PROUD HISTORY OF CHICHELEY HALL
An ancient manor house on the site belonged to the Pagnell family of Newport Pagnell. The house then descended in the Chester family to the time of the English Civil War The present Chicheley Hall was built in the early 1700s on the same site. All that remains of the old manor house is one Jacobean over-mantel with termini caryatids, and some panelling in the new Chicheley Hall.
The present hall was built between 1719 and 1723, with the interior fittings completed in 1725. The house was often attributed to the architect Thomas Archer but has more recently been attributed to Francis Smith.
The main door opens to a fine panelled Great Hall, in the manner of William Kent with a classical double-height ceiling depicting Herse and her sisters sacrificing to Flora. Through an arcade of marble columns, oak staircases lead to the upper floors. The most remarkable room is the ‘secret’ library on the upper floor, with all shelving and books concealed behind what appears to be panelling, thus disguising the room’s true use.
The house is surrounded by a park of 100 acres (0.40 km2), including a lake, canal, and 25 acres (100,000 m2) of gardens, laid out by George London and Henry Wise. An avenue of lime trees leads to the house, past an octagonal Grade II* listed dovecote. The River Ouse lies to the east.
After John Chester’s death, the house descended to Charles Bagot Chester, the 7th Baronet, a drunk and gambler, who jumped out of a second-floor window in a drunken fit. Before dying of his injuries he bequeathed all of his estates, including Chicheley, to a distant relative and school friend, Charles Bagot, on condition he adopted the name of Chester and the house was rented out for over 70 years.
During the Second World War, Chicheley Hall was used by the Special Operations Executive as its Special Training School No. 46. From 1942 until 1943, it was used for training Czechoslovaks for SOE parachute mission, It was later used to train Polish agents and then became a FANY wireless telegraphy school. Fortunately, the fine interior was protected by hardboard.
Chicheley Hall remained the home of the 2nd Earl who ran the house as a venue for weddings and conferences. The house stood in for Bletchley Park in the 2001 film Enigma. It has also been used as a location in several other films and TV projects, including Pride and Prejudice, The Meaning of Life, The Red Violin, The Fourth Protocol, A Village Affair (1995 TV Movie), and Separate Lies.
In 2007, Grade I listed Chicheley Hall was placed on the market for sale bought by the Royal Society funded in part by the Norwegian philanthropist Fred Kavli. The Royal Society has spent a further £12 million renovating the house and adapting it to become the Kavli Royal Society International Centre, a venue for science seminars and conferences. Chicheley Hall was sold and is now operated by XXXX