History and Architecture of Calcot Manor

C. Michael Hogan and Amy Gregory      July 5, 2006       Lumina Technologies
The present research traces the site history of Calcot Manor over the last 1600 years, from Roman times to recorded medieval history and through the present.  Emphasis is placed upon understanding the nature of the Roman settlement, reconstructing medieval architecture and land uses and documenting ownership changes.

Calcot Manor was founded in the year 1311 by Abbot Henry of Kingswood as a tithe barn ancillary to the nearby Cistercian Kingswood Abbey.  Gradually the estate was expanded to include the 16th century manor house and a considerable number of out-buildings.  Structures added between 1300 and 1640 include a chapel, granary, stables, stores, and further miscellaneous works.  In the late middle ages Cistercian monks continued to manage the complex as a sheep farm and grain production center, along with ancillary uses.
Extant 16th century Calcot Manor House
Romano-British History

Located at one of the topographical high points within the Cotswold's, the site of Calcot Manor is documented  to have prehistoric significance.  It is known that there was a Roman presence at the site circa 200 to 400 AD from the archeological finds of carved stone, numerous Roman coins and other artefacts.  Numerous Roman tombstones have been retrieved along the course of the ancient Roman road which traverses between Glevum and Aquae Sulis, an alignment coming close to Calcot Manor. (Glevum and Aquae Sulis are the Roman names for the cities of Gloucester and Bath respectively.) 
The buildings are all constructed from local Cotswold's blue limestone, which is soft and easily shaped when quarried, but then dries to be quite hard after exposed to sunlight and air; the stones are typically rather flat and readily stacked for drywall or masonry purposes.  These stone characteristics help to explain the creation of some exceptional  Roman carvings that have been found on site.

The site is located at National Grid Reference ST 841180 94891 at an elevation of 186 meters above mean sea level.  Restoration of the main tithe barn occurred in the early 21st century, since it had fallen into a state of disrepair over the prior 275 years.
Significant Roman remains have been found at Calcot, some of which are now displayed at the Gloucester City Museum and the Stroud Museum.  One of the principal finds is a curved, deeply semi-circular oolitic limestone ornate bas-relief.  This stone was embedded in the wall of the tithe barn as recorded in a July 1790 ink wash drawing by Samuel Hieronymus Grimm (British Library, 1790a).  This stone is now located in the Ashmoleum Museum in Oxford (Bristol, 2001).

It is not surprising to find Roman artefacts in the vicinity, given the substantial Roman settlements at nearly Cirencester and Gloucester.  The bas-relief is recognized to be a funerary monument with a military motif, doubtless associated with a 4th century AD Roman Legionary attached to a southwest Britain unit.  The Legionary is depicted with arms leading the way on horseback (Passmore, 1938).  Immediately behind the leader is the standard bearer with his insignia followed by other figures. (Baddeley, 1925)   As of Baddeley's publication in 1925, the stone was still embedded within the inner tithe barn wall.  Baddeley suggests that, if the bas-relief was not produced by the Romans on site, that it may have adorned a roadside tomb between Calcot and Kingswood Abbey.  In any case the stone derives from an advanced stage of the Roman Empire based upon military details of the carving.

Medieval History

The original datestone in the barn interior reads in Latin, "ANNOGRE MCCC HENRICI ABBATIS XXIX FAI DOM H OEDIFICATA", and indicating construction by Abbot Henry in 1300 during the Reign of King Edward I.  There is an original ink drawing of the datestone created by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, presently held by the British Library (British Museum, 1790b).  This structure was an adjunct to Kingswood Abbey, the main abbey being situated near Wotton-Under Edge (Rudder, 1779).  The building is a grade II listed structure by English Heritage  It has a pointed window at the goblet end, along with arrow slits at each end.
The remains of a medieval man-made coneygyre (rabbit warren) were discovered on site in 2004, at the location on  site where a new spa was being constructed.  At the position of the coneygyre,  a subterranean tunnel exists that runs for at least 100 meters south-westerly beneath the main manor house garden terrace.  The tunnel is intact as of 2004, but remains to be fully explored.  Earth bore tunnels of this type are commonly associated with High Middle Ages abbeys, palaces, and castles as secret escape routes for the occupants if the site were under siege.  For example, the Calcot Manor is near the main southeast and northeast trail that connects the Dorset/Exeter region with London and thence Suffolk.  It is reasonable to assume early 14th century monks or earlier occupants of the site were conversant with the tunnel technology, for example, that was used to construct the escape tunnel to the 12th century Bishops Palace in Exeter extending 900 meters to the southeast of that palace.  However, discussions with those present at the excavations indicate that the tunnel bore size seemed more indicative of a water conveyance than escape tunnel.

The hamlet of Calcot at this location is the earliest recorded settlement at the site, being listed in the Doomsday survey (i.e. 1086 AD) in the parish of Newington Bagpath within the Hundred of Berkeley.  The Calcot Tithe barn itself is, however, the oldest existent building on the site.  Although that building is named a barn, its earliest origins and uses remain particularly obscure due to some prominent architectural features that are not consistent with a barn or granary.  For example the elaborate interior two story interior stonewash walls in which the founding stone still stands is a mystery, since a granary barn may not have had such a splendid interior work.  Further the long upper level arrow slit prominently positional on the buildings west side is somewhat difficult to define as to early use, although somewhat wider arrow slits are known to have been used in 17th century times as granary vents.  The Calcot arrow slits for ventilation were typically at least ten centimeters wide to insure that owls could freely enter and prey upon any mice that could harm the grain stocks.  The tithebarn was known to have been used extensively in the winters of the 14th and 15th century by a large population of monks from Kingswood Abbey, which was normally flooded out in that season. 
1500 to 1795 Period

When Kingwood Abbey was dissolved in 1538, the Calcot property passed to the Crown, who granted it to Sir Nicholas Poyntz two years later.  It is thought that the village of Calcot ceased to exist as a recognisable entity sometime relatively soon after the dissolution of the abbeys in England.(e.g. circa 1550).  The Poyntz family holdings included many large estates in southwestern England in the Late Middle Ages, with there seat at Acton Court (near Iron Acton) in Gloustershire.  In 1559 Calcot was conveyed to Thomas Parry and Ann Fortescue (his wife).  Then in the year 1598, Calcot was sold to Sir Thomas Estcourt, who was accumulating many other properties in the parishes of Newington Bagpath and Lasborough.  The property was conveyed to Estcourt heirs in successive generations (Estcourt, 1624).  The Estcourt  family principal seat was at Shipton Moyne, immediately south of tetbury the tithe barn was struck by lightening on Oct 9, 1728 and fire damage ensued, but restoration by John Pill, carpenter to Estcourt, was completed on October 20,1729, leading to the extant further datestone embedded in the porch interior wall of the tithe barn, the entire Calcot property remained in the possession of the Estcourt Family until something between 1800 and 1839 when a sale to the Kingscote family occurred.
Will of Thomas Estcourt, 1624
The present study examined the individual insitu stones of the Calcot Tithe Barn prior to its 21st century restoration.  These stones were examined for colour, texture, hardness and dressing.  A remarkable similarity was found between these blue-gray stones at Calcot and the dressed stones used in the 12th century Beverstone Castle, situated about 1.5 kilometres to the east,  I have concluded these stones are likely to have derived from the same quarry, namely a known shallow historic limestone quarry on the Calcot site.
A 1790 ink drawing of the tithe barn reveals the presence of an array of seven and possibly eight arrow slits across the face of the (Gentleman's Magazine, 1795).  The slit apertures were approximately one meter in height and situated somewhat higher than the front facing six windows. These arrow slits are no longer present in the restored tithe barn.  Furthermore, the 1790 roof, while obviously slated like the present roof, has a much higher vertical extent, exposing less front stonework than today's restoration.  The 1790 drawing in the British Library also shows two porches with pyramidal roof structure desing.  I have observed the ruins of the tithebarn before and after restoration, and find that otherwise the stonework and fenestration bears good resemblance to the original structure.

The Sites and Monuments Record, SMR 2931/2 (Gloucester, 1996) indicates the existence of a separate small cell or chapel structure, which was demolished prior to the year 1871, but after 1790.  An ink drawing  by Grimm of the chapel ruins dating to 1790 is held by the British Library  (British Library, 1790d).   The ink drawing depicts intact medieval arches of the original chapel on site.
Restored Calcot Tithe Barn, as of 2006
held by the British Library  (British Library, 1790d).   The ink drawing depicts intact medieval arches of the original chapel on site.

Modern History

In the year 1928, Mary Emery of Ohio purchased the Calcot Tithe Barn roof and had it transported to Mariemount, Ohio as individually crated roof tiles.  The tiles were assembled in America to become the roof of the town church, the architectural centerpiece of the new town, for which Emery was instrumental in designing (Hornby, 2002).  The tiles were typically about five by eight inches in size and had puncture holes for attachment to the roof trusses by pegs. Considerable moss and lichens were present on the tiles, adding to the old world appearance sought by Mariemount designers. The town was being created to mimic the architecture of a period European village.

In 1970 the functional elements of the farm were relocated, leaving all of the old stonework buildings redundant.  The Ball family took title to the property in 1983 and created a several room hotel,  gradually converting successive of the oldest buildings throughout the next decade.  Louisa and Michael Stone, who had been regular guests at Calcot, purchased the property in 1992 and are responsible for restoration of the tithebarn (2001-2004), development of the spa and other restoration work, such that today Calcot Manor is a luxury destination property of considerably note in the Cotswolds region.


* A.D. Passmore, ''Bas-relief, Calcot Barn'', Transactions of the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, Vol.60, pp347-348 (1938)

* Reg Jackson, ''Archaeological Desktop Study of Calcot Manor, near Tetbury, Gloucestershire'', Report No. 883/2001, (2001)

* Barbara Hornby, ''From tithebarn to church roof'', Local History Magazine, no. 90 May 4, 2002

* ''Calcot Barn bas-relief'', Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, 184x245 mm ink wash drawing, British Library shelf mark MS 15540, f.108, 1790a

* ''Calcot Farm Inscription'', Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, 173x222 mm, British Library, shelf mark MS 15540, f.109, 1790b

* ''Barn of Calcot Farm near Beverstone'',  Samuel Hieronymous Grimm,, British Library, shelf mark MS 15540,, 1790c

* ''Calcot Farm, Chapel Ruins'',  Samuel Hieronymous Grimm, 174x263 mm, British Library, shelf mark MS 15540, f.110, July, 1790d

* ''Gentlemen's Magazine'', London, England,  May, 1795

* ''Calcot Farm Barn'', Gloucesterhire Council, Sites and Monuments Record (SMR), June, 1996

* M. Rudder, ''Transactions: Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society'', p. 566 (1779)

* ''Sir Thomas Estcourt's Will'', dated 1624, Canterbury, England

* W. St. Clair Baddeley, "Calcot Barn Relief," Transactions of the Bristol and Gloustershire Archeological Society, Vol.47, 353-354 (1925)