Ruislip, Northwood and Eastcote
Local History Society

Manor Farm, Ruislip - The Site Timeline


  Neolithic tools  

Neolithic flints, arrow heads, scrapers and knives and a few Bronze Age implements have been found along the Pinn valley and in Park Wood. Some of the flints were discovered at the northern end of the site.



ROMAN: 1st–-5th century AD


Potsherds, including a piece of a mortarium from the Roman kilns at Brockley Hill, Stanmore, and burnt daub with wattle grooves found within the bank of the ditch at the northern edge of the site, suggest that the ditch itself is post-Roman in date.

Walls of flint interspersed with Roman brick and associated fragments of pottery of the same period were observed in Dove House Close (now St Martin’s Approach car park) in the 1930s.

  Roman Grey Ware picture  
  Roman Grey Ware found in the 1976 excavation at Manor Farm   Rim of a Roman mortarium, made in Verulamium c90-130 AD, found in the 1976 excavation at Manor Farm.


SAXON: mid-11th century - centre of Wlward Wit’s Ruislip estate


The ditch at the northern end of the site has been considered as part of a village earth work that surrounded an early settlement. It is now believed more likely to have originated as an extension of the enigmatic earthwork called Grims Dyke that was probably dug in the pagan Saxon period.

  Trench dug across the ditch at the northern edge of the Manor Farm site, looking south. Manor Farm House can be seen up the hill in the top left corner.    

  os map of Ruislip  
  1865 Ordnance Survey 25 inch map showing Manor Farm and the ditch with the 1976 excavation site marked. The continuation of the line of the ditch westwards as a field boundary suggested to Hugh Braun c1930 that it was part of a village earthwork. Continuing eastwards it seems to be being fed by a channel from the River Pinn, leading to his idea that it might have been utilised later as a mill stream. Recent thinking is that the ditch could have originally been part of Grims Dyke.  


Domesday Book (1086) gives the earliest documentary evidence for the existence of Ruislip and the name of the mid-11th century owner, Wlward Wit, who was a thane of King Edward the Confessor. Presumably there was a hall within the enclosure from which the estate was controlled. The area has been continuously settled since that time.



NORMAN: late 11th century – military and administrative centre of the Manor of Ruislip under Ernulf de Hesdin, the Norman owner.


The Domesday Book (1086) refers to Ruislip as a Manor.

  domesday book  

X. The land of Ernulf de Hesdin


ERNULF de Hesdin holds RUISLIP. It is assessed at 30 hides. There is land for 20 ploughs. In demesne [are] 11 hides, and there are 3 ploughs. Among the Frenchmen and the villans are 12 ploughs, and there could be 5 more. There a priest [has] half a hide, and [there are] 2 villans on 1 hide, and 17 villans each [on] 1 virgate, and10 villans each [on] half a virgate, and 7 bordars each [on] 4 acres, and 8 cottars and 4 slaves, and 4 Frenchmen on 3 hides and 1 virgate. [There is] pasture for the livestock of all the vill. There is a park for wild beasts, [and] woodland for 1,500 pigs and [rendering] 20d. In all it is worth £20; when received £12; TRE £30. Wulfweard White, a thegn of King Edward, held this manor. He could sell it to whom he would.

  The Domesday Book entry for Rislepe (Ruislip)
under the heading
‘The lands of Ernulf de Hesding in Helethorn Hundred’.


Motte and Bailey castle:

  motte in 1977  

The mound and moat in the centre of the site are scheduled as a motte and bailey castle of the late 11th century. Bury Street running past the site may refer to the ‘burgh’ and the four Frenchmen mentioned in the Domesday entry for Ruislip could have been manning the military and administrative centre of the manor.


The motte (mound) in 1977.
Manor Farm House stands in the former bailey.



According to the Domesday Book there was ‘a park for woodland beasts’ in Ruislip. The northern boundary of the Park (now a scheduled ancient monument) can be seen in the middle of the present Park Wood. The Park was oval in shape and 340 acres (138 hectares) in extent, with the River Pinn running through the middle. Bury Street, Eastcote Road and Fore Street (taking its name from its position in front of the park), all ancient roads, respect the outline of the park. The site of the motte and bailey lies in the south-west corner of the park, separated from it by the Grims Dyke / village earthwork, suggesting that the park predated the permanent settlement. Part of the earthwork crosses what is now St Martin’s Approach car park.


  bank and ditch   moat
  The bank and ditch which once completely surrounded the Park for woodland animals mentioned in the Domesday Book   The moat around the motte (mound), photographed in 1932, looking towards the Church
  ruislip church  

Domesday Book mentions a priest at Ruislip and by inference, a church, which could havebeen either a late Saxon or an early Norman foundation. The present St Martin’s (mainly 13th century) contains a stone with chevron marking of the Norman period in the south aisle. The church is believed to be on the same site as the original, very close to the hall of the manor.


Ernulf de Hesdin granted the manor to the Abbey of Bec c1087.
The Abbey of Bec still exists in Normandy.



THE ABBEY OF BEC c1087-1414


Late 12th century: A cell was established on the site.


13th century: RUISLIP PRIORY becomes the administrative centre of the Abbey of Bec'’s English lands, inhabited by only one or two monks and their servants.


A modern monk at the Abbey of Bec in Normandy.
Although Benedictines, the monks of Bec wore
white habits from 1219 onwards. One or two monks
dressed like this inhabited the Priory at Ruislip.


24 manors belonging to Bec formed the Bailiwick of Ogbourne and were administered from Ruislip by the mid-13th century, when the Proctor-General, William de Guineville, made it his headquarters. He caused a Customal of all the Bec manors to be drawn up. The Ruislip section gives the names of the people holding land in Ruislip and details of their duties within the manor. Other manorial documents give fascinating details of everyday life. The central audit of some 24 Bec manors was held at the priory. The power of the priory was at its height at this period.


Ruislip people worked in the fields much as those shown here in the Luttrell Psalter

  1997 foundations  

Flint foundations discovered in 1997 during excavations on the north side of Manor Farm House are probably associated with the priory buildings.


1294- ALIEN PRIORY - start of a long period of decline


During the long periods of intermittent warfare between England and France in the late 13th and 14th century, possessions of French Abbeys were classed as ‘Alien Priories’ and seized by the Crown from time to time. Extents (inventories) were made each time a seizure took place. Extents of 1294, 1324 and 1336 survive and describe the priory buildings as follows:


The buildings. There was a Hall and other rooms, a chapel with ornaments, a Guest House and three barns. Among the things inside the priory were thirteen dishes worth £9 12s, twelve silver salt cellars, six silver cups, a cup made of a nut with a silver foot and two cups of Maplewood.
Some buildings must have been tiled because a tiler and his servant had been hired for seven days to do roofing work in 1324.


Produce. The priory was the centre of a large demesne (about 900 acres) devoted mainly to growing crops, rather than rearing animals. Wheat, oats, peas, beans and a little barley were all stored in the barns. There was a grange in Northwood occupied by six ploughmen with a maid to make the pottage in 1324 and another at Bourne (in South Ruislip) where a boy looked after oxen.


The Great Barn (Grade II*) built about 1300 is the only standing building surviving from the time of the priory. It contains high quality carpenters’ work.

  Great Barn   great barn interior
  The Great Barn built c1300
just before the Priory went into a period of decline
  Interior of the Great Barn


1404 The Abbey of Bec loses Ruislip. Henry IV granted Ruislip and all other property in the Bailiwick of Ogbourne to William de St Vaast, proctor-general, Thomas Langley, later Bishop of Durham and John of Lancaster, later Duke of Bedford.


1436 Following the death of the Duke of Bedford Henry VI grants Ruislip to his chancellor, John Somerset for life with reversion to the University of Cambridge.

  henry VI  

1451 Henry VI confirms Ruislip to his foundation, the King’s College of St Mary and St Nicholas at Cambridge.




The Priory buildings remained on the site. In 1434-6 the Court, as the site was known because manor courts were held there, had a hall, Chamber of the Prior, Chamber of the Lord, Chamber 1, a Chapel, a Counting House, a bake house, a kitchen and two sculleries. The furnishings of the counting house included a table with a whole set of chessmen ‘to play on that table’. There was a Smithy near the Court gate and the Great Barn was called ‘the Tithing Barn’. The monks of Bec were rectors of Ruislip and had the right to collect the Great Tithes - corn, hay, other produce of the fields and wood. (Little tithes – eggs, milk and minor produce - went to the vicar.) The Dean and Canons of Windsor became rectors in 1422 and eventually tithes were stored in a new rectory barn on the corner of Bury Street and Ladygate Lane.


SIXTEENTH CENTURY: a time of improvement - new Manor House


The demesne included the woods, the area around the Court and the large open fields lying south of Eastcote Road to the Roxbourne Brook (in South Ruislip). From 1452 King’s College leased the demesne, sometimes to local men, sometimes to Fellows of the College, or to great men like the Earls of Salisbury. Some lived at the Court, others sub-leased to under-tenants. Leases show that hospitality had to be provided for stewards who came on College business, along with stabling and fodder for their horses. The present house (now known as Manor Farm House) was built to provide a more fitting residence for such officials and a prestigious setting for the manor courts that were normally held twice a year.


A dendrochronological survey carried out in May 2005 suggested a date of construction between 1506-11 and building accounts show that the work was done in 1505-06. Sir Robert Drury of Hawstead, Suffolk, had just become the manorial lessee. The present house was built alongside the priory buildings, some of which, the hall and a tower, were left standing, possibly to be used as service rooms. The chapel was demolished.


The new house had a hall, parlour, kitchen, buttery and entry on the ground floor and chambers above. Manor Courts were held in the hall. The Provost of King’s College or his deputies had use of the parlour and the chamber above, which rejoiced in a gardrobe. The under-tenant who farmed the land lived in the rest of the house and probably spread into the official rooms during the long periods when they were unoccupied.


One end of the house fell into the moat c1547 and had to be rebuilt with a new chimney and new oven. This might have been part of the old priory. At the same time a new kitchen was possibly built onto the eastern side of the house and the southern end and the old kitchen could have become the low parlour for the use of the under tenant.

  manor farm house 1970s  

The Manor Farm House as it appeared in the 1970s

  little barn  

The Little Barn (now Manor Farm Library) was erected at the same time as the house, probably replacing a medieval building referred to as the South barn.


1565 A Terrier (land survey) was drawn up for the Provost and Scholars of King’s College. It refers to '‘the mansion house of the Manor of Ruislip with barns, stables, dovecots, gardens, orchards…’..'. There is also a reference to a horse pool (now the Duck Pond).


The demesne (the Lord of the Manor's domain) in 1565


  horse pool now duck pond  

The former Horse Pool, now the Duck Pond.
A TA Unit were using it during the First World War when this picture was taken.


SEVENTEENTH CENTURY: tidying the site


Some of the old Priory buildings survived. In 1613 The Provost and Earl of Salisbury gave leave for the old ruinated fryer’s hall’ to be taken down.


Ralph Hawtrey of Eastcote House leased the Manor from 1669. Thereafter the Hawtreys and their descendants, Rogers and Deanes continued as lessees until 1872. Under tenants, usually members of the Reding family, lived at the Court and managed the farmland.
Late in the 17th century some alterations took place. The present entrance hall was created and decorated with handsome wallpaper dated 1700-10.


the earliest map of the site and new farm buildings


John Doharty was commissioned to draw up a Terrier of the Ruislip demesne together with a map.

  Doharty map  

Part of Doharty's Map 1750 showing the site



On the map the house is labelled ‘Ruislip Court’ and shown within the outer moat. The moats are rather an odd shape. The Great Barn is shown with a wagon door on either side. The Little Barn faces another barn across the courtyard, perhaps the Cow shed that now serves as a Guide Hut. There is a rickyard and pond south of the Little Barn and a Dovecot in Dove House Close and a Smith’s shop by the court gate, possibly on the site of the one mentioned in 1436.

  Guide Hut  

The 18th century Cowshed used now as a Guide Hut, and to the right is the 19th century Stable Block


The Manor House was altered, perhaps by James Rogers who was married to the last Ralph Hawtrey’s granddaughter and hence manorial lessee. He remodelled Eastcote House between 1722-38. However, as King’s College retained the profits and receipts of court, it is possible that the Provost and Scholars paid for the modernisation that took place mid-century - new windows replaced most of the mullions and the entrance hall was panelled.


NINETEENTH CENTURY: further changes


The house: The stairs at the back of the entrance hall were either inserted or earlier ones were altered. A new kitchen extension was built and an external corridor on the east side of the house joined it to the main parlour and the front stairs.


The farm buildings: About the middle of the century some new farm buildings were erected. In the eastern courtyard outshots were added to the Great Barn on either side of the wagon door and the line of sheds, that are now craft workshops, were built. In the main courtyard the present brick and tiled stables appeared and a thatched cowbyre that was burnt down in 1976. A single storey building was erected at the end of the moat beside the gate into Manor Farm House. An open-fronted shed was built along the trackway from the High Street and a shed opposite it on the edge of the rickyard. The Smith’s shop beside the gate was replaced by a new lodge (now used as a Public Lavatory). The Smithy moved around the corner into Bury Street. Farm bailiffs and sometimes a shepherd lived at the lodge. These new buildings are shown on the 1865 OS map. Manor Courts were held in the Manor House under a steward from King’s College.

  outshots west side of barn   cowbyre
  The outshots on the western side of the Great Barn can be seen on the right
and the cart sheds straight ahead – July 1972
  The thatched Cow Byre is on the left with the new library ahead - 1937
  View along trackway

This early 20th century view along the trackway into Manor Farm shows the Dutch Barn on the right,
the stables with a half door open in the middle distance,
and hay ricks on either side of a shed on the left

  manor farm lodge  
  Manor Farm Lodge and adjacent cottages - 1970  
  Henry Ewer  

Under-tenants of the Deanes lived in the house and farmed the estate until 1872. The College then leased directly to tenant farmers and gradually the house became known as Manor Farm. Henry James Ewer, a member of a family long established in the area was there from 1886 until his death in 1916. He filled in the northern part of the moat in 1888 to make a tennis court.


Henry James Ewer standing
outside Manor Farm House c1900



TWENTIETH CENTURY: the end of agricultural activity


A granary on iron staddles was put up in the main courtyard.

  Granary Barn  

The early 20th century Granary
– burnt down in August 1980


The last manor court was held at the house on Thursday 23 October 1925.


Richard Ewer, son of Henry James Ewer continued to farm the land until 1932 by which time suburban houses were being developed on the fields. The Ruislip Town Planning Scheme of 1914 provided for Copse Wood, Park Wood and all the buildings at Manor Farm and around the church to be cleared and the area built over. The Ruislip Association (forerunner of the Residents’ Association) initiated negotiations with King’s College to preserve Park Wood and some of the ancient buildings. The College agreed to sell Park Wood to Ruislip-Northwood Urban District Council and Middlesex County Council and to throw in Manor Farm and the Old Post Office (now Blubeckers Restaurant) as a gift to the people of Ruislip. Maynard Keynes, Bursar of King’s College, performed the handing-over ceremony in the Great Barn on Saturday 23 July 1932.


Since 1932 Manor Farm has been used by the public and maintained by successive local authorities - RNUDC and the London Borough of Hillingdon.


A sub-committee of the RNUDC considered ways of turning over the site to community use:
The Stables became a Boys’ Club in 1935.
The Lodge was converted to a Public Convenience in 1935.
In 1936 it was decided that two flats on the first floor of Manor Farm House should be let to Council employees, preferably members of Ruislip Fire Brigade. A telephone connection was established between Manor Farm and the Fire Station that was beside The George in Bury Street.
Great Barn roof needed repair and in 1938 the sub-committee decided that the Great Barn should be preserved (£550 cost) and thereafter used as a sub-depot.
Cowbyre needed slight repairs to the thatch.
Keeping ducks on the pond might be a way of dispersing the duck weed.
The Little Barn became Manor Farm Library, opening on 2 November 1937.
Ruislip Bowls Club started negotiating with the RNUDC in 1938 and a Bowling Green was created on the old rickyard. It opened for play in the summer of 1940.
A Marionette Society was formed in 1942 and used the Granary.
In 1943 a Fire Sub-station was built on the corner of Eastcote Road and St Martin’s Approach Notice was to be given to the National Fire Service so as to preserve the Council’s powers in respect of the removal of the corrugated iron building at the end of the war. The building became an ambulance station.
A WRVS hut and Manor Farm Hall were built during the war years. The hall is still in use.


The Manor House was refurbished in 1958-60, making it more suitable for community use. Winston Churchill Hall was built in 1965. The Cow Byre was burnt down at Easter 1976 and replaced by the present Cow Byre Exhibition Centre and café, opened in October 1980. The Granary was struck by lightening and burnt down in August 1980.


Two sarsen stones lie on the grass by the stables. They are masses of stone of Eocene age, which have been hardened by secondary silica. They occur in the Reading Beds which underlie part of this area. Being the only natural stone available in Middlesex, they were utilised as gate posts, mounting-blocks etc and used for sharpening tools. Several can be seen associated with old sites in Ruislip, Northwood and Eastcote.

  Fire Station   The corrugated iron Fire Sub-Station building that should have been removed when the new Fire Station was opened in Ducks Hill can still be seen. The Ambulance Station is in front – July 1972

  The Stables were then
known as The Boys' Club
– July 1972

  little barn   The Little Barn converted
to a library
- opened 2 November 1937

  The Handing-over of Park Wood - 23 July 1932. Maynard Keynes is sitting on the extreme right.   handover




Thanks to Heritage Lottery Funding the Great Barn and Manor Farm House have been restored. Work by Geraint Franklin on the building accounts and other documents and by Linda Hall on the fabric have revealed much of the building history, whilst leaving a few puzzles to be solved. Information boards around the grounds, interpretive panels in the downstairs room of the house, explain the history of this ancient site and those who lived, worked and played there.

Further Reading

Bedford, Robert &
Bowlt, Colin
  Excavations of an earthwork at Manor Farm, Ruislip, The London Archaeologist, Vol 3, No 4, Autumn 1977

Bedford, Robert &
Bowlt, Colin
  Excavations in and around the filled-in moat at Manor Farm, Ruislip, Journal, Ruislip, Northwood and Eastcote Local Historical Society, 1978

Bowlt, Colin &
Bedford, Robert
  Excavation at the Cow Byre, Manor Farm, Ruislip, 1978, Journal, RNELHS, 1979

Bowlt, Colin   A Possible Extension to Grim's Dyke
in Clark, Cotton, Hall, Sherris & Swain (eds), Londinium and Beyond, Council for British Archaeology 2008

Bowlt, Eileen M   The Goodliest Place in Middlesex, 1989

Braun, Hugh   Earliest Ruislip, Trans London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, Vol VII, 1937

Bridge, MC   The tree-ring dating of timbers from Manor Farm House, Bury Street, Ruislip, May 2005

Cattle, JT  

A Short History of Ruislip, 1931

Clarke, Patricia A   Ruislip Manor Farm, Middlesex, Report on the Fabric of the Building, 1994

Cotton, J, Mills, J &
Clegg, G
  Archaeology in West Middlesex, 1986

Demaus Building Diagnostics   Ruislip Manor Farmhouse, Bury Street Ruislip, Building Investigation, 2005

Franklin, Geraint & Hall, Linda   Manor Farm, Ruislip, London Borough of Hillingdon, Historic Buildings Report, English Heritage, Research Department Report Series 63-2008

Morris, Laurence E   A History of Ruislip, 1956

RNELHS   Ruislip and the Abbey of Bec, 1987

Steele, Alison   Archaeological Discoveries at Manor Farm, Journal, RNELHS, 1998

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