10. Lady Margaret Beaufort and Torrington Manor

Lady Margaret Beaufort was born in c.1441/1443, the daughter of the Duke of Beaufort, a descendant of the Duke of Lancaster John of Gaunt and Edward III. She married Edmund Tudor, the half-brother of King Henry VI, in 1455 and gave birth to a single child, a son Henry in 1457, six months after her husband’s death in captivity.

Margaret became an accomplished political player in the Wars of the Roses, born into the House of Lancaster but related to both sides, Margaret later married twice more, lastly a Yorkist supporter, Thomas Stanley. Margaret’s son Henry Tudor was the primary Lancastrian heir and fled with her brother-in-law Jasper Tudor to France in 1471; Margaret didn’t see Henry again for fourteen years. A key figure behind the Buckingham Rebellion of 1483, an uprising against Richard III, which led to the trial held by Lord Scrope in Torrington Market Square in 1483, Margaret continued to work behind the scenes for her son’s claim to the throne.

In 1485 Henry Tudor, the Duke of Richmond returned to the UK and raised a rebellion against Richard III. Henry won the Battle of Bosworth Field, King Richard dying in the fighting. Henry was crowned Henry VII.

Shortly after his coronation Henry granted his beloved mother many manors and holdings making her one of the richest people in England. Many of the manors granted to Margaret had been loyal to Henry, like Torrington.

Margret was very powerful in the Tudor court, given control of her own lands and estate, as ‘if single’ even though she was married. When her daughter in law Elizabeth, the Queen died in 1503, she steered the futures of her grandchildren. A special royal position of ‘Kings Mother’ was created at court and Henry consulted her on many topics. The Spanish envoy Pedro d Ayala in 1498 wrote (Henry) ‘was much influenced by his mother’.

Margaret, like other magnates of the day with vast holdings moved between her manors. In the later 1300s the seat of the Lord of Torrington had been moved to a new site north of the town, adjacent to the town’s church. Here a large moated manor house complex was constructed. We know once Margaret became Lord of the Manor she further extended and improved the manor house and spent considerable time visiting the town having moved down her library of books, preferring to live alone, despite still being married.

During her time being Lord of the Manor of Torrington Margaret bonded with the Rector of the time, being a very religious woman and was impressed with the education and ambition of the people of the town. In 1499 Margaret took a vow of chastity and to dedicate herself to Christ. Margaret retreated largely to her estate at Collyweston, Northamptonshire.

At this time she gifted the manor house to the Rector, so the clergy of Torrington would not have to travel in from Priestacott about 2km; unusually Margaret also gifted her library to the town’s people, via the church.

A new library building was built onto the chancel of the church to house Margaret’s books. You can find the building today, south of the chancel, indicated by the large crenellations of Tudor roses along the top and having large windows for light for reading. Sadly, many of these books were lost in the later civil war fire at the church and the rest, moved to the guildhall/town hall for safety were lost in a later fire of 1724.

Further Reading

Margarets Biography – Westminster Abbey

Lady Margaret Beaufort and her Books

Margaret as College Patron

PDF Academic paper on Margaret – Marcelia Abadia

Bosworth Field Battle centre

Piece by Alison Wier –

Oxford Database of Naional Biography

History Channel and magazine– wars of the roses

Wars of the roses battle timeline

War of the Roses society

Richard III society

Example of similar moated-manor houses:

National Trust

National Trust

Weare Giffard Manor House – nearby, c3miles. This is a private house but open on special weekends

National Archives

Manor House at Great Torrington

HER No: MDV12390

Text: The manor house at Great Torrington had a moat, and was in use in the time of Henry VII. Traces of the moat are fast disappearing. The present vicarage was built on site of the old manor house. Strong traces of the moat to the north were destroyed during construction. South of vicarage an east-west depression may still be seen. When visited on 27th November 1978 no traces of the moat or manor remained.

Link to National Record: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV12390&resourceID=104

Great Torrington Manorial Mill

HER No: MDV53331

Text: Site of the manorial mills of Torrington. Demolished when the canal basin was constructed.

Link to National Record: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV53331&resourceID=104

The Vicarage, Great Torrington

HER No: MDV76316

Text: Vicarage. Late 18th century origins to rear block, front garden-facing block built 1844 for the Reverend Samuel Buckland. Rendered walls with brick and rendered stacks to Welsh slate roof with projecting eaves to front. L-plan with rear left wing. Two storeys. 1:2-window garden front with projecting left-hand gable. Ground floor has 6/9-pane sashes to right of porch, which has pilasters framing panelled door with overlight and flanking narrow lights; plain balustrade with wrought-ironwork to front ofporch; 6/9-pane sash above and 6/6-pane sash to right. Left-hand gable has small 4-pane casement to apex, 6/6-pane first-floor sash and canted bay with slate roof and similar sashes. Other elevations and rear wing have similar 6/6-pane sashes. Interior noted as having mid 19th century joinery and open-well staircase with stick balusters, enriched and moulded cornicing and classical fireplaces in wood and marble. Rear wing has retained some 18th century panelled doors.

Link to National Record: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV76316&resourceID=104

Also a Grade II Listed Building(UID: 1247113):


Priestacott Farmhouse

HER No: MDV16954

Text: Early 18th century house, said to be the former parsonage for Great Torrington.

Link to National Record: https://www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=MDV16954&resourceID=104