Local Heritage

Buildings of the Borough – Carew Manor

Back in August, we started a series of posts on important buildings of Cheam. Alongside it will be this series, which will focus on buildings in the London Borough of Sutton as a whole. In our first article in the series, we will be focusing on the history of Carew Manor and some of the important people linked with it.

Located in Beddington, Carew Manor was originally known as Beddington Place or Beddington Park House, deriving its modern name from the fact that it was owned by the Carew family for some time. It was first built in 1381 when two Beddington estates were united by Nicholas Carrew to form the manor.

Portrait of Nicholas Carew

Eight men named Nicholas Carew owned the manor at some point, but the fourth one is arguably the most iconic. Born in 1495 and “brought up under His Majesty since he was six years old”, he is arguably most known for being a friend of King Henry VIII. He was heavily involved in court life and held several important positions such as sheriff of Sutton and Surrey. Unfortunately, Carew and Henry fell out for a variety of reasons, including Carew apparently being involved in a plot of treason and Henry wanting his land. Henry ordered Carew’s arrest on the 14th February 1539 and he was sentenced to be executed on the 3rd March 1539.

One person who had a major impact on Carew Manor itself was Sir Francis Carew (1530-1611), who used the grounds of the manor to create one of the most impressive gardens in Elizabethan England. It had the first orangery in England to have orange trees planted directly into the ground. It also had trout streams, ornamental fountains, a grotto and even an elaborately decorated banqueting house. No wonder that Queen Elizabeth I visited it on several occasions. Other famous people throughout the centuries who came to visit the garden and see its orange trees included writer John Evelyn, sculptor John Gibson and even Robinson Crusoe writer Daniel Defoe.

A major scandal occurred surrounding his niece Elizabeth “Bess” Throckmorton, a maid-of-honour to the Queen. Entering a relationship with the Queen’s then-favourite Sir Walter Raleigh, they got married in secret in November 1592 against the Queen’s wishes. Fortunately for them, Elizabeth did not order their heads to be cut off, but instead sent them to prison for some time, with Raleigh being released after five weeks and Bess six months later. This did not stop the love they had for each other. In fact, when Raleigh was executed on King James I’s orders in 1618, Bess kept his embalmed head by her side until her own death in 1647, allegedly in a bag.

After the death of Francis, Bess’s brother Sir Nicholas Throckmorton Carew inherited the manor, becoming the fifth Nicholas to do so. He’d had many financial troubles beforehand, but his inheritance provided a solution to them. It was perhaps because of these past financial woes that upon his death in 1644 he did not bequeath his estate to his eldest son Francis, who had racked up several debts himself. Instead, he could only keep the estate until the actual inheritor, Nicholas, had turned 21, though he sold off the manor anyway in order to curry support from the Royalists when civil war broke out. Though he played an important part in the war on the Royalists’ side, the fact that they lost the war meant that he lost his money, prestige and position.

Another notable owner of the place was Benjamin Hallowell Carew (1761-1834), who spent time in the house for six years. He was a renowned and successful naval commander who was good friends with the famed Lord Horatio Nelson. One time, Carew had the idea of making a coffin from the conquered L’Orient’s mainmast and presenting it to Nelson, with the idea being that one should be buried with their trophies! Nelson approved of the gift and was indeed buried in it when he died in 1805 whilst fighting against Napoleon’s forces.

Drawing of the 18th C Grand Hall

The last family member to own the place was Charles Hallowell Hallowell Carew (known as Buster), who had intense gambling problems. Bit by bit, the place was sold off in 1859 (very similar to what happened with Barbara Villiers and Nonsuch Palace), and what remained of it became the Royal Female Orphanage Asylum in 1864. Moving from its original position in Lambeth, the orphanage aimed to raise orphaned or fatherless girls into “respectful” women, often in domestic duties. Not only did they receive education, but they were taught household chores such as laundry and needlework. It stayed in Beddington until 1939, when the outbreak of World War 2 made it unsafe to keep it there.

Currently, Carew Manor is the site of a school with special education needs, as well as a site for council offices. Though the place used to be open to visitors during the summer, currently it is not. However, the wetlands around the area can be visited at any time.

We recently had historian John Phillips speak at Whitehall about Carew Manor and both its history and architecture as part of a Sutton Historians talk. If you are interested in attending any of these talks, they are held on every last Friday of the month – more information can be found by searching ‘Sutton Historians’ on Eventbrite.

Written by Imogen Easton, Whitehall Historic House volunteer.

Works Cited:

  1. Michell, Ronald. The Carews of Beddington. London Borough of Sutton Libraries and Arts Services, 1981.
  2. Philips, John. A short guide to Carew Manor. London Borough of Sutton Leisure Services, 1989.

3. The Carews of Beddington Park…the interesting bits! SS Media Ltd., 2010.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s