Local History Visit
19 July 2017
The Wargrave Local History Society's visit to a place of 'local history interest' in July was to Kingston Bagpuize House, and the local village church. Although part of Oxfordshire since the boundary changes of 1974, the area around Kingston Bagpuize was historically part of Berkshire. The group was especially fortunate to be shown around the house and its surrounding grounds by Virginia Grant, whose home it has been for over 20 years. It was clear that she is passionate about the house, its history and its contents. The village's name derives from having been a King's settlement (Kingston), with the second name (from the name of its new lord of the manor, added in the Norman period, to identify which of many places called Kingston it was). In 1542 a moated house was built on the present estate by John Latton. This was replaced by one the present house in the 1660s, which was bought by Edmund Fettiplace a decade later. The original layout had the main entrance was on the east side, with a driveway and large entrance gates, but the house was later altered to have the main entrance on the west, with a driveway leading from near the church, the large gates being relocated to that position. The walls - interior and exterior, are unusually thick, being about 34�in. The House passed to John Blandy, Edmund Fettiplace's son in law, and remained in the family until 1917, when, apparently, it was lost in a gamble with Edward Strauss, MP, who had been the Blandys tenant. When Edward Strauss was threatened with bankruptcy in 1935, the house and contents were sold by auction, and changed hands again in April 1939, when it was bought by Miss Grace Raphael. Her plans for the house and garden, however, were delayed by the war, during which much of the grounds were occupied by the military camp for Kingston Bagpuize Airfield - many trees being felled to leave space for Nissen huts and aircraft hangers. The House subsequently passed down through the family to Mrs Grant. Many of the furnishings etc in the house have come from Miss Raphael's family. The first of these the visitor sees in the Hallway is the hand painted Chinese wallpaper, (Miss Raphael had a special interest in Chinese items, having toured the Far East in the 1930s). Also in the hallway is a grand staircase made of oak and pine, probably. Apart from one pillar for the lowest flight, the entire structure has no apparent support, being cantilevered from the thick walls. From the Hallway, the Drawing Room opposite occupies the area of the original hallway. Throughout the house the windows are placed symmetrically, and from here the views to the east are across the lawns and down an avenue of trees. Much of the furniture is French in origin. The room has twin fireplaces, dating from the remodelling of the house in the 1700s, one each side of the doorway, rather than at the ends of the room. Only one would be lit at a time, depending on which chimney would best draw the fire. On opening some of the items of furniture, the colour of the laburnum wood within showed just how stunning these must have been when new. The adjoining room is the Library, where many family portraits hang. The furniture here is English mahogany, the walls being panelled in pine. The windows are all provided with wooden shutters, which are kept closed when each room is not in use to protect the contents from the effects of sunlight. A short passage way leads from the Library to the Small Sitting Room. One window in this room is tucked right into a corner, as all the windows are placed to be evenly spaced when seen from outside. The decorative pillars here were introduced by Edward Strauss in homage to Greek architecture - what Mrs Grant called "the folly in the house". This room is very much a 'family room' - Kingston Bagpuize House being a 'home', not just a 'grand house'. Up the grand staircase, there are several bedrooms. The Rose room is so-called from the rose chintz furnishings that date from Miss Raphael's time. Adjacent is the Pink Bedroom, with views to the east and south. It houses a Sheraton style bed, but the pelmet above is shallower than might be expected - a result of war-time restrictions when Miss Raphael was furnishing the house. Below the Pink Bedroom is the Dining Room. This is panelled in oak - the most modern piece of furniture being a Victorian dining table made of pollard oak. This room also has several family portraits - including one of 3 year old Miss Raphael! Having toured the inside of the house, a walk through the delightful gardens took members to the Grade II listed village church, dedicated to St John the Baptist, alongside, where the history of was outlined by Susan Green, the churchwarden. The earlier Norman church was demolished in 1799, and the present building, designed by the architect John Fidel in an Italianate style, was built on the same site in 1800. When a proposal was made to close the Pugin designed St Lawrence's church in the nearby small village of Tubney, the parish of Kingston Bagpuize were able to purchase the organ, to accompany their services. In the event, a petition managed to save Tubney church from closure - but Kingston Bagpuize retains the organ! Its 200 year old bell tower was recently rebuilt, using the skills of local craftsmen, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Historic Churches Trust. Following a different route back through the gardens to the House, the afternoon concluded with afternoon tea and home-made cake - essential for any Society visit!