The Manor

In 1487, Henry VII leased the estate to John Tame, a wealthy wool and cloth merchant of Cirencester. The old manor house had fallen into disrepair, and he built a new house to the south of the church, and was living in Fairford by the mid 1480’s. During the 1490’s he rebuilt the church, which was re-consecrated in 1497 and dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin. The chief glory of the church was the magnificent set of stained glass windows illustrating the Christian faith.

When John Tame died in 1513, his son Edmund Tame, who had become rich and influential, was associated with the court of Henry VIII, and was knighted in 1516. Henry VIII visited Fairford in 1520, staying at the Tame manor house from August 26th until September 2nd. During this visit he appointed Edmund Tame “steward for life of the lordship of Fairford and also knighted Sir Edmund’s son, also Edmund. It is thought that Henry VIII attended Mass in church on 28th August, and would have seen the new windows in all their splendour.

Sir Edmund Tame the younger died in 1544, and the male line of the Tame family died with him. The Tame manor house was neglected, but Fairford estate still belonged to the Crown until sold by Queen Elizabeth. It was bought by Robert Tracey, who fought on the side of the King in the Civil War, and consequently had to pay a large fine to Cromwell, and had to sell the Fairford lands to pay the fine.

The now dilapidated manor was bought by Andrew Barker in 1650. He didn’t repair the manor house, but in 1661 built a fine new house in the Park, to the north of the church.

This house lasted until 1955 when it was demolished and the site used for a new building for Farmor’s school. This was quite appropriate since the original Farmor’s school, near the church, was founded by three ladies; Lady Jane Mico, Mary Barker and Elizabeth Farmor, all members of the Barker family.

The original manor consisted of about 2/3 of the present Fairford, including all of the northern part. There were two large farms built in the 17th century, Milton Farm and Park Farm, and also Manor Farm at the bottom of the Croft. There were almshouses and an early hospital in Park Road. Park Farm had a huge barn, calf pens, oxpens, a 16th century wool store and extensive stables, all now developed for housing. It also had a medieval dovecot which still exists, probably the oldest domestic building left in Fairford.

The Fairford estate continued in the ownership of the Barker family until sold off in the 1920’s, and the remainder of the estate was bought by Ernest Cook. For some years in the early part of the century, the estate was leased by Colonel Palmer (of Huntley and Palmers) who lived in the Park House. In 1936, Colonel Palmer made a generous donation to the town which provided the Palmer Hall.

During World War II, troops were quartered in huts in the Park, and the manor house was used for officers’ quarters. In 1942, an American military hospital was built in the grounds, and this was later used as a Polish refugee camp and resettlement hostel.

The estate now belongs to the Ernest Cook Trust, an educational charity set up by Ernest Cook. The ECT supports a large number of educational and research projects which benefit the conservation of the countryside.