Barrs Court - a part history

The following account of Barrs Court was written in the 1970's
for the parish magazine. (source copyright unknown)

Barrs Court is on the outskirts of Longwell Green, and is on the fringe of land which was at one time Kingswood Forest.

It is approached by three long drives from different directions, and is set well back from the road. No one lives there now - the land is farmed by Mr. Hooper of Longwell Green, and one frequently sees a tractor or cattle truck there, but they always look incongruous and out of place. The building is now going to rack and ruin with roofs and ceilings falling in, and creepers making a curtain over all, yet from a distance it is still beautiful. The buildings that remain are only a fraction (possibly the servants quarters) of the whole manor itself.

Even the farm house as it was until about fifteen years ago was very large. There is a room with barred windows - was this to keep prisoners in? The large dairy has a spring running through. There was a beautiful coat of arms, but this has now disappeared, and there are several rumours as to what has become of it.

It is easy for one to imagine when visiting Barrs Court that one has slipped back in time, perhaps to 1483, when Sir John Barr owned it and much of the area for miles around. It was from him that it derived its name. It passed to his wife, who died without leaving any family, and thence into the Newton family, to whom it belonged for many generations.

The Newtons owning Barrs Court, were close relations of Sir Isaac Newton. In 1540 Barrs Court is referred to as "fayre old manor place of stone. The forest of Kyngswodd cummys just on to Barrs Court." In 1652 it was probably in its heyday, Sir John Newton owned several of the nearby Manors, as well as Barrs Court, by intermarriage.

This same Sir John, who is buried in nearby Bitton Church, is spoken of thus on his epitaph - "a most loving husband, careful father, faithful friend, pious, just, prudent, charitable, salient, and beloved of all" He was three times burgess of Parliament. He was born in 1626 and died in 1699, being married for fifty-five years. He had four sons and thirteen daughters, several of whose tombs are also in Bitton Church. His wife died aged 85.

In Bitton Church there is a stone panel bearing the Fifth Commandmente There are tombs and monuments of.the Newton family at Yatton, East Harptree(from where they originated) and at Bristol Cathedral. In the 1700's it passed into the hands of Sir Michael Newton, who married a certain Margaret, Countess of Coningsby from Herefordshire, and they had one son John, who died when an infant. The story goes that he was killed by a fall downstairs, when he was dropped by his nurse, who saw an ape. There were no other heirs.

It was at the time of the death of this wife in 1746 that the manor house of Barrs Court was destroyed. There are several theories regarding this, but the most common one seems to be that it was decreed in the will that as there were no heirs the house was to be razed to the ground, and so it was. It is said that from the air the outlines of the foundations can be seen, and in a dry period it is possible to make out the outline of the moat.

This description was made in the late 1700's by people remembering Barrs Court "It was an old house, marked by a moat with a high wall all round the park. Niches were filled with collossus leaden statues. The hall was large and lofty, and richly carved. There was gilt all round the fireplace, and a shelf supported by two figures. It was paved with black and white marble squares - there was a musician1s gallery, and a Chapel. It had square stoned mullioned windows, and there was a drawbridge. There was a porter's lodge, and a large and a small gateway". In the British Museum is a parchment twenty-five feet long, listing the tenants of Barrs Court etc.

The reapers on the estate received twopence per day. There is a mention of Monday lands, when the tenant worked for the landlord on Monday. Amongst the tenants was the Abbot of Keynsham.

There is another manuscript belonging to the Newtons of Barrs Court, containing a record of rents paid by the tenants from 1729 to 1740. There are several blank pages - it got into the hands of a Bristol haulier, Thomas Long, who used it as a log book.

So Barrs Court has gone on, getting smaller and more dilapidated, but even so, it still has an atmosphere - that of a great house.


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