Country houses for sale

House Historian: A Victorian country rectory in Wiltshire

The Old Rectory, on the market with Chesterton Humberts, was constructed in the early 1840s and designed by architect, George Alexander. The early Victorian stone rectory began as the home of parish curates until the 1860s when it became the main home of the rector of Biddestone. The house continued as the rectory for over 100 years, until the 1970s when it became a private home. Today, The Old Rectory has been extended and renovated to a high standard to create a comfortable family home.

The plot of land where The Old Rectory is situated was formerly known as ‘West Mead’ and until the early 1800s was part of the manor, with lords of the manor, the Mountjoy family from 1690. In the early 1800s, the land passed to Reverend Liscombe Clarke, the then rector of Biddstone St Peter and vicar of Biddestone St Nicholas. Reverend Clarke was instrumental in the foundations of Twyford School and later rose to become Archdeacon of Sarum. In 1832, the living of Biddestone passed to Reverend Andrew Quicke of New College, Oxford and fellow of Winchester College, but at this time The Old Rectory had not yet been constructed.

A surviving sketch of the ‘New Vicarage – Biddestone, Wilts’ shows the first designs for the house were completed by George Alexander, F.S.A. Arch [Fellow Society of Antiquaries] of 9 John Street, Adelphi, London. George Alexander worked as an architect in Wiltshire and London, exhibiting at the Royal Society a number of times between 1831 and 1849, including drawings for a number of churches and interiors for St George’s Hall, Liverpool. He became a fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1840 and was recorded at No.9 John Street, Adelphi from 1842 to 1845, which firmly places the drawing of the ‘New Vicarage’ at this time in the early 1840s. Architectural studies also attribute The Old Rectory as built between 1840 and 1850 ‘in a symmetrical Jacobean style’.

* Give Country Life for Christmas and save up to 40%  

Recommended videos for you

The first resident to move into the ‘new vicarage’, in the late 1840s, was the curate of Biddestone, Reverend Philip Desprez. However, by the time of the 1851 census, the rectory had become the home of 28 year old curate Arthur Gauntlett Atherley, recorded in the house with two live-in female servants, Sarah and Jemima. Reverend Quicke continued as the rector of Biddestone St Peter, but he did not live in the house, and by 1861 another curate had moved in. The new occupant was 39 year old curate, George Cole, living in the house with his wife Ellen and their seven children, along with four live-in servants.

Reverend Quicke passed away in 1864 and the living passed to Reverend John Emra of Balliol College, Oxford. It was at this time that Reverend Emra moved into the house, the first of the local rectors to live in the house. The 1871 census reveals the widowed Reverend Emra was 64 years old and in the house with his two unmarried daughters, 25 year old Lucy and 19 year old Banche. Also in the house at this time were his two granddaughters, four year old Mary and two year old Marguerite Fairbrother.

During the late 19th century, The Old Rectory continued to be the home of consecutive rectors of Biddestone and by the turn of the 20th century it was home to Reverend Benjamin Radcliffe and by 1907 Reverend John Wace. The 1911 census shows Reverend Wace was 54 years old, single, and living in the 14 roomed rectory with his 58 year old sister, Mary.

In 1917, the occupant of The Old Rectory was Reverend Harry Ketchley, who continued as rector of Biddestone throughout the early 20th century until the years of World War II. After the war, the rector became Reverend Theodore Lunt, but he did not live in the house and instead he transformed the house into two separate homes. By 1949 the house had been divided into two, but it continued as a home to members of the local clergy.

In 1985, The Old Rectory was on the market, described as ‘A period residence of great character quietly situated…renowned for its charm and character.’ It was this time that the current owners purchased the house and spent time and care in restoring and extending the house to create a large comfortable family home.

* More on The Old Rectory

* Read the full history: The House Historian