Hatherley House, today the Hatherley Manor hotel, was originally built in the 17th Century, although an earlier medieval moated manor house had existed before the present one, as evidenced by the remains of a medieval moat, listed in the Gloucestershire Sites and Monuments record, part of which can still be seen at the rear of the present-day hotel. The 17th century house, known at the time as the Great House, forms the core of the eastern end of the modern hotel but many alterations and extension to the original house were made in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Hatherley House was built for the Brett family who lived in Down Hatherley for much of the 17th century. Henry Brett (c1590-1674), the first of the Bretts to be associated with the village, became Member of Parliament for Gloucester in 1640 and was a member of both Charles I’s Short Parliament, which sat in April/May 1640 and the Long Parliament, which sat during the Civil War. During the Civil War, Gloucester was a Parliamentary city but Henry Brett remained a Royalist and went to sit in the Royalist Parliament called by the king in Oxford during the winter of 1643/44. The house (together with Brett's other properties in Gloucestershire and elsewhere) was sequestered by Parliament and Henry had to pay a fine of £873 13s 8d in order to get his property back.
After the Civil War the house was occupied by Henry’s eldest son George Brett (1621-1668) and his wife Joyce (1616-1662). The births of most of their children are recorded in Down Hatherley parish records and George and Joyce are both buried in the village church.
The oldest surviving son of George and Joyce Brett was also called Henry. He was born in Down Hatherley and his baptism is recorded in the parish records. Henry Brett junior (1657-1724) was passionately fond of bell ringing and was reputed to have frittered away a large part of the Brett fortune travelling round the country with a company of fellow bell-ringing enthusiasts. Henry donated new bells to nearby churches in Ashleworth, Norton and Cowley. The bell in nearby village church of Norton bears the inscription:
If you doo ask who gave me
Sqr Brett of Hatherlee
In 1696 the younger Henry Brett had a new manor house built at Cowley in Gloucestershire, where the family also had land. This was on the site of today’s Cowley Manor hotel but it is not the present building, which dates from the 19th century. The church in Cowley also boasts bells donated in 1697 by Henry Brett junior. Henry’s wife Hester died in 1696 and she is buried in Down Hatherley church. A memorial, which today is located in the church tower, commemorates her death and those of her parents-in-law, George and Joyce Brett.
Whether or not the younger Henry Brett’s bell-ringing activities were ruinous to his finances, the cost of building the new house at Cowley undoubtedly was. He borrowed heavily after the house was built and by 1704, including interest, he owed £1810 5s 6d. In 1704 Henry sold the Down Hatherley estate to Henry Gibbes, with Gibbes paying off Brett’s debt as part of the sale.
Henry Brett's eldest son, also called Henry, was born in 1675 and died in 1714. He married Lady Anne Gerrard, the divorced countess of Macclesfield, and went on to become MP for Bishop's Castle in Shropshire between 1701 and 1708. He also built a new house in Gloucestershire, Sandywell Park, near Andoversford.
Henry Gibbes died in 1705 and his wife in Anne 1707 and Hatherley house and estate passed to their son William Gibbes. There is also a memorial in the church, erected “agreeable to the direction of the last will of the late William Gibbes Esqr of this place”.
After the death of William Gibbes in 1777, the property passed to Sir Robert Sutton of Sutton Park, Nottinghamshire. It appears that the Suttons did not actually occupy the house and in 1806 Sir Robert Sutton’s son Richard sold the estate to John Turner, a Gloucester banker. However, due to financial problems, Turner was forced to sell the house in 1828. It was bought by James (Jemmy) Wood, another Gloucester banker. Jemmy Wood was famous in his day for his wealth and reputed meanness. It is said that he was the model for Ebeneezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Despite his miserliness, Jemmy Wood was extremely rich and was possibly the first commoner in England to become a millionaire. When Jemmy Wood died in 1836, Hatherley House became, after a legal battle, the property of Sir Matthew Wood and then his son, William Page Wood, described below. In 1857 the Down Hatherley estate was divided up into about 15 lots and sold at auction.
The new owner of the house was Anthony Gilbert Jones, three times mayor of Gloucester and father of nine children. Charles Allen Jones, the seventh and youngest son, patented the ‘Hatherley Patent Lattistep’, forerunner of the modern stepladder. See the "Village Photos" section for a picture of the Lattistep.
According to the Gloucester citizen (August 1958), Allen Jones’s inspiration for the creation of the Lattistep stepladder was the problems encountered by the maids in cleaning the numerous nooks and crannies in rooms at Hatherley House. He carried out experiments and built prototype ladders in workshops at the house. He then went on to market the product successfully. Not content with a single type of product, Jones branched out into the manufacture of folding wooden tables and chairs, including the forerunner of today’s folding deck chair. A catalogue of 1914, now in Gloucester Archives, shows also folding wooden stands for bicycles garden furniture, etc, in a choice of woods.
Jones continued to run his business as a private concern at Tuffley, Gloucester, until about 1916, when it became a limited company. He sold the company shortly afterwards and eventually it became the Hatherley Works, Ltd., which lasted until the 1960s. The company branched out into making ironing boards, stools, etc and had a fleet of lorries transporting the goods all over the country. One of the biggest successes was in fitting out the Cunard Line ships, including the Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth and Mauritania, with deck chairs after WWII, when they were converted back to passenger ships after their war service as troop carriers.
Anthony Gilbert Jones died in 1887 and there is a memorial tablet to him in Down Hatherley church. His widow Elizabeth and the Jones family continued to occupy the house until 1907 when his Elizabeth moved out, shortly before her death. The house than became the property of Ernest de Winton and his wife Ada. de Winton was a tea planter in Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. After the death of Ada de Winton in 1911 Ernest re-married and he and his second wife Mary continued to live in the house until his death in 1940. Mrs de Winton is in fact recorded as the last “lord of the manor” of Down Hatherley.
In 1940 the house was put up for sale by Mrs de Winton and taken over by the government.
During the occupancy of the Jones and de Winton families, the Manor was extensively refurbished. According to Verey’s “Gloucestershire – The Vale and the Forest of Dean”, most of the exterior of the house was remodelled during 1878-81 by J P Moore. It was also greatly enlarged, primarily at the western end, during 1983-6, when it became a hotel. Despite these major changes, the 17th century house remains an imposing structure. Verey notes that only the front of the gabled south porch is now of stone, with a re-used mullioned and transomed window above the Tudor-arched doorway. The remainder of the exterior was re-faced in brick in the 19th century, which belies the building’s 17th century and Regency interior. At the rear of the main building is a 17th century staircase with barley-twist balusters, ball finials and plaster ceiling decoration, visible in the adjacent photograph. Other features include a bow-fronted Regency styled drawing room, a baroque chimneypiece and 17th century oak panelling in several rooms. A notable feature of the downstairs area of the modern hotel is the large stone fireplace adjacent to the bar. Hugh Conway-Jones, in his monograph on Hatherley House written in the 1990s, indicates that carvings on the fireplace, concentric circles with a series of intersecting arcs, were believed to prevent witches from coming down the chimney.