Wargrave Local History Society

Latest News - July 2018

Visit to Dorney Court

Members of the Wargrave Local History Society enjoyed a warm summer afternoon visit to the Grade 1* listed Dorney Court in July. The house has belonged to the same family - the Palmers - for almost 500 years, and is a wonderful example of a medieval Manor House - large parts of which date back to the Tudor period. The Manor of Dorney dates back even further, being recorded in Norman times.

The property was bought by Sir William Garrard, London's Lord Mayor, in 1537, and their daughter married James Palmer, from whom the present ownership descends. The estate was an agricultural one, with the Great Hall seemingly originally a large barn, later adapted as a living space, with wood panelling from Farnborough Abbey, in Kent, at the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII.

At the time of the Civil war, members of the family supported the Royalist cause, and moved to Powys, in Wales. Whilst they were away, Dorney Court was stripped of its contents, although fortunately the house itself remained, and subsequently one piece of intricate embroidery from that earlier era has been returned to the house. The first pineapple to be grown in England was cultivated at Dorney Court, and this is reflected at various places in the house - some old, and also in a 21st century table made from wood found on the Dorney Court estate.

Upstairs, the sleeping accommodation was probably originally a large dormitory, but later partitions created separate bedrooms, which have Tudor barrel vaulted ceilings. These were made of split branches, filled with horsehair plaster, and their shape meant there was less space to heat to keep the rooms warm. There is 18th century hand painted wallpaper, and many period furnishings, so several of the rooms have therefore featured in film and television drama productions. By the 20th century, the house was in need of restoration, and so Peregrine Palmer and his wife, Jill, set about the task, with the roof being a major task in the 1980s, whilst the work to renovate the portraits and gardens is a continuing task. The house is a rare survivor from medieval times, and well worth a visit!

As is customary, the Society's visit ended with afternoon refreshments, served in the Dorney Court Kitchen Garden.

The next meeting takes place on Tuesday, September 11th, when Joe and Joy Haynes will recount the history of the Wargrave Theatre Workshop, and then on Tuesday, October 9th, local historian and author Paul Lacey will tell us of the history Smith's Coaches of Reading.