Nominated by: Ginny Lemarie
The house overlooks the Chess Valley in the Chiltern Hills. Although it may not be as well-known as some of the other heritage sites in the county, the Manor House has a rich and interesting history, with links to royalty over its 800 year timeline.
There are original Medieval parts to the property, and the main L-shaped house is Tudor fortified brick built by Sir John Cheyne in the late 15th century. The south wing (known as the ‘new building’) was added around 1530 by John, Lord Russell, for the royal visit of Henry III and further improvements for Elizabeth I’s visit. Elizabeth I stayed for a month in 1570, it may have been during this time that she lost some jewellery beneath the shade of an oak tree in the grounds of the house (Now named the Elizabeth Oak).
The manor house was the Russell’s principal seat until the 4th Earl, Francis, decided to move the family seat to Woburn Abbey around 1627. During the English Civil War, Chenies acted as a garrison for the Parliamentarian forces. Subsequently, house was then occupied by various tenants and stewards. In 1735 the family steward at Chenies reported “Chenies Place is a very large old house… no more value than to be pulled down.” Thankfully, the house survived its call to be pulled down. Substantial repairs were carried out to the surviving elements of the manor house in c. 1830. These were undertaken by the architect Edward Blore (who also worked on St James’ Palace and Buckingham Palace) for Lord Wriothesey Russell. The house remained in the ownership of the Russell family until the late 1950s. Chenies Manor House was bought in 1956 by Colonel and Mrs Macleod Matthews, who are now the most consistent residents since the 17th century.
The architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner described the house thus: “archaeologically a fascinating puzzle”, during his visit in 1960s. Also in the 1960s, Chenies Manor House was the location of the inaugural meeting of The Chiltern Antiques Group, which later became The Arts Society.
During the course of the extensive (and on-going) restoration work in the 1970s, the house was opened to help raise money for the repair of the church roof. The experience encouraged more regular openings, with volunteers as guides and a former tractor shed as a tearoom. This, a shop, and other visitor facilities have been improved over time to provide a Buckinghamshire destination well worth visiting, with its house tours and five acres of gardens, which really are the modern legacy.
Chenies Manor House, as perhaps is now its tradition, remains a family home, Charles and Boo Macleod Matthews, continue to open the house to the public and make it available for filming, events and weddings.
For more details, see the website
Chenies Manor House was nominated by Ginny Lemarie.