Home, sweet Gothic home

The Oldie Magazine|July 2020

Home, sweet Gothic home
Ever since moving into the Old Rectory at Hedgerley 40 years ago, I’ve kissed its walls every day

During these troubling times, there can surely be no more suitable building for me to write about than my house for 40 years, the Old Rectory at Hedgerley in Buckinghamshire. I have daily kissed its walls with love for the place.

The rectory was built in 1846, replacing the parsonage of 1740. I have always assumed the architect Benjamin Ferrey was responsible for our Old Rectory, though I cannot prove it.

He was a contemporary and a friend of the great architect Augustus Welby Pugin, whose father he had lived with and worked for. Also a church architect supremo, Ferrey was responsible for the pleasingly flint-covered St Mary’s Church in Hedgerley. This stands a mere half-mile away from the Old Rectory, while only a mile to the other side stands the great neo-Tudor pile of Bulstrode, also designed by Ferrey.

Bulstrode was the site of the house belonging to villainous Judge Jeffreys, where he lived during his Bloody Assizes, condemning 800 people into slavery and 320 to death. Particularly vicious was his decree that one Alice Lisle is burnt alive for sheltering a supporter of Monmouth.

Surely, then, our house must be a luscious, Ferrey-filled sandwich. Spicing up the rectory yet further was the Rev Edward Baylis, who had his initials E B and the date 1846 writ large in burnt bricks above the diaper brickwork embedded into the whole house. On taking over the parish, he bought the ‘advowson’, the right to appoint the vicar, which he did straight away – by appointing himself!

He then set about building his rectory, having to borrow £500 of the total cost of £1,000 from the Queen Anne’s Bounty fund set up for indigent vicars. There were obviously degrees of indigence: a long row of his domestic servants was buried in the churchyard. He created his Victorian Gothic rectory with certain aspirations to grandeur: the hall is some 30 feet long and nine feet wide.


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July 2020