Southern Oxfordshire is dotted with beautiful stately homes that have connections to famous residents, have inspired literary greats or have featured as filming locations for films and TV over the years. Many of them have appeared in Midsomer Murders
too, as you might expect.
One stately home and mill seems to be a magnet for media attraction, securing a place in cinema, music and literary folklore. The house is Mapledurham. It’s an Elizabethan manor house in the parish of the same name.
Keen eyed readers may recognise the name from previous posts where we have written about Mapledurham’s appearance in the 70s war classic the Eagle Has Landed – starring Michael Caine and Robert Duvall – about a fictional attempt to kidnap Winston Churchill.
The mill house that’s part of the estate also appears on the front cover of Black Sabbath’s debut album from 1969, often widely regarded as the first heavy metal album. A shot of the mill taken with an eerie filter is made even more creepy by the presence of a barely discernable female figure in the foreground.
However, Mapledurham’s literary prestige comes from the fact it also seems to have been the inspiration for Toad Hall in Kenneth Grahame’s hugely popular Wind in the Willows books.
Grahame grew up, lived and died in this area along the banks of the Thames, spending many years in Blewbury near Didcot, and Pangbourne just a couple of miles away from Mapledurham. He must have been familiar with the house. Then there are EH Shephard’s illustrations for the original print run, where the resemblance between Toad Hall and Mapledurham is striking.
The nearby Quarry Wood is thought to be the setting for when Mole gets lost in a storm and is rescued by Ratty, who then leads him to safety at Badger’s house.
Another literary connection to the house comes through its previous owners. The house had been in the Blout family since the late 15th century. But in the early 18th century, poet Alexander Pope was a frequent visitor to both Martha and Theresa Blout.
Mapledurham manor house appeals for many reasons, and obviously has done to writers, photographers and location managers down the years. Despite being 500 years old, the house still exerts an influence and connects with our contemporary sense of beauty today. Why not pay it a visit and see for yourself why it has such a big place in popular culture?