blocked it. The mouldings are apparently simple, the only one visible beyond the jamb being a cavetto, and the cill is so low that there could have been no question of a door at the southern end of the screens passage. As far as it is possible to judge, there was still a central hearth with a louver above: there is no evidence of a fireplace in either side of the walls.

With the removal of the west wall of the hall the hatches in the west wall of the service were reversed and what had been serving hatches into the buttery and pantry now became serving hatches from the same rooms into the hall. The doorway to the kitchen was reversed to present dressed jambs to the hall and the rebate to the passage; the fact that this was not done to the hatches as well suggests that the screen passage was paneled to hide them, and that there were shutters to the counters.

The doorways which had opened from the exterior into the chamber over the service, now opened into the new chamber into the gallery over the screens. As no attempt was made to reverse them, work being limited to giving on of them a new head, it suggests that the front of the gallery was sufficiently high and elaborate to hide the makeshift appearance that the wall presented.

Beyond the hall nothing visible remains of the new service arrangements as the space is occupied by the small eighteenth-century library. The west wing with its angle buttresses must in its outline date from the mid-fifteenth century, but here again later alterations have completely obliterated all traces of the medieval kitchen arrangements.

To the east of the hall some work was done in the undercrofts of the chamber block. A fireplace was introduced into the parlor and a doorway from the corridor was formed in the south wall of the same room; this has a four-centered head with paneled spandrels, and is presumably earlier than the other two openings in this wall which are shown in Parker (1853). At the same time there may have been some repairs or alterations made to the vaulting of the corridor. The general character of the ribs and corbels is early to mid fourteenth century, but one corbel represents the muzzled mastiff of the Fiennes, and cannot therefore be earlier than 1457. (It is shown remarkably clearly in Parker’s engraving of the corridor.)

On the first and second floors Sir William’s work was more drastic. The doorway and stairs from the Bird Room to the belvedere over Wykeham’s loggia were blocked, and a fireplace was built partly in the doorway (Scott suggests that this fireplace might be sixteenth century: it was one of the few features which he destroyed). In place of the belvedere and staircase a new bed chamber was formed with high windows and a fireplace in its east wall. The windows have a convex in-going to the jamb with moulded angles. (A simpler version of this convex in-going is to be seen in the clerestory of the nave of the parish church, which also dates from the mid fifteenth century and was presumably built at the same time and by the same masons.) This room then formed a suite with the two rooms in the upper floor of the south-east tower. The floor level of the belvedere was too high for this new room, and in lowering it, it was necessary to destroy the vault over the loggia, which was replaced by a timber ceiling. At the same time it seems that the loggia itself was filled in; the room on the first floor being entered from the chapel landing, and becoming known in later years as the Priest’s Room, or Captain of the Guard’s Room, whilst the ground floor room, later to be known as the Housekeeper’s Room was entered from the undercroft of the south-east tower and from the exterior.

The new great chamber which must have occupied the space now occupied by Queen Anne’s room, and another bedroom, has lost its original features, but the doorway opening from it onto the upper floor of the south-east tower remains. This doorway has double drawbar holes on the tower side, which indicates that access to these rooms was from the stair turret, as the blocked doorway on the stairs with the shouldered lintel shows. This stairway being heightened made it possible to reach, by way of the leads, the small guard house built above Sir William’s chamber.

This re-emergence of the tower house in the fifteenth century, as acastle within a castle to protect the lord from his retainers and friends, as much as from his enemies, marks the final stage in the breakdown of medieval society. Whilst Broughton is an unusual example, in that existing buildings were adapted to form a tower house, there are a number of excellent examples dating from the second half of the century and designed as new buildings.

The small mural stair may have been used as a means of reaching a private pew which seems to have been built over the west end of the chapel; its lower flight to the chapel landing seems to be post-medieval.

The effect of these alterations was to create what was virtually an independent tower-house to the east of the hall.

Sir William’s work in the courtyard ranges has now largely disappeared. Of the south courtyard the much-altered external wall of the west and south ranges, and part of the inner gateway survive. Everything else, including the remains of the outer gatehouse and curtain wall shown by the Bucks has disappeared. Parts of the north range of the north courtyard remain incorporated in the stable block. This range seems to have been planned with lodgings on the upper floor, as there are remains of fireplaces, and windows. The lower floor, with loops so designed that they are only useful for flanking fire on the bridge, may have been intended for storage and stabling.


When Richard Fiennes succeeded his father in 1528 he inherited a large medieval house: when he died in 1573 he left his son a house transformed into the semblance of a great Tudor renaissance mansion and a forerunner of the huge Elizabethan prodigy houses. His son was to complete the decoration in the late Elizabethan manner, but the main lines of the house and many of the details had already been laid down, and bore the unmistakable stamp of the Sharington school, and the later work derived from it which owed so much to the patronage of the Dukes of Somerset and Northumberland, and to the writings and designs of John Shute. At Broughton this work is most clearly seen in the design of the north front, in the re-planning of the hall and the west wing, in the details of the east stair, the Oak Room, the Queen Anne Room, and the chimney-pieces in the Star Chamber and the Oak Room, and in the date 1554, carved on the central chimney of the north front.

Before discussing the work in detail it is necessary to consider how it came to be started in the first place, what links there may have been between the Fiennes, a family which had retired into comparative obscurity (the barony lapsed for a hundred and thirty years after 1471), and the group cultivated but somewhat unscrupulous civil servants and adventurers surrounding the two dukes.

The links are all circumstantial, and even when taken together with the known dates only point in certain directions.

Richard, at the date of his succession, was eight years old, and came to his majority in the 1541, although under his father’s will he did not come into full possession of his estate until 1549 – 50. He would have been likely to start a large building programme whilst in his minority, and the 1554 chimney date, marking the end of the structural work, gives a convenient building period of between five and twelve years, fitting comfortably with the stylistic evidence, and the work was presumably financed by the accumulation of property which must have gone on during his minority, and those of his father and grandfather, both of whom had died comparatively young. This may be why this is the only building period in Broughton’s history which does not seem to have been financed out of the sale of land. Richard’s father and grandfather, Edward (d. 1528) and Richard (d. 1509) had been under the guardianship of Thomas Brandon, uncle of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk. This provides a possible, though very tenuous, link with circles connected with the court.

Equally slim and circumstantial are the links with Sir William Sharington. These are little more than that Richard’s maternal grandmother, Anne Stradling of Dauntsey, a Wiltshire heiress, had married Sir John Danvers of the same county. Dauntsey is ten miles from Lacock, but Lady Danvers died in 1539, the year that Sharington acquired Lacock. However there is a building connexion between Broughton and Dauntsey; the tomb of Lady Danvers at Dauntsey and that of her son-in-law, Edward Fiennes, in Broughton Church, are as closely related as their inmates and were probably commissioned from the same workshop. If this workshop was in Wiltshire it may have had connexions with Lacock. The two monuments are tomb chests with canopies and high convex-sided pillars bearing animals; Sharington’s monument at Lacock ( c. 1553) is a classical version of the same type.

Against this background the figure of Richard Fiennes remains elusive. There may have been links with his grandmother’s county which brought him into contact with Sharington and with John Thynne of Longleat, or it may have been that through his father’s and grandfather’s connexion with the Brandons he was brought into contact with the Duke of Northumberland, father-in-law of Lady Jane Grey, who was in her turn great-great-niece of Thomas Brandon. Perhaps there is a connexion through his step-father, Sir Thomas Neville (of Holt), or through a personal friendship with one or other of the group.

There is some confusion over Sir Thomas Nevill. He is usually described as ‘of Holt in Leicestershire’ and the crest on the Queen Anne Room chimney-piece is said to be that of Nevill of Holt. This particular Sir Thomas is known to have been High Sheriff of Leicester in 1539, 1552 and 1561. He died without surviving legitimate male issue in 1569, having been married twice, firstly to Clara Nevill, and secondly to Katherine Foljambe, and there is no contemporary record of his having been married a third time to Margaret Fiennes. This is curious, as a Danvers will make mention of a son, William, but not by whom. This Sir Thomas was knighted at the same time as Sir William Sharington.

There is of course a possibility that we are dealing with another Sir Thomas and that the heraldry of the chimney-piece has been misread. If this is so, and the arms are a saltire with an annulet in the centre for difference, then they are those of a Nevill of the Latimer branch. There is a Sir Thomas of this family who would fit, although he is not recorded as having married Margaret Fiennes. Nevertheless he is an interesting candidate: Sir Thomas Nevill was a younger brother of Lord Latimer; Lord Latimer married Katherine Parr, who after his death and that of Henry VIII, married Thomas Seymour of Sudeley, and brother of Protector Somerset. Both brothers employed Sir William Sharington on their building projects. Sir Thomas Nevill’s nephew, Lord Latimer, was the son of Dorothy, daughter of John Vere, Earl of Oxford, whose other daughter Ursula, had married Sir Edmund Knightley. Sir Edmund’s nephew, Sir Richard Knightley of Fawsley, had married Mary Fermor, sister of Ursula Fermor, who in 1551was married to Richard Fiennes. This same Lord Latimer married Lucy Somerset who, in 1579, was living at Dauntsey, and whose daughter Elizabeth married Sir John Danvers. This is an astonishing build-up of family connexions with links with Sharington. The intrusion of Holt may be due to confusion arising through a village of the same name in Wiltshire. There is yet a further possible link, but this time through the family of Richard Fiennes’ wife, Ursula Fermor. She was the daughter of Sir Richard Fermor, an immensely rich merchant, who is known to have visited Florence. He died in 1551, the year of his daughter’s marriage to Richard. Three of her sisters married well. Anne, the eldest, became the wife of William Lucy of Charlecote. Mary married Sir Richard Knightley of Fawsley, whose aunt was sister-in-law to Lord Latimer. After Mary’s death in 1573, Sir Richard married Elizabeth Seymour, daughter of Edward Seymour, Duke of Somerset. The third sister, Joan, who had been a maid of honour to Princess Mary, and attended her at her coronation, married Lord Mordaunt.

In this tightly-knit circle with its cross-relationships it seems more likely that Margaret Danvers Fiennes must have married, as her second husband, the Sir Thomas Nevill who is the younger brother of Lord Latimer. From his mother’s and his wife’s connexions Richard Fiennes was brought into contact with the cultivated world of the court and rich city families, and it must have been their various influences that led him to follow the newest fashions.

Whatever the connexion, the facts speak for themselves. Between 1541, when Richard Fiennes reached his majority, and 1554, the date carved on the chimney stack on the Lacock, and the year 1554 is one year after the downfall of the Duke of Northumberland and the death of Sharington. These thirteen years cover the period when this early renaissance was flowering.

The house that Richard Fiennes was to transform consisted of a great hall, 55 ft (16.76 m) long, with the kitchen and service rooms at its western end, a large service court to the south, and the private quarters of the family to the east. In the middle years of the fifteenth century the east end had been given the appearance of a tower house. The overall effect must have been of great size, some dignity and no formality whatsoever. The alterations were to increase the size, add to the dignity and create the illusion of formality and symmetry. They were also to make it a quite impossible house to live in, with almost half its space devoted to four great show rooms.

The plan adopted envisaged a household run on semi-public lines: the Hall remained central to the plan, but instead of providing a link between the service elements and private rooms, it now provided a barrier between the public and private functions of the house. To achieve this the most curious shifts were used. The entrance was removed from the west to the east end of the hall, but the service was still kept at the west end. As the kitchen appears to have been banished to the service court this posed problems. The original kitchen wing was gutted, and one huge room formed out of its two floors. Two bays were added to the hall, that at the west end lighting the dais (or rather where the dais should have been) and that at the east end forming the porch. Both bays were carried up to the new second floor.

This floor and the one above had been formed by the removal of the east and west gables of the hall, and by extending the roof from the medieval kitchen block to the great chamber. On the second floor a state bedchamber was formed in the fifteenth-century great chamber, and a new great parlour was built over the old kitchen wing at the west end. This room was a large as the one below, filling the third and fourth floors of this wings. These two rooms were linked by a long gallery 112 ft (34.14 m) long, and the floor was reached by two-scale-and-plat staircases in towers added to the south side of the hall. Above the gallery and state bedchamber was a further floor of bed-chambers, and garrets.

This recasting of the house shows interesting parallels with the rebuilding at Dudley Castle for the Duke of Northumberland in 1550 – 53, which suggest that the same hand may have been at work in both buildings. If this is so it is possible that Broughton is the earlier of the two, although the difference in date would not be more than two or three years.

Both houses are developments from an older medieval house, with a large hall, but because in the case of Broughton the site is open and there is no constricting curtain wall (as there is at Dudley), the planning us much more easily handled and the apparently symmetrical composition of the elevation is more effective.

From the hall, it is possible to approach the state rooms from an east stair case and a west stair case. Today both stairs are separated from the long gallery by ante-rooms, and presumably some such arrangement has always obtained, but the form of the gallery itself has been altered. Opening off it is a room, now known as the Star Chamber. This room has a ceiling and frieze which appear to be sixteenth-century; but at some time in the eighteenth century this room was altered, when a small chamber was formed out of its west end. The ceiling fits the curtailed room, and the new partition cuts into a three-light sixteenth-century window; the Star Chamber also contains a staggering chimney-piece ofc. 1550. This chimney piece is wildly out of scale for the Star Chamber, even with the eighteenth-century partition removed, and of an elaboration which demands an important room as its setting. On the other hand the long gallery which faces north has no fireplace. The explanation seems to be that the partition between the long gallery and Star Chamber is also an insertion, probably linked to the seventeenth-century repairs. This would explain the importance of the chimney-piece, and apparently unheated gallery.

At the west end of the gallery is the great parlour, now known as the white Room. This room can be entered from the ante-room at the head of the west staircase, and is of the same size as the dining parlour, which lies below it. The gallery itself is lit on its north side by five windows, the three central ones being in the bays, and at its east end a flight of steps leads up to the state bedroom, known as Queen Anne’s Room to commemorate a visit by the consort of James I and VI. This room, which in its chimney-piece and window has the most easily identifiable Sharington detail, lies over the old medieval great chamber. It is linked to the medieval house both by a window into the chapel and by the turnpike stair, which has been heightened to give access to the new upper floors, with an entrance formed in the thickness of the wall between the state room and the gallery.

This suggests that this room was designed with a dual purpose in view.

Most of the usable rooms of the house were still in the largely medieval east wing and the state bedroom was so placed that it could be used in direct relationship with the family accommodation when it was not in use as one of the state apartments.

At its southern end was a smaller room, also linked with the medieval house, and probably designed to be used as a wardrobe, with a projecting garderobe off it. This garderobe is supported, in the same way as the gallery bay, on a pedestalled buttress.

The provision of the two large staircases serving this suite of rooms and largely irrelevant to the rest of the house, suggests a definite sequence of use, and a household of great formality and state.

Indeed the plan suggests that it was intended for quasi-court use: access from the hall, by way of the east staircase with its handsome doorways at foot and head, designed to be seen on the ascent, to the long gallery and state bed-chamber; the long processional path from the bedchamber to the great parlour along the gallery; the splendour of the great parlour and the dignified descent of the west staircase to the dining parlour; and thence to the hall again.

The pieces fall into place with uncanny precision; only one piece is missing, the key to the whole puzzle, and that is the character and ambitions of Richard Fiennes himself.


For some years now the influence of Sharington at Broughton has been recognized, although its extent has not been fully realized. P. S. Spokes (1968) has drawn attention to the early date of the chimney-piece in Queen Anne’s Room; and although there is a distinct possibility that his interpretation of the heraldry is open to question, and the certainty that some of his facts of family history are incorrect, there is no question but that the chimney-piece dates from the years before Richard Fiennes’ marriage to Ursula Fermor. This must have taken place by 1551, as in his will dated 1 July 1551, Richard Fermor speaks of ‘my daughter Fynes’. A date earlier than this may account for the undoubted crudeness of the work; some of the blocking suggests that the carving is incomplete and the frieze is made up from two dissimilar sections of detail. In some ways the work has more in common with the Cardinal Pole’s chantry at Winchester than with any of Sharington’s work; there is more suggestion of Gothic in the decoration than one would expect from the Lacock school. The Fermors were Roman Catholics with court connexions, and the Fiennes links with Winchester have always been strong.

The window detail with the cill supported on consoles is a detail normally associated with Sharington, and can be seen at Lacock and Dudley Castle, and was one of the distinctive features of the front at the Old Somerset House.

In the north window of Queen Anne’s Room not only is this detail used but it goes with an unusual detail to the moulding of the window reveals, and to the deep central mullion. As I have shown elsewhere the window mouldings at Broughton are remarkably consistent: this window departs from the standard. So does the much larger north window of the dining parlor.

As far as can be seen the details of this window, internally and externally, match those of the window of Queen Anne’s Room, although on a larger scale. Unfortunately later paneling obscures the cill and inner angles of the reveals. However it is clear that behind the paneling ther is a deeply overhung cill with some form of bracketed support, and on the visible evidence it is reasonable to assume that this window follows the same pattern, and is from the same hands as the smaller one.

Martin Biddle (1970) has made clear the provenance of the upper part of the chimney piece in the Star Chamber, and I do not propose to enlarge this other than to suggest that this may not originally have been made for Broughton, or for the chimney-piece which it surmounts.

Both the chimney-piece, and that in the dining parlour are of exceptional quality and are clearly the work of a designer well acquainted with the correct renaissance models of pattern books. That in the dining parlour is the more elaborately carved of the two with delicate swags in the frieze, and a decorated cornice and capitals. Between the pilasters are consoles supporting vases and flowers. The order seems to be based on the Roman Doric. This chimney-piece is worked in one of the fine, grained Bath stones, and is not likely to have been made locally.

The chimney-piece in the Star Chamber follows the same pattern, but here the order is Tuscan and instead of the carved swags and vases there are uncarved blocks. The overmantel is of stucco, but the chimney-piece appears to be of stone under a coating of stucco.

When Sir John Thynne applied to Sir William Sharington in 1553 for the use of his carver, Chapman, Sharington excused himself from obliging Sir John as Chapman was about to set out for Dudley Castle, where he was to install a chimney-piece upon which he had been working, and his tools had gone ahead on the wagons with it. It is doubtful if that chimney-piece was ever installed: 1553 saw the death of Sharington and the execution of Northumberland. Presumably the work, having been done at Lacock, was in one of the Bath stones: there are no remains of such a chimney-piece at Dudley. Possibly it was never taken off the wagons but came back together with another one by way of Coventry, Warwick and Banbury to be set up at Broughton by the time that Richard Fiennes had the date, 1554, carved on the false chimney.

It is interesting but probably only coincidental that both Sir John Thynne and the Duke of Northumberland held property close to Broughton. The prebendal estate of Cropredy had been bought by Thynne in 1548, who sold it two years later. In 1551 it was surrendered by Somerset’s son to the Duke of Northumberland, who at the same time acquired the manors of Bourton and Swalecliffe. These properties had been prised away from the diocese of Lincoln. Northumberland also held Banbury Castle.


Although the date 1554 which is carved on the central chimney of the east front marks the end of the rebuilding of Broughton it does not mean that there was not a great deal of work to be done on the house. The structure was complete, and the great chimney-pieces, may, if not in position, at least have been on the site, but apart from the medieval rooms, and the state bedroom, much of the house must still have been a great empty carcass.

By 1551 Richard Fiennes had married Ursula Fermor daughter of Sir Richard Fermor of Easton Neston, an immensely rich city merchant, who had died in 1551, and it is unlikely that his daughter inherited more than a small portion of her father’s wealth. Had she done so Broughton might have been finished, but there is no suggestion that work continued. Richard Fiennes had spent accumulated revenues of his minority, and in the years of inflation that marked the late fifties and sixties there may not have been money left to spend on a continuing building programme. Richard died in 1573 and was succeeded by his son, Richard, for whom in 1603 the barony was revived.

At the time of his succession Richard was sixteen, so for a time there would have been no further building. However it is significant that in 1584, when Richard was twenty-five, the manor of Quidhampton was sold. This was followed in 1590 by the sale of manors of Deane and Ashe, and in 1596 by the sale of Earlstone. All these Hampshire manors were part of the Wykeham inheritance, as were the manors of Burnham and Brean in Somerset, which were sold at about the same time. As the date 1599 appears on the ceiling of the great chamber, it is logical to infer that at least part of the monies from these sales went to meet the cost of completing it. In spite of these sales Richard was in debt to the amount of £2,577 when he died. This would be the equivalent of at least £65,000 today.

The work that can be safely attributed to the seventh Lord Saye and Sele, apart from the ceiling in the great parlour, must include the chimney-piece in the same room, the original ceiling of the hall, the ceiling and paneling in the dining parlour (these two may date from the early years of the following century), the internal porch now in the same room, and the bay window on the west front.

There is of course no doubt about the ceiling in the great parlour, which carries the date 1599 and the initials of Richard and of his second wife, Elizabeth Pawlett. This ceiling is a rich design of moulded ribs and bosses, with pendants and suspended panels. Three panels are rectangular, with the centre on set lozenge-wise, decorated with coat of arms; the remaining panels are circular and are decorated with the heads of Paris and Helen, and Alexander Magnus. The spandrel panels around the pendants are decorated with arabesques and birds. The ceilings of the bay and the two flanking window recesses are treated in a similar style to the main ceiling. A moulded plaster frieze runs round the room, and is richly, if somewhat repetitively decorated with kilted cherubs, pedestals, urns and birds.

The chimney-piece, which is nearly 12 ft (3.66 m) across and 6 ft 6 in (1.98 m) high, has paired attached columns at either end, of a quasi-Roman Doric order, with acanthus bases, drops to the abaci, and a cornice which has a very brief acquaintance with rather too many pattern books. The great interest however of the chimney lies in the decoration of the frieze over the fireplace opening. It has a very richly carved vine scroll and is identical to the carving on the frieze of the internal porch, now in the room below. This suggests that the porch is all that remains of the paneling that Richard Fiennes originally installed in the great parlour. It is extremely unlikely that a joiner would have copied an elaborate stone detail from another room, and much more reasonable to suppose that both the chimney-piece, the porch, and the missing paneling were worked by the mason and joiner to an overall design. In support of the theory that the porch has been moved are the facts that the design of the porch in no way matches the paneling of the dining parlour, and that the paneling in the area of the porch has been considerably altered. This porch had been moved to the dining parlour by the time that Nash illustrated this room, and this may have happened in 1660, the date that the eighth Lord Saye and Sele is supposed to have set up the cartouche over the porch, with the carved words Quod olim fuit meminisse minime iuvat . This may be the transferred tradition: the cartouche, with its surmounting and flanking obelisks, is a part of the design of the porch, and the most probable explanation is that the porch was moved to its present position at this time.

There is an old reference to this porch dating from 1637:

On an ancient aras carpet in ye Lord Say’s great parlour at Broughton, ye 12 th of Decemb. 1637 this Scutchion [i.e. shield quartering Fiennes, Saye, Wykeham, Fiennes] was to be seene in 3 severall places viz. in the middle thereof and toward either ends. And over ye portal in ye same parlor, ye Founder’s armes quartered with other coats was then to be seene fayerly cutt in wood. And in ye foreside of ye house neere unto ye entrance into ye hale, ever a window toward ye topp of ye house, the Founder’s armes quartered with divers other coats were then to be seene fayerly cutt in stone.

This suggests that there was some form of carpet which mirrored the design of the ceiling. The description is clear that the porch was in the great parlour, which at that time would not have been unlikely to have had a carpeted floor covering. Had it been a table carpet this would surely have been mentioned: the writer was obviously most concerned with heraldry on an architectural scale.

The original ceiling of the hall has been destroyed, probably in the seventeenth century, and replaced in the eighteenth century by one in the Gothick taste. Luckily a small part of it survives over the bay. This shows it to have had similar ribs and arabesque to those in the great parlour and presumably the main ceiling would also have been decorated with pendants, bosses and panels.

The ceiling and paneling in the dining parlour are much more seventeenth-century in feeling than the porch, or the ceiling in the room above. In words of Osbert Lancaster, ‘the proportions are still almost invariably wrong, but they are not quite so wrong as they had been formerly’. There is a deeply projecting modillion cornice, and a triglyph frieze, the triglyphs being set under alternate modillions. Below this the paneling is arranged in four tiers, each tier having a rectangular panel within a four-panel design. The vertical divisions are marked by fluted and bandied Ionic pilasters standing on pedestals, whose relationship with the entablature is not defined.

The ceiling is divided into a number of geometrical panels by broad, shallow, interwoven ribs, decorated in low relief, similar in character to some of the work at Knole, and to the great ceiling at Canonbury, which also dates from 1599.

In the course of decorating the two rooms in the west wing a number of alterations seems to have been made. Windows in the north, south and east walls were blocked, as were the two doors, now only visible externally in the west wall. Both doors led out of the north-west corners of each of the rooms, but what their purpose was is not clear.

They may have led into latrines, there having been a tower at this corner, or they may have served a stair tower, but there is no evidence either way.


It has always been considered more than usually difficult to use the mouldings at Broughton as dating evidence. In certain parts of the medieval building where the mouldings are paralleled in the neighbouring church, or when the mouldings are purely Gothic it is possible to hazard a date, and similarly where the mouldings are impurely Gothic they can be dated by other corroborative evidence. The mouldings of the north windows of the Queen Anne and Oak Rooms with their Sharington details, and some of the sixteenth-century doors and chimney-pieces are sufficiently distinctive to be datable. Elsewhere the picture is even clearer. H. Avray Tipping (1930) pointed out that there is a mixture of cavetto, plain chamfer and ovolo in the mullions but he considered it to be mixed, as if there was no reason in its arrangement. This is not true: thirty-seven windows have the cavetto internally, and the cavetto and straight chamfer externally. All these are in the Tudor building and presumably of the 1550 period, occurring as they do on the gallery and gable windows. The central oriel of the gallery has the ovolo internally, but externally it has Sharington details so this too can be put to c. 1550. The exceptions to this general rule are the windows in the hall, and the bay on the west elevation. In both the proch and the bay of the hall the ovolo is used externally and internally on the south side, and straight chamfers internally and ovolos externally on the north side; this links them with the porch and bay. The remaining windows, those in the bay of the west wing, are the only ones which do not conform to the general pattern, having cavettos and straight chamfers externally, but ovolos internally. As this bay is obviously an insertion between the earlier buttresses, and is flanked by windows with the standard pattern of mullion, it is safe to date it to the work of Richard Fiennes in 1590.

Where mouldings are unsafe as dating evidence at Broughton is in the plinth and string courses. Here there was a deliberate use of early forms and of piecing in to match. This is particularly well shown on the west wing where the string courses are carried across blocked doorways, and where the plinth of the inserted bay has been cut to match the existing plinth on the buttresses.


When Celia Fiennes recorded in her journal, ‘ Broughton is an ancient Seate of the Lord Viscount Saye and Seale; it is an old house moted round and a park and gardens, but are much left to decay and ruine, when my brother came to it, he had two other houses in two or three miles’ it is not entirely clear whether she means that the house was ‘much left to decay and ruine’ or that only the park and gardens were in this sorry state. Nor is it clear if this condition pertained on her brother’s succession, or if her reference to him is concerned with already having two other houses in the neighborhood.

The evidence suggests that there were repairs and alterations, and that there was a considerable contraction of the house during this century. These may have been caused by the damaging sustained during the Civil War, or by straitened circumstances that made it difficult to keep up the enormous house inherited from the sixteenth century.

Just how much the house suffered when the garrison held out against Royalist forces for a day and a half (26 October 1642) is not clear. Tradition says that wool packs were hung out on the walls to receive the enemies’ shot and an indignant Parliamentarian protests, ‘It is certain that Prince Rupert hath plundered the Lord Say his house … But what startles us most is a warrant under his Majesties own hands for the plundering of the Lord Say his house, and demolishing of it, and invites people to doe it, with a grant unto them of all the materials of the house’ (Beesley 1842, 328 – 29).

The destruction of the buildings round the service court, and of the second gatehouse and bridge may have resulted nda by the time of the Buck engraving of the castle in 1729 there were only fragmentary remains of these ranges; certainly the main gatehouse suffered, for it was repaired, as the date cut on it shows, in 1655.

It also became necessary to repair the hall. The width was reduced by building a wall three feet thick against the inner face of the north wall. Obviously the span, originally covered by a trussed roof, was too great for the beams introduced in the previous century to carry the upper floors. This failure may have been accelerated by damage from Prince Rupert’s guns. The windows on the south side of the hall are clumsy in their detail, as is the hall fireplace, and this side of the house together with the service court possibly bore the brunt of the Royalist attack.

A family tradition attributes the cartouche on the porch in the Oak Room to Old Subtlety (the first viscount), placed there in 1660. The motto Quod olim fuit meminisse minime iuvat . (there is no pleasure in the memory of the past) is supposed to represent his willingness to forget the differences of the interregnum. The tradition is a confused reference to the removal of the porch from its original place in the great parlour to its present position.


In 1767, Thomas Twistleton, thirteenth Baron Saye and Sele married Elizabeth Turner, daughter of Sir Edward Turner of Ambroseden, and his wife, Cassandra Leigh of Adlestrop. In the following year, 1768, Lord Saye and Sele sold Horsmans Place and other lands in Kent (his father had inherited these Twistleton estates in 1757), and this sale appears to have provided the money for a considerable amount of work which was carried out at Broughton over the next few years.

This work consisted largely of redecorating much of the interior in the newly fashionable Gothick style: the hall was given a new ceiling, a small library was formed between the hall and the dining parlour; the long gallery was refurbished, the first-floor rooms between the hall and the chapel were redecorated, and a number of windows renewed. At the same time, it is likely that the remains of the service court to the south of the house, the ruins of which are shown in the Bucks’ engraving of 1729 were removed, and the present low east wing built. The reason for the choice of this style was most suitable to a house such as Broughton in the view of its owner, although nothing of what is known of the thirteenth Baron, who, according to Fanny Burney, was ‘a square man, middle aged and humdrum,’ points to this; and secondly that the style was both fashionable and slightly flashy, a fact which may have appealed to Lady Saye and Sele , who was considered something of a bore by many of her contemporaries. Fanny Burney met her at a rout in 1782: ‘She seems pretty near fifty – at least turned forty; her head was full of feathers, flowers, jewels and gee gaws, and as high as Lady Archer’s; her dress was trimmed with beads, silver, Persian sashes, and all sort of fine fancies; her face is thin and fiery, and her whole manner spoke a lady all alive (Dobson 1904, 61-65). Miss Burney took the first opportunity to ‘make away this terrible set.’ Twenty-four years later Mrs Austen was to write of her cousin ‘Poor Lady Saye and Sele to be sure is rather tormenting, although sometimes amusing, and affords Jane many a good laugh, but she fatigues me sadly on the whole’ (Jenkins 1948, 125). The third factor may have been the presence of an architect conveniently to hand. This last admittedly is based on stylistic and circumstantial evidence, but the evidence is strong.

Sanderson Miller of Radway (1716 – 80) was, through his wife Susannah Trotman, the great-great-grand-daughter of Old Subtlety, distantly connected with Lord Saye and Sele. That Miller valued this connexion is shown by the fact thathis eldest surviving son, born in 1760, was christened Fiennes. This alone would not be a strong enough reason for assuming that Miller might have worked on Broughton; more important is the fact that he regarded Thomas Twisleton as a friend, and that he had already worked at Ambroseden, the home of Sir Edward Turner, the father of Lady Saye and Sele, and at Adlestrop, which was the home of Lady Turner’s family, the Leighs. Elizabeth Turner would have known Miller as a friend of her father, before she knew him as the cousin of her husband, and being used to his work on her own home, and in her mother’s old home at Adlestrop, it would have been natural that when she and her husband needed advice on improvements at Broughton they should have turned to Miller, whose house was only seven miles away at Radway. At this time, Miller was living at home, as in a letter written to Lord Dacre on 22 February 1768 he expressed the wish that he was ‘not so much confined to the country. But it is much best for my large family that I should stay at home as much as possible’, and he could have conveniently designed and supervised the work that was going on. In the same letter the following passage occurs: ‘The moat at Broughton is now quite cleared of the mud, which has been collecting there many Centuries; it was a great work indeed, and nothing was found but some old Armour, a very Ancient Sword and a great many Bullets – but there is mud enough to enrich many Acres of Land — . It is a great pleasure to me to see the Colonel for whom I have a sincere friendship, and my Dear Friend’s Daughter so happy. All her Friends are quite pleased, and I am sure he will be a great favourite with Lady Turner.’

From the manner of reference to the moat it is clear that this is not the first that the Lord Dacre has heard of it, and it implies that Miller was involved in the work (at least on the moat) that was going on at Broughton in 1768, two months after the Twisleton – Turner marriage. It was most unlikely that Miller would only have been interested in the cleaning of the moat, and that he was not responsible for the otherwork done at the same time, and in his own manner.

The flat ceiling of the hall, the design of which is based on that in Queen Anne’s Room, is divided into eight square bays with diagonal ribs. At the intersection of the main ribs are large octofoils with pendants, and at the intersection of the diagonal ribs are quatrefoil panels. The cusps of the octofoils and the quatrefoils are decorated with a strawberry motif, there is a single rose in the centre of each quatrefoil, single rose sprays decorate the panels of the pendants, and the knobs or drops of the pendants are a cross between a strawberry and an artichoke. There is little depth in the modeling of the ribs of the decoration, and the ceiling must have relied on contrasting tones for its effect. This has been restored in the recent redecoration to the great improvements of its appearance. The ceiling is bounded by a cornice which has nothing Gothick about it and which sits unhappily above the stone walls from which the plaster was stripped in the nineteenth century.

Immediately beyond the hall, in the fifteenth-century service area a small library was formed, with another room above it. This library is the most complete and finished of the eighteenth-century interiors, with chair rail, paneling, recessed book cases, chimney-piece and cornice, decorated with trefoiled semi-dentils, all in the full Gothick taste. The book cases have sharply angled four-centred heads, and the cornice detail repeats on the chimney-piece. The doors are square-headed, but paneled to give the effect of a four-centred head with tri-lobed spandrels. The doors are further divided into four lights with seven-foiled heads, surmounted by three quatrefoils. Two transoms divided the door into typically eighteenth-century proportions. This door is standard in pattern in this part of the house, only varying in size and minor details elsewhere, and is fairly close relation of the chapel window at Wroxton Abbey.

In the treatment of the long gallery the decoration was controlled by the irregular spacing of the openings on the north side. This would have made it extremely difficult to produce wall and ceiling treatments which could be combined. The dimensions of the gallery, 112 ft by 12 ft (34.14 m by 3.66 m) are such that a flat decorated ceiling and plain walls would have produced the effect of a tunnel. Wisely, Miller chose to treat the walls and leave the ceiling plain.

The gallery is divided into seven unequal bays by slender trefoiled pilasters with simply-moulded caps and bases. The covered cornice, which breaks forward above the pilasters, is decorated with a corona band, and tudor roses in the cover. Three rococo swirls have been added lately to the ceiling, and are not part of the original design. The doors are of standard Wroxton window pattern, with simply moulded architraves and entablatured heads. Opening off the south-eastern end of the gallery is a bedroom with a related cornice; although it lacks a frieze it has the same deep cove decorated with roses. The ceiling is a very shallow barrel, and the chimney-piece is a simple design without a touch of Gothick about it.

A ceiling, similar in shape, although on a much larger scale and elaborately decorated occurs in the hall at Lacock Abbey. John Ivory Talbot, writing to Sanderson Miller, on 14 October 1754, says ‘I should likewise be obliged to you for your Arms and the Blazonry of them, as I am determined they shall decorate one End of my Trunk Ceiling’. At Lacock, Miller also makes use of the rose motif to decorate the plain band in the chair rail in the hall.

The decoration of the Star Chamber must also have been carried out – apart from the chimney-piece and overmantel – at this period. A large hob grate was inserted into the original fireplace opening, which has been reduced in size, and the hobs have decorated ogee-headed panels, two to each hob. The ogees are flanked and surmounted by small pinnacles, and th e panels are divided by ogivial transoms. The ceiling is more sixteenth-/ seventeenth-century in feeling than that in the hall but there is still an indefinable quality about it which makes it suspect. It is divided into rectangular and hexagonal panels by shallow ribs, the intersection of the ribs being marked by roses and leaves. In any case the present Star Chamber has been formed out of a larger room, the west end of which was partitioned off to form a small ante-room, spoiling the symmetry of the room , as the partition runs into the window, so that one light of the western window can be made to serve the ante-room. This is clearly a post sixteenth-century alteration, and it is to this alteration that the ceiling and frieze belong. The remains of the original earlier eighteenth-century cornice can be seen where it returns against the architrave of the divided window.

The remaining rooms which were decorated at this time, the little drawing room, the library, and bedroom an d dressing room – all on the first floor of the medieval chamber block – were treated very lightly; they were given the Gothick doors and shutters, smaller in scale than those in the gallery, and slightly decorated cornice friezes; the window openings were renewed or repaired, any fragments of tracery that remained being removed, and in the bedroom a new chimney-piece of a very countrified pattern, lugged and decorated with egg and dart and a ribbon frieze, was fitted. The slabs surrounding the fireplace opening are of Derbyshire fossil spar, as are those in the chimney-piece of the bedroom off the gallery.

Externally, Miller renewed the windows to the drawing room, the dining room both libraries, and the bedroom over the dining room, repairing the stonework and providing real sashes. The Bucks sow that in 1729 the dining room windows were square headed. Miller may also have altered the north window of the chapel. Although it is shown in its present form by both the Bucks and Lambert, Scott speaks of replacing a sash window in the chapel.

Neither the Bucks’ nor several other early eighteenth-century engravings show the low east win gin its present form. There appears to be no building against the blocked arcade of the loggia, and the south-east corner of the wing seems to be the remains of a mural tower detached from the main building. The detailing externally is seventeenth-century north Oxfordshire vernacular, but this must be a conscious anachronism, for most of the internal detailing is clearly eighteenth-century. If this is Miller’s work it shows his undoubted ability to work in the traditional manner. Unfortunately the wing was altered in the last century, and again this, and its original plan has to a great extent been lost.


After the death of Thomas thirteenth Lord Saye and Sele in 1788, Broughton ceased to be the family home.

George Eardley-Twisleton-Fiennes had married Maria Gideon, daughter of the first Lord Eardley, and during his long life (he did not die until 1844) he preferred to live elsewhere, often at Belvedere near Erith, a property his wife had inherited, and Broughton was neglected for sixty years. From 1810 until 1837 and from 1842 to 1848 it was let to various tenants, and in 1819 it was noted that the rooms were daily dilapidating from misuse.

Shelton recorded that in 1820 the great coat of arms had fallen from the east front and lay broken on the ground, and that the house was covered in ‘exuberant ivy, in broad and impervious masses.’

In 1830 a quantity of stained and painted glass was removed to Belvedere, and in 1837 the house was stripped in a sale which lasted for eight days, starting with the Titians and Rembrandts and finishing with the swans on the moat.

It was to this plundered and decaying house that the Rev. Frederick Benjamin Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, sixteenth Baron Saye and Sele, Rector of Broadwell and Adlestrop, and later Archdeacon of Hereford, succeeded in 1847.

He appears as a slightly eccentric cleric, a suspicion confirmed by his letters, and by Kilvert’s diary:

The Bishop preached in the morning, Archdeacon Lord Saye and Sele in the afternoon. It was difficult to say which was the worse sermon. The former was screed, the latter a rigmarole, but the rigmarole was more appropriate and more to the purpose than the screed … Many people laugh at the old Baron’s sermons, but the cottagers like them for he is plain and homely and speaks of names and places they know. When Moccas Church was restored (by G. G. Scott) and reopened Lord Saye and Sele preached in the afternoon and told the people that Moccas was so called from ‘the badgers which came down to the river to eat the fish’. It is supposed he meant otters, and that he had in some strange confused way mixed up together otters, badgers, and pigs, for Moccas is so called from the swine (Welsh Moch) which used to feed on the acorns in the great oak forest.

When he started the work of restoration is not certain, but it was certainly in hand in the late 1840s, as in April 1849 Lord Saye and Sele, writing to Mr Wyatt (the vicar of Broughton) contemplates work on the north and east fronts, and indicates that work is already being carried out on the west end.

In an earlier letter he has suggested that ‘hereafter a brew-house, bake-house, and wash-house may be added in continuation on the west side’. This is an intention, never realized, to rebuild at least part of the service court.

In the light of the later work one sentence is very revealing: “My purpose is not to innovate in any way but to preserve what there is in its entirety.”

A latter letter dates from 31 January 1856 when work had just been completed on the gatehouse tower under the supervision of Mr Fortescue of Banbury, the agent. Mr Fortescue remained in charge of the work until 1863 when on 23 May he reported on the successful conclusion of the repairs to the south-east tower.

From 9 November 1868 until 21 August 1879 there is a number of letters between George Gilbert Scott Jr, who was in charge of the work, and Lord Saye and Sele. The letters had suggested that the work had started before the first letter in 1868, possibly in 1866 and it may have been begun by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Lord Saye and Sele, as Archdeacon of Hereford, would have come into contact with Sir George Gilbert Scott through the latter’s work at Hereford Cathedral.

The work was much more extensive than the items mentioned in the various letters, but because of the weathering qualities of the stone with which Broughton was originally built, and which was also used in the restorations, it is extremely difficult to tell the old work from the new, and this task is made no easier by the great care that seems to have been taken.

No new details, or at least no details for which there were no precedents, were introduced.

Indeed nothing could be more conservative than Scott’s approach to the restoration judging by his letters; and unlike his father, to whom a conservative restoration was too often synonymous with an extensive and speculative rebuilding, the son’s theories were matched by his practice.

The cost of this restoration was met by raising money on the mortgage, with catastrophic results, for the fall in land values had reduced the value of the Eardley estates in Lincolnshire from £200,000 in the 1860s to £100,000 in the 1880s.

Even before the Archdeacon’s death in 1887 it had become necessary to let Broughton and from 1885 until 1912, when the family returned, the house was in the hands of the tenants.

In his letter of 23 May 1863 Mr Fortescue is discussing both the work that had been carried out, and that which was still necessary, on the south-east tower.

He refers to the underpinning and repairs to the basement, that is the ground floor. This would probably account for the lack of features internally. Obviously the condition of the tower was causing concern as earlier alterations had undermined the structure.

This was confirmed by Fortescue when he had the walls of the dressing room stripped, and it was found that the north wall had been entirely demolished, and as he observed ‘it is really wonderful that no part of it has fallen’.

It is even more wonderful when it is realized that the whole of the east wall of the main tower had also been removed at first-floor level, and seriously weakened on the ground floor.

This dressing room, which has since been made into a bathroom, was designed to serve a large bedroom in the eighteenth-century east wing, and Fortescue raises the question of re-using the paper which has been removed from the walls.

To strengthen the tower the missing east wall of the dressing room was rebuilt in nine-inch brickwork. For the same reason one of the two doors in the north wall of the tower above the dressing room was blocked, leaving the original one in use. Scott later had to re-do much of this work: nine-inch brickwork was not enough.

When George Gilbert Scott wrote his first surviving letter to Lord Saye and Sele on 9 November 1868 it is clear that a considerable amount had already been done, for apart from the doors of the Queen Anne Room the letter deals entirely with the restoration of the chapel.

It had been felt necessary that tie rods should be inserted, and these were then in hand. Presumably these are the three which lie between the floor of the chapel and the crown of the undercroft vault, tying the north and south walls together.

The roof was also in need of an overhaul, and Scott thought that little of the wood could be saved. The new roof, judging by Parker’s illustration, is a sympathetic copy of the old.

New doors were to be provided, and Scott proposed to restore the piscine and provide a new window. By this he must have meant to restore either the east or north window. All this was to cost £200.

The next surviving letter, 29 August 1868, was accompanied by drawings for the proposed shutters between Queen Anne’s Room and the chapel.

Scott again mentions the tie rods, about which he has instructed Barrett the builder. He speaks again of the new window which is to replace the existing sash window. This suggests that at some time in the eighteenth century a sash was inserted in the north window of the chapel and that the tracery was now being restored. There are Gothic sashes in the north gable of the wing adjoining the chapel, and this window may have been similarly treated.

He again speaks of restoring the piscina and repairing the roof, and is concerned about the treatment of the walls, which he considers should be re-plastered as this was the original treatment, but he feels that the stone although rough has an attractive colour.

In a postscript he suggests that if the walls are left bare there should be some hangings as on the lower parts. Scott’s sense was losing to his sensibility.

This was ironic, as although the chapel had at one time been plastered the evidence suggests that this was not he original treatment but dated from the seventeenth century when the piscine was destroyed and the lower walls wainscoted. There is also a hint in this letter that accounts were not being settled as quickly as they might be.

On 19 July 1869 Scott wrote giving an account of what had not been found in the course of opening one of the tombs in the church (he was now engaged on restoration here), and advising Lady Saye and Sele on the choice of a carpet for Queen Anne’s Room – a second-hand Turkey carpet would be less expensive and handsomer. In a postscript he adds that the ceiling between the housekeeper’s room and the guard room has been removed revealing the medieval portico, although at the time Scott did not realize its significance.

On 25 September he passed a bill of Helbronner’s for £27.2s.od. This is for hangings of ‘worsted and silk damask, with strips of blue serge trimmed with lace, lined throughout with blue linen complete.’ These were presumably the hangings referred to in his earlier letter of 29 August.

By 1870 work on the chapel was finished as on 19 October of that year in a letter from St Peter’s College, Cambridge, Scott acknowledges a payment pf £25 as his fee for the restoration.

The next letter of Scott’s is not until 4 April 1876, and in answer to two letters, on e dated 9 March from the Archdeacon, and the second dated 13 March from Lady Saye and Sele. Her Ladyship’s letter is direct, sensible and concerned with the problem of rats.

The Archdeacon’s however is like his sermon at Moccas, a rigmarole, with a splendid use of capital letters and a determination, like that of Humpty Dumpty, to show the words who was Master. Either work had stopped altogether for six years, or else other parts of the castle had been under restoration (the latter seems most likely) for the housekeeper’s room was still in an unfinished state.

Scott was now working again on the east end of the house. He was anxious about the restoration of the chapel undercroft; its continued use as a larder would prevent the restoration of the eastern window. (This has still not been possible; the undercroft is now the kitchen, and the eastern window is the doorway to the breakfast room.)

The housekeeper’s room was stripped, showing that its walls head once been external, and that the doorway between it and the undercroft was original.

Scott wished to expose the stonework of the walls, and hang a simple oak door in the opening. The Bird Room (this was the room between the little drawing room and principal family bedroom, and which is now a hall room) was stripped, revealing the blocked staircase above the chapel stairs and an early fireplace.

Scott suggested that the window in this room should be restored to match the one in the room above, on the assumption that it must once have been similar to it. But to this suggestion Lord Saye and Sele objected.

The letter ends on a note of sorrow. His brother (John Oldrid Scott) had been called in to continue the restoration of the chancel of Broughton Church: ‘I took some pains with the Sedillia and am sorry that the roof and East window have not been entrusted to me,’ a feeling that anyone who has compared the sedillia with the East window must share.

The letter of 17 April, in which the Archdeacon expressed his wish that the drawing room window should be left open, is rich in capitals and underlinings, and starts with this superb sentence:

I sat myself down at 6 o’clock this evening and concocted and indicted a Testimonial in your favour for what you had done or rather achieved at the Castellated Mansion of Broughton deferential to themselves.

Scott had obviously asked his patron to exert his interest in the matter of a little job, and in Scott’s letter of 18 April it appears that this was the commission to design the new Divinity Schools at Cambridge. This must refer to the Selwyn Divinity School, which was built in 1878 – 79 to the design of Basil Champneys. On 26 April a short letter, which again alludes to Lord Saye and Sele’s influence on Scott’s behalf elsewhere (probably in the matter of the Divinity Schools) was accompanied by a set of notes on the problems produced by the discoveries mentioned in the earlier letter, and making a number of points on which Scott sought his client’s views.

In the crypt he suggests that the north window should be restored, the design being based on the remains of the east window (this was not done) and that one of the vaulting ribs should be repaired. He is reluctant to cover the stonework exposed in the housekeeper’s room and advises a five-foot wainscot to make it more comfortable.

The significance of the original arrangement with its high portico here does not escape him, although ‘The meaning of this arrangement I cannot guess.’ He also advises that ‘a single oak door’ be fitted in the doorway to the crypt, and advocates the use of cement grout: not for the obvious reason of strengthening the structure (although it would have had this effect), but in order to stop out the rats and mice!

His account of the discoveries in the Bird Room, with the blocked staircase and later fireplace has made the understanding of the complicated building sequence much clearer than it would otherwise have been, and again his recommendations are in favour of simplicity and structural soundness.

This involved a certain amount of rebuilding, as not only had the north wall been weakened by alterations, but the east wall had been entirely cut away, and a new beam was necessary to carry the external wall of the floor above. Since his letter of 4 April he had had second thoughts about the restoration of the window, which should be altered. Again there is the advice that the treatment of the room should be simple.

How sympathetic Scott was to the earlier work si shown on his views on the door between the Bird Room and the drawing room.

He notes that although the medieval doorway is seen in the Bird Room it is masked by modern work in the drawing room, and that an oak door if fitted would ‘discord somewhat with the fittings of the drawing room, and perhaps on this account is undesirable.’ The modern work in the drawing room is eighteenth-century Gothic, a style for which few Victorian architects had anything but unbounded contempt.

The letter of Michaelmas Day 1877 is concerned with final account of Mr Barrett the builder, who for some reason has proved unsatisfactory, and Scott suggests the employment of Mr Franklin of Deddington in his place. A staircase door is mentioned as being in need of putting to rights, but which is not clear.

In 1878 Scott was called in to restore the roofs of the nave and south aisle of Broughton church, and in a letter written on St Barnabas day the Archdeacon broached the matter to Scott.

He had already discussed the matter with the Vicar, or as his Lordship preferred, ‘been exchanging Pourparleys with me in respect to the Restoration,’ and Scott advised to pourparler with the Vicar himself. This letter is particularly interesting: the Archdeacon is sure that Scott can be as successful with the church as he has been with the castle, ‘with the prescription of the grand Simplicity without Fandangling . . .’: this extraordinary statement enshrines both his and Scott’s approach to the work at Broughton.

On 16 and 18 August 1879 Scott was still concerned with Bartlett’s final account. This may mean that Franklin had not been engaged, and that Bartlett had stayed on. Scott’s own account – £12 for works at the Castle, and £20 for work on the gardener’s cottage (his use of capitals implying the nice social distinction between the two) – suggests that the main work at Broughton had been finished.

In the short letter of 21 August 1879, which is the last to survive, and which is a receipt for payment of his own account submitted on the 18 th , ‘for which and for all your kindness to me please accept my grateful thanks’ one gets perhaps a glimpse of the relationship between Scott and his client.

They had worked together on Broughton for over eleven years, and the correspondence had progressed from ‘My Lord’ to ‘My dear Lord Saye and Sele,’ and there is nothing to suggest that their relationship had ever been anything other than cordial.

By all accounts the Archdeacon was a man of simple tastes and a scholar, save in the English language, and it must be his taste that set the guidelines which the restoration of Broughton followed, but even so he could have employed many architects who while proclaiming their adherence to the principals of simplicity and scholarship would nevertheless have rebuilt Broughton in whatever style struck them as most simple and scholarly without any regard to the building itself.

In Scott his Lordship was unfortunate in having an architect who when he spoke of restoration meant restoration based on the evidence that was there, and not on the evidence that he thought ought to be there. Sir Nikolaus Pevsner writing of Scott’s great Roman Catholic church at Norwich uses the expression ‘self-effacing historicism’ (Pevsner 1962, 244), and it is this quality that marks his work at Broughton, and it makes it so difficult to distinguish it from the original.

Apart from the work mentioned in the surviving correspondence Scott was at work elsewhere in the castle. The early failure of the walls of the hall under their superimposed load had not been arrested, and it became necessary to tie them together by means of tie rods running north and south above the ceiling, with the plates being of similar design to those he used on the chapel in 1868. The work to the hall was probably undertaken before this date.

It is also likely that he was responsible for unblocking the small stairs from the chapel landing to the upper room, and for blocking the openings between the dining room and vaulted corridor.

Of the nineteenth-century work which was not by Scott the most important is the redecoration of the White Room.

The White Room is not plain: from the sixteenth-century it inherits the ceiling nad chimney-piece (the least interesting of those at Broughton), and from the nineteenth-century come the rest of the decorations. These can best be described as an economically-opulent version of the Franco-Jacobethan style, very much in the manner of C. J. Richardson.

The skirting, dado, and chair rail are all carved, as are the mouldings on the panels of the doors. The door cases are particularly rich; carved pilasters of no known order ofrm the architraves, and carry an elaborately moulded cornice.

This in turn carries a semicircular pediment flanked and crowned by obelisks. Within the pediments and surrounded by strapwork and baroque cartouches are semicircular lunettes form which emerge heads of the popular ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ type. The door furniture is brass with handles either copied from those in the long gallery, or eighteenth-century ones re-used. Above the chair rail the walls are hung with paper to imitate the stamped and silvered leather hangings.

This scheme of decoration blends excellently iwht the late sixteenth-century ceiling and chimney-piece, its slight understatement pointing their richness and elaboration. The work in this room cannot very well be earlier than 1847, the year in which the sixteenth Baron succeeded, and is most unlikely to be later than 1865; a date between 1850 and 1865 would not be improbable.

C. J. Richardson (1800 – 72), a pupil of Soane, was an exponent of the Jacobethan school at a time when it was still considered suitable for large-scale domestic building. He was also a writer and draftsman; his two principal published works being Observations on the Architecture of England during the Reigns of Queen Elizabeth and King James I (1837), and Old English Mansions , published in four folio volumes (1841 – 48). This last work parallels Nash’s Mansions of England in the Olden Time , also published in four folios (1839 – 49).

Minor work at the castle continued from 1853, the first reference, when William Adkins was paid £37.10s.od for repairs to the bridge until the last reference in November 1882 when George Busby writes to advise Lady Saye and Sele of ht eneed ot repair the leaded windows. At first the work was overseen by Mr Fortescue the agent and carried out by various tradesmen, but, with the arrival of Scott, Lord Saye and Sele began to take a much greater interest, and the building firm of Barrett and Bartlett of Bloxham were used for most of the work; Barrett had in fact been working on Broughton since the work on the gatehouse in 1855. Barrett and Bartlett disappeared when Scott’s restoration was completed, and another builder, George Busby, was employed.

He had been used for minor works since 1873 but from 1880 he took on the remaining major work, as in that year he wrote to Lady Saye and Sele on the repairs to the roof for which he had bought old Stonefield slates. From 1879 Lady Saye and Sele seems to have taken over the supervision of the building programme from her husband.

By 1882 money was becoming scarcer, and although the Archdeacon did not die until 1887 having held the castle and the barony for forty years (which was one year longer than Old Subtlety) the family had to leave.

In 1885 the house was let to George Granville Leveson Grower, and the family did not return for twenty-seven years.

Reprinted from The Archaeological Journal, Volume 135, for 1978. Published by The Royal Archaeological Institute