We arrived at Chenies Manor House in a heavy rainstorm, so touring the house before the gardens seemed like a good idea. And so it proved. The sun was shining when we completed our one hour guided tour of the house. We then spent another hour or so strolling around the gardens, with refreshments at the Tea Room along the way.
Chenies Manor House nestles in the south-east corner of Buckinghamshire, just a couple of miles away from the M25 motorway, but the tranquil demeanour of the house and gardens is of course a world apart.
Although there has been a dwelling on the site since 1180, the current Tudor House was mainly constructed in about 1540 for John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford. Notable externally are its twenty-three brick chimneys, each unique, and the relatively few windows on its south aspect, possibly relating to window taxes.
The house was owned by the Russell family for over 400 years, until in 1954, in a state of some disrepair, it was sold to the Macleod Matthews family. They have lived in the house since then, whilst restoring and caring for both the house and gardens.
It is open to the public on Monday and Tuesday afternoons from April to October, with members of Historic Houses having free entry – see below.
Chenies Manor House Tour
Our house tour started in the Long Room which is decorated in Jacobean style with three hanging tapestries. On display are the coats of arms of the three families who have owned dwellings on the site, the Cheynes (dating back to 1180), the Russells and the Matthews.
A passageway led to the opulent Regency style Dining Room and the Music Room.
The tour then moved to the oldest part of the house with a stone floor dating back to 1460. Long tunnels from this room may have been used for drainage, or maybe as escape routes.
A wide staircase led up to the Master Bedroom and a small Dining Room that was used by Elizabeth I. It contains the original fireplace and two 15th Century chairs.
Nearby is the Pink Bedroom, which has a Priest hole to the side, and the Green Bedroom with a 16th Century four poster bed. This room is supposed to be haunted and indeed the room did seem strangely cold compared with the rest of the house!
The final rooms visited on the upper floor were a Library/Office, a large Billiard Room and a children’s Nursery, set out for a dolls’ tea party. Some narrow stone stairs led back down to the Long Room and the end of the tour.
Wandering around the house by oneself could have proved quite confusing as rooms were decorated in a mixture of historical styles. However our well informed tour guide tied everything together extremely well, with anecdotes along the way.
There are five acres of well-tended gardens around the house divided into different sections.
From the west end of the house, we walked through the Rose Lawn into the Sunken Garden and through to the Physic Garden with its curious mixture of dye, perfume and poison plants.
Doubling back through the White Garden, took us to the large Parterre Lawn with its Yew Maze.
We were impressed with the way that each of these gardens gave a distinctive view back to the house, showing clever integration of the gardens with the house’s unusual architectural features.
To the north of the house is the Inner Court, overlooked by the Church, and the entrance to the Kitchen Garden and nearby low Labyrinth, but these were not open to the public when we visited.
There is short Woodland Walk to the west of the gardens. However following the rainstorm earlier, the ground was very wet and the trees were dripping, so we decided against it on this visit. There are longer walks from here down to the River Chess.
Church and Mausoleum
Facing on to the Inner Court is the Church of St Michael which dates back to 15th and 16th Centuries.
To the left-hand-side of the church, and viewable from inside the church, is the Bedford Mausoleum which was used as the final resting place for Russell family members, i.e. Earls and Dukes of Bedford.
Entry to Chenies Manor House and gardens is £12 for adults and £7 for children, entry to the gardens alone is £7 for adults and £4 for children. However if you take up annual membership with Historic Houses, you will get free entry, plus free entry to 300 other heritage sites. Enter our unique code STEW05 at ‘Add discount code’ and new members will receive a £5 discount. This also applies if you wish to give annual membership as a gift.
We have reviewed several other properties under Historic Houses and see also Historic Houses versus National Trust – Which to join?
Additional Photographs of Chenies Manor House
POSTED 10th JUNE 2022 by STEVE HANSON. The photographs of the gardens were taken by BARBARA HANSON.