The ‘Needs to Know’
Distance: 1.5 miles (2.41km)
Time to walk: It took us about 1 hour as a comfortable stroll, but it would be longer if you took in Sulgrave Manor as well
Difficulty: All on road & flat. We did this in January 2014 as it was too wet to walk across fields
Parking: Anywhere in the village. We parked in Church Street where we began our walk
Public toilets: There’s some at Sulgrave Manor & The Star Inn
Map of the route: Not really any & you won’t need one, but here you go…
So what can we tell you about Sulgrave as a way of introduction? Well it lies in the south of Northamptonshire & is probably most famous for being associated with the Washington family who might have had something to do with a certain President of the United States of America – more later…
There’s been a village here for over 1000 years & today’s follows a figure of 8 shape which is easy to walk around. It’s a very peaceful village & the locals are more than happy to have a “chin-wag”. There was also some building going on which really blends in with the older properties
The name is derived from the Anglo Saxon ‘sol’ & ‘grave’ meaning plough & wood
1. We parked up at the end of Church Street & immediately noticed how peaceful this village is.
Church Street immediately says to us….come on walk up here…
2. It’s great that, although many of the buildings in Sulgrave have been redeveloped, most have kept their original names. On the left up here is The Old Forge which was still a working property until 1971
3. At the top of the street on the right lies ‘The Church of Saint James The Less’. When you visit make a donation & take the leaflet & A3 sheet – both are great & really informative.
There are very few churches with this name. St James the Less’s feast day is May 3rd. The church was built between 1327 & 1377.
The West Door is very much Saxon…
4. Now let’s have a look inside & our first encounter with Sulgrave’s most famous family…the Washingtons…
On the left as we enter is a large oak chest & local tradition says it belonged to the Washington family. Chests like these were used for the keeping of the church valuables. Today it holds hymn books & music
5. So before we go… who were the Washingtons that this village is so linked with? Basically they were the ancestors of George Washington, the 1st President of the USA. The links in the church are there to be seen…
6. Also here are 2 great tapestries embroidered by the ladies of Sulgrave
7. The right side of the church is also interesting. The front pew is the Washington pew & in the window above are the 4 panels depicting the Coat of Arms of 3 generations of the Washington family
In front of the pew Lawrence Washington, his wife & their eldest son Robert are buried
8. Ok let’s move on & see what else Sulgrave has to offer…so we leave the church & move back into Church Street. On the right just outside the church is Castle Mound
Castle Hill is the earthwork remains of a Saxon & Norman ringwork castle.
The first construction on the site was probably a timber-framed hall about 80 feet (24 m) long & a detached stone & timber building, probably built in the late 10th century. They seem to have been an Anglo-Saxon manor house & separate kitchen. This was followed by the building of the earthen rampart.
After the Norman conquest in 1066 the original hall was replaced with a stone one about 40 feet (12 m) long & 18 feet (5.5 m) wide. Small timber buildings were also added. The earthen ramparts were increased in height in the middle of the 11th century, & again early in the 12th century. The site seems to have been abandoned about 1140. It’s a scheduled monument
9. Continue to follow the road round to the right &, at the end, we meet the main Banbury road. Ignoring what awaits us on the right here, we turn left & cross over the road – there are some amazing barn conversions along here (shhhh….have a peep in the windows….)
About 60 yards along the road is Dial House Farm. This was built around 1636…a beautiful property & have a look at the sun dial too
10. Now let’s retrace our steps & cross over the road to have a look under the trees. Here’s the site of the Sulgrave Stocks which still have the original Elizabethan ironwork
11. We keep moving down the road into the village
12. The village store here used to be an old school built in 1720 by the owners of the Manor for 10 local boys
13. At the junction we head straight on down Manor Road.
On the left is the old Wesleyan Chapel which was built in 1863…
…& Barrow Hill Farm which dates back to the 16th Century
15. It’s now time we had a look at the village’s main attraction which is on the right…Sulgrave Manor.
Sulgrave Manor is a Tudor & Georgian manor house that was built & lived in by the direct ancestors of George Washington, the first President of the USA. Today it was closed, but in the summer it can get very busy, especially with visits from our friends across ‘The Pond’
The house dates back to the 16th century & the Washington’s lived in it from 1540 to 1657. Lawrence Washington is widely recognised as the founder of the family who bought it from the Crown in 1538. He married twice & his second one bore him eleven children. He became a wealthy man through his wool stapling business & became Mayor of Northampton twice.
His two-times great grandson, Colonel John Washington emigrated to America in in 1656 & his great-grandson George was born in 1732
Have a look at this link which shows photos from the restoration period & grand opening, plus others from days gone by
16. On the other side of the road are some grand old cottages & houses, some of which were undergoing repair. These date around 1700
17. At the junction below we turn right passing the side of the Manor…
The second house above is The Wool House where the wool was weighed in Elizabethan times & the duty paid to the taxman
18. Further up the street is Sulgrave House, formerly known as Bell House…
…& at the top of the road turn right back to where we left the car.
19. Just along here on the right is the Old School built in 1887
So that’s our little walk around the centre of Sulgrave completed. There was certainly a lot more there to see apart from the Manor & lots of history so it’s well worth walking round as part of a visit.