The Manor House

The first recorded mention of Milton is from the days of William the Conqueror in his Domesday Book, when he seized the lands of those who opposed him and for good reason made disparate grants of land to his Followers.

At the dawn of the 21st Century, there are still two manor houses in Milton . Wills’ Manor is the gabled Tudor residence at the top of what was called Pluck’s Lane (changed to Rectory Lane in the 1960s) and is called The Manor House. The Manor House was most likely built in the late 17th century, probably around 1675, and is constructed predominantly in random rubble. The original stone-built house with its mullioned windows appears to be an unusual example of a double-pile house with a central lobby entrance (this was presumably blocked up after the reign of Queen Anne until its re-opening in 1979). Over the years The Manor House has had many notable owners including: Sir Sapcotes Harrington, Richard Gleed & Edmund Gleed , Richard Dodwell, Mrs Elizabeth Nash, William John Blake, Colonel Arthur Maurice Blake, and James Asplin, before it was sold to the Yorke family of Kettering. In 1969 the Manor passed briefly to George Hall and three other transient owners, and finally in more recent times to the Leons from the United States before it was acquired in 1979 by Professor Gordon and Avril Wills, who are today’s Lord and Lady of the Manor of Milton

Restoration of The Manor House between 1979 & 1999

When the Wills family acquired The Manor House, it had been standing empty for nearly twelve months and was in need of most extensive repairs. The west wall of the dovecote in particular was in a state of imminent collapse. Accordingly, it was decided to restore the whole property to the standard of a large family house, with all the comforts and amenities of the late 20th century. However considerable care and attention had to be afforded to this venture because The Manor House and the dovecote are both Grade II Listed Buildings.

The major strategic decision was to turn The Manor House ground floor back to its original 17th century orientation. The blocked front entrance on the west was opened up and widened, supplementing the original stonework. Within the reopened doorway, a new entrance. A guest washroom and wardrobe were also introduced, and a Japanese oak screen was erected between the new entrance hall and an enlarged dining hall, in both of which additional roof beams were placed. A modern kitchen was added to the north, sweeping away the former conservatory and outhouses there. This was further redesigned in 1998 when the present Victorian style fittings were introduced.

On the first floor the only major work required was the introduction of ample en suite bathroom facilities for the master bedroom to the north west, and the main facility to the north east. The library to the south west received, solely for decorative purposes, the marble fire surround removed from the downstairs morning room, and all the best of the early oak floor-boarding was gathered together in this room, cleaned and re-polished. The library retains some of the best examples of early glass window panes in the house. Until 1979 it had been a bedroom. Its final conversion with pine shelving and panelling was completed in 1989.

The need to rebuild the west entrance on the ground floor exposed dangerous deterioration throughout the roof valley area, and this led to the rebuilding of the airing cupboard in the master bedroom and the incorporation of an additional cupboard into the north study wall. The top floor attics of The Manor House were totally dilapidated but they were restored and converted to a suite of rooms with bathroom facilities. All the original timbers were treated and exposed. The old door with its myriad of key holes and ancient interior wooden bolt in the north bedroom was retained. The restoration was preceded lifting all the tiled sections of the roof to the south and within the valley. After relining, insulating, and timber replacement as necessary, the useable old tiles were repositioned to the south slope and slates positioned in the valley. At the same time the central chimney stack was lowered by the removal of the brick section that had been added in Victorian times but subsequently created major smoke problems in the sitting room, only to be overcome by the construction of a new chimney and an extractor fan.

To the north of the new kitchen a utility room for laundry and full gas central heating was added with a sauna bath beyond. Its north and east exterior walls were rebuilt and the old 18th century sitting room to the south was reopened to its full glory from east to west. The fireplace therein was re-opened into the central stack and the fireback with the Wills family badge was cast in 1993. The stained glass Wills coat of arms was placed in the sitting room window facing north west in 1988 and the arms of Prestoungrange added in 2000. Beyond the re-opened sitting room to the south a new cedar wood conservatory was built. The outbuildings to the north were removed and replaced with a stone-faced, but brick-built, double garage and workshop.

The dovecote and building was totally renovated using many of the now redundant timbers and fittings, and regained convenient interior access to its upper level, with leaded windows added to north and south. It became a study with fine roof and timbers. The glover on the roof was restored from earlier photographs to the way it had been in the 1920s. Downstairs, the horse box and store were incorporated as a home office, providing all the contemporary electronic equipment needed for 21st century office communications. Wood storage was transferred to the area connecting the sauna bath and the barn, with new roofing introduced to keep it dry. In the garden to east and south concrete pavers were introduced to replace the now decaying concrete paths. The Wills family badge was carved into the date stone on what was now called The Barn. A weathervane was placed on the roof including the family name with styling from a Victorian example in Buckingham. The flagpole was erected on the north west Victorian extension wall to fly the Wills’ flag as authorised by the Grant of Arms and The Baronial Standard of Prestoungrange. Finally, the main gates were modified to open automatically and a wicket gate added for ease of access.

More details of this interesting building and the history surrounding it can be found on the Prestoungrange web site.