The Owlpen Papers

The archives at Owlpen in Gloucestershire form a remarkably complete record for a manor of its size, covering an unbroken period of 800 years from Norman times to the present day, and reflecting the long continuity of ownership, to 1925, of one family.

Owlpen marriage deed of 1220
Owlpen marriage deed of 1220; the archives at Owlpen span 800 years


de Olepenne family (1100-1462)

The early charters and deeds are an interesting if typical collection of such muniments -- land grants, wardship and marriage settlements, ecclesiastical benefactions, etc. -- of the feudal period.

Then, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, there are records of the increasing litigation in which ambitious landowning families involved themselves to secure and extend their holdings when the state of English land law meant that most purchased land had some defect in its title.

There are details of arbitration awards in litigation against the mighty Berkeleys, the overlords of Berkeley Castle and its so-called 'harness'. Cases are prosecuted as far as the Star Chamber and the Attorney General, and twice heard before the Lord Chancellor himself.

There are the usual records and rolls of the manorial court leet and estate papers, indented leases, details of heriot paid on the death of tenants, wills, terriers and genealogical and heraldic evidences.

The owners of Owlpen Manor from 1170 to 2000: with genealogy of de Olepenne, Daunt and Stoughton families, in .pdf format

Daunt family (1462-1815)
Daunt Arms
Daunt / de Olepenne coat of arms from the south front of Owlpen Manor

The Daunt family came into the manor of Owlpen by marriage about 1462. From the seventeenth century, personalities begin to emerge vividly with the vicious plotting of Sir John Bridgeman to secure the manor, aided by the Throckmorton familyof Tortworth.

A Civil War correspondence describes the conditions at a time of bitter conflict in letters written by Thomas Daunt the younger at Owlpen to his father, who was High Sheriff living in his castle on the larger and more important estate at Gortigrenane, in county Cork (1645-50), which the family had acquired land as Protestant 'undertakers' though the Elizabethan plantation of Munster.

Early eighteenth-century account books record in detail the improvements carried out to the manor house, gardens and estate buildings by Thomas Daunt IV from 1719 to 1736; the last time any significant work was done there until the twentieth century, and still in great part visible today. There is a proliferating quantity of letters, journals, business papers and deeds recording land transactions not only concerning Owlpen and Gloucestershire, but increasingly reflecting the involvement of the family with their extensive Irish and Monmouthshire estates.

Stoughton family (1815-1925)
Owlpen House
Owlpen House, built for Thomas Anthony Stoughton to the designs of S.S. Teulon, about 1847

The Stoughton family were Anglo-Irish landowners, with their principal estate at Ballyhorgan in county Kerry. They came into the manor when Thomas Anthony Stoughton married Mary Daunt in 1815. The nineteenth century was one of decline for the manor, the parish and the estate.

The Stoughtons, after a rise to fortune which permitted them to rebuild the houses on their three estates, suffered from the Troubles in Ireland and land reforms following, and (ultimately) had to sell because of childlessness in 1925.

The memoirs of the early 19th-century rector of Owlpen and Bagpath, Alan Gardner Cornwall, are a valuable social history. Cornwall was an earnest evangelical minister of the Clapham sect, brought up on intimate terms with William Wiberforce and Lord Macaulay, and well connected socially. He describes country house life under the patronage of the Kingscote family, settled at Kingscote since the twelfth century. This contrasts with the poverty of his improvident parishioners after the failure of the local woollen cloth mill in 1837.

Norman Jewson 1925-26

Norman Jewson

Norman Jewson in old age

The story of the dereliction and final repair of the old manor house by a notable Arts and Crafts architect, Norman Jewson, forms a final chapter to the long history of Owlpen.

When he died in 1975, Jewson left to the Manders at Owlpen many of his papers, travel diaires, drawings, designs and sketch books, as well as his collection of Cotswold Arts and Crafts furniture. There is a good collection covering his repair work at Owlpen in 1925–6, with many photographs and plans.

Mander family

Also held at Owlpen today, are the Mander family papers which fade in when the Daunt papers cease, in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. They record their activities in Georgian England as early industrialists, philanthropists and liberal nonconformists, maintaining diverse interests in public service, local manufacturing businesses, agitating against the slave trade, and litigating in the cause of religious and penal reform.

These were edited by Sir Geoffrey Mander, the radical Liberal MP, and published in The History of Mander Brothers in 1955. The later nineteenth-century diaries and letter-books recording the family's growing involvement in public affairs and civic life in the Midlands, journals of the Palestine campaign in the First World War, transatlantic hunting expeditions and liner voyages, as well as the albums, press cuttings books, and the day-to-day ephemera of estate, business, social and family affairs, are of increasing interest today.

The family were widely read and travelled, and wrote and recorded much (over 150 books and articles by or substantially about the family are listed), from novels to polemical tracts. As well as evident interests in science, local government and industry, the family produced its quota of soldiers and artists, and one or two distinguished antiquarian scholars and writers. They were art collectors and patrons, most evident today at Wightwick Manor, given by the family with its incomparable contents to the National Trust in 1937.

The archives now at Wightwick Manor were quarried for a recent book, A Private Heritage, on the life of Theodore Mander (1853-1900), the builder of Wightwick, edited by Patricia Pegg in 1996.

The material at Owlpen has formed the basis to Nicholas Mander's family biography, Varnished Leaves (2004). Extracts are posted on this website.


The Mander family
The Mander family on the steps of Owlpen today: Marcus, Hugo, Nicholas, Fabian, Karin, Sarra and Benedict

Chapters from Nicholas Mander's book: Varnished Leaves: a biography of the Mander Family of Wolverhampton, 1750–1950.

From the Wolverhampton History and Heritage Society website:

Nicholas's new book is a 'must' for anyone that's interested in the Mander family or Wolverhampton's past. The book is structured to treat the six Charles Manders in succession. There are sideways glances at the history of the business, the property (particularly the Mander Centre and Perton Estate),the houses and art collections, philanthropic initiatives, the wives and occasionally children. There are chapters on the Wightwick Mander cadet line and Amy Mander, the Irish nationalist. There are 400 pages, making available a lot of original documents, and about 65 illustrations.

Mander Brothers bookplate
Mander Brothers bookplate by Robert Anning Bell, 1894

A forthcoming sequel to Varnished Leaves brings the story up to date with the recent generations and female lines of the family, from Mexico to Hamburg and Mecklenburg, and draws on the papers of other connected families, such as the Brodermanns, Redos, Stoerzels, Lane Foxes, Haffendens, and Herberts.

A number of papers have been acquired from connected families and friends. They include a collection of correspondence, about 600 items, from the Rev. and Hon. Richard Hill of Hawkstone and Attingham, Shropshire, a statesman and diplomat in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and of his great-nephew Sir Richard Hill MP. There is also a collection of photographs by Oscar Rejlander, the pioneer photographer, who was patronised by the family in the 1850s and 1860s.

The earliest records are not on paper, but are the lead defixiones, or curses, excavated at the fourth-century Romano-British temple on the hill above Owlpen. Epitaphs and monumental inscriptions and plaques about the house and church date from the sixteenth century to Norman Jewson's record of his repairs to the manor house in 1925-6.

Together with the surviving de Olepenne and Daunt papers, the Owlpen papers virtually span the history of modern Britain. They form a rounded picture, a micro-history illustrating a cross-section of the lives of country gentry, early industrialists and landowners, and their many connections with the broader pattern of social and economic history.