Field and tree at Dorneywood
Dorneywood is an official government residence in Buckinghamshire, usually used by the Foreign Secretary or other senior government minister. The house is an eighteenth-century Georgian house with Victorian and later additions, rebuilt after a fire in 1910, found near Burnham in Buckinghamshire.
The house and estate are held under an unusual trust: Dorneywood was given to the National Trust by Lord Courtauld-Thomson in 1947 though it was specified in the terms of the gift that it be used as a country home for a senior member of Her Majesty's Government, and so it is held in a discrete trust, the Dorneywood Trust, on the conditions laid down. The Dorneywood Trust has the objective of 'maintaining the mansion house and gardens of Dorneywood'.
Occupancy of the house
The Prime Minister alone decides which Minister or Secretary of State is to occupy the house. In previous administrations it has been the residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer or the Deputy Prime Minister (when such a position has existed. In 2006 the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott relinquished occupancy when mocked relentlessly about playing croquet on the lawn of Dorneywood like a country squire, while in trouble for country matters with a woman not his wife, and other senior ministers seemed reluctant to move in after that. Evenmtually the Chancellor of the Exchequer moved in 2007; "A spokesman for Mr Brown ... explained that the house ... was owned by a trust, and would revert first to the Lord Mayor of London and then to the American Ambassador, if the Chancellor did not want it".
Various former Prime Ministers (before achieving the premiership) have occupied the house, among them Anthony Eden; he and his wife had disliked the house. However, on becoming Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home was reluctant to forsake the more comfortable and modern Dorneywood for the antique splendours of Chequers. Another, James Callaghan as Foreign Secretary, also had the use of Dorneywood (later Chevening was to become the official country home for the holder of that office). The last person to have lived at the house before becoming Prime Minister was John Major.
The interior of the house contains some decorations by Rex Whistler, as well as paintings and furniture belonging to the Government Art Collection. There is also furniture belonging to the National Trust. The house is not open to the public.
The National Trust markets the property under the name "Dorneywood Garden". The estate consists of the house and 215 acres of parkland, woodland and farmland. The 1930s-style gardens are open to the public by written appointment only on four days a year. The grounds are noted for their cottage and kitchen garden, as well as their herbaceous borders and rose displays. Due to the occupation of the house, visitors may have to undergo security checks.
The upkeep of the estate is in part supported by the Dorneywood Thomson Endowment Trust Fund.
- Dorneywood Garden information at the National Trust
- The Times
- Independent, 13 June 1997, "Grace... but should they still be in favour?"
- Stone, Ollie (2006-06-01). "UK | UK Politics | What are grace-and-favour homes?". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/5036540.stm. Retrieved 2013-06-13.