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Stonor Manor, Oxfordshire, England

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Stonor Manor, Oxfordshire, England

STONOR manor seems to have originated in the free tenement held by the Stonors under Pyrton manor in the 13th century and in acquisitions of land in the parish and outside made in the early 14th century. As Stonor manor formed a sub-manor of Pyrton its overlordship and mesne tenure were the same as those of the principal manor. The Stonors did suit at Pyrton.

The Oxfordshire branch of the Stonor family, owners of Stonor from at least the early 13th century to the present day, first appears clearly with Richard 'de Stanora'. Throughout the century this name recurs: there appear to be three generations. In 1241 a Richard Stonor established his right to land in the neighbouring parish of Bix, where the family's main Oxfordshire property then lay. In 1279 Richard Stonor was one of the jurors sworn for Pyrton hundred and was returned as a free tenant in Pyrton, where he held 1 virgate under Pyrton manor for a rent of 8s. and 4 quarters of oats, a holding which was later administered with the manor. In 1282 the same or another Richard Stonor was returned as one of the six co-parceners of ⅓ and 1/10-knight's fees within Pyrton manor. These fractions, however, probably represented Stonor's Pishill lands as well as his Assendon lands, for part of Pishill was in Pyrton manor and the records relating to it are often imprecise.

This Richard Stonor, perhaps the third, had married shortly before 1280 Margaret, the daughter of Sir John de Harnhull, and was still living in 1297. He had been succeeded by 1315 by his son Sir John Stonor, the Chief Justice and the principal architect of the family's fortunes in Oxfordshire and elsewhere. Stonor manor was among the demesne lands for which Sir John received a grant of free warren in 1315, ) and in 1316 and 1317 this estate was greatly increased by an exchange of land made with Dorchester Abbey. It was doubtless because of these grants that the abbey was regarded as a mesne lord of Stonor manor in 1354 and 1361.

Sir John (d. 1354) was followed by his son Sir John (II) Stonor (d. 1361), and his grandson Edmund. Edmund's wardship was granted to the king's daughter Isabella, Countess of Bedford, who held the Stonor inheritance until 1363, when Edmund was allowed to hold it. Edmund died in 1382 and his eldest son John in the next year, and the manor, therefore, descended to another son Ralph, who came of age in 1390. In 1394 Ralph, by now a knight, accompanied Richard II on his expedition to Ireland and died two months later, leaving the succession to 24 manors in seven different counties to his son Gilbert, an infant who died in 1396. A younger son Thomas succeeded and had seisin of the lands on coming of age in 1415. His guardian had been Thomas Chaucer of Ewelme and it was perhaps Chaucer's, influence which enabled the young man to represent the county in Parliament six times and twice serve as sheriff before his early death in 1431. ) By his will the profits of Stonor and other manors were to be used during the minority of his heir Thomas (II) as the marriage portions for his five daughters. Thomas was of age by 1438 and died in 1474. His eldest son and heir Sir William Stonor is memorable as a knight of the shire for Oxfordshire and for his advancement of the family fortunes by his three profitable matches, the first with Elizabeth Croke, a wealthy widow; the second with Agnes Winnard, another wealthy widow; and the third with Anne Neville, niece of Richard Neville, the king-maker. Stonor (d. 1494) was attainted in 1483 because of his share in Buckingham's rebellion. His lands were in the king's hands in 1484 and Stonor manor was granted to Francis Lovell. The estates, however, were restored on the accession of Henry VII and Stonor regained his position in the county. His son and successor John Stonor, a minor, died in 1498 a few years after his father's death in 1494, and his sister Anne, wife of Sir Adrian Fortescue, succeeded, but their claim was not admitted immediately. Until 1509 Pyrton manor courts were held in the name of the heirs of William Stonor and thereafter in the name of Fortescue. Even so there was considerable litigation for many more years between Fortescue and his wife on the one hand and her uncle Thomas (III) Stonor (d. 1512) and cousin Sir Walter Stonor on the other. Eventually an agreement was made by which the succession to the lands, including Stonor, Pishill Venables, and Pishill Napper, was granted to Sir Walter Stonor, and in 1536 an Act of Parliament entailed them on the heirs male of Thomas (I) Stonor, his grandfather. On Sir Walter's death in 1550, because of the entail, Stonor went, not to his daughter Elizabeth, but to Sir Francis Stonor, son of Sir Walter's brother John Stonor of North Stoke.

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The Stonors at this time were one of the chief Roman Catholic families in the county. Sir Francis died in 1564, settling a life interest in the manor of Stonor and other manors on his widow Cecily, the daughter of Leonard Chamberlain of Shirburn, with remainder to their son Francis. In 1585 Lady Stonor was cited as a recusant and her manors were taken into the queen's hands until the fine was paid; the Crown leased the manors to Sir Francis Stonor, then a conformist, and in 1590 Lady Cecily Stonor, who was living at Stonor, complained to Lord Burghley that her son had dispossessed her of all her personal estates, and petitioned for the restoration of the manors, though Francis maintained that he had her letters of attorney to sell the property. Sir Francis (d. 1625) left Stonor to his third son William, who died in 1650 as did his eldest son Francis two years later. Sir William had had to sell nearly all the family estates outside Oxfordshire to pay the fines for recusancy, and just before his death Francis Stonor was obliged to lease Stonor for eight years to Sir George Simeon of Britwell in an attempt to meet his father's creditors. Francis was succeeded in 1653 by his brother Thomas, who in the same year married Elizabeth Neville, daughter of the 9th Lord Abergavenny of Shirburn, a marriage which helped to restore the Stonor fortunes. He lived at Watlington, but on his death in 1683 he was succeeded by his eldest son John who had occupied Stonor during his father's lifetime. John died young in 1687, leaving as heir a boy Thomas (V) Stonor, who died in 1724 and was succeeded by his son another Thomas (d. 1772). This sixth Thomas married Mary Biddulph of Biddulph Hall (Staffs.), who was senior coheiress of the barony of Camoys and Vaux. His son Charles (d. 1781) married Mary Blount of Mapledurham, a member of another ancient Oxfordshire family of Roman Catholics. Charles's son Thomas (d. 1831), and grandson Thomas (IX) succeeded him. In 1838 Thomas Stonor laid claim to the Camoys barony, by right of descent from his great-grandmother, and in 1839 he was summoned to Parliament as the 3rd Baron Camoys. His son Francis died in his lifetime and in 1881 his grandson Francis Robert inherited as 4th Baron Camoys. Ralph Francis Julian, the 5th Baron succeeded in 1897. He married Mildred Sherman of Newport, Rhode Island (U.S.A.), a member of an old American family. Since 1937 Stonor has been the property of his son, Major the Hon. Sherman Stonor.

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