The birth of the Stanlake Estate
The beginnings of the estate were around 1166 when the land was held by Patrick Earl of Salisbury. The estate was then named Hinton Pipard and the site of the original manor house was on the edge of the northern most perimeter, at Botany Bay Copse, where a quadrangular moat can still be seen. The first manor house would have been timber framed and partitioned with wattle and daub. The manor remained until circa 1590 when the political situation in Britain settled and land owners were confident in spending money to re-build in brick.
During the 15th century, the house and estate passed to the Thorpe family of Thorpe in Surrey. Elisabeth Thorpe, a daughter of the family, inherited the estate and married a Nicholas Stanlake and from that time Hinton Pipard became known as Stanlake Park.
The Tudor Years
In 1502 the estate was owned by Sir Reginald Bray, statesman and architect. He helped to arrange funds for Henry VII’s invasion of Britain and was on the future King’s core council. He was with Henry when he defeated Richard III at Bosworth field and he apparently picked Richard’s crown from the bush where it had fallen and passed it to Henry, thus beginning the Tudor Dynasty. Sir Reginald was appointed under-treasurer of England in 1485. As an architect, Sir Reginald Bray is credited in altering and re-building parts of St.George’s chapel in Windsor Castle. He was acknowledged as ‘a magnificent benefactor to St.George’s’ whose South transept was built at his own expense, and is the site of his burial.
After the death of Sir Reginald Bray, Stanlake passed to his niece Margery, the wife of another eminent man of his day Sir William Sandy, later created Lord William of the Vine. He was a soldier during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII. In 1523 Henry VIII made Sir William treasurer of Calais and in 1526 he appointed him to the office of Lord Chamberlain to the Kings household, which he held until his death in 1542. Sir William Sandy was not only a courtier to Henry VIII but also a good and trusted friend. He signed the letter to Pope Clement regarding Henry VIII divorce from Queen Katherine. It is thought highly likely that Sir William provided hospitality for Henry VIII at Stanlake Park given his love of hunting and the proximity of the estate to Windsor Castle.
The Stuart Period
In 1606, Stanlake was sold by Sir Edwyn Sandy, a descendant of Lord William, to Sir Thomas Windebank, who died just one year later. The estate then passed to his son, Francis Windebank, who became secretary of State to Charles I and was knighted in 1632. In 1640 he had to flee to France after being accused of signing letters in favour of catholic priests and Jesuits.
In 1610 Stanlake Park was sold to Richard Aldworth, a merchant from Reading. Under the Aldworth family’s supervision, the present manor house was built and developed, and they became a respected and influential family in the area. Upon his death in 1623 the estate passed to Richard Aldworth II and it was during his tenure that the stained glass Royal coat of arms of the Stuarts with the garter and supporters, and the date 1626, was placed in what is called the King’s bedroom. It is thought to be a gift from Charles I on one of his visits to the house on his way to Reading Abbey palace.
In 1638 Richard Aldworth III inherited the estate just before the English Civil War started, and the Twyford area became a focal point for the royalist military operation. It is recorded that Richard Aldworth III fought gallantly at the battle of Newbury and at the siege of Bristol. When the war ended he founded the Reading Bluecoat School in 1646 for twenty boys and, as he was a governor of Christ’s Hospital School, he decreed that the pupils would wear a similar uniform of blue coats. Reading Bluecoat school today is one of the top academic schools in the country. Richard Aldworth III died in 1680, having been appointed an auditor for Charles II in 1665, and is buried at Ruscombe Church.
Richard Aldworth IV inherited Stanlake manor upon the death of his father and was later appointed secretary of state for King James II. It is believed that one of the major battles in the revolutionary fight between James II and the forces of William of Orange took place close to Stanlake Park land. By the time Prince William’s forces met their final battle at Maidenhead it was known that King James had fled and that the revolution had succeeded. The Aldworth family accepted the new Protestant King, William of Orange, and thus the inscription on the clock tower of the stable block at Stanlake Park reads ‘Revolution 1688’.In the early 1700’s Richard Aldworth V married the daughter of the rich and influential Richard Neville of Billingbear, and it is through this linage that his grandson inherited the title Lord Braybrooke. Stanlake house and estate continued to grow and flourish in the hands of the Aldworth-Neville family and was passed from generation to generation. Richard Aldworth-Neville, the third Lord Braybrooke, was born at Stanlake and is the well known editor of Samuel Pepy’s Diary. He died childless, and the manor passed successively to his brothers until the end of the 18th century.
From the 19th century to present day
During the early 1800’s Stanlake Park became the seat of Rev. Sir. Nathaniel Duckenfield, who had been vicar of St.Martin in the Field. At some point, the estate enjoyed a visit from George III which was recounted in great detail by the vicar of Hurst many years later.
The Estate was bought in 1847 by George Barker, a likely descendant from the Barkers of Hurst Lodge, and stayed in the Barker family until 1951.
The owners of Stanlake Park in the second half of the 20th century were the Leighton family, of which Jon Leighton had the vision to create a Vineyard in late 1979, thus starting an intriguing and refreshing period in this historic Estate’s history.
Establishment of Vineyard
A small test area of 500 vines was planted in 1979. The original vineyard was called Thames Valley Vineyard, later shortened to Valley Vineyards, and finally renamed after the Stanlake Park estate itself.
The initial test area has then expanded to over 25 acres and over 25,000 vines. In fact, Stanlake Park grows a big number of grape varieties – including Ortega, Dornfelder, Reichensteiner, Muller-Thurgau, Bacchus, Madeleine Angevine, Schonburger and the classic Champagne varieties Pinot Noir, Menunier and Chardonnay.
There are also several different trellising systems used including some unique to the Estate – the ‘Stanlake Bow’ and the ‘Stanlake Ballerina’, which is a variant of the Smart-Dyson Ballerina, in effect a mid-height Sylvoz system, a system ideal for our cool growing season, giving the resultant fruit a perfect balance between fruit quality and yield.
The careful hand harvesting of the grapes usually starts at the beginning of October. Winemaking takes place within a 17th Century Reformation barn which houses our winery, capable of handling over 200 tonnes of fruit in any one season. The fastidious attention to detail in the vineyard continues in the winery where individual fermentations are carefully monitored and controlled by our expert Italian winemaker.
We also make wine for many other English vineyards, and the success of both our own wine and the wine made for others has led Stanlake Park to become the largest wine maker in Berkshire.
With thanks to Tim Capon for the sections on the history of Stanlake Park