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Posted:  Tuesday 11 July 2017

South East Associates
visit Stonor Park and House

- Tuesday 6th June -

The day did not start off very auspiciously - a combination of heavy rain, traffic jams and lack of mobile phone signal resulted in only a few intrepid Associates managing to meet for the first part of the event - the morning 4½ mile circular walk around the environs of Stonor Park, which is a 10-minute drive north-west of Henley-on-Thames.

Undeterred, the delayed Associates did find alternative ways of passing the time before joining the walkers and afternoon attendees for the second part of the event - lunch, and the house and chapel guided tour.

So, a more chaotic start to an Associates event than usual, however, as we began the walk the rain eased and soon stopped just in time for us to see Stonor House revealed as we climbed the hill up to the woods above the house.

Stonor Park has been home to the Stonor family for 850 years and is one of the oldest homes still lived in today.  It is currently occupied by Thomas Stonor, 7th Baron Camoys, and his family.

This part of the walk provided splendid views of the house as we continued on a path through a deer park and into woods.  Besides several deer, we saw many red kites and a couple of shire horses as we made our way round our charming route in the Chiltern Hills.

Lunch was booked for 1pm and as the walk started a little later than planned, the walkers arrived at the Visitors’ Centre just in time to meet with the rest of the group and our host before we were led into The Pantry for lunch.

The Pantry is located in the oldest part of the house, which dates back to the 13th century.  As a reminder of its long history, a copy of the ledger stone engravings from the tomb of the 1st Baron Camoys hangs on a wall.

Following a light lunch, our guided tour began in the chapel.  The Stonor family have been staunchly Catholic throughout their history.  The family chapel, The Chapel of The Blessed Holy Trinity, was originally built in the late 13th century on the site of a pre-historic stone circle and is decorated in the earliest Gothic Revival style, dating back to the mid-18th century.

The main part of the tour took us around the house and its many rooms.  Our guide was very knowledgeable and enthusiastic as she related the story of the house and its contents.  Although there is nothing remaining of significant age as these items were all sold off to meet the gambling debts of an ancestor.

Highlights included the story of Edmund Campion, a missionary Jesuit in the 16th century, who wrote a pamphlet Decem Rationes - ‘Ten Reasons’ - arguing against the validity of the Anglican Church that was printed secretly at Stonor whilst he took refuge there.  Campion was captured soon after publishing and subsequently met a gruesome end by hanging, drawing and quartering.

On a lighter note, one of the bedrooms has been decorated with a nautical theme with its centrepiece a large wooden bed - possibly of Russian origin - shaped to resemble the bottom half of a clam shell riding on the sea.

There is much more to Stonor Park than I have mentioned here - its history, grounds and walled gardens - which I, unfortunately, did not have time to visit.

It is certainly worth a trip to if you enjoy experiencing the grandeur of a stately home.

Paul Kowald

(fd  02/07/2017)

(ph  11/07/2017)

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