Who We Are
We are your adaptable partner in hospitality! Situated amidst the serene beauty of 20 acres in Oxfordshire, Middle Aston House is an independent rural retreat ready to cater to your unique needs.
Conveniently located between Bicester and Banbury, we serve as the ideal venue for a wide range of occasions, whether it’s hosting your next conference, facilitating learning and development training sessions, planning unforgettable parties, or orchestrating fun team-building days.
Our central position also makes us the perfect choice for your significant events, from grand parties to family reunions, and especially for those cherished moments when you say “I do.”
Whether your visit is for a corporate boardroom meeting or an intimate wedding, you can count on us for comprehensive support. With four charming dining rooms, ample space for a grand marquee, abundant parking, and 55 cozy bedrooms, our capabilities are vast.
Complementing these offerings is our passionate team and delectable dining experiences, creating a harmonious partnership that transforms your vision into reality. Middle Aston House: We adapt to meet your every need.
Background / History
Middle Aston House boasts a rich and diverse history. While the current house front dates back to 1893, Middle Aston’s historical legacy traces uninterrupted to Doomsday. There have been at least three residences on or near this site, possibly more during the Middle Ages. From the 12th to the 16th Century, the manor passed through various hands, often changing family names due to its passage through the female line.
During the mid-21st Century, the manor was under the ownership of the Brympton family, who held significant estates in Berkshire and Wiltshire. In the 1400s, part of the manor passed to Eva Brympton upon her marriage to William Stokes. William’s astuteness secured the entire Middle Aston living, which he later passed to his son John in 1427.
During this period, John Stokes, residing in what was likely a manor house, served as a Knight of the Shire, representing Oxfordshire in Parliament. Unfortunately, no remnants of a building from that era have survived to provide insight into its scale or design. Following John’s death in 1459, the manor transitioned to the Dyneley family, who were connected to the Stokes through John’s sister.
In 1558, when a Dyneley heiress wedded Sir John Baker, Middle Aston became part of her dowry. Sir John, a shrewd young man, rose during Henry VIII’s reign, navigated the reigns of Mary and Edward with honour, and passed away as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Elizabeth. His primary residence was Sissinghurst in Kent, so Middle Aston went to his younger son, John. Much of the manor’s historical significance dates to this era, marked by the construction of enduring features such as the Ice-House, Granary, and the Bailiff’s House, a section of which is now part of the present structure. The ‘Baker’ manor, as it were, was a traditional Tudor edifice surrounding a courtyard, located roughly in the centre of the lawns preceding the present house.
In 1606, Sir Richard Baker, the heir, faced a tragic twist in his fate. He stood as surety for his father-in-law, Sir George Mainwaring, who had borrowed £8,000 from Sir Robert Jason. When Sir George defaulted, Middle Aston passed into Jason’s possession. A broken man, Sir Richard Baker retired to the debtors’ prison at the Fleet. It was there that he authored his ‘Chronicles of the Kings of England,’ a work that, in the subsequent century, could be found in most esteemed country houses, alongside the Bible and Shakespeare.
The Jason family relinquished Middle Aston to a prosperous London Alderman, Sir Richard Hawkins, in 1678. Swiftly, Hawkins renovated the East Wing, adding an extra floor, and planted a row of lime trees, with a few still gracing the side of the front lawn.
In 1714, the house passed into the hands of Sir Francis Page, destined to become a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas. He earned notoriety as a ‘hanging judge,’ with local lore suggesting that the widows of the hundred men he condemned haunted him, taking the form of owls flitting about the expansive pond.
Modern historians view Page’s reputation with less melodrama, sensing its origins in his imprudent condemnation of Richard Savage, a man of letters and society’s darling. Savage, once acquitted, turned his pen against Page, rallying his literary circle to do the same. Thus, Page’s name finds a place in Pope’s ‘Dunciad’ and Fielding’s ‘Tom Jones,’ among other notable works.
Page’s memory persists, notably in the vicinity of Steeple Aston’s church, where he erected a grand monument in honor of himself and his wife.
Sadly, this monument hints at his childless state, as he took great pains to ensure his successor bore the Page name. Consequently, his nephew, Francis Bourne, assumed the name Francis Page upon inheriting.
This second Francis Page ingeniously acquired all the land in Middle Aston, forming an ‘Estate.’ He followed contemporary trends by engaging one of the foremost landscape architects of the era, William Kent, to design the Park.
Kent’s most enduring work, Rousham, a few miles away, completed in 1738, showcases his distinctive style: haphazard planting, expansive lawns, the ingenious ‘ha-ha,’ and a deliberate interplay between shaded pathways and classical vistas.
Kent’s work across the country, notably at Stowe, Kensington, and Blenheim, played second fiddle to his younger contemporary, ‘Capability’ Brown. However, Rousham retained its original charm under his influence. Today, traces of Kent’s impact on Middle Aston may be scarce, but history tells us he introduced a ‘ha-ha’ to connect the countryside to his garden. He replaced medieval terraces with a concrete lawn and transformed two square medieval fishponds into a ‘natural’ lake. Many unique trees like Cedar, Sequoia, Turkey Oak, Medlar, Mulberry, and Ginka Biloba date back to Kent’s Estate transformation in 1750.
Page, MP for Oxford University for some three decades, lived into the early 19th century. Although the Estate shifted to Sir George Wheate, a nephew of the original Sir Francis’s wife, it was mainly used to settle debts. Consequently, it passed to Sir Clement Cotterell-Dormer, owner of Rousham House. Uninterested in the Middle Aston Manor, he demolished it, leaving only a farmhouse and outbuildings. A century later, Sir Clement’s descendant, Captain Dormer, decided to build the current house. It incorporated the farmhouse and added wrought-iron railings and a gate across the lake after World War I, with chestnuts grown from Verdun battlefield conkers.
Substantial extensions in 1890 gave the house its present appearance, transforming it into a conference venue since the mid-1960s. In 1969, Middle Aston House became a Training and Conference Centre under Spillers and Dalgety ownership. A management buy-out in 1991 was followed by a sale to the Pera Group in 1995. Now independently owned, it continues its legacy as a Training and Events Venue.
Remnants of history persist, like the bird bath that harks back to the days of owls in the grounds.
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