In 1066 William the Conqueror defeated an English army led by King Harold Godwinson, beginning the Norman conquest of England. As in those days and perhaps still: to the winners the spoils. In the next couple of decades power came to rest with those who came over with William or who were close to the Norman invaders. This land grab was then recorded in the domesday book. One of those was Geoffrey de Mandeville whose father William had indeed come over from Normandy. Geoffrey, usually referred to as the first Earl of Essex, came to possess large tracts of lands in East Anglia. Amongst those pieces of land was the Manor of Sayesbury of which Sawbridgeworth, Gilston and Eastwick formed part.
In 1150 Henry Fitzgerald or Fitzgeoffrey, a chamberlain of King Henry II and most probably heir to the above named first Earl of Essex, donated the Manor of Sayesbury and the Manor of Groves to the Monks of the Abbey of Reading. Those monks too had strong links with Normandy.
In the 1530s Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, established the Church of England and started dissolving the monasteries, appropriating their income and disposing of their assets. The Abbey of Reading, being one of the most powerful, was one of the last ones to “fall”. It was only in 1544 that the Manor of Groves was reassigned to William Goding. Goding then passed it on to many people: Thomas Goodday, Robert Hirst and his son Henry, John Duke and his son Robert who sold it to Joyce his mother in 1665.
There were of course great changes during all that time. Most owners weren’t locals. The income they derived from the Manor of Groves and other local estates initially came from felling timber and collecting rent from local farmers. Even Edmund Godwin of Eastwick” who was High Sheriff of Essex in 1696 did not actually live at “Grove Lodge” as the main house was referred to then. The house was most probably used as a base for hunting. During the 17th and 18th century the area was also very popular for those who made their fortune in London and wanted to buy a place in the country with all the status that involved. The Manor of Groves had been dwelled in by Monks up until this time, but when King Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries, the land and the Manor of Groves were granted to William Gooding, alias The Godwin of Writtle in the County of Essex. It was during this time that The Manor passed to Edmund Godwin of Eastwick High Sheriff of Essex of 1696.
During the early stages of Queen Anne’s reign, the Manor came into the possession of Mary Ann Godfrey, whose heirs took it over in around 1743. In 1819, she sold the property to a Thomas Williams who, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, managed to obtain two stone pillars from the Old London Bridge, which now form the outside of the Colonnade Suite.
In 1838, The Manor of Groves covered 162 acres, 3 roods and 35 perches of land, where 1 rood was equal to a quarter acre and 1 perch was equal to 5 and half square yards.
On 20th December 1844, Jones De‘Ath Esq. received the Manor from Thomas Williams’ trustees, but because rents were so negligible, was given the Manor as there was little point to collection.
Williams died in 1841 and the house was advertised for sale in the same year. The house was bought by John (later known as Jones) De’ath in 1844 who lived there for the next fifty years.
The house was then bought by Edmund Broughton Barnard who was a son of William Barnard, a wealthy miller and brewer who lived in Fair Green House in Sawbridgeworth.
Frederic Silva bought the property from Edmund and moved there with his wife, one son and two daughters.
In 1915 the Manor of Groves was then bought by Henry Fowell Buxton (1876 – 1949). The Buxtons were a well-known family. Henry’s great grandfather was Thomas Fowell Buxton (1786 – 1845) MP, antislavery campaigner, co-founder of the RSPCA and brewer.
The estate was extensively modified during the time of the Buxton’s tenure. Many farm buildings were there already. In 1915 a building was added to the left of the entrance to the main grounds. This was to be called “the Lodge” which some people found confusing as prior to that the main house was called Grove Lodge. In 1918 the two “Peace Cottages” were built at the back of the Manor and in 1937 Alexander Cottages, the latter named after one of the Buxtons’ sons.
In 1957 the Buxtons sold the Manor to the Egertons. Cyril Reginald Egerton (1905 – 1992) was born on 7 September 1905. He was the son of Major Hon. Francis William George Egerton and Hilda Margaret Curteis.
Anna Scott bought the Manor of Groves from the Egertons in 1965. She and her husband Douglas moved there from Wiltshire to be nearer to London where Douglas had secured a job after leaving the army. The Scotts brought up their children at the Manor. Their youngest was only six months when they arrived. They built a tennis court and a swimming pool, enjoyed the use of the squash court, croquet lawn and everything else. In 1977, they started the Grove Herd of pedigree South Devon cattle which is still going strong.
They moved to Gloucestershire in 1988, where the herd continues to thrive. You can find full details on their website at www.southdevons.co.uk
The Manor of Groves was acquired by the Sharer family in 1988, and work soon began to convert the House into an hotel, and the golf course was constructed; the golf course opened in 1991 and the golf club was formed in 1992.
It soon became clear however that the Sharers had overreached themselves financially. The Lodge, and Peace Cottages were sold off but that was not enough. The bank had to foreclose; Stephen Hung and his associates then bought it from the bank.
Stephen Hung proved a more cautious operator than the Sharers; he took some 3-4 years to decide on and put in effect several changes. The Coach House was demolished and a new wing added to give the hotel 80 rooms in all. A State of the Art Leisure Club with an indoor pool and exercise facilities completed the complex.
In 2004 the original golf clubhouse was substantially modified to provide wedding, conferencing and banqueting facilities which was shared with the golfers.
In 2005 work commenced on an extension to the original clubhouse to provide a space for golfers who were relocated to their present location in the Viewing Gallery which opened on 1st April 2006.