From simple cottage to magnificent mansion
The history of Stoke Court has been traced back to 1455 and there was occupation at the site long before that. During its life it has grown from a simple cottage to the magnificent mansion of today.
Richard Bulstrode acquired the property by his marriage to Alice Knyfft.
William Groome lived in the cottage until 1641 when George Downes, a clothworker and merchant whose family had been granted their own Coat of Arms in the 16th Century, purchased the Estate. He joined in village life, acting as an unpaid Constable and checking the accounts of the Overseer of the Poor.
Raymond Graham owned the property, which he then leased to his brother-in-law Colonel William Legg. Their wives were daughters of Sir William Washington, the great-great-great Uncle of George Washington, first President of the United States.
The Salter family from Shropshire owned the property, which became known as West End House for around 170 years.
Jonathan and Anna Rogers (uncle and aunt of Thomas Gray) became leaseholders of West End House and when Anne was widowed, her two sisters Mary and Dorothy joined her there. Thomas Gray was a frequent visitor, spending holidays with his mother Dorothy and his aunts. Whilst there he is thought to have written his famous 'Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard' and 'Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton'. After the death of his mother and aunts, Thomas Gray gave up the lease in 1758.
Henry Wilmer, who became President of the Royal College of Surgeons, owned West End House.
Granville John Penn (son of Granville Penn, grandson of the founder of Pennsylvania) could not afford the upkeep of both the Stoke Park mansion house and West End house, so in 1845 he sold the Stoke Park estate, enlarged West End house and changed its name to Stoke Court. During this period he sold many of the treasures, including the painting 'Penn's Treaty with the Indians'.
Abraham Darby IV resided at Stoke Court. The Darbys of Colebrookdale invented a method of smelting iron using coke in place of charcoal and in 1779 constructed the Iron Bridge.
The property passed to the Allhusen Family. Christian Allhusen was a Danish chemical manufacturer and in 1890 his grandson, Augustus Henry Eden, inherited the estate. He became a Member of Parliament from 1897-1906. His wife Dorothy was the cousin of Clementine Churchill (wife of Sir Winston Churchill) and there were many glittering social events held at the house.
The house was auctioned and became at various times a private house, country club and TV warehouse. In 1958 it had fallen into disrepair and was to be demolished when Miles Laboratories took it over and restored it. The building was severely damaged by fire in January 1979 and was again carefully restored. Bayer pharmaceutical company acquired Miles Laboratories and so it became their UK Conference Centre until it was purchased in 2010 by Comer Group.
It is a Grade II listed national heritage asset.