Stonor Park

Stonor Park

Stonor Park is an historic country house and private deer park situated in a valley in the Chiltern Hills at Stonor, about 4 miles north of Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire. Home to the Stonor family for over 850 years, Stonor Park is one of the oldest family homes still lived in today - but it’s no dead museum. As the oldest member of the Stonor family, the house has a thousand stories to tell. As well as being architecturally fascinating each room contains a lifetime of experience and anecdote. Discover art and treasures collected from across the globe and view historic maps and documents that reveal generations of service to the country. A stroll through this house is a vivid walk through history. The house nestles in the Chiltern Hills. Behind the main house, there is a walled garden in an Italianate style on a rising slope, providing good views. Around the house is a park with a herd of fallow deer. Around the park are Almshill Wood, Balham's Wood and Kildridge Wood.

 

The house was probably begun after 1280 when Sir Richard Stoner (1250–1314) married his second wife, Margaret Harnhull. During and after the English Reformation the Stonor family and many other local gentry were recusants. In 1581 the Jesuit priests Edmund Campion and Robert Parsons lived and worked at Stonor Park, and Campion's Decem Rationes was printed here on a secret press. On 4 August 1581 a raid on the house found the press. Campion and Parsons had left a few days earlier, but the elderly Lady Cecily Stonor, her son John, the Jesuit priest William Hartley, the printers and four servants were taken prisoner, and in 1585 Hartley was exiled. Despite further prosecutions and fines the Stonors remained Roman Catholic throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, and enabled many local villagers to remain Roman Catholic by allowing them to attend Mass at their private chapel. Between 1716 and 1756 John Talbot Stonor, Vicar Apostolic of the Midland District used Stonor Park as his headquarters. The Stonor family's steadfast adherence to Roman Catholicism throughout the reformation led to their marginalization and relative impoverishment in subsequent centuries. This has inadvertently resulted in the preservation of the house in a relative unspoiled and unimproved state.

 

The house was built on the site of a prehistoric stone circle or henge and this has given it its name. The remains of the circle are still visible with one stone incorporated into the south-east corner of the chapel. The stones are a mixture of sarsens and puddingstone. The current stone positions are the result of re-positioning during 17th-century landscaping and 20th-century reconstruction. Older even than Stonor House is the stone circle, made from the very stones that give the valley its name. Formed of giant boulders left behind at the end of the last Ice Age, prehistoric man believed in the mystical powers of these visitors and placed them on end to form a ritual circle. In 601 AD, Pope Gregory the Great called on the missionary priests in England to adopt Pagan sites of worship for the Catholic faith and The Chapel at Stonor was subsequently built on the site of the circle. You can see one of the original stones symbolically supporting the corner of the Chapel where it was incorporated into the foundations.

 

The lush parkland of Stonor is set in a dramatic, sweeping valley deep within the heart of the Chiltern Hills. Visitors are invited to explore the three gardens – from the ponds and fountains of the 17th Century Italianate Pleasure Garden to the old Kitchen Garden designed and nurtured by Lady Camoys and the eclectically treed Arboretum. It’s a truly mesmerizing setting. The guests love to experience the natural wonder of the surrounding parkland, with its lush green slopes fringed by a host of centuries-old beech and ash trees. This verdant habitat is the home of an ancient herd of fallow deer who have supplied venison to countless Kings and Queens throughout history. Living alongside the deer are badgers, hares, rabbits, pheasant, soaring red kites, ravens and buzzards.

 

Visitors will love the serenity of the Renaissance ponds and fountains of the delightful 17th Century Italianate Pleasure Garden. Wander amongst the ancient yews, clipped box hedges and abundant plants and flowers. And there’s another hidden gem; the curious will find a secluded Japanese style hideaway nestling amongst the foliage. Across the herbaceous border and through the iron gates, you can glimpse of an area known simply as Grandmother’s Garden. In spring this area is dappled with Daffodils and by the beginning of summer is awash with the alluring scent of Pheasant Eye Narcissi. Spring and Summer in The Old Kitchen Garden are really quite beautiful. Lined with apple and plum trees which blossom sensationally in the spring, the Old Kitchen Garden was replanted by Lady Camoys in 1980. A talented plantswoman, it is Lady Camoys’s passion and keen eye for detail that have shaped this romantic, beautifully planned garden. Dazzling displays of May-flowering irises, June-blooming peonies and heritage roses create a timeless beauty. Wandering through the Arboretum you will meet mature and young trees alike - our young nut trees and long hazelnut avenue were planted in wake of the great storm of 1991. The malus, mulberries and ornamental cherries are under-planted with dapples of primroses and narcissi, splashing colour onto the landscape – a majestic sight in the spring when the cherry-blossoms fall. No visit to Stonor would be complete without taking to the footpath opposite the house to the magnificent view point. From here you can see how Stonor nestles in the rolling Oxfordshire countryside. It is from here that the late Lord Gibson, former Chairman of the National Trust’s words can fully be felt: “Possibly the most beautiful setting for any house in England”.

 

As the house is a collection of medieval buildings behind a Georgian facade, it is not suitable for wheelchairs as even the ground floor is not on one level. However, everyone's disability is individual and there are chairs at intervals for visitors to rest. To see the first floor there are flights of stairs - one up and another down. Dogs are allowed in the designated areas of the park but must be on leads at all times. The gardens and footpath are fully accessible to wheelchair users.

 

Location : Stonor Park, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire RG9 6HF

Transport : Henley-on-Thames (National Rail) then taxi. Bus Routes : No bus service.

Opening Times : Sundays + Bank Holidays 13:00 to 16:30; Saturdays, Wednesday, Thursday in the summertime.

Tickets : Adults £10.00;   Children (5 - 15) £5.00;   Gardens Only : Adults £5.00;  Children £2.50

Tel. : 01491 638587