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Fawley Court

Henley-on-Thames
Oxfordshire
Post Code : RG9 3AE
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Fawley Court is a substantial red-brick house set on the banks of the River Thames.

The house was built in 1684 - 90 for William Freeman, a London merchant with interests in West Indian sugar plantations. The architect is unknown, although it is frequently attributed to Sir Christopher Wren.

In the 1720s the grounds were laid out by William Freeeman's nephew and successor, John Freeman.

He was an East Indian merchant and an enthusiastic amateur architect. These gardens were subsequently swept away but the sham ruin built by Freeman survives in the shrubberies to the south of the house. It was built of flint before 1732 and was one of the first Gothic follies to be erected in England.

Freeman also designed the impressive neo-classical mausoleum, next to the parish church of Fawley, in 1750.

In 1770 - 71 John Freeman's son, Sambrooke, commissioned several designers, including James Wyatt, to re-decorate the principal ground floor rooms in the fashionable neo-classical style.

'Capability' Brown was engaged to landscape the gardens and Wyatt designed the charming stuccoed temple on an island in the Thames as part of this scheme.

The temple (not open to the public) had the first Etruscan-style interior in England and now marks the start point of the Henley Regatta course.

Sambrooke Freeman's son, Strickland, made further changes but greater alterations were carried out by William Mackenzie whose father, a Scottish banker, purchased Fawley Court in 1853.

Mackenzie refaced the stucco-clad walls with a vivid red brick, installed plate glass windows and added a new wing to the north side of the house. Outside a canal, now lined with trees, was cut from the garden front to the river.

In 1953 Fawley Court was acquired by the Marian Fathers from Poland.

Although there have been many alterations the basic structure of the Fawley Court is much as it was built for William Freeman in the 1680s.

The entrance is through the recessed central section, with its Ionic portico of 1799, into the Hall and Saloon.

The magnificent plaster ceiling in the Saloon dates from 1690 and is the only original decoration to survive.

The other reception rooms, created out of the original apartments in 1770 - 71, were placed on either side of the central axis with more public rooms to the south. The Library was created as the 'eating room' by Wyatt but the Ionic colonnade of the sideboard recess was not added until 1804. The former Drawing Room still has a fine plaster ceiling by Wyatt.

After the Marian Fathers purchased Fawley Court in 1953 the house was used for some time as a boarding school but today it is run as a guest-house.

The Marian Fathers have set up a museum in the house containing a library, documents of the Polish kings, a collection of historical sabres and military objects relating to the Polish army.

Part of a 12th century manor house has been used to display their collection of paintings, early books, numismatic collections, arms and armour.

The Fathers have also built a Roman Catholic church in the grounds.

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Fawley Court
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Polish collections, arms and armour, and domestic items in a 12th century manor house, rebuilt in 1684.
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CURRENTLY CLOSED- house sold to private buyer
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