Asthall Manor

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Rear view of Asthall Manor

Asthall Manor is a gabled Jacobean Cotswold manor house in Asthall, Oxfordshire. It was built in about 1620[1] and altered and enlarged in about 1916.[1]

Early in the 20th century the house was the childhood home of the Mitford sisters.

History[edit]

John-Freeman Mitford

Asthall Manor is a vernacular two-storey house with attics, built of local Cotswold limestone on an irregular H-plan with mullioned and mullioned-transomed windows and a stone-slated roof typical of the area. There are records of a house on the site since 1272 when Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall, owned a house on the site worth 12d. In 1304 the curia, garden and fishpond were valued at 10 shillings.[2] The core of the current building at Asthall was built in 1620[1][3] for Sir William Jones on the site of the mediaeval hall.[4] In 1688 the estate was sold to Sir Edmund Fettiplace; it stayed in branches of the same family for the next 130 years when it was sold to John Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale in 1810. During their 116-year tenure the Freeman-Mitfords made many alterations to the house including the installation in 1899 of an electric power system powered by a water turbine fed by the River Windrush.[2] The architect Charles Bateman altered and enlarged the house in 1916.[1] In 1920 a former barn was converted to a ballroom 1920 and joined to the main house by a cloister.[citation needed] In 1926 the house was sold to Thomas Hardcastle and was purchased by the current owners in 1997 on the death of Hardcastle's son.

The Mitford sisters[edit]

David Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale (2nd creation), father of the Mitford sisters, inherited Asthall Manor on the death of his father in 1916[5] and in 1919 moved his family there from Batsford Park. The youngest of the Mitford sisters Deborah, later Duchess of Devonshire, was born at Asthall in 1920. Her sister Diana had an appendectomy on the spare-bedroom table.[6] The Mitfords were great socialites, and Asthall hosted frequent hunting and shooting weekend parties, regular guests included Clementine Churchill, Frederick Lindemann and Walter Sickert.[citation needed] Nancy Mitford's fictional Alconleigh in The Pursuit of Love is based largely on Asthall,[7] and family life there is described in Jessica Mitford's autobiographical Hons and Rebels.[5] Redesdale had never planned to make Asthall Manor a permanent home, and in 1926 the family moved into nearby Swinbrook House which Redesdale had had built on the site of a derelict farm.

Garden[edit]

The garden at Asthall Manor covers 6 acres (2.4 ha) and is listed as a Grade II Historic Garden.[8] It was created for the current owners of Asthall by Julian and Isobel Bannerman (best known for their work for Prince Charles at Highgrove House)[7] and includes traditional gardens of herbaceous borders and lawns, contemporary parterres and areas of wild woodland and wildflowers running down to water-meadows by the River Windrush.[8]

Asthall today[edit]

Asthall Manor remains primarily a private family home, although the ballroom is occasionally used for functions and Asthall Manor's garden provides the setting for "On Form",[9] a biennial exhibition of contemporary sculpture in stone as well as small outdoor musical events.[7]

References[edit]

Sources[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°48′01″N 1°35′08″W / 51.8004°N 1.5856°W / 51.8004; -1.5856