(This article was written last year.)
August 31st 2015: Today we heard the news that Edward 3rd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu has died peacefully at home at the age of 88. His heir is the Hon Ralph Douglas-Scott-Montagu, who now becomes the 4th Lord Montagu. It seems likely that he will be as interested in keeping the centuries-long family connection with Datchet as his father was.
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, in his role as Lord of the Manor of Datchet, has visited the village several times in recent years to take part in various celebrations. His first first recorded official visit was in 1966, when he planted an oak tree on North Green to mark Datchet’s winning of the Best Kept Village award. Then in 2001 he came to unveil the Parish Council’s series of Millennium plaques and in 2005 he drove up here in a vintage car to open the library in the old Working Men’s Club, re-named as Montagu House. He was invited to cut the cake in St Mary’s Church during the King James Bible 300th centenary celebrations in 2011, and then most recently he planted another oak tree for the Queen’s 2012 Diamond Jubilee.
But what is a Lord of the Manor, and why should Edward John Barrington Douglas-Scott-Montagu, 3rd Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, Founder of the National Motor Museum, also hold the title Lord of the Manor of Datchet?
In medieval times a manor was a unit of land and property originally held by a landlord who was himself the tenant of a greater lord, so that ultimately, through a chain of power and dependence, all land was owned by the king. It was also an economic unit, with all classes of people working together to feed and support the manor’s population. A manor often came to be much the same as a village, except in the way that property was held from the lord. Manors could be sold and inherited and great lords owned very many manors, each managed by a tenant, until this ‘feudal’ system gradually died out.
The local connection with the Montagu family goes back to the Winwood family of Ditton Park in the early 1600s. Ann Winwood married Lord Montagu of Boughton, Northamptonshire, and their heirs, Ralph, 1st Duke of Montagu and John the 2nd Duke, inherited Ditton along with other great estates.
Duke John bought the adjacent Manor of Datchet in 1742 and from then on the two estates were owned together. Duke John’s granddaughter married Henry Duke of Buccleuch so that the Buccleuch and Montagu families became closely interwoven. Their many titles and huge estates are inherited in various complex ways, and they are related by marriage to great numbers of the English and Scottish aristocracy.
In 1845 the Beaulieu, Ditton and Datchet estates were inherited by Walter Francis, Duke of Buccleuch, great-grandfather of the 3rd Lord Montagu. His widow, the Dowager Duchess Charlotte, gave Datchet an oak tree sapling from Ditton Park to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887; this is our great Jubilee Oak.
Walter Francis’s eldest son William inherited the main Buccleuch estates and titles, but Beaulieu with Datchet and Ditton were given to their second son Henry who became the 1st Lord Montagu of Beaulieu. He began the process of selling off manorial property in Datchet, although Ditton remained in the family until the Admiralty bought it from Henry’s son John in 1917. John was himself a motoring pioneer, but the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu was founded by his son, Edward 3rd Lord Montagu.
In Datchet the whole range of Manorial buildings on the south side of the Green was put up for auction in 1896, the plans and sale details of which are invaluable for village history. It included the Manor House, Manor Cottages and the old buildings further east where the W.I. hall and shops have been built, as well as houses at the top of the High Street. Duke Walter Francis had already given manorial land for the school building in 1843 and for the Working Men’s Club in 1881. This caused the Montagu lawyers to be interested when Datchet Parish Council proposed to convert the building to the village Library, and explains why Lord Montagu wished it to be known as ‘Montagu House’.
The family owned other property, both houses and land, throughout Datchet and up to 1920 people were still paying rent to Lord Montagu’s steward at his office in Slough. The manorial system of property-holding effectively came to an end in 1924 but the actual titles are still inherited, or can be sold.
Edward, the present Lord Montagu, inherited Beaulieu and the title Lord of the Manor of Datchet in 1929, though by then the title actually meant very little. However, in 1961 the Manor House in Datchet was bought by the theatrical agent Charles Killick, who believed that in buying the house he had acquired the title as well, and proposed to use it himself, but legal action was taken by the Montagu family to prevent him from doing so. Lord Montagu took a greater interest in Datchet from around that time and was pleased to be invited to perform modern Lord of the Manor duties here: tree-planting, plaque-unveiling, Library opening and cake-cutting. Lord Montagu took great pleasure in coming back to his family’s roots, both in the village and at Ditton Park, and was always interested in being able to make historical connections.
(The surname Scott is the Buccleuch family name, and Douglas is that of the Dukes of Queensberry, another of the Buccleuch titles)