Berkyn Manor is a derelict manor house in the small village of Horton, near Slough, Berkshire. It’s steeped in history and many interesting artifacts remain. These include an organ and a library, that helped make this a thoroughly enjoyable explore. The dilapidated house that stands today was built in the 19th century. However there has been a manor house on the site for the best part of 500 years. Little records remain of John Berkyn, of who the house is named after. It’s also not clear if he named it himself. As we delve into some history, we’ll touch on a few residential family names from over the centuries, including the famous poet John Milton. Even the current owners’ family history goes way back in the village.
15th Century – John Berkyn
The general consensus is that John Berkyn was the original owner of the manor house and land upon which it stood. The land also held its own fishery in the Thames. The deed grants in national archives mention four ownership deeds for the land during the 15th century. Up to his death in 1458, it was John Berkyn. Then the house and land was owned by the fourth provost of Eton College, William Westbury. Westbury was notably remembered for successfully opposing King Edward IV’s proposed merging of Eton and Windsor Colleges.
A deed was granted to a Charles Rippon after Westbury’s death in 1477. He held the deeds until the end of the century, when it was granted to Eton College in 1494.
16th Century – Thomas Bulstrode
Sometime during the first half of the 1500’s, Thomas Bulstrode became owner of Berkyn Manor. He left the house in his will to his second son Thomas in 1560. Thomas later gave it to his elder brother Edward.
Also during the 16th century, the first record of a Rayner in Horton has been traced back to 1522. It is unknown whether they were of direct descendant to the current owners. In 1588, the Rayners bought Colnbrook Farm after already owning a farm down Mill Lane.
17th Century – John Milton
John Milton was a famous poet that’s believed to have resided at Berkyn Manor. There is a plaque in the village laying claim to such, however it does seem to be speculative. Milton began to write poetry in Italian, Latin and English when he attended Christ’s College in Cambridge. His plan was to join the clergy, however after university he abandoned these plans and moved into his father’s countryside home. John lived with his father John Milton Senior and brother Christopher. It’s said they rented Berkyn Manor from the Earl of Bridgewater, Sir John Egerton. During these years he undertook private study in preparation for a career as a poet. His extensive reading included philosophy, politics, religion and literature just to name a few. He was also proficient in Latin, Hebrew, French, Spanish, Italian, English, Dutch and Greek.
Milton’s mother Sara died in 1637 and was buried in St Michael’s. In May 1638, Milton headed out on a 13-month tour of France and Italy. He met many influential people on his travels, including the astronomer Galileo. Upon his return, the family home was broken up and they moved to Reading. John Milton married Mary Powell in 1642, when she was 16 years old. His father died five years later in 1647. Mary bore John four children, three daughters and a son. She died in 1652. Milton went on to marry two more times. His second wife Katherine Woodcock died giving birth in 1658, two years after their wedding. Elizabeth Minshull was Milton’s third and final wife.
During the English civil war, John Milton served as secretary for foreign languages in Oliver Cromwell’s government. He composed official statements defending the Commonwealth and also wrote a series of pamphlets championing Cromwell’s cause. When Milton went completely blind in 1651, he continued this work. After the restoration of Charles II to the throne in 1660, Milton was arrested for supporting the Commonwealth, fined and soon released.
In 1665 Milton moved to Chalfort St Giles, where his only surviving abode remains. Today it is a museum. Milton’s well known poem Paradise Lost was written here in 1667, as well as others. He died in 1674.
Other Notes For the 1600’s
- 1623 – Alice Rayner marries Francis Clark in Horton. Still unsure of relation.
- 1626 – 34 people die in Horton from the plague.
- 1635 – A gate was placed between Raynersberry Moore and Horton Moore.
- 1659 – William Rayner born. He’s the first confirmed descendant of the current owners.
- 1695 – Thomas Rayner is made Chief Constable.
- 1697 – Mary Wild is born who was the future wife of Joseph Rayner.
18th Century – Early Rayners
Henry Rayner was born in 1712. Joseph Rayner was a church warden at Colnbrook in 1732. and Thomas Rayner was born the same year. Joseph Rayner is believed to have been killed by a crossbow in 1750 after attempting to poach the king’s deer. Thomas Rayner’s first wife, Mary Anthony was wealthy. After she died he married Sarah Talbot on January 14th 1774. They had at least 20 children. The Victorian painter Louise Rayner descended from this second marriage. In 1782, Henry Rayner passed away at the age of 70. he’s buried in Horton church. In 1798, Berkyn Manor was demolished.
19th Century – Edward Tyrrell
In the early part of the 19th century, Berkyn manor was rebuilt. It is noted that a Mr Thomas Woodward resided in the house until his death in 1840 at 90 years old. The next resident was Mr Joseph Ruffells who died in 1848. The owner Mr John Cooke also died and left a son, John Parsons Cooke, who was poisoned by a William Palmer.
Edward Tyrrell was born in London in 1792 and in 1823 married Frances Lingham at Kew. In 1841 their son Avery was born. After the owner’s and resident’s passing, Edward Tyrrell purchased Berkyn Manor from the trustees of Cooke in 1848. He rebuilt the manor house much to his own tastes and comforts. When Edward and Frances moved in they had 12 servants.
In 1854, Edward Tyrrell became church warden at St Michael’s. In the following decade the previous tenant, Mr Ruffell’s household furniture and farming equipment were auctioned off after his widow died. Presumably they’d been kept in storage in a barn on site somewhere.
There is reference to Avery being referred to as a ‘Captain Avery Tyrrell’ in a book called The Early History of The Worshipful Company Of Upholders Of The City Of London. It was in a list of masters of the organisation. Avery, 1870, his father Edward in 1840 and grandfather Timothy in 1810, all held this same position. It’s unclear in what organisation Avery was a captain, i.e. police force, raf, etc. Timothy and Edward also both held position of Remembrancer of The City of London. The position’s main responsibility was primary communicator between the Mayor and City of London and The Crown and Government.
In 1872 Avery married Anetta Chartry De La Fosse Toker. He was sadly widowed just 7 years later. Anetta’s cross is in St Michael’s Church. She was just 38 years old. The following year in 1880, Avery paid £305 for the organ in the church. He also had a hand in the stenciled decoration.
Edward Tyrrell died in 1881, leaving Avery to inherit Berkyn Manor. Avery further developed the house, adding a dairy in 1884 and stables in 1886. Avery liked to leave his touch on things, made evident by the ‘AV1884’ marked in bricks in the dairy, ‘1881’ on the rear of the house, and the stables displayed his coat of arms, of a boar’s head and peacock feathers.
Avery married Sarah Edith Davids in Paddington in 1886. He died the last of his name in Berkyn Manor in 1909. He left £73,331. 3s. 2d.
20th Century – Ernest Rayner
Ernest Rayner was a county councillor and Berkyn Manor’s last resident. He was born the seventh child of his parents in 1891. In 1927 the Rayners bought manor farm for £20,000. A Thomas Henry Rayner was president of Horton Football Club 1932-33.
Richard Rayner died two days short of his 88th birthday in 1940. He’s buried with his wife in St Michael’s. Avery Tyrrell’s widow Sarah died in 1944, leaving the Rayners to purchase Berkyn Manor from AJ Shore the following year and move in. J Rayner & Sons Limited was founded in 1954 from the original farming partnership.
Ernest Rayner died in 1987 at the age of 96. Since then the manor house has stayed owned by the Rayner’s but not lived in. The Rayner family had a family reunion at Berkyn Manor Farm in 2004, celebrating the 350th year of their family tree. Attendees included members of the Rayner family, members of the Colnbrook Baptist Church and evacuees who’d stayed on the farm during the war. Hundreds of family photos were laid out from 1884 onwards, plus an extensive family tree.
Berkyn manor was an absolute time capsule. Your eyes just didn’t know where to look next. Around every corner was a new treasure trove for the eyes to see. Given this, I really felt it’s history write up deserved the utmost care and attention. I should note I always do my research after an explore. I want the feeling and experience to be raw. So I was very disappointed to find this great house having the same timeline copied and pasted over and over, across various corners of the internet. None the less, with little to go on, I took my time to try to make sense of it all. There may be factual inaccuracies, but I’ve done the best with what I had. I hope you’ve enjoyed the post. Now view the remaining images in the gallery below.