Medieval hall house
- Astleham Manor Cottage was first built in the 1500s in Shepperton, Middlesex, as a three-bayed timber-framed hall house. Henry VIII is alleged to have used it as a hunting lodge.
- The building was expanded in the late 17th or early 18th century, and most of the wall timber framing replaced with brick.
- It has been moved twice. In 1913 it was dismantled and moved a quarter of a mile to make way for a new reservoir. Then in 1990s it was threatened again. It had been empty for several years, vandalised and a local quarry was about to start extracting gravel outside. This was the point where it was moved to the Museum.
- Astleham garden was used for filming Boomers, a 2014 comedy starring June Whitfield, Alison Steadman, Stephanie Beecham, Paula Wilcox and Russ Abbott.
Astleham cottage is not open to the public but is used for staff and volunteer offices and facilities. If you would like to see behind-the-scenes, then please consider volunteering.
The cottage also houses the Museum’s library where there is an interesting archive about the Museum’s buildings and specialist books on rural life and vernacular architecture. If you would like to visit the library, please contact the Museum Office first to make an appointment: 01494 871117.
The building began life as a three-bayed timber-framed hall house, of the late Medieval period. In the late 17th century, the roof structure was altered and most, if not all, of the wall timber framing was replaced by brickwork. The building was also extended, by the insertion of an extra bay, incorporating the massive brick chimney stack. It was first dismantled in 1913 by the owner, Sir Richard Burbridge, and moved approximately a quarter of a mile south. The reason for the move was the construction of the Queen Mary Reservoir, one of several reservoirs built by the then Metropolitan Water Board to solve the problem of supplying London’s increasing demand for water.
The exact date of re-construction is not known, no records of the work have been found. The earliest photograph of the completed building is dated 1922. The reservoir was started in 1914 and completed in 1924. The first inhabitant of the ‘new’ cottage was Mr Ferris, Sir Richard Burbridge’s gamekeeper. He may have lived in the building prior to its being moved. He died in the 1930s. His widow lived there until the early 1960s, but the Ferris family continued in the cottage until the 1970s. After six years, it was taken over by Mr & Mrs King. A lot of work was needed at this time, windows were replaced, rooms were re-plastered, a kitchen and bathroom were installed. There was still no mains water or electricity. The King family stayed for only ten years. Once again the house was empty and heavily vandalised. After many years lying unoccupied the building was donated by the Thames Water Authority, as it was threatened in the 1990s by an expanding quarry. As the building was Grade II listed, consent to demolish had to be obtained. The cottages were re-erected at the Museum and are currently used as its offices.
Astleham Manor Cottage boasts the most extensive of the Museum’s cottage gardens it is based on gardens designed by Gertrude Jekyll, who was influential in shaping garden design during the early 20th Century.
Pergolas, rose arches and paving have been used to provide a structured geometric layout with a less formal planting style. Many of the plants are heritage varieties used by Jekyll such as Iris Germanica, Lavandula Angustifolia ‘Munstead’ and Rosa ‘The Garland’.