Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Greys Court

The de Grey family came over from France with William the Conqueror in 1066. First mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 Greys Court lies at the head of a tranquil Chilterns valley in Oxfordshire.  
The current mansion dates from the 16th century but walking around the grounds reveals a patchwork of history going back to the 11th century
The house was given to the National Trust by Sir Felix and Lady Brunner who bought Greys Court in 1937.  The house is still full of family possessions so no photographs are allowed inside.
However, I discovered this photo on the internet. It shows the interior of the room with the large elegant bow window, image above, which was added to the Tudor wing during the Georgian period - the room has exquisite 18th century plaster work
and this photo of the delightful kitchen with its pretty pink breakfast table and chairs

The remains of the original medieval building built by the de Grey family resembles a romantic folly in the garden
Arbutus andrachnoides "Cinnamon Bark Tree"
A small walled courtyard dominated by the original Norman Great Tower
At the side of the house is an intriguing donkey wheel which dates from the 16th century and was in use right up until 1914
The 19 foot diameter wheel is the largest to survive in England 
The donkey drew water from the well for the house.  The 12th century well is 200 feet deep and would have been laboriously dug by hand.
The platform inside the wheel where the donkey walked
As the donkey walked and the wheel turned a container was pulled up from the well where it then caught on an iron hook before tipping water into the tank overhead
Greys Court is a cross country journey to Reading. The Brunner family kept a herd of Guernsey cows. H's father managed a pedigree herd of Guernsey cows which he would take to auction at Reading Market. Is it possible that some of H's father's cows could have ended up at Greys Court, they are a very rare breed of cattle?
via  
Towers and walls overlooking the valley from the 11th century revealing a habitation and legacy that has lasted for a thousand years  

48 comments:

  1. Ah, you were only just up the road from us! It is a great house to visit isn't it because it feels just like going into someones family home. Were there still TV's in random places and drinks trays full of bottles out? It has been some years since I visited, but that is how it was when we went there. Our boss is taking over managing Greys Court - and Nuffield Place - from January so I will have to go for another visit to see how he is getting on! Glad that you had a great day out! xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought that you would be familiar with Greys Court Amy - I wonder if those old TV will ever be collectible. Apparently they have some lovely bluebell woods so it would be a nice time to visit then

      Delete
  2. Yet another beautiful stately home of England, Rosemary, and they are endlessly fascinating. The plaster work in the pretty sitting room is beautiful, and the kitchen very appealing too. My favourite picture is the medieval ruin in the garden, so romantic and historic. Poor donkey - I have never seen or heard of such a contraption but can see how it would work. I hope they gave donkey regular rest times! The Guernsey cow is a lovely pastel colour, quite unlike what we see, and what fun to think H might have family connections to this herd.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Patricia - sadly Guernsey cows are very much on the decline and are classed as a Heritage breed. They are no use for beef as they are very dainty and their milk is very, very rich. People don't want really rich milk and cream these days, but if you like a scone with jam and clotted cream then their cream is the one to use.

      Delete
  3. Fascinating, Rosemary, and nicely photographed as usual! Yet another one for the list.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know how we have previously missed visiting this property as it is not too far from the Cotswolds and it sits in a delightful piece of countryside. Do visit sometime if you can.

      Delete
  4. What a beautiful room, and I should imagine they all would be similar.
    The cows - well I mentioned the name Guernsey to my husband, and politely told me the colour and where they came from (England). He went onto say that his late father had had a herd of said cows :) Yes, down this end of the world Rosemary..
    Best Wishes,
    Margaret

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is really interesting that your father-in-law was a farmer too. British cattle used to be shipped all around the world, but these days they tend to use artificial insemination.

      Delete
  5. Thanks for showing us a new place to visit. Lovely photos. Shame you weren't allowed to take photos inside. It's the same with so many places. It usually puts me off blogging about them but you've done well to find other photos

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The NT are very good these days and let you take photos except when the contents are privately owned.

      Delete
  6. Hello Rosemary, The "newer" rooms are attractive, but it is the survivals from antiquity that really give Greys Court its charm. (I keep wanting to put in an apostrophe--Grays Hall at Harvard has the same construction and problem.)

    Guernsey cows were imported to America for just the reasons you mentioned about the richness of their milk. The word "Guernsey" usually figured into the dairy's name as a guarantee of quality, and the bottles and advertising featured a special logo, a round milk can surrounded by the words "Golden Guernsey."
    --Jim

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Jim - "The apostrophe is the most troublesome punctuation mark in English, and perhaps also the least useful. No other punctuation mark causes so much bewilderment, or is so often misused." - according to the Penguin Guide to Punctuation. I suspect that if Greys Court was being named today then it would most likely have an apostrophe.
      Guernsey, where the cattle come from, is a small island next door to the island of Jersey, also known for its dainty, and very pretty cows. They sit in the English Channel slightly nearer to France than England.

      Delete
  7. I do love these more intimate of houses, where it's easy to imagine what it would have been like to live there. It looks as though the gardens would be nice too, at a different time of year.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am sure that the gardens are delightful which include orchards and wisteria arches. There is a bluebell wood too which must be nice to visit in April.

      Delete
  8. Don't like the exterior but the interior is just fabulous.

    Greetings,
    Filip

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would have imagined that you would like those Dutch style gables!

      Delete
  9. That Arbutus is a beauty and does its name Cinnamon bark tree justice. Interesting place to visit, I like the interior, especially the kitchen. And what about the Guernsey cows, don't they look a bit similar to Jersey cows? Jersey cows have no white spots I think.... Anyway, Jersey and Guernsey are also next to each other.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are right about Jersey cows, but they are prettier with dark colouring around their eyes, the tips of their ears and their tails - rather similar to the way a Siamese cat is coloured.
      The Cinnamon Bark Tree is lovely.

      Delete
  10. Oh this is really a place for me! I would love living there and it look´s like the right size for all my thing´s...
    Just a beautiful house, place and thank´s for a lovely post again Rosemary!
    Titti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Titti - I can envisage your things fitting in here perfectly - it is a lovely house

      Delete
  11. Dear Rosemary, How I would love to cook in that kitchen. It is perfect in every way.
    The Oldtimers tell me that the water wells in our little town were dug by hand by a non fearing man who was lowered into the narrow well upside down with his feet tied so he could be pulled up when he had to take a break. I know that neither one of us would want that job.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The kitchen was my favourite room in the house Gina - it had lovely 16th century panelling on two walls and gave you a 'hug' as you entered it.

      Delete
  12. Dear Rosemary,

    It looks as though the donkey had a pretty easy job, compared to other chores he might have been assigned. As I have said before on your blog, I have a great attraction to English chimney pots — I'd love to have one on my little house, even if it didn't fit in with the Neoclassic look I've tried to achieve. There must be an interesting story behind the irregular brick pattern of Greys Court. I wonder if material from the original house was used for the later building?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Mark - chimney pots, especially fancy Victorian ones, are very popular to use as garden planters.
      I imagine that you are right about the building material used in the Tudor wing. The knapped flint and stone most likely came from the original building, but isn't it interesting the way the irregular brick pattern works so well and is cohesive?

      Delete
  13. We visited in September and loved it, sneaking one photo of that super kitchen! We loved those cows too and did not realise their rarity. We also enjoyed climbing up the tower, enjoying the views - and proving that we can still do it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We missed the tower Nilly, time was running out on us, I must return.

      Delete
  14. I really love the peek into the house, looks so homely and cosy ! And that Cinnamon bark tree is magnificent !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pleased that I discovered a couple of photos of the interior, it was as you suggest both homely and cosy.

      Delete
  15. I love all the medieval walls that are still standing - giving a certain air of romance about the place. It looks like it was a lovely sunny day when you visited - we do have some amazing houses in England - and are so lucky that they are maintained so well for us to appreciate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks like a mid autumn day but in fact was only two weeks ago. I wonder if we are in for another mild winter and all the pot geraniums will survive again?

      Delete
  16. We pass Greys Court every time we go down cross-country to Reading. It's one of the places I've wanted to visit as we never did when we lived in the area! We considered it last time we were down, but our time was limited. Perhaps we shall get there in the Springtime? It's in a lovely setting. I have memories of the old cattle market in Reading. Those Guernsey cows are beautiful.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Visit at bluebell time Linda if you can - the woods around Greys Court are supposed to be spectacular. H was amazed when we drove through Reading it didn't resemble any of his childhood memories at all.

      Delete
  17. I kept studying that livingroom. It is elegant, yet warm and cozy.
    Poor donkey! Sounds cruel! Beautiful cow though.
    I was able to enlarge the kitchen on my iPad. Darling little breakfast table.
    Great post as always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am pleased that you were able to view the kitchen in a larger format it really does need to be enlarged to view it properly.
      On reflection I don't think that the donkey had too bad a life, he would have had plenty of hay to feed on and could stop walking whenever he felt like it - I am comparing him with his fellow donkeys who probably had to climb up steep hills with heavy sacks on their backs.

      Delete
  18. How nice to read your post about Grays Court. We visited a couple of autumns ago when they had a wonderful apple festival. I was sorry you couldn't take photos inside the house so I'm glad you managed to track some down. I think the ruin is wonderfully romantic. Oddly enough I don't remember the donkey wheel. Probably time for another visit!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The donkey wheel is easy to miss, there is only one sign on the wall pointing you in its direction.

      Delete
  19. There is something magical about these old English country homes.
    I love the worked 'stucco' on the ceilings - the decor is so pretty.
    The donkey and the wheel, were still being used here up until about 35 years ago.
    Even donkeys and mules ploughing the fields.. We had a donkey called 'pretty' who would pull the plough.
    Now one cannot see a donkey around. I have only seen one in our village. No mules any more.
    Then common market came and it was all the modern farm equipment.
    The Guernsey cow is such a beautiful cow, it would be nice to think that some blood is in the stock from the stock of H's father. very interesting.
    Enjoyable post Rosemary. I always enjoy visiting these beautiful homes.
    val xx
    Not sure if I mentioned in any post, that mr M and me bred cattle. seems a lifetime ago

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Val - I didn't know that you bred cattle I am interested to learn that.
      We are fortunate that the NT care so well for many of our historic and architecturally interesting properties.
      I am pleased that you enjoyed seeing this property.

      Delete
  20. Fascinating photographs as always, Rosemary. I like the old architectural style of the Greys House which looks very British. But the remains of towers and walls attract me more which must have witnessed the fleeting prosperity of each generation. Donkey wheel is new to me. I hope the working donkeys were taken care well.

    Yoko

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dear Yoko - in comparison with fellow donkeys I think perhaps this one had quite a cushy time. All he had to do was walk when he felt like it and most likely had a big bag of hay to eat. Other donkeys were used as beasts of burden and would have had heavy loads to transport on their backs up hill and down dale.

      Delete
  21. Rosemary -
    What a beautiful drawing room. The bow wall of windows is so gracious and inviting!! Warm greetings for a festive holiday season! Cheers

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is a very elegant room Loi - sending festive greetings to you and Tom and wishing you both an enjoyable time with your family.

      Delete
  22. What a lovely and interesting house, Rosemary - historic, but on a scale one could actually imagine oneself inhabiting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I dont know how it is that we have previously missed visiting this house Perpetua, for some reason south Oxfordshire is not normally on our antennae.

      Delete

❖PLEASE NOTE❖ Comments made by those who hide their identity will be deleted

“You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you - you have to go to them sometimes”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh