Great Tew Estate has a long and fascinating history. You can read a few of its highlights here.
There is some evidence that people lived in the landscape of Great Tew in pre-Roman times but the first clear sign of habitation is during the Roman occupation in the third and fourth centuries when there was an active farm at Beaconsfield.
During the Saxon period, Great Tew acquired the name Ciric Tiwa, or Church Tew. It was held by Aelfric, Abbot of St Albans from 990, who became Archbishop of Canterbury in 995. He left the Estate to St Alban’s Abbey at his death in 1005. After the Norman Conquest, Great Tew was given by William I, to his brother Odo, Bishop of Bayeux.
After several other owners, Lucius Carey, Second Viscount Falkland, inherited the Estate in 1629. The Estate gained a certain romantic distinction under Falkland’s ownership because the influential ‘Great Tew Circle’ of writers and scholars often met here to discuss important political and theological matters.
Along with his wife Lettice, Viscount Falkland was responsible for improving many of the Estate’s buildings and fostering a happy community. He became Secretary of State to Charles I before the Civil War and was killed at the Battle of Newbury.
Great Tew was sold in 1698 to Sir Anthony Keck and later to George Stratton. Stratton’s son commissioned Humphrey Repton to design a new house sitting in a re-landscaped parkland setting to replace the original Falkland House had that fallen into disrepair and been pulled down. This house was never built.
However, many of Repton’s ideas for the landscape were brought to life by the Estate’s subsequent owner, Matthew Robinson Boulton (son of Matthew Boulton of Birmingham), who bought the Estate in 1815. Many of these landscape features are still apparent today.
During Matthew Robinson Boulton’s ownership (and that of his sons, Matthew Piers Watt and Matthew Ernest) a huge programme of building work was undertaken both in the village and, more particularly, on farm complexes elsewhere on the Estate.
Improvements to the farmland were also made and in 1877 Great Tew was described as “one of the best farmed parishes in the Midland Counties”.
After Matthew Ernest Boulton’s death in 1914 Great Tew Estate was held in public trusteeship for nearly fifty years, during which time very little was done to maintain the Estate or its buildings. In 1962 Major Eustace Robb inherited the estate and immediately set about a gradual programme of improvements. Farms were taken back in hand, cottages were refurbished and a sewerage system for the village was installed. This process took time and money but by Major Robb’s death in 1985 significant progress had been made.
The Estate now belongs to the Johnston family, who have continued to show the same passion and dedication as Major Robb. There is an ongoing schedule of renovation, refurbishment and improvements to the village and surrounding properties. The Estate seeks to promote a happy community and preference within the rental portolio is given to families that live and/or work locally.
The Estate has numerous diversification enterprises and continuously pursues positive, good quality opportunites for the estate and its employees to ensure it has a healthy, sustainable and self sufficient future.