Whichford House History
The earliest remaining part of Whichford House – which was the village Rectory from the Middle Ages until 1954 – is the block to the north, formerly a free-standing two-storey cottage, probably thatched. On the east face of this block there is an outline of a vertical joint - evidence of an external semi-circular staircase. The internal divisions were removed in the 1950s. The whole block is now the kitchen to the house.
The medieval house was built onto this block with the beamed hall – now our dining room – plus a screens passage and inglenook, and to the south stood what would have been the high-end rooms. These were removed in the 18th century in preparation for the completion of the classical frontage, begun in the 1740s.
During the Civil War the house suffered badly when the then rector, Richard Langston, preached against Cromwell and incurred his wrath. This was duly delivered by the notorious Roundhead, George Purefoy, from the garrison at Compton Wynyates, and left the house in parlous state.
After the Commonwealth, the Reverend Richard Watkins came here as rector and repaired and enlarged the house for his growing family. His date stone of 1662 is over the west door (the door near the Church). His son followed him as rector and another son - Captain Fleetwood Watkins - provided a daughter, Anne, as wife for the 18th century rector, John Ingram, son of an ancient land-owning family from Little Wolford.
John and his wife Anne produced seven children but, sadly, there were no grandchildren. However, his penultimate daughter, Catherine, was recorded in a beautiful full-length painting by Zoffany, now hanging in the Tate Gallery. A head study (shown here) was copied from the original painting and hangs in our dining room.
On the early death of his brother, John inherited the family seat at Great Wolford and left Whichford before completing his plans for a classical south front. He took with him the drawing room chimney piece and the front gates.
Following the re-facing of the south and east fronts, the house was used as the Rectory in this quiet corner of South Warwickshire until sold by the Church in the 1950s to the eminent publisher, George Rainbird, for £1,400. Rainbird filled the house with architectural salvage, which was readily available in the 1950s after the demolition of so many such houses following the Second World War.
The Rainbirds remained here until the 1980s when the house was sold to Major and Mrs John Oakes. They lived here with their family, adding the tennis court, the pool and, finally, the Coach House at the entrance gate.
When Bridget and I came here in 2004, with our small daughter Alexandra, we undertook the restoration of the house and gardens, beginning with the old stable cottage and adding the unfinished west wing. We have also added an amphitheatre. It has been great fun.