Mapledurham House- A Short History

Mapledurham "the maple tree enclosure" appears in Doomsday as two manors, Mapledurham Gurney belonging to William de Warenne, while Milo Crispin, Lord of the honour of Wallingford, owned the smaller Mapledurham Chazey. (pictured right)

The larger manor takes its name from Gerard de Gournay, to whom it passed as a marriage portion. It passed again by marriage in about 1270 to the Bardolfs, who were here for about 120 years, until the death in 1395 of Sir Robert Bardolf, esquire of the body to Edward III and Richard II and builder of the aisle, which bears his name. The manor passed in 1416 to his widows nephew, William Lynde, whose grandson sold it in 1490 to Richard Blount of Iver; it has belonged to his descendants ever since.

The Blounts claim descent from a Norman family, Le Blond, who came over with William the Conqueror. Richard Blounts great-grandfather, Sir Walter who married Sanchia de Ayala, a Spanish noblewoman, was Henry IV's standard bearer at the Battle of Shrewsbury (1403); Shakespeare portrays his violent death in Henry IV, part 1. His son, Sir Thomas (d.1456), was Treasurer of Normandy in the early years of Henry V's reign; from his eldest son Sir Walter, 1st Lord Mountjoy (d.1474), sprang the line which ended so illustriously with the Earl of Devonshire (1563-1606). Richard Blount, purchaser of Mapledurham, was the son of Sir Thomas' second son.

His son Sir Richard (d.1564) who married Elizabeth Lister, daughter of the Lord Chief Justice, succeeded him; in 1558 he was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London, a post also held by his son Sir Michael (d.1610) (pictured left). Father and son lie beneath a splendid tomb in the Chapel Royal in the Tower.

In 1588 Sir Michael raised a loan of 1,500 for the purpose, it is believed, of building the present House, an altogether grander one which better expressed his status as a high official of Elizabeth I. It was completed by his son Sir Richard in 1612; he also increased his estate by buying, in 1582, the smaller Chazey manor from Anthony Brydges. He tried unsuccessfully to claim the extinct barony of Mountjoy on the death of the Earl of Devonshire. The House of Lords rejecting the claim for lack of evidence. Sir Richard died in 1628 and lies in the church in a tomb surmounted by effigies of himself and his first wife, Cecily Baker. 

His son Sir Charles (c.1598-1655) succeeded him. Like many Royalist gentry he was extravagant; in 1635 he had to sell off his household goods to pay his debts. There can have been little left when in 1643 the Roundheads besieged and sacked the house, a year before Sir Charles death at the siege at Oxford. (pictured right- The Great Stairwell- part of the original house [1588-1612])

The estate was sequestered by Parliament. The heir, Michael, was murdered in 1649, aged 19, at Charing Cross by a footman; his younger brother Walter (d.1671) obtained the return of his estates about 1651. Although married twice, he had no heir and left Mapledurham to his cousin Lyster (1654-1710). Lyster married Martha Englefield, from Whitenights, Reading; it was to court their two daughters that, from 1707-1715, Alexander Pope became a frequent visitor. In 1715 their brother Michael (1693-1739) married Mary Agnes Tichbourne, and the sisters went to live in London. Pope quarreled with Theresa in 1716 for reasons unknown, but his friendship with Martha had lasted until his death in 1744, when he left her a substantial part of his property, some of which is still here. Both sisters died unmarried, Theresa in 1759 (pictured below), Martha in 1763.

Their brother inherited in 1710 a much impoverished estate. Like other Catholic landowners, the family had been forced to pay the penal Double Land Tax (not abolished until 1821). In the year of his death, he surveyed his finances; during his 29 years of ownership he had overspent his income by 2,500 it would have been more, he wrote, "but that my dear wife was so prudent not to accept of diamond ear-rings". His son Michael (1719-1792) also faced financial problems; like his father, he spent long periods living away, only returning when he could no longer find a tenant. Family tradition records that about 1740 he was forced to sell the family's fine collection of armour. The first in the family to marry into the professional classes, he married Mary Eugenia, daughter of the solicitor "Michael Strickland, and apparently practised too as a lawyer. His son and successor, also Michael (1743-1821) married twice; firstly, the Irish heiress Eleanora Fitzgerald, a lady of "uncommon virtues;" and then Catherine Petre. He built the chapel, but the present appearance of the House is due to his son, Michael Henry (1789-1874). He employed Thomas Martin to make alterations in 1828 and carried out further work in 1863. He married firstly Eliza Petre (1798-1848) and secondly Lucy Catherine Wheble (1809-1908) there were five sons and nine daughters from the two marriages.

The two eldest sons set up as solicitors in Richmond, Yorks. Each in turn inherited the estate, dying within a few months of each other in 1881. The estate passed to their brother, John Darell-Blount (1833-1908), and then to Edward Riddell, the grandson of his youngest sister who added the name of Blount to his own. On his death in 1943 the estate passed back to the family of John Darrell-Blounts eldest married sister, Agnes Mary, wife of Charles John Eyston of East Hendred. Her grandson Thomas was killed in action in 1940 and the estate passed to his son John Joseph Eyston, the present owner.

Since 1960 he has restored the House, and once again it is a family home, where he lives with his wife, Lady Anne, daughter of the late Viscount Maitland, and their three children Edward, Katharine and Mary.

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