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Chicheley

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Chicheley is a village in the Borough of Milton Keynes, England, though prior to the administrative boundary change in 1995 it was in Buckinghamshire. The village is located about two and a half miles north east of Newport Pagnell.

The village name is Anglo Saxon in origin, and means Cicca's clearing. In the Domesday Book of 1086 the village was recorded as Cicelai.

The manor of Chicheley (which some suggest may have once been called Thickthorn) anciently belonged to the Pagnell family of Newport Pagnell, but was given by them to the church. Through this connection the village also at one time belonged to Cardinal Wolsey, though only until his forced resignation by King Henry VIII who took all his possessions from him at that time.

During the English Civil War the manor, belonging to the Chester family received some considerable damage, associated as it was with the garrison at Newport Pagnell. Following the civil war the manor was demolished, and the present Chicheley Hall built on the site. All that remains of the old manor today is one Jacobean over-mantel with termini caryatids, and some panelling in the 'new' Chicheley Hall.

The parish church is dedicated to St Lawrence and has a perpendicular style central tower with large windows. The chancel, which contains a fine plaster depicting floral wreaths in relief, and a stone reredos, was rebuilt circa 1708, however the church dates from the 14th century. In the nave are raised box pews giving a theatrical air. The church contains monuments to Anthony Cave. Cave's sarcophagus is a cadaver tomb. Other monuments dating from 1635 are to the Chester family of Chicheley Hall.

Chicheley Hall, one of Buckinghamshire's finest mansions was built between 1719 and 1723 (Pevsner gives the date of construction as 1698 to 1703). The house has been attributed to the architect Thomas Archer who is thought to have designed it for Sir John Chester. The principal facade of the house is of nine bays on three floors upon a raised basement, the central section of three bays projects. Massive fluted corinthian pilasters flank the central three bays, these are repeated at each termination of the facade and again dividing the second from the third bay of each wing flanking the central projection. The facade is symmetrical, however the curve topped windows of the central projection are taller than the flat topped windows of the wings, thus uniformity at roof level is achieved by an upward curve to the central section from the wings, giving the house, with its concealed roof, an almost continental baroque appearance.

The interior of the house has a fine panelled Great Hall, in the manner of William Kent with a classical ceiling depicting Herse and her sisters sacrificing to Flora. 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 was purchased from the Chester family by Earl Beatty in 1952. It had in its immediate past been used by the military, and as a school. Beatty began a large restoration program and finally employed the renowned interior decorator Felix Harboard famed for his work at Luttrellstown Castle near Dublin. Harboard's masterful, classical colour schemes accentuating moulding and panelling perfectly suit the house. Chicheley Hall is today the home of Sir John and Lady Nutting, who run the house as a venue for weddings and conferences.








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