The 4th Hamlet of Pyrton is Stonor. Its name dates from 1896, for before that date it was known as Assendon or Upper Assendon. By the 16th century and possibly much earlier there were 2 Assendons, Over or Upper Assendon, & Nether Assendon. Upper Assendon was sometimes also called Stonor-cum-Assendon. The other Lower Assendon was just over the Hundred Boundary and was in Bix. The Township covered 1,534 acres of Agricultural Land & Woodland on the Chiltern Hills. The Village itself lies in an ideally sheltered Combe on either side of the Road that runs from Pishill to the Main Oxford to Henley Road. It is unexpectedly far from the Manor-House, but a Stonor Estate Map of 1725 shows it in its present position and there is no evidence for any change of Site. Thomas Stonor built an Almshouse in Assendon before 1421 and there are indications that there was a Smithy in the Village both in the 14th & 15th centuries. The 16th-century subsidy lists indicate that it was a sizeable Hamlet with 15 Taxpayers and in 1811 there were 32 houses. In 1960 the Hamlet consisted of the former ‘Stonor Arms’ Pub, mainly an 18th-century building of Chequer Brick though there are leases of Assendon Inn, as it was then called, going back to before 1668; of the Ruins of 5 18th-century Almshouses that were damaged by a German Bomb in 1941, of a 19th-century School, Post-office and several Farmhouses & Cottages, mostly of 16th, 17th, or 18th century date. The Ancient Cottages are of Brick & Timber or of Flint with red-brick Dressings. Upper Assendon Farm, the oldest of the Farmhouses, dates from the 17th century and is built of Brick, Timber, and Flint.
Stag-Hunting – never appears to have found much favour in Oxfordshire, though it was customary at one time for the Royal Buckhounds to meet annually at Stonor Park, the seat of the Lords Camoys. The following account of one of these ‘Gala Days‘ occurs, the date being Friday, 19th April 1861:-
Ran around the Woods above Stonor, then across Turville Heath & North End Common, downhill by Shirburn Castle, Pyrton Heath & Cutt Mill to Chalgrove, past Rofford to Ascott. Left Little Milton on the right, nearly reached Chislehampton, came back to Garsington and took the Stag in the Village. In 1862, Her Majesty’s Stag-hounds met at Stonor on 18th March and ran by Turville & North End down to Pyrton, on by Britwell, Crowmarsh & Mongewell, the Stag being taken at South Stoke.
The Stonor Family have lived in the Stonor Valley from at least the 12th century, being Recusants following the Reformation (1540s) and because of their refusal to take the Oath of Supremacy, were heavily Fined and their Lands confiscated. Their fortunes improved during the 18th century, during which time the House was Gothicised and the Landscape Park seems to have been laid out. The Stonors continued in Ownership during the 19th & 20th century, the 8th Thomas Stonor acquiring the Barony of Camoys as the 3rd Lord Camoys in 1839. The Estate remains in Private hands.
Stonor Park, a House of great Historic interest, lies off the Village Street in the middle of its Park, which is itself of some Antiquity: there are references to a John Parker, who was Keeper of the Fishery & Warren there in 1395, and to ‘le pale‘ surrounding the Park, and in the 16th century Leland wrote of the Fair Park & Woods. Its Deer have long been a feature: in the 15th century the Stonor Letters record that venison was sent to London for the Stonor Family; in the early 19th century Neale in his Gentlemen’s Seats speaks of the celebrated Venison & of the Park being 3 miles in circumference, and today Deer roam freely in the woods around the House.
Conjectural Stages of Architectural History
c.1280–1300. The house consisted of a Stone 2-Aisled Hall, running North & South (EE on plan), the North end running into the Hillside, and at the South end a 2-Storeyed Wing (F) containing Service Rooms (buttery, etc.) on the Ground floor and a Solar above; a detached Chapel (R) to the South-east was probably added c.1300–31.
c.1349 (at the end of Sir John Stonor’s time)
(a) Foundation of Chantry Priests: the Chapel (R) was perhaps rebuilt or enlarged; perhaps the Old Hall (EE) and Solar (F) allotted to use of Chaplains and perhaps East Wing (G) added to connect with Chapel. If, as suggested above, the Chantry Foundation did not come into effect until after 1431, then the East Wing (G) was probably not built until the 15th century; this Wing is therefore shown in dotted lines in the diagram of the House c.1350.
(b) The Main House moved farther West
(i) A Timber-framed Hall (B) of 2 Bays built with a Screens Passage (A) divided from Hall by a ‘Spere Truss‘, a projecting 2-Storeyed Porch (S) (Porch Chamber mentioned in 1478); and perhaps another Porch at the back (T).
(ii) A Solar Wing (CD) at the East End of the Hall, running North and South; on the Ground Floor there was probably a Parlour (C) at the South end; and on the 1st-Floor a Solar (CD), present Library as far as dotted line (V); though this Range has been much altered, there survives apparently the original Scissors-Truss Roof.
(iii) A Service Wing (HI) at the West End of the Hall, running North & South; on the Ground Floor, probably Buttery (H) & Pantry (I) with Passage between leading to Kitchen; the 1st-Floor divided into 3 Chambers, to judge from the trace of Partitions surviving in the original Scissors-Truss Roof.
(iv) Beyond to the West: a detached Kitchen probably on the site of the present Kitchen (L); other Offices such as Bakehouse, Brewhouse etc, probably to the West (W).
The general effect would have been that of a Series of straggling, disjointed Buildings, with an irregular Frontage (as was usual in Large Houses of this Period).
15th & early-16th-centuries. Additions, improvements & alterations at various dates from c.1400 to c.1540:
(a) 1416–17. Large quantities of bricks used; probably for building Chapel Tower (Q); and perhaps the East Wall (XX) of the East wing, including Chimney-Stack (Y), was rebuilt: perhaps the whole of the Eastern parts (E, F, G,) rebuilt now, or in early 16th century.(b) c.1478–79. Some rebuilding in Stone and a new Garden made.
(c) c.1534–40. Probably important additions & improvements made by Sir Walter Stonor. Leland says he ‘augmented and strengthened the house‘; his work may have included:
(i) The building of the West Wing (M), the East Wall of which was probably at 1st Timber-framed with a projecting 1st-Floor.
(ii) The Room (J), with Timber post & beams, connecting the Passage between Buttery & Pantry (HI) and the Kitchen (L); possibly the Kitchen was rebuilt now.
(iii) A projection at the North-East corner of Hall (U), of which the Gable is traceable internally at Roof level, may have been added now; this may have served as a large Bay or as a Staircase leading up to the Solar (CD).
(iv) The Posts & Beams in (D), supporting the Floor of the Solar, may be part of a reconstruction of the Solar Wing at this date; and possibly also the Chimney-Stack (Y), if it is not earlier.
(v) Leland’s phrase ‘strengthened the house‘ may perhaps mean built a Wall enclosing the Front Courtyard between the East & West Wings. Leland also says that the house had ‘2 Courts builded with timber, brick & flint‘ (i.e. the 1349 buildings – Hall, Solar Wing & Service Wing – Timber-framed; the 15th to early 16th-century work – Brick; the old Hall & Chapel – Flint & Stone) Leland’s ‘2 courts’ probably mean
(1) the Front Courtyard now newly enclosed &
(2) either an irregular Court behind the Hall, Service Wing & Kitchen, or a Court West of the Kitchen, containing Bakehouse, etc.
The Rooms enumerated in the 1474 Inventory may be conjecturally identified as follows: Hall = B; little Chamber annexed to the Parlour = part of D or F?; 5 Chambers = F or G?; Chamber at the Nether end of the Hall = Chamber over H; Parlour Chamber = Solar = over CD; Nuttery = H; Kitchen = L; bakehouse = W.
c.1590–1600: Remodelling by Sir Francis Stonor
(a) The Front, East & West Wings regularised, a straight Facade being formed by filling the hitherto irregular Front; this included adding a kind of 2-Storey Gallery (P) in front of the Hall, and a Building (K) between the Service Wing (H) & the Kitchen (L). At the same time, typical Elizabethan Gables were added and large mullioned windows were inserted throughout; 2 very wide windows let light through the Gallery (P) into the Hall & 2 especially large windows lit the South end of the Parlour (C) and of the Solar above.
(b) Probably at the same time the Long Gallery (O) was formed at the back at the 1st-Floor level, having large mullioned windows and one or more Bay windows. Then or later the Gallery cut into the North-east Extension of the Hall (U).
(c) By this time (if not earlier) the Old Hall was dismantled and the Western half turned into a Courtyard, as is shown by the (blocked) windows in the East wall of the Library.
c.1750–60: Modernization by Thomas Stonor VI
(a) The Elizabethan Gables removed and the large mullioned windows, of which some had been replaced by c.1720, replaced throughout by Sash windows.
(b) The Hall still occupied its old extent but was remodelled in the ‘Gothick‘ style, including the Fireplace (in the East wall) and the Ogee Arches in the Screens Passage, and the Arched windows above the Porch.
(c) The Long Gallery at the back was given new windows and the Wall raised to conceal the irregular Roof Line; perhaps it was at this time that the sloping ground was filled up to the 1st-Floor Level, i.e. to the Gallery Level.
(d) The North-West Wing (N) was built.
(e) The East Wing (G) was probably rebuilt entirely, except for the East wall.
(f) A little later, in 1790, a new Staircase was built at the back of the Screens Passage (T).(g) c.1796–1800: the Chapel was redecorated.
1834: Drastic Alterations to the Hall: the present Drawing-Room (at 1st used as a Dining-room?) built on the Site of the Gallery (P) and the Southern half of the Hall & the Open Hall reduced to the Northern half, and the ‘Gothick‘ Fireplace moved to the South wall.
Heavy Recusancy Fines probably prevented further rebuilding before the 18th century and it is substantially the Elizabethan House that is depicted in a Picture at Stonor that was probably painted in the late 17th century. This oil painting shows the Gabled South Front of the House with its Central Porch and with Wings on either side, each with 2 Gables. A walled Forecourt with a central Gateway, flanked by Battlemented Lodges, lies in Front of the House. When Rawlinson wrote about 1718 he said, ‘there has been 2 Lodges or Gates, which bear the figures of Grapes crusted thick on the Walls in a sort of Plaster‘. Traces of plaster ornamentation remain on the Front of the House, but the Lodges & Forecourt have gone and the House is now approached by a Drive from the side. Rawlinson also describes the Porch and gives its Latin inscription: ‘Omnibus aeque judicio tamen memet cognosco sine fraude.‘ (In all things Justly, yet with Judgment, I know myself to be without Fraud) By this time 7 out of the 13 windows in the Front of the House had been replaced by Sash windows. In the middle of the Century Thomas Stonor VI completed the modernisation of the House and Gothicised the Hall. The Exterior today is in the main as he left it in 1760. A considerable amount of work seems to have been completed by 1754 when Bills amounting to over £12,000 were paid and in 1758–59 at least £18,000 was expended. The Architect was John Aitkins, but the work seems to have been carried out by Local Workmen such as the Heaths and Coopers. Bricks were supplied by Catherine Shurfield, Kiln-woman, whose descendants still work on the Stonor Estate; Catherine Meway supplied Glass for the Fan over the Hall Doorway, for the ‘new Parlour’, and for the ‘new built Wing’, and a Mrs Alloway received £166 for unspecified work. Another Craftsman was William Slemaker, a Stonecutter of Henley. He made among other things 2 new Marble Chimney-pieces, which are probably the Georgian ones still in the Bedrooms. A letter of 1759 from Thomas Stonor’s son says that the Hall Chimney will be ‘built high in the Gothick manner to agree with the rest‘. It was made in London by Joseph Pickford & William Atkinson for £37 and was coloured Black & Gold. Stonor also wrote that the Floor was to be of Portland Stone and that the Upper End of the Hall, where the High Table was, was to be boarded and separated by ‘a colonnade which will be made to agree with the Hall and look as if they were there to support the roof’. The remodelled Hall was beautified in 1771 by Stained Glass brought through Augustus Mann from Ypres. Two of the windows in the Hall have late-16th-century figures of St. Anne & Charlemagne with Borders made by Francis Edginton of Birmingham, but most of the Glass is Armorial. It was Aitkin, presumably, who designed the Gothic Lantern and the Crocketed Frame for a painting of Lady Vaux and her stepdaughter, which was hung over the Fireplace at the East end of the Hall before the Fireplace was moved to the South wall.
Rather later, in the time of Thomas Stonor VII, the Main Staircase seems to have been made, for the Iron Balusters are of the same design as the Altar Rails in the Chapel which was Gothicised at the end of the Century. Thomas Stonor also obtained Mahogany Doors & Dining-tables from Robert Gillow of Lancaster and probably added the Battlemented Turrets to the exterior of the House and made the vista at the back. Pope once wrote of the ‘gloomy verdure‘ of Stonor and an Estate Map of 1725 shows that the Woods then formed an unbroken Horseshoe round the House.
In 1834 Thomas Stonor VIII, later Lord Camoys carried out a major reconstruction. His Architect was George Masters, but he proved too costly and the Contract was terminated before the completion of the Work which was finished by John Cooper & Son.
There are a number of Family Portraits, including ones by Mary Beale & Nathaniel Dance, and many modern paintings & drawings by Osbert Lancaster & John Piper. Since the WW2 2 fine Paintings by Stubbs and some Furniture and other Evelyn heirlooms from Wotton (Surrey) have been housed at Stonor. Among the Stonor Muniments is a collection of 18th-century letters relating to the Family in England & Abroad.
The interest of this House is more than Architectural: since the 13th century at least it has been associated with the Stonor Family. In the 14th and 15th centuries, they were important Civil Servants and Judges with interests in several Counties and allied by marriage both to the Mercantile Wealth of London & to the Royal House. After the Reformation and until the present day the Family has distinguished itself by its Devotion to the Roman Catholic Church, and by its Loyalty to the Reigning Monarchs, many of whom it has served in a Personal capacity.
Apart from the many distinguished inhabitants of Pyrton Manor-House & Stonor Park, Pyrton has had some notable Vicars and has produced one worthy, the Rev Henry Rose, a Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford. ‘A good preacher and an ingenious man‘, he wrote A Philosophical Essay for the Reunion of Languages (Oxf. 1674)