Ascott Park

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Ascott Park Lime Tree Avenue

Ascott Manor
Ascott
 is not mentioned directly by name in Domesday Book, but there are good grounds for supposing that it was represented by the 6-Hides & 3¾-Hides held in Great Milton by Aluric & William of the Bishop of Lincoln who, as later evidence shows, had 2 Knight’s Fees in Ascott.

The D’Oillys, who held 1 of these Fees, were Aluric’s successors at Stonesfield.  Their holding at Ascott, known in the 15thC as Fynes Manor, was 1st recorded in a Charter of William Rufus (c.1099–1100), which stated that at the King’s request Bishop Robert had given back to Nigel, brother of Guy d’Oilly, the land which Guy had Held of the Bishop and which he had given back to the Church in his lifetime. The Land belonged by Right to the Demesne of the Church and the Bishop was clearly anxious to keep it as such, for he said that the 6-Hides in Ascot were to revert on Nigel’s death.  Nevertheless, the Estate remained in the hands of the D’Oillys for the next Century.  Guy, probably the Domesday Tenant of Wigginton & Nigel were brothers of Robert d’Oilly, Constable of Oxford Castle.  Nigel was Robert’s heir, and in 1166 his grandson Henry (I) d’Oilly held the Ascott Fee and Henry’s son Henry (II) d’Oilly succeeded him and paid on the Fee in 1191.  Henry (II) apparently Granted the Land to his kinsman John d’Oilly (d. c.1228),  for he is found paying on 1-Fee held of the Bishop of Lincoln from about 1201 to 1210,  after which Henry d’Oilly again answered for the Bishop’s Fee until his death in 1232.  The Descent of Ascott is not clear for some time after this. Henry left no direct heir and his Lands were divided among his kinsmen,  but no mention was made of Ascott amongst the Lands of the d’Oilly Inheritance and it may have reverted for a time to the Bishop.

By 1279 the Fee was held by Jordan the Forester, who also held Land in Lyneham and in Waltham (Berks).  By 1280 Jordan was dead and his Property had passed to his daughter Joan, who married John de Fiennes (‘Fendus’, ‘Fienlys’), Lord of the Honour of Chokes (Northants).  John was returned as Holding the Fee of the Bishop in about 1305, was one of the Lords of Ascott in 1316, and contributed to the Tax levied in 1327.  He probably died soon after.  His Widow Joan held Ascott & Lyneham in Dower and after her death in 1338, her 2nd husband Sir Adam de Shareshull continued as Tenant.  Adam outlived Joan’s son, John de Fiennes (d.1351), Lord of Herstmonceux (Suss), and John’s son William (d.1359).  In 1370, after Adam’s death, the Estate went in Dower to Joan, William’s Widow, then the wife of Stephen de Valence.  On her death in 1378 it reverted to her son Sir William de Fiennes, who had succeeded his brother in 1375.  The Family had little connection with the Parish since the centre of their power was at Herstmonceux.  Sir Roger Fiennes succeeded in 1403,  but either he or his father Granted Ascott for life to his brother Sir James Fiennes, who therefore answered for 1-Fee there in 1428.  Sir James, created Lord Saye and Sele in c.1447, had a celebrated career as Soldier and Statesman, but was handed over to Cade’s Rebels and beheaded in 1450.   Ascott reverted then, if not before, to Sir Richard Fiennes, Roger’s son, who became Lord Dacre of the South in 1458.  He sold the Ascott Estate, now called Fynes Manor, to Richard Quatremain, whose Family had held an Estate in Ascott since the early 12thCFynes Manor was held for a time with the Quatremains‘ Estate, but Richard Quatremain (d.1477) apparently left a life interest in it to Thomas Boteler, son & heir of Baldwin Boteler, who obtained it in 1484.  There were remainders to Richard Grenville of Wootton Underwood, Boteler’s nephew, and in 1510 Sir Robert Dormer, who bought the other Quatremain Estate, agreed with Richard Grenville to exchange Wootton Underwood Manor for Ascott Manor and for land in Haddenham (Bucks.), where he had a Woolhouse.

ThameHundredThe 2nd Estate in the Hamlet, known by the 15thC as Quatermains Manor, belonged to the Quatremains from the 12thC at least and formed 1 Fee with their Land in North Weston in Thame.  This was undoubtedly the 3¾-Hides in Great Milton and 3-Hides in Thame which William held in 1086.  In 1166 Herbert Quatremain was holding the Fee of the Bishop of Lincoln.  By September 1200 he had died, leaving a Widow Lettice, who claimed Dower of the 6¾-Hides in Ascott & North Weston from her son Herbert; it was settled that she should have 5 Virgates in Ascott.  Her son Herbert was listed as one of the Bishop’s Knights in 1201 and the Fee remained until the 15thC in the Quatremain Family, who from the 14thC at least resided at Quatremains Place in North Weston.  In the time of Richard Quatremain, who succeeded in 1414, part of the Fee appears to have been Mortgaged & Sold.  When Thomas Quatremain died in 1398 it had been given in Trust for his Widow Joan to William Bruley,  but it had reverted to Richard Quatremain by 1428.  By 1431 Bartholomew Collingridge and his son William, relatives of the Quatremains, were in possession.  Later William Collingridge and his wife Sarah were involved in a Lawsuit with other Grantees, but between 1456 & 1460 the Manor, worth £9 a year, was finally awarded to William Collingridge by Judgement of the Court.  The Collingridge Title was thus secured and the Manor Descended to John Collingridge despite the claims of William Danvers, Richard Quatremain’s nephew, who claimed after 1477 that his uncle had promised it to him.  John Collingridge died in 1500 in possession of ‘Estcote alias Astcote‘ Manor, worth £42.  In 1510, however, his heir John Collingridge sold Ascott to Sir Robert Dormer of West Wycombe (Bucks), to whom he was related by marriage.  The 2 Ascott Manors, ‘Fynes‘ & ‘Quatremains‘, thus came into the same hands.

In 1518 Sir Robert Dormer Granted the Ascott Manors to Sir Michael Dormer, his uncle and a distinguished Mayor of London,  and Ascott became one of the Seats of the Dormer Family for many generations. His son Ambrose (d.1566) retained this and the Family’s other Property in the Parish,  but Ambrose’s son Sir Michael (II) Dormer ran into Debt and sold the Manors in Great & Little Milton, Mortgaged Ascot, and sold it before 1609 to his cousin, Sir Robert Dormer of Long Crendon and Dorton (Bucks).  In 1642 Sir Robert settled Ascott Manor and other Property in Little Milton, Newington, & Stadhampton on his ‘youngest son and heir‘, William.  In 1653 William Dormer (d. 1683) settled the Manor on himself and on Anna Maria Waller, whom he married.  His wife had Dower in Ascott, but in 1694 his son John was in possession and settled it on his 1st wife Katherine Spencer, one of the daughters and coheirs of Sir Thomas Spencer, 3rd Baronet of Yarnton.  In 1717 John again settled Ascott on his 2nd wife Alice Dighton, and on his death in 1728 he left Ascott House to his wife Alice and his real Estate in reversion to his kinsman Robert Dormer of Rousham.  Robert Dormer at once Mortgaged the Estates to his cousin Sir Clement Cottrell-Dormer and sold them later in the same year.  In 1760 Sir Charles Cottrell-Dormer of Rousham bought Ascott Manor and other Estates outright for £20,000.  By 1784, however, Ascott had been sold to the Blackalls and thereafter followed the Descent of Great & Little Milton.

The 1st indirect mention of Ascott is in 1086 when 2 Knights Fees were recorded in the Domesday Book.  One Manor became known as Fynes was held from the end of the 11thC until the end of the 13thC by the de Oilly Family.  In 1279 the Property passed to Jordan the Forrester.  Jordan’s daughter Joan and her husband John Fiennes inherited the Property on Jordan’s death.  The Fiennes Family held the Property until the mid 15thC when it was sold to Richard Quatermaine who’s kinsmen held the other Manor which was known as Quatermains.  However, the Manors remained separate in the hands of various individuals until 1510.  In that year Robert Dormer bought Quatermains Manor and acquired Fynes Manor by an exchange of Property elsewhere.

AscottParkMapAscott Hamlet –  The name ‘Ascott’ comes from the Saxon for ‘East Homestead’
Of Milton’s other Hamlets ‘Ascott ‘once had a large Manor-House, a Medieval Chapel, and at least 3 Farmhouses.  Little is left now except Ascot Farm, an L-shaped, half-Timbered & Brick House, dating from the 16th & 17thCs, and a few other survivals of the Great House and its appendages.  Ascott was the Home for several generations of various members of the Great Milton branch of the Dormer Family who lived at Ascott Park between the time they 1st acquired the Estate in 1518 & 1780 when the last Dormer occupant died.  The central mystery is where the Dormer Family lived at Ascott Park.  A Cottage called Ascott Park now stands on the Site of the Dormer Manor House and that it was occupied by the Family throughout this time.  The Shakespeare’s Way Footpath runs through the Park close to the Dovecote.

Ascott Park Cottage appears to be a much-altered Remnant of the Original Manor House. Parts of this Building date from the 17th & 18thCs, if not earlier. The massive Fireplace at one end suggests it was originally part of a much larger building.  A Curtilage Wall (possibly 16thC & later) separates the Property from the outer Park: the wall also runs down the Easternmost boundary of the Cottage Garden where there was a Gateway constructed in the late 16th or early 17thC and removed in the 1920s to the Victoria & Albert Museum.  A Garden attached to the Manor House could have typically been contained within this walled area in the Tudor and early Stuart Period.  The overgrown area to the South is shown with a Formal Garden layout on the Davis Map of 1793 and may well be where Sir Michael Dormer (grandson of the earlier Sir Michael) cultivated the rare Plants brought to him in 1607 from Sir Henry Fanshawe’s garden at Ware Park in Hertfordshire.

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The 2 Medieval Manors of Ascott were United by Robert Dormer in 1510 when he purchased one and exchanged the other for Property he held elsewhere.  He subsequently Granted Ascott to his uncle MichealSir Michael Dormer, Lord Mayor of London made the Manor House one of the Dormer Seats in 1518, and it passed to his son Ambrose (d.1566).  Ambrose’s Widow Jane, who had a life-interest in the House, took as her 2nd husband William Hawtrey, a London Merchant and an original member of the Muscovy Company.  In her Will made in 1581, Jane speaks of her plate and household stuff at ‘my Mansion House and Grounds called Ascott‘, and it seems probable that the Hawtreys lived at Ascott.  There were at least 4 other Dormer-Hawtrey marriages and William Hawtrey’s younger brother Thomas, also a Merchant of the Muscovy Company appears to have stayed in the Ascot House at the end of his life.  He made his Will there, left a Bequest of 10s to the Vicar of Milton, and was buried in Great Milton Church.   Some details about the Building in the time of Sir Michael Dormer, Ambrose’s son, have survived.  There were at least 12 Bedchambers, including a Gatehouse Chamber, and a Long Gallery is also mentioned.  

It is likely that the House suffered from John Hampden’s Royalist Raid on Ascott in 1642 when he besieged and supposedly damaged it when he demanded its surrender.  It was still occupied when an Inventory was made in 1650 following Sir Robert Dormer’s death the year before.  Ascott House & the newly built Rousham House (Oxon) were then divided between Sir Robert’s 2 sons; it was in any case rebuilt by Sir William Dormer in the 1660s.

Sir William Dormer was a flamboyant character who earned the name “the Splendid” by using Silver to Shoe his Horses and line the inside of the Wheels of his Carriage.  The 1650 Inventory of Ascott suggests the Siege caused little if any damage and William was more likely making his mark by deciding to build a Grand New House following the Restoration. “There was a verie noble house built there”, says the Antiquary Anthony a’ Wood in October 1662, “and the outside being finished ..the joyner’s shavings took fire by accident and so ‘twas burnt down.

Known as Williamthe Splendid‘; it is evident that his Mansion was planned on a large scale, but it was accidentally damaged by Fire in 1662 before its Completion.  It is said that it was ‘burnt down‘, but either some of it was left or it was rebuilt, for William Dormer paid Tax on 12 hearths for this House in 1665, and Robert Plot shows it as a 4-Chimneyed House on his Map of 1697.  It was eventually used by the Widow Alice Dormer as a Dower House from 1728 until her death in 1780.  Davis shows a house there in his Map of Oxfordshire 1797; he also shows the Park, the formal inclosed Garden & a Chapel in the Grounds.  

AscottParkMapIt has long been believed that the Site of this House was marked by a large Hollow in the Ground where the present Tree Avenues Cross, between the ‘Granary’ & the Dovecote.  A comprehensive Survey undertaken by English Heritage in 2007 of all the Earthwork features in the Park follows the accepted view and concludes the Landscape was remodelled at the same time.  But grave doubt has now been thrown upon this interpretation by the 2009 Excavation. Brian Dix the Archaeologist explains :
“A single trench across the Cellar-like depression showed that a Wall had been removed from around the sides together with the Flagstones of a Floor at the Base, confirming that it had been intended as part of a Structure. However, the cleanliness of the site and absence of signs of sustained building activity suggest that the Project was unfinished & apparently abandoned early on. Since there were neither traces of burning nor other remains consistent with the demolition of a largely completed Bbuilding like that of in 1662, it seems that this structure was entirely different ” 

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These conclusions are amplified in a summary report and interpretation produced by Brian Dix at the end of the dig in August 2009, with a more detailed description of the Archaeology  In suggesting potential areas for further excavation he suggests investigating the Stone Foundation visible along the northwest edge of the Hollow, “in order to clarify the existing interpretation of it as an abandoned Building Project”.  So, if this conclusion is correct, we have to look elsewhere for the site of the 1662 House.
AscottParkTrailMapAnother trench dug across the Hollow in 1969. This was the work of Susan Wade-Martin (formerly Everett) and her colleagues.  Their report in the County Council’s Historic Environment Record revealed that “layers of ash, burnt wood and melted lead” were all found “in quantity”, along with bricks and mortar, in the bank that runs along the Southside of the Hollow.  A magnetometer and resistivity survey commissioned by the Trust in 2007 appears to show an area of building rubble between this side of the Hollow and the ‘Granary‘.  This, together with the burnt material in the nearby Bank, makes sense of Brian Dix’s suggestion that any further excavation examines this area for evidence of the 1662 House Site.  He also suggests comparing it with a similar spread identified by the Geophysical Survey Northwest of the Cellar-hollow.

Ascott Manor Farmhouse, now House. Early 17thC, remodelled & extended c.1800 & later.  Rendered Limestone rubble walls with Limestone Ashlar Dressings; old plain-Tile Roofs with Brick Stacks. 2-unit Lobby-entry Plan, extended to L-Plan and later infilled. 2-Storeys + Attics. 2-Window entrance front with plinth, parapet & added pilaster strips, has central 8-panel Ddoor under a Stone Canopy, flanking 16-pane Sashes & 12-pane Sashes above, all set beneath 17thC Stone Labels. Roof has a central clustered Stack on a stone base & Gable Parapets.  Right Gable Wall, facing Garden, has similar Windows plus a 3-light stone-mullioned Gable Window, and continues to a 3-window Range of c.1800 with a central full-height tripartite Sash, a stone arched Entrance to left with recessed Doorway & ornamental overlight, a 12-pane sash to right, and sashes of 12,16 & 12 panes at 1st-Floor, all with re-used Labels. Left Gable of Front Range has a 2-light hollow-chamfered stone-mullioned Window with no Label. 2-window left Rear Range may be 17thC, and has 16-pane Sashes plus remains of blocked stone-mullioned Windows & a Doorway with a chamfered stone surround. Lower Range further to Rear has Brick segmental arches.
Interior: front Range has Tudor-arched Stone Fireplaces, back to back & moulded beams. Garden Range has a double-height Stair Hall with plaster modillion cornice and an open-well Stair.  Butt-purlin Roof to front Range. Formerly part of the Ascott Estate.

DovecoteAscottParkNothing is left now of the Manor House or its Outbuildings except for a 16thC Dovecote, ‘Granary’ & Summer-house.
The Dovecote is a single-Storey Building, Octagonal in plan constructed of Red Brick with Diapers of vitrified Headers and with a plain Tile Roof. The walls have a Corbel Table of moulded Bricks forming trefoiled arches, grey vitrified Headers form patterns of horizontal Zig-zag, Diaper & Flemish-bond Chequer on wall surfaces below. The larger Doorway & 3-light Casements are later insertions. The rRof had 4 small Dormer openings and a low central Cupola.
The Octagonal Dovecot has wall faces of Vitreous and very fine Diaper Red Brickwork and nearly a full set of Brick-built Nesting Boxes, with Diamond, Chevron, & Chequer patterns; the Eaves String is Arched & Cusped. There is a later inserted Window and possibly further enlarged Doorway.  The Roof is original with only repairs and has 2 North & South Dormers and a Cupola

Dovecotes are specialised structures designed for the breeding & keeping of Doves as a source of food and as a symbol of high Social Status.  Most surviving examples were built in the period between the 14th & 17thCs, although both earlier & later examples are documented. They were generally freestanding Structures, square or circular in plan and normally of Brick or Stone, with nesting Boxes built into the internal Wall. They were frequently Sited at Manor Houses or Monasteries.

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Thatched Granary with Tudor Doorway & Basement

The 17thC brick & Ashlar dressing ‘Granary’ or Garden Building is also Octagonal and has a Vaulted Cellar and an Upper Truncated Floor.  But would the Granary/Icehouse have been designed with a Tudor style Doorway in the 1660s?  There are, however, Tudor style windows on the post-Restoration ‘Piccadilly Cottage’ Pavilion so maybe they are stylistic throwbacks. It is also questionable whether the Basement of the Granary is an Icehouse – there is no funnel-shaped Drain and the floor appears solid. The building is more likely to have originally been a Garden Pavilion, used for outdoor meals & activities, with cool storage in the Basement below. It is best described as a ‘Gazebo‘ as there is no evidence of any Fenstration.  The Roof is Thatched.

The 1660 Landscape Design Summer-house or Garden Pavilion is built of rubble with Ashlar dressings; it is of 2-Storeys and has a hipped Roof.  It is now a dwelling house called ‘Piccadilly Cottage’ and has been added to and modernised. The 17thC Walls, Terraces and the Gate-posts of the Main Entrance to the Grounds survive. The last have Stone Piers, Cornice heads, and Ball Finials, and are flanked by Avenues of Lime Trees.  A wrought-iron Gate of 18thC date and an early 17thC Gateway of Stone, once in the Park to the East of Stadhampton, are now in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
Garden Pavilion, now house. 17thC, extended 19thC & 2thC. Limestone rubble with Ashlar Dressings; plain-tile Roof. Square plan, extended to L-plan. 2-Storeys.  Pavilion has, at 1st-Floor on 3 sides, large 2-light stone-mullioned windows with Ovolo mouldings and labels; remaining openings, and those in the 2-window 19thC Range to South and its 20thC extension to West have brick Dressings and Segmental Arches.  Pavilion Roof is pyramidal.
Interior not inspected.
Part of the former Formal Gardens of Ascott Park

Having suffered a major setback with the Fire William Dormer probably decided to cut his losses. In doing so, he simply abandoned this Site and continued to occupy the existing large Manor House dating from the Medieval/Tudor Period.  This would be the Site of the Property with the 12-hearths recorded in the 1666 Hearth Tax and the 4-Chimneys shown on Plot’s Map of 1697. If there were another new building occupied in the park at this time one would expect a 2nd Building to be recorded in the Hearth Tax. William may also have improved the Manor House as a cheaper alternative to any new Building. The 19thC sketch of the Manor House the original of which has since been lost-suggests some 17thC features. But whether William was responsible is pure supposition

AscottGatePiersThe Formal Landscaping on the Park may have been started about this time. This would include ‘Piccadilly Cottage’ Pavilion, the Garden Parterre shown on later Plans, Water Features in the Southernmost wooded Area and the Tree Avenues, including the one leading to the surviving 10M wide Gate-Piers.  This French style of formal Gardening became popular after Charles II’s return from exile on the continent.  William’s father-in-law was the Poet & Politician Edmund Waller.  Waller kept in with both Cromwell & Charles II by writing Poems in their praise, one such in 1661 waxing Lyrical about the changes the King made to St James’Park with the creation of a great Canal & Tree Avenue pre-dating the present Lake.

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William Dormer would certainly have known of this and not to be entirely outdone by the Fire may have resolved on carrying through the improvements he intended for the Park.  If the ornamental Water Features in the Wooded area were completed after his lifetime they would have been representative of what was being done in William of Orange’s time when son John Dormer had taken over the Estate.  Dutch Style Water Gardens had then become even more popular. An intriguing break in the Curtilage Wall just below the slope of the lower 2nd Terrace suggests the Water Garden may have followed on later. We also know from the excavation that the Upper Terrace was once a Walled Enclosure. The pattern of Landscape Gardening in the 17thC characteristically included a series of Walled Garden Enclosures around the House; these opened up into an Outer Park with a variety of Arcadian Elements as the 18thC progressed.

AscotChapelAscott Chapel, a Private one attached to the Manor House, was built probably soon after 1200 and remained until 1823 when it was pulled down.  It consisted of Chancel and Nave, with a Central Bellcot over the Chancel-arch; both Nave and Chancel were originally lighted by Lancet windows, but 2 of these on the Southside were replaced by 2-light Decorated windows in the 14thC.  When Powell visited it in 1805 he found it ‘in ruins‘.  There were wall paintings in Red in the Nave depicting the Passion of Christ, Scourging, Crucifixion, Descent into Hell, and Appearance to Mary Magdalen.  A drawing of the Chapel from the South was made in 1811 by Charles Ellis of Great Milton when the Building was still entire.  Another sketch of 1813 shows it Roofless.  It was dismantled in 1823 and the Stones including the Foundations were afterwards fetched away as wanted.  Its Site was still marked by a much weatherbeaten Elm (the Chapel Tree) some 21ft in girth which stood at the West End as depicted.

The Chapel (was on a Site immediately to the South of Piccadilly Cottage) ceased to be used as the Private Chapel for the Manor House and was abandoned. A sketch (above) of it in J H Parker’s Guide to the Architectural Antiquities in the Neighbourhood of Oxford (pub 1846) shows it to be still complete in 1811.   A Datestone for 1823 on the Farm Buildings leaves little doubt how some of the Stone was reused.  There are several sketches of the Chapel before its final demolition in the Views Index in the Bodleian Library. Two were done by John Chessell Buckler whose father designed the Library at Magdalen College.

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Ascott Park Map looking East

Fishponds are artificially created Pools of slow-moving freshwater constructed for the purpose of cultivating, breeding and storing Fish in order to provide a constant and sustainable food supply.  The tradition of construction and using Fishponds began in the Medieval period and reached a peak of popularity in the 12thC. They were largely the province of the wealthier sectors of Medieval Society, and are considered important as a source of information concerning the economy of various classes of Medieval Settlements & Institutions.

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Ascott Park Estate looking West

Ascott Park lies 1 km East of the Village of Stadhampton, on the West boundary of the small Settlement of Ascott. The Rectangular, c.16ha Site is bounded to the North by the B480 Stadhampton to Chalgrove road, to the East by a Lane leading South from this Road and its extension South is a Public Footpath, to the South by Agricultural Land, and to the West by a narrow block of Woodland. Most of the Boundaries, except those to the South, South-east and South-west, are marked by Limestone Walls, in varying states of repair. The site, in a largely Agricultural Setting, occupies fairly level ground, with gentle slopes down to the South and West, and views North over Agricultural Land towards Little Milton.
The Main Approach enters the Park towards the Centre of the North Boundary, off the B480, and is marked by 2 Tall, Square Gate Piers (17thC, listed Grade II) set back off the road in a Curved Wall. The Limestone ashlar Piers, one of which retains a Ball Finial, are placed 10M apart, forming part of a broad entrance screen, flanked by 2 further pairs of lesser Piers in a similar style (17thC, listed Grade II) standing 25M to West and East. These are connected by a low, Limestone Wall, seemingly built at a later date.  The Entrance stands at the North end of the main central axis, which runs through the Site to the South Boundary, and on which many of the designed features are aligned. A broad, straight Grass Ride runs South from the Central Gateway for 200M, flanked by 2 Avenues of mature Lime Trees aligned on the outer pairs of Gate Piers. The Ride, Terminated by a raised Garden Bank, is crossed at right-angles 150M from the North Entrance by the remnants of a further Avenue of limes, of which only the West Arm remains standing, possibly the remnants of another Double Avenue.
Principal Building – Part of Sir William Dormer’s Manor House, burnt down in 1662 before Completion, was subsequently rebuilt as a Dower House, although little is known about its appearance, and the Building had gone by the early 19thC (Estate Map, 1838).  Ascott Park Farmhouse, a Timber-framed fragment of what may have been associated Stables or Outbuildings, stands 250M South of the Main Entrance, subsequently used as a Farmhouse and now a Private Residence.
Neither the site of the 16thC Manor House nor that of the 1660s‘ House have been accurately ascertained.  It is likely however that in such a Formally Designed Landscape, the 17thC House would have stood towards the Centre of the great North/South Axis around which the whole Park and Garden pivots. It is possible that it stood c.200M South of the Main Entrance, close to 2 remaining 16thC Octagonal Garden Buildings which stand to East and West just outside the North/South Avenues of Limes.  The Western Building, a Dovecote (16thC, listed Grade II), is built of red brick with vitrified headers forming diaper patterns, with a corbel table of moulded Bricks forming trefoiled Arches below a tiled Roof.  The Doorway, a later insertion, lies on the Southside, and the building was used as a Cattle Shelter.  The Eastern building, a Thatched Granary (16/18thC, listed Grade II), in a similar style to the Dovecote, seems to have been rebuilt in the 18thC incorporating the 16thC features.  The basement has an Octagonal, Brick Saucer Dome, and was thought to have functioned as an Icehouse.
Gardens & Pleasure Grounds – The Garden features lie South of the Approach Ride.  A raised, level Garden Terrace, 50M wide and 75M long, runs South from c.225M South of the Main Entrance.  It is bounded on the North edge by the narrow raised bank or Terrace which Terminates the Approach, immediately to the North of which lies a semicircular depression in the ground (possibly containing the Foundations of the House, or being the remains of a Pond). Parchmarks on the Terrace, visible in hot weather, are said to indicate the remains of Stone-walled Enclosures (Woodward 1982). The Terrace is flanked to the East by the Walled Garden, and to the West by Pasture sloping down to the remains of a line of Lime Trees continuing the line of the Northern Avenue. West of the trees lies 2 sub-rectangular Ponds, separated by a central raised earth Bank running North/South.  The Easternmost Pond is now silted up with Trees growing in it, but the West Pond still holds Water.  The South boundary of the Ponds is formed by a Tall, Earth retaining Bank standing above an area to the South used (1997) as a Paddock.  South of the level Garden Terrace the ground slopes down (probably part of further Terracing) to the Woodland now enclosing the Main Water Feature which lies at the South end of the main axis.
The rectangular Water Garden, enclosed in places by Iron Park Fencing, is bounded to the West & East by canalised drainage Ditches, to the South by the canalised Stream, and to the North by an extension of the Earth Bank which Dams the 2-Ponds above to the North-west. The marshy remains of a long, narrow Canal with bulbous West & East ends, which still contains some Standing Water, run below the Earth Bank.  South of this are the remains of several largely Dry Ponds with many Trees now (1997) growing throughout.  These include a Central Oval Pond, said to retain a central Stone Structure (Mr Osborne, Tenant, pers comm 1997), flanked by 2 Rectangular Ponds, each of which is divided North/South by a low Earth Causeway.  These Ponds are in turn flanked by level areas above the normal ground level.  Flat Arable Land & Pasture extends South, and 100M to the South-west is Newell’s Pond, a Fishpond with an Island and a line of mature Limes along the South Boundary, past the Northside of which the Garden Water System runs out of the Site.
Park – Much of the Site, including Garden Features, is now Pasture or Woodland, but the Park probably originally occupied the North half of the Site and the Land to West and East beyond the Garden Features.  A barely visible Terrace runs West and East along the North Boundary, from the North end of the Lime Avenues. The Terrace, which runs Parallel with the B480, Terminates 150M to the west in a depression in the ground, and 120M to the East at ‘Piccadilly’ Cottage. The Cottage, based on a 17thC Stone Garden Pavilion (listed Grade II), stands at the North-East corner of the Site, where the Lane leads South from the B480. It has been extended in the 19thC and 20thC but the Pavilion element is still obvious, with its Pyramidal Roof and, on 3-sides on the 1st-Floor, large stone-mullioned windows.
A Medieval Chapel related to the Manor stood in the North-East corner of the Site, close to the Garden Pavilion. This is shown enclosed within a Graveyard on a Map of 1797 but no visible remains survive.  The field in the South-East corner of the site, lying East of the Water Garden, is now isolated from the main area by Woodland but seems to have been part of the Formal Garden layout, retaining, as it does, many low undulations, with some level plateaux.
AscottManor17thCenturyGatewayV&A
Kitchen Garden
– A Rectangular Walled Garden remains adjacent to the East side of the Main Garden Terrace, enclosing Ascott Park Farmhouse (16thC and later, listed Grade II), a Timber-framed and rendered House lying 250M South of the Main Entrance and probably originally an Ancillary Building.  The largely Brick Garden Wall (16thC & later, listed Grade II) with some Limestone Stretches, encloses on the West, North and East sides an area of semi-mature Oak Woodland, the South Side opening onto the East End of the Water Garden.  The Woodland may conceal further Garden Features.  An 18thC wrought-iron Gate and an early 17thC Stone Gateway, now in the Victoria & Albert Museum, are thought to have been removed from the West Garden Wall.
The Gateway to Ascott House: This is not to be confused with the Gate Piers on the main Road.  The Gateway from its design is, according to the V&A catalogue, late Elizabethan in date. Or bearing in mind the similarity to the ornamental strapwork & finials on the top of the Tower of the Five Orders at the Bodleian Library – built after 1613. it could even be Jacobean, dating from the early 17thC. This is fortuitous as it is hoped, if sufficient Funds can be raised, that it will be taken from Storage at the V&A and re-Erected at the Readers’ Entrance from the large new Public Entrance Hall planned for the remodelled New Bodleian Library.  An inspired location as the Latin inscription over the Gateway roughly translates as “If you’re good you can come in, but if not keep out !”  The exact point where Gateway stood on the Easternmost Boundary Wall of Ascott  Park Cottage can still be identified. The gap in the wall is shown on a July 1979 planning application for Cottage improvements. The proposal included building up the opening and the making good can clearly be seen on Site today. As well as the Aerial photos showing the original Avenue leading up to the Gateway Colin Judge’s History has a photo showing it in-situ with a view of the roof of Ascott Park Cottage behind. So there can be no doubt about its original location
Ascott Park Farm Cottage is believed to originate from the 16thC and has been added to and altered over the years. Built mainly of Brick & Stone under a tiled Roof, the House and Stone Garden Wall are Listed Grade II. The House enjoys a rural setting and all rooms benefit from an attractive outlook over the Garden and the surrounding Parkland, Farmland & Woodland.  The House has in more recent years been extensively refurbished to create a family home, while at the same time retaining its Period charm & character.  A particular feature of the House is a large Inglenook Fireplace in the stunning Kitchen/Dining room which is believed to date from 1620.
AscottFarmCottage
Farmhouse. Probably 16thC, much altered. Rendered Timber-framing, Brick, & Limestone rubble; plain-tile Roof with Brick gable stacks. T-plan. 2-Storeys.  Front has, to right, a Tudor-arched Stone Doorway, with recessed spandrels & a central keyblock, retaining original studded plank Door; central 3-light casement with 2-light casement above; to left, the projecting Gable wall of the Cross Wing is rubble at Ground Floor, with some rendered Timber-framing above, and has a projecting Chimney.  A Post survives in the angle of the projecting Wing.  To extreme right, in an Outbuilding, are fragments of further Bays of the original House, of which the massive open Fireplace survives on the right Gable wall of the existing house. Rear has further casements and the 1st-Floor of the Cross Wing is in rendered Timber-framing. Interior: not inspected, but noted as containing panelling. Brick garden walls, to North-east are in English bond and have chamfered plinth & lengths of 2-course Stone coping with apex roll.  Probably an ancillary building of the destroyed Ascott House.

OS Map 1918 Sth Oxon XLVI.3 (Stadhampton; Ascott)

John Dormer took over the Estate from William, his father, in 1683 and ran it until his death in 1707. Another John followed, and the Coat of Arms on the William Burgess drawn Estate Map linking him with the Dightons of Clifford Chambers (near Stratford-upon-Avon) enables us to date this Plan any time between his marriage to Alice Dighton in 1712 and his death in 1728.

John Dormer left a young Widow but no children.  Alice continued to occupy Ascott House for her lifetime but Ownership of the Estate reverted to the Dormers at Rousham. This was the time when the Dormer Brothers, Colonel Robert & General James, were busy with the celebrated improvements to Rousham House & Grounds, most particularly by William Kent.  There would be no incentive, if indeed the means, to do anything to update Ascott, which was occupied only by the Widow of a cousin 1st removed.  The Family link with Ascott became even more tenuous after the Rousham Estate passed to General Dormer’s maternal cousin Sir Clement Cottrell. Sir Clement’s son, Sir Charles Cottrell-Dormer decided to sever his links with Ascott and although he continued to pay an Annuity to Alice, Ownership of the Estate was Conveyed to Alice’s own Family, the Dightons, in 1760.

Alice lived on at Ascott until her death in 1780.  The Property is identified with a symbol as Ascott Place on Philip Overton’s County Map of 1715. The “House, Garden & Park” is described as “walled and paled in” in the Agreement of 1760.  We believe the Wall is the Curtilage Wall around the Manor House Referred to above and that the Pale is the outer Boundary of the Park defined by the wide line of Trees along the Public Footpath on the West, the main Road and possibly part of the Lane leading off the Main Road to the Farmyard. Jeffery’s Map of 1768 shows the House more or less where Ascott Park Cottage now stands.
OS Map 1st Series 1830
Alice Dormer’s death saw the dispersal of the contents of Ascott House among her Family.  Apart from a few personal items virtually all of it went to a niece, Mary Egerton.  The Chapel Plate was left to Alice’s nephew, Lister Dighton, of Clifford Chambers for use in Clifford Church.  It included a very fine Chalice & Paten dating from 1494 – among the oldest known in the Country.  They were used in the Church until recently but have now been removed to a secure location.  The Chalice bears traces of Enamel and has a representation of the Crucifixion.   On a Pommel on the Hexagonal Stem halfway between the Base & the Cup the Silversmith has carefully inscribed the word “Jesus”. If the Chalice is held upside down a Curse can be seen painstakingly inscribed alongside the lettering, reading “A POX ON Y (ye ?)!

An article written recently illustrating the Curse speculates on who might have been responsible but it is our belief that the last and villainous John Dormer was the one responsible.  It entirely fits his Character as a “heathenish irreligious man” given to wild rages.  For instance, according to Oxford historian Thomas Hearne (1678-1735), this “young gentleman of a most wicked, profligate, debauched life, a person of no conscience or religion, who is not known to have ever done one virtuous or good thing” once murdered a man in Woodstock Park (now Blenheim) for refusing to hand over his wife for him to ravish!  He fled to Yarntonwithout his Hat” and escaped a Conviction for Murder only because another Dormer was one of the Judges and a bunch of “Rascals & Villains” was collected for the Jury.  That was not the end of John Dormer’s misdeeds. Research carried out in the County Record Office indicates Richard Carter of Great Haseley lent John Dormer money which he could not repay.  The Case went to Court in 1725/26 and it appears John Dormer was declared Bankrupt.  During the course of these proceedings, Carter sued Dormer for Libel after receiving an insulting letter.  John Dormer responded by turning up at Carter’s House with an armed Gang.  This “sad swearing heathenish irreligious man”, as Hearne later described him, died soon after in London of Smallpox.  This was in 1728 when he was only 40.

The End of Ascott House
On John Blackall’s death the Ascott Estate passed to Walter Long, a distant cousin living in Hampshire. The Franklin Family took the Tenancy in 1830 and some years later purchased the Freehold.  The Tithe Map of 1839-45, which looks a model of precision, clearly shows Ascott Park Cottage where it now stands but with a much larger projecting Wing to the South.
Tithe Map of Ascott Park 1838
The Tithe Map Register describes the Cottage Site & Walled Garden as “Old House Garden & Nursery”.  Most significantly, none of the Maps from 1768 show any other building in the Centre of the Park (other than the Dovecote & Granary/Icehouse on the Tithe & OS Maps).  The Franklins were an enterprising Family.  The Census returns show that their Farm grew to a peak of 1200 acres with a workforce of nearly 80 by 1871.  Thereafter they reduced both their acreage & workforce as the Agricultural depression of the late 19thC set in. But they were not short of Business. Edward Lane Franklin had also started up as a Valuer & Enclosure Commissioner from the beginning of his Tenancy and this side of the Business grew until it became the family’s main occupation. By the 1880s the Franklins had gone into Partnership and thus began the well-known local Estate Agents Firm of Franklin & Jones.  Franklin & Jones initially had their offices at Ascott Farm. This is the place now called Ascott Manor, a large private residence of some age immediately adjoining the main Farm buildings. It is also the place where members of the Franklin Family lived until the Ascott Estate was conveyed to the County Council in 1920. So what happened to the Old Manor House?
The very large South Wing of the Manor House came down sometime between the production of the Tithe Map and the 1st Edition of the OS in 1881 – quite possibly in the 1840s.  Parker in 1846 refers to “some Ruins of the Dormer Mansion”. The 1881 1st Edition of the Ordnance Survey shows Ascott Park Cottage as the “Site of Mansion”. In the context of how we have described the pattern of actual occupation this is correct, although not of course in its application to the Site of William Dormer’s ill-fated Restoration House or the later one attempted by John Dormer.  It, therefore, seems that the Franklins abandoned the old Manor House for the House now, somewhat confusingly, called Ascott Manor.  They no doubt regarded it as inconvenient and much too big for their needs, and the House they occupied was obviously much better placed immediately by the Farm buildings. It does not stretch the imagination to conclude they demolished the Manor House, apart from the tiny part left today, and re-used the Stone for purposes around the Farm.  A decorative fragment of the old Chapel can for instance be seen in the East Boundary Wall of Ascott Manor