A STITCH IN TIME
Eynsham Hall is one of Oxfordshire’s great country houses. In the early 1700s, wealthy local landowner, Willoughby Lacey, chose to enclose a huge section of his land to create the ultimate space in which to entertain guests and to pursue the popular outdoor sports of the day. His original house was typically Georgian, with Greek-style columns and an ostentatious interior.
In 1778, the building was sold to Robert Langford, a London auctioneer and newspaper proprietor. When he died in 1785, it passed to James Duberley who lived here until 1799. It was subsequently owned by Reverend John Robinson until 1805, when it was bought by Sir Thomas Parker as a dower house for his mother, Eliza, Dowager Countess of Macclesfield. Following her death, the estate was sold to Sir Thomas Bazley MP, a prominent Lancashire cotton manufacturer.
1866 saw the arrival of the present freeholder’s grandfather, James Mason, a mining engineer who made his fortune from copper in Portugal. An amateur scientist of some distinction, Mason bought the Eynsham Park Estate with the intention of pursuing agricultural experiments. After his death in 1903, his son James Francis Mason and his wife Lady Evelyn took over the Hall.
Lady Evelyn, the daughter of the Earl of Crawford, was a renowned socialite, visionary and philanthropist and was hugely influential in the decision to demolish the Georgian house in 1904, which had begun to look old fashioned. Her husband had business interests in mining as well as a passion for steam locomotives. As a director of the Great Western Railway, several of the locomotives built by the company were named after Eynsham Hall.
The 1800s saw two additional floors added to the original Hall. The first was designed in 1843 by renowned English architect Sir Charles Barry, who is perhaps best remembered for his role in rebuilding the Palace of Westminster (the meeting place of the House of Commons and House of Lords).
The second was designed in 1872 by another celebrated architect, Owen Jones. He was responsible for much of the decorative furnishings and interior panelling that are still on show in the house today, including the hand-painted Peacock wallpaper in one of the first floor rooms. Jones compiled the influential ‘Grammar of Ornament’ in 1856, noting that “form without colour is like a body without a soul”. This philosophy has guided our choice of colour throughout Eynsham Hall.
Eynsham Hall was rebuilt in 1908 by architect Sir Ernest George. His practice was known as ‘the Eton of architects’, his speciality was Elizabethan-style buildings. His interiors for Eynsham Hall were finely decorated in Jacobean style, complete with oak panelling, stone fireplaces salvaged from French châteaux and plasterwork ceilings in the Inigo Jones style.
The impressive dogleg staircase was crafted by master wood carver, James Webb. His trademark was to place a halfpenny, alongside his initials, into a joint in the woodwork. Despite its period appearance, Eynsham Hall was a modern home boasting its own waterworks, gas plant, electricity station and private telephone links to all parts of the estate.
For 35 years from 1946, Eynsham Hall was a District Police Training Academy. Thousands of Police Constableecruits passed through Eynsham Hall’s doors and many return to reminisce about their first taste of police life.
In 1981, the Hall became a dedicated conference and training centre and in 2005, the property was acquired by the Cathedral Group, who put in place a major investment programme for the refurbishment and further development of the Hall and grounds.