Grid Ref: TQ 013 984
Date: 13 August 2008

Chenies Manor   Overlooking Gardens
Chenies Manor   Overlooking the garden
St. Michael's   Garden
St. Michael's   The garden in mid August


Chenies Manor is open to the public on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons between April and October but I was unfortunate to arrive on a day when it was closed and the weather was showery.  I was able to view the exterior very briefly, including the magnificent gardens.  The manor has many interesting historic associations.   The manor is known to have been held by the Cheyne family in 1180 and gradually took their name.  When the male line ended the manor came into the possession of a relative, Ann Sapcote, who married John Russell in 1523.   This was the Russell family later to produce the Dukes of Bedford and they owned it until the 20th century.  The main part of the current house dates from the middle of the 15th century.  John Russell added a north and south wing in the mid 1520s.  The former was for domestic and included workshops and stables while the latter was used for guests.  He also introduced the newly fashionable ornamental chimneys.  A separate banqueting house was built in the garden in 1526.  Later the house was divided into separate apartments to accommodate wards of the 2nd Earl of Bedford; among these was Lady Anne Clifford, who succeeded to the estates including Bolton Priory on the death of her cousin, the last Earl of Cumberland.  The house became the home Estate Steward in the 17th century gradually fell into a poor state of repair until it underwent major restoration by the current owners between 2000 and 2001.

John Russell entertained Henry VIII at Chenies on several occasions, including with Ann Boleyn and her child Elizabeth in 1534 and later with Katherine Howrard.  Russell was subsequently made Earl of Bedford by a provision in Henry's will.  The 2nd Earl was a minister of Elizabeth I and she visited Chenies with her retinue.  As a result the Privy Council met at Chenies for important business including making arrangements for the custody of Mary Queen of Scots.  The 3rd Earl was only 12 when he was succeeded in 1585 and like the 3rd Earl of Southampton, he became involved with Robert Devereaux, 2nd Earl of Essex's plot to depose the Queen in 1601.  He was put under house arrest at Chenies.  The countess, Lucy nee Harrington, entertained Ben Johnson at Chenies and A Midsummer Night's Dream was written for her marriage to the Earl.

The 4th Earl was a close friend of the great parliamentarian John Hampden and this led to Chenies being used by Parliamentary forces.  In 1642 there was a brief fight in the vicinity in which Hampden's son was killed.  Charles I was subsequently brought to Chenies as a prisoner.  Following the Restoration, the Russell family made Woburn Abbey their main residence. The Russell family ceased to use the house after the reign of William and Mary and it fell into disuse. 

St. Michael's church, adjacent to the manor was originally built in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and extensively restored in 1829.  The Bedford Chapel contains a number of monuments to the Russell family.


There is brochure for the house and gardens, written by Alistair and Elizabeth MacLeod Matthews with the help of Valerie Edwards, Ginny Maguire and Johathan Foyle.    It has many colour photographs of the interior as well as a description of the gardens, for which it is well known.


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