Dorney Court is one of England’s grandest Tudor manor houses. This grade I listed building is located in the village of Dorney, Buckinghamshire. It was built in 1440 and has been in the possession of the Palmer family for more than 450 years.
This remarkable structure, renowned for its architectural and historical relevance, has been passed from father to son for thirteen generations.
The Dorney estate was recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086, among the lands of Miles Crispin, but the first written record of a house on the land came much later. From here, it passed from one family to another, when it was sold in 1537 to Sir William Garrard, later Lord Mayor of London, and ancestor of the Palmer family, who still own and inhabit the house.
Dorney Court went to the Palmer family when Sir William’s daughter Martha married James Palmer. Martha died in 1607 and her husband James acquired the house in 1624. From Sir James Palmer to the present day, the manor has passed from father to son in direct succession.
At first glance, Dorney Court appears to be a purely Tudor building. However, some of the exterior is a Victorian reconstruction from when the house was remodeled at the end of the 19th century. The original bricks were restored to the front of the house.
There have not been many changes to the layout of the house from 1500 to today. It has one of the most enchanting interiors of similar buildings from that period. The great hall is the heart of the magnificent manor, the center of family life. On one side of the hallway is the parlour, probably the oldest room in the house. Above, on the first floor is the great chamber or master bedroom.
Each of the house’s owners from the Palmer family is represented in a complete catalogue of family portraits. Paintings from Lely, Kneller, Janssen and others are hanged on the walls around the house. The Palmer Needlework, a piece of Elizabethan tapestry, which portrays the 17th century Palmer triplets, is on display in the parlour.
Most of the furniture in the house is from Restoration, apart from the massive oak table in the Great Hall. It is crafted from a single piece of oak, and judging by its scars and notches, it dates from a much earlier period.
The house is surrounded by beautiful gardens and acres of mature parkland. There is a beautiful English rose garden on the south side. The centerpiece is a contemporary fountain – an elephant enjoying a cooling shower. There are apple trees between the garden and the parkland. The park is a wonderful location for weddings and other events.
On the west side of the manor is the Church of St. James the Less, which dates from the 12th century. In the north chapel there is a monument to Sir William Garrard and his wife Elisabeth. They are portrayed kneeling and facing each other, while their children kneel along the base of the tomb.
Dorney Court has been open to public since 1981. It is still privately owned by members of the Palmer family, Jill and her three sons James, Freddie, and Leopold. Throughout the years it has been the setting for quite a few films and television series.