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The life and times of a forgotten Tudor manor
Buy this photo » Sarah Taylor with the surviving part of the mansion in the background
THE history of one of England’s most important lost Tudor mansions has gone online after six years of research.
Rycote Mansion, which in its heydey hosted six kings and queens, was taken apart brick-by-brick over five days in 1807 and its archive thrown on a bonfire.
A small 15th century chapel and a stable guest block were left remaining on the estate, near Thame – the only remnant of the great house being part of the south-west tower.
Now, work by Bodleian Library’s archives and the Rycote estate’s current owners, has rediscovered the story of Rycote through manuscripts, letters, accounts, maps and drawings from medieval to modern times.
Archivist Matthew Neely began the hunt for the documents in 2007 and said he was proud the work was now available for everyone to see.
Highlights from the items digitised at the Bodleian include: s The first modern map of Oxfordshire by Christopher Saxton in 1574 s Accounts of expenses for the entertainment of Elizabeth I at Rycote s Autograph letters of Elizabeth I and Henry IV of France documenting the exploits of Sir John Norris, one of Elizabethan England’s leading military commanders.
Charles I relocated his court to Rycote following an outbreak of the plague in London in 1625.
Mr Neely said: “In the 16th and 17th century Rycote was the dominant house in the county and the people who lived there played very important roles in politics and the military.
“When it was demolished that archive faded away. Blenheim Palace is really what Rycote was like back then.
“Bringing everything together has really revitalised the history and puts it in a place where it can be accessed by everyone. I am proud to see it all come together.”
The online tool also has an interactive timeline which explores key moments in the history of Rycote and the lives of its owners.
And a mini-documentary gives an insight into just how archivists were able to piece Rycote’s story together.
Dr Felicity Heal, Emeritus Fellow at Jesus College, said: “Rycote in its heyday was a regional powerhouse.
“It is exciting that, as the house has been revived and rebuilt, the Bodleian has now been given the opportunity to reassemble the scattered evidence of its history and architecture on a website, which will be an invaluable resource.”
Sarah and Bernard Taylor, current owners of Rycote Estate, said: “The restoration of Rycote has been a fascinating project and the work of Matthew Neely and the Bodleian Libraries has brought the practical task of restoration to life.
“Rycote’s history is important locally and we are delighted to have been able to support this archival work in the Bodleian over the past six years.”
s You can see the archive at rycote.bodleian.ox.ac.uk The 15th-century medieval chapel is open to the public from April to September on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
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