Horsenden Manor House


Horsenden Manor is situated in the small Village of Horsenden within the Vale of Aylesbury some 2 miles West of the Chiltern Scarp. The 29 Ha site lies one mile South‐West of the centre of Princes Risborough and 7 miles South of Aylesbury. The Lower Icknield Way, an ancient route, passes 750m south of the site, at Saunderton. The site lies at the Northern end of Horsenden Lane, a no‐through road giving access from Princes Risborough and High Wycombe. The immediate surrounding area is rural with a scattering of village houses. The 21stC Princes Industrial Estate lies 150 metres to the Northeast of the Manor, flanking the North‐East Approach Avenue from Summerleys Road.  The Site is bounded to the North and North‐east by Horsenden Lane and to the South and West by fields with traditional hedging, of which Nut Walk forms part to the South‐West of the House.  Along the northern boundary of the site and abutting the main Entrance Gate there is a 19thC metal railing park fence.  The elevation is below 100 metres and the soil is Gault Clay.  Water plays an important role in the character of the site.  The Stream which bisects the site from south to north rises on the Chiltern Spring‐Line at Saunderton to the south. The stream enters the pleasure grounds on the Southern boundary and flows out of the Site at a Weir to the North of the house, next to the present North‐East entrance Gates.  Within the Site, it is dammed and controlled by a number of Sluices to form Ponds and River‐like stretches. It eventually joins the River Thame at Longwick Mill 0.75m to the North.  Some 350M South of the House (outside the Historic boundary) is a Medieval Settlement which was part of a Manorial Complex held by Ralph Brown in 1300, within Roundabout Wood.  The Site is Moated and includes a Fish Pond.  The North‐West, Entrance Front of the House was intended to command views to the Northeast of the Ancient Whiteleaf Cross some 2 miles away, and the sweep of the Scarp slope of the Chiltern Hills in which it is set. The Pleasure Grounds and Park were also apparently designed to enjoy these Views.

The Main Entrance to the Site is from the North‐West off Horsenden Lane.  Here the Northwest Gateway lies 100M to the North‐West of the House adjacent to the West side of the Churchyard and its entrance. From here the Drive curves South‐East to a Forecourt below the North‐West front of the House.  The Stable Yard is entered from the drive immediately to the south. From the Forecourt the drive continues North‐East across a Bridge to the North‐East gateway and back onto Horsenden Lane.  This access is shown on maps since the 1794 Grubb proposal plan, which shows a turning circle in front of the house from a proposed main entrance through Gates at a point where the road widens to the West of the Church. The north‐east drive enters 100M North‐east of the house off Horsenden Lane opposite 17/18thC thatched Gate Cottage. The  Gate Cottage (listed Grade II) 250M North‐East of the House stands adjacent to the Avenue Entrance off Horsenden Lane leading north‐east to Summerleys Road. This entrance 1st appeared between 1806 and 1823, after a similar route was sketched lightly in pencil on the 1794 proposal over the Watercolour body.  From this Gateway the drive curves South‐West to the Forecourt below the house, and joining the North‐west arm of the Drive (as shown on the 1794 plan).  A sunken railing fence/ditch follows the northern line of the drive, possibly a ha‐ha.  Today the remains of a 19thC Approach Avenue are situated to the North‐East of the Main Grounds. This former Drive flanked by mixed mature trees is now used as access to the Princes Industrial Estate and as a Public Footpath entered from Summerleys Road some 650M north‐east of the house. From here it runs south‐west for 550M to Gate Cottage, linking with the north‐east entrance to the grounds across Horsenden Lane. The Avenue first appeared in the early 19thC as a formal approach for visitors to the House directly from Princes Risborough and Thame/High Wycombe and was subsequently noted as an Avenue Approach by Sheahan (1862). From 1862 it provided access for the Family from the nearby newly‐built Railway Station.

HorsendenStuccoHseHorsenden Manor is a typical Regency Villa built in 1810 in stucco (recently largely removed) with Sash windows and Slate Roof. The 2-Storey House had Battlemented Parapets (now gone) and a 3rd-Storey was added during the 19thC.  Notable features include the 5-Bay windows on the Northwest Entrance Front and the Doric Porch with 4 rendered columns and entablature.  Each end of the house has bowed projections with 3-Bays of tall paired wooden casement windows overlooking the grounds  A 2-Storey linked Service Wing (brick built) to the West of the house, incorporates remains of the earliest Manor House some of which dates from the 15thC. The South‐East, garden Front has 3-Bays of Sashes. The centre window is Venetian in style over a Pedimented Doric Porch. The brick and stone Stable Building to the West is dated 1912.

Manor Farm is later, with a date stone of 1891 lies 75M North‐West of the House. The Farmhouse is a rendered 3-Bay house. Improvements were made in the late 19thC by Mrs Jacques.  The Church of St Michael (Grade II) is a fragment based on its Medieval Chancel.  In 1765 it fell into disrepair and the Tower and Nave were pulled down leaving a very small building as an eye‐catcher for the subsequent manor grounds.
The Pleasure Grounds and modest Park of a Regency Country Villa, on the Site of a Medieval and later Manor House.  A Civil War Moat has been incorporated into the Pleasure Grounds design which is focused on an unusually complex series of informal Ponds and Watercourses and also on the Parish Church. The Regency layout (c.1810) survives largely intact as it had developed by the early 20thC, with some later alterations. The extent and survival of Villa Gardens is not well recorded and this is a good example at this scale, with an ensemble of typical features as well as the unusual water features.
The South Pleasure Ground is bisected by the Serpentine Ponds into West and East halves.  An overflow channel runs north‐west from the north end of the park pond (Adjacent to the south side of the pleasure ground) out into agricultural land. The house is enclosed by Lawns and Gardens to the South and East which are bounded by a serpentine pond which is believed to have originated as a 17thC Civil War Moat, and by the overflow channel.  The area to the south and east of the ‘Moat’ pond is more wooded.
The North Pleasure Ground is enclosed to the West, South and East by the Drive and to the North by the Churchyard (where a sunken fence forms the boundary with the Churchyard) and Horsenden Lane. It is overlooked by the North‐west, entrance front of the House.  The area is laid to informal lawn with specimen trees and overlooks the small Parish and Churchyard. This area includes part of the former Churchyard which was taken into the grounds between 1823 and the 1840s leaving a truncated Churchyard. Views of the 1840s show the house with a bow‐windowed stuccoed east end as well as the fragment of the Church before it was extended and restored in the 1850s‐60s. The House and Church are shown as though a single property in a Park with cattle and sheep. A 19thC photograph shows a sunken fence/ha‐ha around the Churchyard Boundary, allowing clear views of the Church set among ornamental trees in the Churchyard

Archaeological Interest
The House incorporates the remains of the previous Manor House, some of which dates from the 15thC (Service Wing). The site of part of the former Churchyard occupies part of the lawns to the north of the house, adjacent to the present Churchyard boundary (established early 19thC). South of the House and outside the designed landscape boundary is a Medieval Settlement site with a Moat and Fishponds.

An early 19thC Villa, Park and Pleasure ground with unusually extensive water features, which shape and bisect the design, incorporating parts of a Civil War Moat. The mature woody planting and views of the Church contribute to the design. The layout largely reflects a finely executed anonymous proposal of 1794, for John Grubb IV (CBS) which incorporates earlier features and has been subject to some later alterations. The 19th Landscape survives intact including a 400m long avenue from Summerleys Road, formerly giving direct access to the house from Princes Risborough. The principle Entrance Front was intended to command views of the Ancient Whiteleaf Cross and the Chiltern Hills.

The property has been associated with important and influential figures, including John
Morton 15thC, leading wealthy Religious/Statesperson and Political Advisor to Henry VII and the Donne Family. There are strong associations with the Civil War when the House was Garrisoned.  In the 17thC the Manor passed to the Grubb family who were responsible for the development of the Site as it survives and apparently commissioned the fine 1794 design proposal plan.
Historic Development
In 1086 the land at Horsenden is recorded as being held by Robert, Earl of Morton and
Cornwall (Domesday Survey). During the 14thC the land was reported as poor and lay barren.  In 1462, the Manor was Granted to John Gaune and others to hold for the use of John Morton (1420‐1500).  It is doubtful whether he spent a significant amount of time at the Manor and there was probably no development of the grounds, his primary residence being Knole House in Kent. He was appointed Bishop of Ely in 1479, Henry VII appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury in 1486, and Lord Chancellor of England in 1487.  Sir John Donne, a notable figure in the Yorkist Party, named Horsenden as his primary residence in 1489.


The Donne Triptych by Hans Memling shows the Family, including a daughter possibly Anne (later Cotton).  A Household Book kept between 1510 and 1551 by Sir Edward Don (Donne) mentions a saffron garden, orchards and gardens. Anne Cotton’s daughter Jane married John Denham, Surveyor of the King’s Parks and Buildings, a Royalist. They were living in the House during the Civil War during the conflict it was Garrisoned and the Moat dug or enlarged.  The Manor was seized by Parliament and after the War conveyed to William Page for the duration of the Commonwealth.  In 1662, John Grubb of Kimbell became the Owner.  JohnGrubbeHorsenden.jpgIn 1784 John Grubb III (c.1700‐85) and his wife Mary were each painted in their later years by the fashionable Artist Johann Zoffany. In 1794 a detailed proposal for the grounds was
drawn for John Grubb IV (d.1812), including informal pleasure grounds containing a number
of garden buildings, an orchard and water features.  In 1810 John Grubb IV had the house largely rebuilt on the site of the old manor house.  Alterations to the gardens established the framework of today’s layout, reflecting much of the 1794 proposals.  The grounds were enclosed and in the pleasure ground part of the former defensive moat was incorporated into the garden design around the east and south of the house. Beyond this in the new park a ‘new walk’ (now known as Nut Walk) was formed to the south‐west and a lake was created from former fishponds. Between 1812 and 1823 a straight drive flanked by an avenue was created extending from Horsenden Lane opposite the northeast entrance in a north‐east direction to Summerleys Road, giving access directly from Princes Risborough. By the 1870s this had been bisected by the Railway Line.  By 1838 pleasure grounds, lawns, ponds and a kitchen garden were laid out by John Grubb V around the rebuilt Villa.  In 1841 the Duke of Buckingham purchased Horsenden (450 acres) as part of a lot, including Princes Risborough and Abbots Risborough totalling 1240 acres.  During this
time there was no change made to the Landscape it seems.  Lipscombe noted the key elements of the Grubb landscape by 1847 included ‘ornamental trees and shrubs, interspersed with gravel‐walks’ with the ‘principal front commanding a view of the Chiltern Hills and the celebrated Whiteleaf Cross’. He also noted the lake with an island and the park‐like grounds of some 50 acres. Sheahan (1862) noted the North‐Eastern Approach Avenue about 0.25 mile long, along with 9 acres of Pleasure Grounds including ornamental water and 2 cascades.  In 1848 (after the bankruptcy of the Duke of Buckingham) the Rev William Edwards Partridge, Rector of Horsenden became the Owner.  It was inherited by Mrs Leonard Jacques in 1886. A subsequent owner, Mrs Gourlay, is believed to have employed Lanning Roper the American Landscape Architect (also worked at Highgrove) who wrote 2 reports for the Garden (1970s). It is unclear whether his proposals were executed.  The site remains in private ownership (J Kay).

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