On the Right bank, with an inlet under a low footbridge.
Notice that the position on the regatta course known as Fawley, which is a hundred yards or so short of the ¾ mile post, takes its name not from the house and the long inlet in front of it, but from the old Fawley boathouse now demolished.
Fawley Court, unknown date.
[ So when did it become the red brick house which it currently is? 1684! ]
1811: The Thames -
Fawley Court 1811
FAWLEY COURT (seen From Henley Bridge)
Fawley Court, the seat of Strickland Freeman, Esq. is seen to the greatest advantage from Henley Bridge; from whence it appears to give a kind of dignity to the northern bank of the Thames, as well as to the scene around it.
It is situated in Buckinghamshire, and on the very verge of it; as the line which marks the boundary between that county and Oxfordshire, passes across the lawn on which the house stands.
This place was formerly the property of the Whitelocke family, who obtained possession of it in the beginning of the seventeenth century. Sir James Whitelocke, the celebrated Judge, died here, in the year 1632, and left the estate to his son, Bulstrode Whitelocke, an eminent Lawyer and Statesman during the usurpation of Oliver Cromwell; and author of the Memorials, which form an interesting part of the history of that period.
That memorable person died in l676, and his son, James Whitelocke, sold it, in the year 1680, to Colonel William Freeman, an ancestor of the gentleman who, at present, possesses it.
The old manor-house received great, and indeed almost irreparable, damage, from a body of cavalry, in the service of Charles the First, which took up its quarters there, in the latter end of the year 1642. They are represented to have acted with the most hostile disposition to it, and, though their officers had commanded the utmost care to be taken of the property, the soldiers acted as if they had been commanded not only to disturb, but to destroy.
"Of divers writings of consequence, and books which were found in the study, some they tore in pieces, and others they employed to light their tobacco, and others they carried away. They littered their horses with sheaves of wheat, and gave them all sorts of corn, in the straw. They also broke down the park pales, killed most of the deer, carried off, or destroyed, the furniture, and rendered the place unfit for future residence. The title deeds of the estate, many valuable manuscripts, and some very ancient courtrolls, relating to the manor, were among the papers wantonly destroyed at this period."
The present house is a large, square, handsome, brick structure, erected in the latter end of the seventeenth century, and supposed to be after a design of Inigo Jones, though so many years subsequent to the death of that great architect.
[ There is a plaque in the house stating Architect Sir Christopher Wren, 1684 ]
It contains a succession of spacious and commodious apartments. With the marbles, &c. which furnish the hall, is a fine cast of Mr. Locke's Discobolus. The saloon is adorned with pictures by Cuyp, G. Poussin, Titian, Rembrandt, &c. among which there is a head of an old man, by Elmer, so well known for his excellence as a painter of dead game, &c. It is a very finely painted picture, and maintains its situation among some very good specimens of the old masters.
The lawns, which surround the house, are deficient in variety of surface; but a judicious and gentle sinking of a part of it, between the house and the river, gives the former an appearance of elevation, which greatly relieves the actual level of its situation.
The surrounding hills, however, make ample amends for the flatness of the bottom. The ground rises rather boldly from the meads, beyond the river, on the Berkshire side of it; some parts being richly cloathed, and others only fringed with wood; while the opposite part of the picture consists of the uplands of Fawley, clad with beeches, in clumps and groves; and the more distant woods of Hambledon.
The view up the river embraces Henley Bridge, one of the most pleasing structures of its kind on the Thames, and adorned with the sculpture of the Honourable Mrs. Damer; with the rich brow of Park Place, the seat of the Earl of Malmsbury, and its varied plantations, rising above it; while the stately and venerable tower of Henley Church appears over a thick grove, which has been planted to prevent any part of that town from being seen but that principal and pleasing object.
The view down the river includes a very fine reach of it, which is enlivened by an island, tastefully planted, and decorated with a building of some elegance.
The eye then stretches on to Greenland and Medmenham, and the high grounds that hang over Culham Court.
Fawley Court, J P Neale -
Fawley Court, J P Neale
[ This is not a view I recognise. The trees have now grown as if they had been designed to screen the house from the river. The Taunt 1887 photograph also plainly shows the house from a different angle. ]
1826: Fawley in the Henley Guide. Full text and prints -
Fawley village ... lies on the borders of Oxfordshire, about
three miles north of Henley.
The manor belonged to the Sackvilles from the conquest till about 1400 ; after which it passed by the female line to the Rokes and Alfords. Sir James Whitlock, a very eminent lawyer, one of the Justices of the Court of Common Pleas, obtained it either by descent or purchase from the Alfords.
His son, Sir Bulstrode Whitlock, who is held in much esteem for the accuracy and impartiality of his historical memoirs, and who filled the highest offices of the State, during the protectorate of Cromwell, possessed the estate in 1642, when it was occupied by a large party of the King's troops, under Sir John Byron. The soldiers, in spite of their Commander's repeated orders to restrain such outrage, destroyed the valuable collection of manuscripts, books, title deeds, &c. collected by Sir Bulstrode and his father, and so spoiled the furniture, that it was unfit for future residence.
About 1680, the manor was purchased by Colonel Freeman, who died in 1708, and bequeathed it to a nephew, John Cook, who took the name of Freeman, and was ancestor of the late Strickland Freeman, Esq. at whose death, in 1824, the estate came to Admiral Williams, of Hoddesdon, in Hertfordshire, who resigned it in favour of his son, W. P. Williams, Esq. who bears the family name of Freeman, and is the present proprietor of the manor.
The design of the present manor house is commonly attributed to Sir Christopher Wren. It is a large plain mansion, with four fronts, situated near the river, on an extensive lawn, terminated with undulating hills, covered with beech. The view from the east commands a fine sweep of the Thames, and a large and fine island, which is well planted, and ornamented with a neat temple. On the south is a beautiful prospect, looking up the river. The noble bridge and tower of Henley, and the adjacent hills of Park Place, are here seen to great advantage.
Fawley Court in the Henley Guide, 1826
Under a colonnade of the Ionic order, you enter a noble
hall, containing a few paintings, a most beautiful antique
statue of a Roman Senator, another of a Vestal, and two
very fine casts from the antique. The saloon, an apartment,
of the same dimensions as the hall, contains some
good paintings, particularly a Head, by J. Cuyp ; four
fine landscapes with Groups of Cattle, by A. Cuyp ; a
Moonlight Scene ; a Bacchanalian Scene ; a portrait, by
Rembrandt ; another, by Titian ; Holy Family ; Negro
with Fruit, &c.
The chimney place, of white marble, is very handsome ; the ceiling is richly ornamented with fruit, flowers, scrolls, and other ornaments in relief; one compartment bears the family arms and crest.
Near the house, is a ruin almost covered with ivy ; it is built with flint, and various niches are filled with a number of statues, busts, termini, &c. which as well as the Vestal and Senator, formed part of the Arundel marbles. ...
In Hart Street [Henley] stood a door-way of Saxon architecture, ornamented by columns, the capitals of one of which is far from being inelegant, bearing some little resemblance to the Corinthian order. The arch is richly embellished with receding mouldings, and a row of heads of rather rude workmanship. Here was, probably, some building acting as a cell to one of the numerous endowed houses in the vicinity, and to it this might originally have formed an entrance.
About fifteen years since, the house to which it was attached being taken down, this door-way was carefully re-erected at Fawley Court, where it now forms the entrance to the dairy.
Fawley Court, Saxon Doorway, in Henley Guide, 1826
1829: A Tour on the banks of the Thames -
Fawley, chiefly to be noticed as possessing the beautiful seat called Fawley Court,
a romantic spot, situated on the extreme edge of Buckinghamshire, having the village of Medmenham on the opposite shore,
and the town of Henley at the distance of two miles on its right.
This house is placed at a convenient distance from the Thames, to which lawns of the brightest verdure come sloping down, leaving to the admirer passing by a full view of the building and adjacent grounds.
It is said to have been erected from a design furnished by Sir Christopher Wren; but others are of opinion the credit of that design is due to Inigo Jones. However this may be, it is a beautiful specimen of the arts. The mansion is a square, having four perfect fronts, affording from every point views of no ordinary description.
... It may be as well to mention that in the time of the conqueror, Fawley manor was in the possession of Walter Giffard, Earl of Buckinghamshire.
... A short description of the view presented from the spot just mentioned we shall now attempt to pourtray[sic].
Looking down the river, to the left is beheld part of Henley town, and the square tower of its ancient and venerable church; while further down, seated on a ridge of hills, and surrounded by comfortable farm houses, is seen the village of Fawley, and at its feet, in grandeur and in pride, stands Fawley Court.
Withdrawing the eye from this scene, and gazing down the stream, the view is terminated by [Temple Island], which being in the centre of the water, at some distance from the place where we are now standing, gives to the river that lake like appearance we have before alluded to, which illusion is farther confirmed by the hills rising in the distance, and closing in the view.
To the right, the prospect is bounded by wooded heights that stretch from this place on to Wargrave, (of which by-and- bye), whose leafy tops waving in all the hues of an autumnal season, impart a charm and character to the scene both pleasing and impressive.
1887: Fawley Court, Henry Taunt -
Fawley Court, Henry Taunt, 1887
© Oxfordshire County Council Photographic Archive; HT5119
1881: George Leslie, "Our River" -
frequently heard Fawley Court set down as devoid of architectural beauty, but
do not think deservedly at all;
it is plain and simple, and, like all Wren's work, beautifully proportioned, its roof of pale green slates in agreeable contrast to the house, which, as long as I remember it, has been slightly tinted with pink;
it is a wonderfully well-built house, very comfortable, deserving well to long remain in its present unaltered state.
It was a Miss Freeman of Fawley Court who sat as model for the head of Isis, executed by her friend Miss Damer, for one of the keystones of Henley Bridge.
1953: The house and main park were bought by the
Congregation of Marian Fathers as a school for Polish boys.
1986: Fawley Court closed as a school and was then used as a Retreat and Conference Centre. It became a national centre for Polish Catholics, and there was a museum there.
2009: Fawley Court for sale. Prospectus.
2010: 7th June, Henley Standard -
THE new owner of Fawley Court has pledged to spend the rest of her life restoring the mansion.
Aida Hersham secured the purchase of the historic building in April, two years after first viewing it.
The sale of the estate, which was originally put on the market for £22 million, brought protests from the Polish immigrant community and the Fawley Court Old Boys Association.
Mrs Hersham, a wealthy divorcee described as a philanthropist, has started extensive renovations of both the house and the 27 acres of grounds, which had become run down during more than half a century of ownership by the Marian Fathers, a congregation of Polish priests.
In a rare interview, she told the Standard that she would continue to live in London while the work took place but would eventually move into Fawley Court with her partner, Patrick Sieff, and her children.
Mrs Hersham said: We feel extremely fortunate to be able to restore Fawley, if not to its former glory, to the beauty it deserves.
Fawley was built to be a home and, looking at it, it is easier to imagine it as a home than its previous use. We feel a great responsibility towards the house. We will not shy away from restoring it to be part of the countrys national heritage but it could take my lifetime to achieve.
To help with the renovation work, Mrs Hersham has enlisted the help of 14 historians. Every item has been listed and every tree in the Capability Brown-designed garden has been tagged.
Our responsibility extends beyond the gates, she said. Eventually we will have to find some usage for Fawley Court to enable it to survive after I have gone. If it was to be turned into a hotel it would be dreadful.
Mrs Hersham said she first saw the property on a muddy, cold and murky day in 2008 but knew then she had to own it. All we saw was a magnificent building and parkland, she recalled. Being a romantic, I saw a chance in a lifetime to devote my time to something so beautiful.
However, the sale caused controversy because the Polish community believes Fawley Court and its land is a piece of Poland and claim they provided most of the money for the Fathers purchase.
About 2,000 Poles protested in the grounds on Whit Sunday last year.
Mrs Hersham has had to install security gates at the entrance to the estate and employ guards following regular protests by people opposed to the sale.
It is not fair, said Mrs Hersham. We have been under siege. Nobody should need as much security as we have.
People have tried to jump over the fences. They try to get into the grounds from the footpath by the river. There have been planes buzzing overhead and people going backwards and forwards on boats on the river.
One weekend we had eight police officers trying to keep people out. All this has an impact on our health and state of our mind.
She said the protestors' issues were with the Marian Fathers and should not involve her.
However, she admitted to having made a mistake by not realising the significance of the property at first. Mrs Hersham said: I didn't know the attitude some people would have towards our possession of Fawley Court.
I understand their disappointment at leaving such a beautiful property. I would be equally disappointed if we had to leave.
It is obvious they had several issues with the Fathers but it shouldn't affect us.
Mrs Hersham has begun to involve herself in the community. She has donated money to help save the regatta fireworks display, is supporting the Kenton for Keeps campaign and sponsored last weeks Henley International Film Festival.
She has also employed seven staff who are Polish and worked at the house when the Marian Fathers owned it.
I believe what we are doing is responsible, she said. We are treating the building with the respect it deserves. We are just normal people trying to do a good job.
We don't consider ourselves owners of Fawley Court. We are just very lucky to be its gatekeeper.
Times moves on and eventually Fawley Court will be back to what it was built for - a home.