The Shippens were a socially prominent and wealthy Philadelphia family. Joseph Shippen, Jr. acquired title to the site of what was to be Oxford Furnace, New Jersey around 1741. The Manor was circa 1765-70 by William Shippen II. In the late 1760’s Joseph W. Shippen was installed by his father, William II, to manage the property. He secured the services of a local farm girl by the name of Martha Axford as “housekeeper”. During their period of “housekeeping”, they had seven children. To date no evidence has been found of a marriage taking place. Joseph W. died intestate (without a will), in 1795 his father, William II, came to live in the Manor to “administer his son’s estate and oversee furnace operations.” William is said to have grown fond of his grandchildren in spite of his disapproval of Joseph W. and Martha’s (d. 1798) relationship and provided for all his grandchildren in his will. William II owned the Manor until his death, in 1801, in Germantown, Pennsylvania.
Archaeological excavations at Shippen Manor have produced a wide range of information about the past inhabitants of the site, and about the various changes that the manor house and grounds have undergone in previous years. Numerous subsurface features (including wells, builder’s trenches, refuse pits, middens, and various architectural elements) and thousands of 18th-19th century artifacts have been recovered. Information about the Manor was also obtained through primary sources such as inventories, letters, wills, and diaries. The site of the house emphasizes the position of the Shippens in the local society. They were “masters of all they surveyed” and then some. The estate contained over four thousand acres including land on the Delaware River and a grant from the King of England to operate a ferry. This iron plantation was basically self-sufficient, surrounded by tenant farms, various mills, a store as well as the iron furnace. The Manor is Georgian in style, constructed from local stone, two foot thick stone walls, and three immense chimneys. The ground floor consisted of six rooms. Upstairs there were two bed chambers and four garret rooms (now offices and museum storage). When the Manor was built, it was designed to be functional rather than luxurious. Three colors dominated the interior of that portion of the house restored to the colonial period: white, blue-gray and red. Through analysis of paint chips, taken from throughout the Manor, we have been able to reproduce the colors used in the restoration of the Manor. The baseboards in this portion of the house were painted black, this prevented dirt from showing on the lower section of the white walls. Where you see breaks in the black baseboards, this indicates a contemporary addition. The pine floors in the Reception room, Dining room, and Victorian parlor are original. The floors in the Robeson study and Shippen kitchen needed to be repaired or replaced.