Baldwin V – Born c1012 – and Died 1067
Hugh Trussell – Born in 1080 and Died in 1165
Osbern (Osbertus) Trussell – Born in Billesley, England 1115 and Died in 1165 in Northhamptonshire, England
William Trussell – Born in Billesley, England and Died in 1347
Robert Lee, Lord Mayor of London – Born in 1550 and Died in 1605
Bernard and Lucy Whalley
Thomas Sherlock, Bishop of Salisbury – Born in 1678 and Died in 1761
The walls of Billesley Manor are lined with history. Despite the fact that many of its current architectural features were meticulously reconstructed during the 17th century, the Manor dates back to 705 AD – you can even discern the foundations of the mediaeval village of Billesley in the fields to the east of the hotel. Only a stone’s throw away from Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, Billesley Manor has a unique affiliation with the world-renowned playwright; In 1582, he is thought to have married Anne Hathaway in the small church on the estate, and in 1599, he penned As You Like It within the walls of the Manor itself.
Four hundred years before William Shaekespeare graced the door of Billesley Manor, most of England was under Norman control, and William the Conqueror had requested the land records of his newly acquired territory. These records were transcribed into the Doomsday Book, which states that, in 1066, Saxon Baldwin was the owner of Billesley Manor and Osbern was his tenant. If the information in the historic Doomsday Book is correct, it appears that Osbern was the son of Hugh Trussell – one of the most highly regarded ancient surnames of England.
Over the next four centuries, the Manor would change hands a number of times, predominantly through the generations of the Trussell family; however, the family underwent a series of obstacles in their attempt to hold onto Billesley Manor. First, a member of the Trussell family was forced to forfeit the estate as punishment for his role in forcing King John to sign the Magna Carta. The Trussells somehow succeeded in reacquiring the property, and they enjoyed their lives on the estate in relative peace – that is, until the black death visited Billesley. The ferocious plague killed the majority of the village’s inhabitants and forced the family into financial deprivation. In 1588, the Trussells finally lost the estate that had been their home for generations, as Thomas Trussell was caught committing a highway robbery and sentenced to death.
With the typical Trussell luck, he managed to narrowly escape execution, but Billesley Manor finally slipped through their fingers and into the hands of the Crown. It was eventually bought by Robert Lee, a wealthy merchant and later Lord Mayor, who rebuilt the entire house in stone; it was during this time that many of the architectural features still present today were introduced. Lee employed notable London craftsmen to create the ornate Jacobean panelling that was restored by the fashionable architect Detmar Jellings Blow in the 20th century and remains a distinctive feature of the Manor today. Furthermore, legend has it that a number of the original locks on the doors that are still in use today were furtively obtained from German armourers employed at the Tower of London.
Lee sold Billesley Manor in 1689 and, since that day, the Manor has exchanged hands between a number of wealthy businessmen, Lords, and clergymen, until the property was renovated into a magnificent hotel that continues to celebrate its century-long history and heritage.