Manor History

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The Manor of Tortington has been in existence for over nine hundred years. First recorded in 1066, it was valued at 60 shillings in the possession of a free man called Leofwine.

During the course of history the lands forming the 'Manor' have expanded and contracted as they have passed through the hands of many subsequent owners, landlords and tenants. Among this number were several Earls of Arundel and the religious community of the Augustinian Black Canons at Tortington Prior, whose estate encompassed Priory Farm and the Manor of Tortington. Following the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 the land reverted to the crown.

The crown assigned the interest in the land and farm to a succession of courtiers until it was sold first in 1633 and again in 1669. The Weekes family who resided in the house at Priory Farm decided in 1699, to build a new residence on the site we now know as the Manor House, although at this time it was called Torton Place.

Torton Place was sold by Oliver Weekes in 1706 to William Leeves of Arundel whose descendants were to remain in possession of the estate for four generations, finally selling in 1837. William Leeves added a grander wing to the front of the building in 1739. It is this portion of the Manor House that still remains today, although it was remodelled in the early 19th century and has since had further additions and alterations culminating in complete internal remodelling by Sea Containers Properties during 2000 and 2001.

The Stable Block which formed three sides of a courtyard to the North-west of the manor House was constructed about 1780 and a drawing of the site in 1782 by S.H. Grimm clearly shows the Stable Block and Manor House looking much as it does today.

The Manor was sold once again in 1879 to the Duke of Norfolk, who let the estate to a succession of occupants. During the 19th century the property was known as Tortington House and was approached by Tortington Lane with its avenue of Horse Chestnut trees or by a cart track across the fields towards Priory Farm and Arundel.

Ford Road was constructed by the railway company in 1846 that had opened a line from Lyminster to Chichester. The station we now know as Ford was originally Arundel station and was provided with an Omnibus and Carriage service to connect it with the town by Mr. R Garwood, Proprietor of the Norfolk Hotel in Arundel. We must presume it was at this time that a new entrance to the estate was provided and the Gate House now known as Gate Lodge was constructed. In 1863 the railway opened new lines and stations at Littlehampton and Arundel with the old station being renamed Ford Junction.

Tortington House remained in private occupancy until just the First World War. The contents of the house were auctioned off in 1922 following the death of the last occupant and the house was converted for use as a Catholic boarding school for girls and again renamed.

Tortington Park School opened in 1922 with a small number of pupils, but was to expand to accommodate 204 girls over the coming years. Additional wings were added to the buildings in 1923, 1929 (when the estate was purchased from the Duke of Norfolk), 1933 and 1954. These buildings include a Roman Catholic Chapel which has become the Chapel House. The school bell which used to hang in the small tower on the Chapel House roof can now be seen mounted on an oak frame outside the Community Room,

The outbreak of the Second World War saw the school being evacuated to three other locations before finally returning here. The buildings of Tortington Park were requisitioned by the War Office who used the school for billeting WAAFS and other personnel based at Ford airfield or nearby Tangmere airfields. In 2009, there are still ladies living locally who remember being billeted at Tortington and when the property was redeveloped in 2000 a number of love letters to a WAAF were found hidden in the old attic rooms of the Manor House.

Tortington Park was finally handed back to the school in 1948. In 1954, the estate comprised 50 acres, with a nine hole golf course, large swimming pool, 12 tennis courts and pitches for netball and lacrosse. The buildings where South Lodge now stands housed a sanatorium with two wards, sisters' office and dispensary.

By 1969, with boarding schools becoming less fashionable, the decision was taken to close Tortington Park School at the end of the summer term. In 1970 the buildings, tennis courts, pool and twenty acres of land were sold to New England College for use as its UK campus. The college based in Henniker, New Hampshire, USA wanted to provide an opportunity for students to study England and the campus opened in 1971, provided for the needs of over 180 students.

The college closed in 1998 due to a drop in demand for places. The estate was then sold to Dore Park Ltd and subsequently to Sea Containers Properties for redevelopment. Many of the buildings were partly demolished and rebuilt to modern standards, while others were converted to provide modern accommodation while retaining the original period exteriors. The majority of the development was completed by late 2001, with the site of the sanatorium being sold in 2003 to a local builder for major reconstruction, which was completed in July 2004.

When Sea Containers Properties decided to rename the property Tortington Manor, they were reflecting its varied and interesting nine hundred year history. Today, Tortington Manor is surrounded by 17 acres of woodland and well tended gardens. The future of the estate is now in our hands, we are making history every day!