This Grade I Listed Building, known formerly as Chenies Palace, was owned by the Cheyne family who were granted the manorial rights in 1180. The manor remained in their possession until the end of the 15th century. The semi-fortified brick manor house which forms the core of the present day structure was built by Sir John Cheyne in approximately 1460. Both Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I visited the house on numerous occasions accompanied by their Courts.
The original manor house was extended in the 16th century by John Russell, later 1st Earl of Bedford, to whom the property passed through marriage.
In 1627, the 4th Earl of Bedford relocated the principal family seat from Chenies to Woburn Abbey. Chenies Manor then became a secondary home, occupied by relatives, later being let as a farm house. The house was sub-divided to more manageable proportions during the 18th and 19th centuries.
It remained part of the Russell estate until the 1950s when the estate was bought by the present owners, the MacLeod Matthews family, who commenced a long process of restoration which continues to this day.
Most recently, the 16th century pavilion was restored in 2001, having stood in a ruinous state since the early 19th century. During the course of restoration, a previously unsuspected basement storey was uncovered, containing numerous interesting architectural features. The pavilion now plays host to a series of exhibitions of local and national artists throughout the season.
In the centre of the main house, there is an unusual spiral staircase where the handrail has been carved into the brick. In this area, footsteps are still heard some nights crossing the gallery; possibly those of Henry VIII towards his then queen, Catherine Howard's room!
The architectural historian Nickolaus Pevsner wrote enchantingly of Chenies in his survey of the buildings of England. He described it as:
"beautifully mellow under the trees by the church, and archaeologically a fascinating puzzle."
Page Last Updated: January, 2014