Sulgrave is a village and civil parish in South Northamptonshire. Castle Hill, at the west end of the village southwest of the church, is the earthwork remains of a Saxon and Norman ringwork castle. The northern part of the ringwork was excavated in 1960 and 1976. Evidence was found suggesting that the first construction on the site was a timber-framed hall about 80 feet long and a detached stone and timber building, probably built in the late 10th century. They seem to have been an Anglo-Saxon manor house and separate kitchen. This was followed by the building of the earthen rampart, which is now rounded but may originally have been a straight-sided pentagon.
After the Norman conquest of England in 1066 the original hall was replaced with a stone one about 40 feet long and 18 feet wide.[ Small timber buildings were also added. The earthen ramparts were increased in height in the middle of the 11th century, and again early in the 12th century. The site seems to have been abandoned about 1140. After the Norman Conquest Sulgrave was one of the manors granted to Ghilo or Gilo, brother of Ansculf de Picquigny. The Domesday Book of 1086 records that three tenants; Hugh, Landric and Othbert; held Sulgrave of him. In the 12th century the manor of "Solegrave" was still in the fee of Gilo. On both occasions the manor was assessed at four hides. In the middle of the 12th century the manor was granted to the Cluniac Priory of St Andrew at Northampton, and the ringwork site was abandoned as a manorial seat.
In, 1538 St Andrew's Priory was suppressed in the Dissolution of the Monasteries and surrendered all its estates to the Crown. In 1539 or 1540 the Crown sold three manors, including Sulgrave, to Lawrence Washington, a wool merchant who in 1532 had been Mayor of Northampton. Washington's descendants retained the manor until 1659, when one of them sold it. In 1656 a descendant, John Washington of Purleigh, Essex, emigrated to the Colony of Virginia. He is notable for being the great-grandfather of George Washington, who from 1775 commanded the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and in 1789 was elected first President of the United States.
Lawrence Washington had Sulgrave Manor house built in about 1540–60. It is at the northeast end of the village, built of local limestone, with a southwest front, a kitchen and buttery, a great hall, and above it a great chamber and two smaller private chambers. Finds of what seem to be Tudor foundation stones up to 50 ft west of the current house suggest that the original building was substantially larger than the surviving house. The great hall has a stone floor, and its Tudor fireplace contains a salt cupboard carved with Lawrence Washington's initials. The house has a projecting two-storey southwest porch, over the doorway of which are set in plaster the royal arms of England and initials "ER" for Elizabeth Regina commemorating Elizabeth I, who acceded to the English throne in 1558. The doorway spandrels are decorated with the Washington family arms: two bars and three mullets or spur-rowels.
In about 1673 Sulgrave Manor passed to the Rev Moses Hodges, from whom it passed to his son John Hodges. The lands of Sulgrave manor had become divided into three estates, but John Hodges reunited them. Behind the great hall is a staircase with twisted balusters that was added late in the 17th century. In about 1700 John Hodges had the house rebuilt and enlarged by adding a north-east wing at right angles to the original Tudor building. It contains the Great Kitchen and the Oak Parlour, on the ground floor, beneath two sleeping chambers, now called the White Bedroom and the Chintz Bedroom. Hodges also had a separate brewhouse built at the same time. The Hodges family had the west part of the original house demolished in about 1780. The Hodges sold the house in 1840, by which time it was a dilapidated farmhouse. In 1914 the house was bought by public subscription to celebrate a century of peace between the UK and USA since the War of 1812.
About 1⁄2-mile southeast of the village is a pillow mound about 40 feet long, 23 feet wide and only 10 inches high, and bounded by a ditch 6 feet wide. It is the remains of an artificial warren for farming rabbits, which the Normans introduced to Britain from mainland Europe. Traces of traditional ridge and furrow ploughing survive in much of the parish, and particularly south-east of the village. They are evidence of the open field system of farming that prevailed in the parish until 1767, when Parliament passed the Inclosure Act for Sulgrave. John and Mary Hodges founded Sulgrave school in the early 18th century as a charity school for poor boys of the parish. The school building, at the corner of Magpie Road and Stockwell Lane, is a stone building which according to its date stone was completed in 1720. It was probably remodelled in the 19th century. It is now the village hall. A water mill on the stream just north of the village was built in the 18th century and enlarged in the 19th century. In 1788 the miller was a John Brockliss, who ordered machinery from Boulton and Watt. The mill is now a private house but is said to retain an iron mill-wheel made in about 1840. The mill-pond survives. There was a tower mill about 600 yards northwest of the village. By the 1970s it was derelict but the tower has since been restored as part of a private house. The parish stocks survive. They are on The Green, at the junction of Magpie Road and Park Lane, and are probably 19th century
Apart from on certain special event days, access to the Manor is always on a guided tour at specific times through the day. Tours at 10:30am, 12 noon, 2pm and 3:30pm. The Brewhouse features an exhibition showing the life of George Washington, first President of the United States of America. Historic and contemporary gardens surround the house and are open to all visitors. In addition Sulgrave Manor is the home of the National Garden of the Herb Society. There is disabled access to all areas of the courtyard complex, including restaurant and toilets. Disabled access is limited in the Manor House because of the age of the building. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Sulgrave Manor, Manor Road, Sulgrave, Nr. Banbury, OX17 2SD
Transport: Banbury (National Rail)then bus or taxi. Bus Routes : County Connect ( book in advance, call 0845 456 4474 and quote Sulgrave Manor's membership number: 2002650).
Opening Times : Weekends, Half Term and Holidays 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £7.90; Seniors £7.40; Children (5 - 15) £3.60.
Tickets Gardens : Adults £3.60; Under 16 Free
Tel: 01295 760205