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Asthall Manor – where modern sculpture meets the Mitford sisters

Blog | By Harry Mount | Jun 18, 2018


Until 8th July, Asthall Manor, once home to the Mitford family, is opening its doors to On Form, the biennial exhibition of contemporary stone sculpture that has become one of England’s favourite summer fixtures.

Four hundred works by forty sculptors are on display in the ballroom and throughout the landscape – along the river, in the tall grass, deep in the woods, among the daisies, corn growers and poppies in the wild flower meadows, and by the church, as well as in the more formal gardens.

‘There is no trail or path,’ explains Rosie Pearson, Asthall Manor’s owner. ‘The idea is that the exhibition flows. It’s about exploration and joy – we have a unique please do touch policy.’ 

Mitford obsessives can make the short pilgrimage to nearby St Mary’s, Swinbrook, where four of the Mitford sisters are buried. If that isn’t enough, the local pub, the Swan Inn, Swinbrook, is lined with Mitfordiana.

Also at St Mary’s are the marvellous Fettiplace tombs: six reclining knights laid out on a series of shallow stone shelves: a ‘sepulchral couchette’, as that great church-crawler Alan Bennett put it.