Heritage Category:
Listed Building
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Statutory Address:

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Oxfordshire (District Authority)
Cornbury and Wychwood
National Grid Reference:


CORNBURY AND WYCHWOOD CORNBURY PARK SP31NW, SP3518 5/15, 13/15 Cornbury House 27/08/57


Large country house. Late C16, enlarged in 1632-3 by Nicholas Stone for Henry Danvers, Earl of Danby and further altered and altered in 1663-77, by Hugh May, for Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon. Alterations and addition of c.1850, mostly removed in 1901-6, when John Belcher carried out further alterations and additions for Vernon Watney. Most of the Belcher work was demolished c.1972. C16 work of coursed limestone rubble with ashlar dressings, C17 and later work of limestone ashlar.Stone slate roofs, hipped over south-east range, chapel and north-east range. Irregular rectangular courtyard plan, partly open to north-east; C16 ranges to north-east and north-west (Leicester wing), Danby range by Stone (1632-3) to south-west with later C17 chapel (possibly by May) projecting to rear, and Clarendon Wing by May (1663-B) to south-east. Courtyard formerly closed off by Belcher's hall, vestible and porch, mostly now demolished and the hall much reduced. Belcher's work was in a free Queen Anne revival style. Mostly 2 storeys and attic, with some 2-storey parts to C16 ranges. Clarendon wing (south-east front): plinth, frieze, and carved stone modillion cornice with blocking course. Central 3-bay break with unfluted Giant Corinthian order of pilasters supporting entablature and triangular pediment. Inscription to frieze: "DEVS.NOBIS.HAEC.OTIA.FECIT". Six flat-topped dormers with glazing bar sashes and 4 irregularly-placed stacks. 4:3:4 bays; glazing bar sashes, each with moulded rill, moulded architrave, and those to first floor with pulvinated, frieze and moulded cornice. Central pair of small-paned glazed doors with moulded architrave, pulvinated frieze and moulded cornice. Right-hand return front of 2 bays with central round-arched niche to each floor. North-west return of 3 bays with cill string courses, central blind windows with moulded architraves, that to first floor with frieze and moulded cornice, and flanking round-arched niches. South-west range: 1653, by Stone. First-floor fenestration and roof-line altered by May c.1663-77. Moulded plinth, plat band, moulded cornice and parapet with coping. Three flat-roofed dormers with 2-light casements, and various irregularly-spaced ashlar stacks. 1:3:1:3 bays; glazing bar sashes. Ground-floor windows with moulded architraves and triple keystones. First-floor windows altered c.l664-77, each with moulded architrave, pulvinated frieze and moulded cornice; central window also with shouldered architrave and consoles supporting triangular pediment. Central porch with plinth, impost band, plat band continued around porch as string course, and balustraded parapet with moulded coping. Round-arched entrance with pair of 3-panelled doors, fanlight, keystone, and flanking pilaster strips with round-arched niches. Short left-hand bay (1632-3 and probably formerly matched by similar bay to right-hand end) has blind (or blocked) first-floor window with moulded architrave, blind (or blocked) oval mezzainine window and 2-panelled door with moulded architrave and glazed oeil-de-boeuf with moulded architrave above, C16 Leicester wing projecting to left: coped parapeted gables and stone stacks; first-floor stone cross window to right with hood mould, 2-light first-floor window to left, and ground-floor 4-light mullioned stone window to right with hood mould. First-floor 3-light mullioned and transomed stone window with hood mould to right-hand return front. North-west and north-east ranges with mullioned stone windows throughout. Chapel: completed after 1677. Moulded plinth frieze and carved stone modillion eaves cornice. Three 3-bays. Staff-moulded round-arched side windows with moulded cills and diamond-leaded wooden cross windows. Three staff-moulded blind (liturgical) east windows with moulded cills, the centre rectangular and the outer round arched with blind panels beneath. Interior of house: much altered c.1850, 1901-6 and c.1970. Some late C16 or early C17 work survives in Leicester wing, including south-west bedroom: panelling, with lozenge ornament in frieze and dentil cornice; fireplace with lugged stone architrave and moulded cornice. Remodelled C17 staircase with closed string, drop balusters and moulded rail. Danby range much altered, including horizontal division of former full-height hall to right of entrance. Hall still retains huge canopied stone fireplace, probably by Nicholas Stone, with scrolled brackets supporting moulded frieze, moulded cornice and hood. Now also with compartmented ceiling, niche at right-hand end, and 6-panelled doors with lugged architraves and pulvinated friezes. Dining Room to left of entrance with fluted Doric columns at each end (one pair probably C18, the other of c.1901) and late C18 fireplace with Ionic columns (probably introduced as an old photograph is said to show a C17 fireplace). Two bedrooms (not inspected at time of resurvey - April 1987) have c.1633 ceilings divided into compartments by moulded ribs. Clarendon wing interiors altered c.1850 and c.1901-6 but retaining remodelled late C17 staircase with moulded closed string, drop balusters, moulded handrail and square newel posts with globe finials and turned pendants. Drawing room to south-west has late C18 marble fireplace with Ionic half columns. Library to south-west at rear by Belcher, incorporating bookcases with carved drops, enriched plaster ceiling, and bolection-moulded marble fireplace with overmantel consisting of niche, broken segmental pediment and carved drops to sides. Little of Belcher's galleried hall survives, except for a huge marble fireplace (now in a cloakroom) with Ionic columns supporting entablature. C20 three-flight square-well principal staircase, possibly by Belcher or later. Interior of chapel: complete rich late C17 fixtures and fittings. Enriched plaster ceiling with coving, central oval with wreath of palm fronds and other foliage, and end panels with further foliage ornament. Oak fittings, including reredos with paired fluted Corinthian pilasters, entablature with cornice, flanking panels with carved festoons and drops, and urns above with festoons to central shield. Altar rails with drop balusters. Oak panelling to walls. Pews with carved drops, facing each other across chapel. Three-bay screen and gallery to (liturgical) west with unfluted Corinthian columns, carved wooden gates, and entablature with carved frieze and panelled front above. Central 6-panelled door to rear of gallery with lugged moulded architrave, pulvinated frieze and moulded cornice; flanking glazing bar sashes. Central brass chandelier. Pair of 3-panelled west doors to chapel leading to semi-circular vestibule. The house Contains (April 1987) a series of old photographs showing the building in the late C19 and early C20, including the porte-cochere and tower added to the south-east front c.1850 and removed by Belcher. Cornbury was a hunting lodge in the Royal Forest of Wychwood and there is known to have been a house here in 1537. The ranger ship of Cornbury Park was granted to prominent and deserving courtiers, hence the employment of Stone and May, both members of the Office of Works in their time. Stone's wing was one of the earliest classical country house fronts in the country. Although the Forest of Wychwood is much reduced Cornbury House still stands in an extensive wooded deer park, with lakes and further woodland beyond. (Buildings of England: Oxfordshire: pp553-5; Country Life: CVIII (September 1950), pp922-6; Oliver Hill and John Cornforth: English Country Houses, Caroline 1625-1685, pp131-6; Mark Girouard: Life in the English Country House: p311)

Listing NGR: SP3505018135


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
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Books and journals
Girouard, M , Life in the English Country House, (1978)
Hill, , Cornforth, , English Country Houses 1625-1685, (1966), 131-6
Pevsner, N, Sherwood, J , The Buildings of England: Oxfordshire, (1974), 553-5
'Country Life' in September, (1950)
Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England, Part 34 Oxfordshire


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

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