Stoner park is very much a ‘lived in’ country house. It has been owned by the Stonor family for 850 years. Unlike other stately homes, the family have always been Catholic. This has proved difficult at certain times in history.
We took a guided visit to the house. Our guide brought the history of the house and its family to life, describing how the family had built up the house and chapel between the 13th and 17th centuries. Although there were touches of humour in her talk, she also vividly described the hardships of being Catholic and the rigid penal laws of anti-Catholicism in earlier centuries.
Stonor Park is a collection of much older buildings going back to a Medieval Tudor manor house and a Twelfth century chapel. The Stonor Pantry cafe is housed in a part of the building that dates from the late 12th Century. The Chapel was added around a hundred years later. Since then the Stonor family have added to the building and added art and treasures collected from across the globe. There is a grand Gothic revival hall, a 17th century library and a long gallery and, in the roof space, you can find the priest hole where Sir Edmund Campion hid whilst printing the famous Ten Reasons’ pamphlet in the 1580s.
Outside there is 220 acres of estate, roamed by one of the most ancient fallow deer herds in Britain and three gardens. The 17th Century Italianate Pleasure Garden has ponds and fountains. There is also an old Kitchen Garden and an Arboretum. There is even a Prehistoric stone circle in the grounds.
The stone circle is made from the very stones that give the valley its name. Taken from the Stonor website: “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.”
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