The publisher’s description first. “This is a comprehensive survey of the social, historical and architectural importance of the English parsonage and its future. Traditional English rectories and vicarages, sold out of service by the Church of England, have become uniquely desirable to property buyers and are now cherished by their new private owners. They combine many coveted qualities: their fine architecture, an air of civilisation, charm and character, traditional values and quality of essential Englishness which they evoke; their large gardens and often splendidly rural locations.
The Old Rectory, Oswaldkirk, North Yorkshire
The author has a vested interest in the topic. Written by the director of Save Our Parsonages, this book looks at the many issues concerned with selling-off, rural retreat and the future of the countryside community. There is nothing wrong with having a passion for one’s topic – I just want readers to know up front.
Old Rectory, Bygrave Herts
Reviewers were impressed with Jenning’s careful documentation and despairing of the situation in the C21st. Lucinda Lambton, for example, wrote: ‘The great 20th-century sell-off’, as it is described by Jennings, will be to the church’s eternal detriment, and short of restoring them all to their holy roles, we could have no better memorial to their importance than this book; a delightful yet doom-ridden progress through England’s cultural and spiritual, social and architectural history. Densely comprehensive, it is also exhilarating, moving and poetic, thoroughly enjoyable and important, yet always deeply depressing that such policy should have been allowed to come to pass — and in the name of the church.
Timothy Brittain-Catlin, author of The English Parsonage in the Early Nineteenth Century, reviewed the book in Country Life magazine, 27th Jan 2010. “re English parsonages. Their downscaling and downgrading was partly the result of a very local phenomenon: the rise of the evangelical wing of the Church of England, with its aggressively antagonistic stance towards old buildings. I know of an evangelical bible called Re-pitching the Tent which calls for the destruction of fine old churches, let along parsonages. So there is yet another sense in which the story of the parsonage is the story of England: it’s the age-old tale of Roundheads versus Cavaliers, of Puritans versus the pleasure-seekers.”
Old Rectory Haselbech, Northamptonshire
Some parsonages were Queen Anne or early Georgian. Hailsham Grange vicarage was built in c1705 in the Queen Anne architectural style. The materials used were typical of this part of East Sussex: a mixture of red and grey bricks laid in the Flemish bond manner giving a chequered effect, in contrast to the rubbed brick dressings. Situated in the market town of Hailsham, the vicarage was located within close walking distance of the much older parish church, St Mary’s East Sussex. Today the vicarage is a lovely B & B, but for true joy, visitors must see the formal gardens – patterned box parterres and stilt hedges.
Examine Haselbech which is a small pretty Northamptonshire village with a C13th church at its heart. The Old Rectory Haselbech was built in 1728, mainly with local ironstone and brick, and we know the building was substantially altered and extended in Victorian times. The 1-acre garden overlooks unspoilt farmland and was redesigned by the present owners in 1998, very much in sympathy with the house and surroundings.
Hailsham Grange, East Sussex
The Old Rectory in Whitwell in the very south of the Isle of Wight dated to 1868: it was built in Gothic style with arched windows, and was influenced by the work of Ruskin and Pugin. Naturally it was located close enough to the church so that the resident family would have easy access to work, and so that locals would have easy access to the minister. What might differentiate the splendid Whitwell parsonage from other similar buildings was that it was paid for from the private funds of the local Rector back in the 1860s. I assume the very large gardens were as gorgeous in the 19th century as they are in the 21st century.
Old Rectory, Whitwell, Isle of Wight
Another later Victorian vicarage, built in the Gothic style, was more colourful and attractive than Whitwell: The Old Rectory in Bygrave Herts. Built in c1870, the white brick exterior had chequered red and black brick dressings. On each of the two storeys, packed with bedrooms, there were groups of lancets with black, white and red brick gauged arches. An outbuilding, probably a dairy, had twin lancets and plank doors - everything a large clerical family could have needed.