Arreton Manor has a history dating back to at least 872 AD, a fact that it is recorded in the Domesday Book. It is noted in the will of King Alfred the Great in 855 AD. Previously it had been owned by his mother Osburga and her father Oslac, Chief Butler of England. The manor was owned by King Edward before the Norman conquest.
After 1086, it was owned by William the Conqueror. In 1100 it was granted to Richard de Redvers, and was part of an endowment given to the monks of Quarr Abbey by his son Baldwin, Lord of the Isle of Wight in 1132. The manor was farmed by the monks themselves. Courts were held there to deal with the business of the manor. History shows that the abbot and monks of Quarr held the manor as a most prized possession and clung to it even when the economic viability of the monastic churches began to be threatened.
The manor continued to prosper and by the end of the 13th century had reached it peak, but from then on the fortunes of the Abbey began to decline until a hundred years later it was in financial difficulties. Soon a desperate search was on for additional income. In an attempt to generate income the granges and other properties were leased to tenants for rents. Arreton being the last to go. It remained in their control for about 400 years until 1523.
On the 1st February 1523, John Leigh took on a lease for 70 years from the Abbot, William Rippon. Sir John had come to the Island from Flamston, Wiltshire on his marriage to Agnes Fry, a widow of Appuldurcombe. Already at Michaelmas 1498 he had secured a 35-year lease of Appuldurcombe from the famous London convent of Minories without Aldgate and was to obtain, on June 3 1504, a 25-year lease of Carisbrooke priory from the Carthusians of Sheen. To hold all these and other considerable properties, in opposition to the law of 1489 on property holding, Sir John secured a royal dispensation on 3 November 1504He was at the time easily the richest man on the Isle of Wight. Of his two daughters, Isabel was a num at Wilton, whereas Anne was to marry James Worsley and thus found a most notable Island family.
After the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the manor came into the hands of the crown, however the lease continued with the Leigh family.
John Leigh had three sons, and the eldest of these, also called John, died without issue. John Leigh died in 1540 and in his will he left the lease to his wife Elizabeth, to his two brothers Edward and Barnaby £20 each, and to Jane Newman one cow. When Elizabeth died the lease passed on to Barnaby the third son.
Tragedy or legend now enter the history and for those who wish to read of this account see Sir John Oglander's Chronicles of the Isle of Wight.
James and Thomas who were the two older brothers of Mrs Barnaby Leigh once fought a duel to determine which one of them would inherit the property. One of the brothers was killed and three days later the other brother died of his wounds he had received. The title did lie with Barnaby Leigh during the reign of Elizabeth 1st. It is also recorded that when he lay on his deathbed his son John smothered him with a pillow so as to gain the inheritance. But on looking up after doing this dastardly deed, John noticed Annabel, his younger sister standing there watching, and in his panic he dragged her upstairs and threw her from the highest window. It is said that there is an area in the room that is permantely cold and the ghost of little Annabel is often seen and heard in the grounds of the manor.
The present manor house was begun in 1595 and completed in 1612. As is typical of houses of this period its mellowed Island stone walls, mullioned windows and red tiled roof sits serenely with its back to the Down, facing out over the Vale of Arreton.
Charles I visited the manor several times - perhaps it was for his sake that a secret room was hidden behind a closet in the West Bedroom, which could be entered through the side of a chimney. In 1628, the king granted the manor to trustees to help repay his debts to the City of London, and it was bought by two London merchants, Charles continued to visit the manor on several occasions and stayed there before being imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle. It was then sold on, the second time to Lord Culpeper [Thomas, Second Lord], Governor of the Isle of Wight. On Lord Culpeper's death, his daughter, Lady Katherine, acquired the property. Lady Katherine married Lord Fairfax, [known as "The coloniser of Virginia"]. It stayed in the Fairfax and Martin families for the next 230 years.
From the late 1800s the manor has changed hands many times with the property having been used for many different uses, from private residence to museum to more recently as a destination for weddings. What of the future, we have to wait and see.This page was last edited on: 4th March, 2015 06:16:07