Merriscourt is the home of Tom Astor and his family. Tom is the man behind the podcast Shaken & Stirred – and you really get a sense of his fun nature through the restoration of this former farm. It’s a truly unique place, tucked away up a mile-long drive, it is a cluster of beautiful stone buildings which you have to be looking for to find. Once you arrive, the views range from 8 miles to 40 miles (depending on where one is on the estate) and it’s brimming with character thanks to Tom’s creative input into the now, established wedding venue.
How would you describe Merriscourt?
Merriscourt has a large Iron Age fort at the top, a Saxon king buried in the field next door, and a quarry dating back to late Roman times. A few years ago we unearthed a Bronze Age axe head dated 800 – 1000 B.C So… there have been people here for literally millennia. The buildings are also situated just above a spring line. Which some people believe carries away any negative energy that may appear.
Tell us something most people don’t know about Merriscourt?
The name Merriscourt comes from the Norman family ‘Merys’ who settled it after 1066. The sweeping views give it a unique position strategically in that one can see an invading force from the Chilterns to the Malvern Hills. It is the third highest point in Oxfordshire.
Who is likely to greet us on arrival?
You will be greeted by one of our regular full-time staff. The ‘team’ is made up of Lexi and Milly in the office, Artur who is keeper of the key and a long-term resident, or me.
What cars are likely to be parked in the farmyard?
The cars we have at Merriscourt are varied. You might see our Merriscourt S2 Bentley we use to transport guests upon request or a 1932 model B Hotrod which I use for terrifying my passengers (unintentionally) as it is an original car from the 1930’s but souped up for speed.
Who has checked into Merriscourt over the years?
We have had a number of famous guests/people here over the last 20 years. To name a few – William and Kate were regulars in their dating days, David Cameron’s 2015 election day lunch was hosted here, Florence and the Machine, The XX, Alison Moyet and Alexandra Burke have all played here. Bill Lovelady and I used to put on ‘blue grass’ parties here back in the day called ‘Afraid to Fly’. This was also the name of our band. Lovelady is more recently known for his music being played at Prince Phillip’s funeral, psalm 104 – a psalm the Duke commissioned from him. Lovelady was a long-time resident here and is still a lifelong friend.
Who’s thrown parties here, any standout stories?
Aside from admitting putting on our own ‘gigs’ (I played banjo/guitar) we would never share the names of our clients. Merriscourt is a wonderfully private place. A retreat, almost. When you book our venue, it is yours exclusively. The privacy comes with it.
Who’s the chef and what’s your favourite dish?
Our inhouse chef is Jon Rix. A seasoned pro whose CV ranges from Michelin-starred restaurants to some of the grandest houses when operating ‘Merriscourt’s’ external catering company. Favourite dish has to be Ponzu Glazed Duck Breast, Togarashi Spiced Leg, Sticky Rice, Pickled Cucumber & Plum Jam – well, in the winter anyway!
Any hidden corners at Merriscourt?
Merriscourt with its lake, ponds, view, and woodland contain many secret hidden corners. Possibly a reason for the rich variety of wildlife that seek sanctuary here – owls, woodpeckers, lesser-spotted cuckoos, and the declining skylark. We are beginning an organic overhaul this year too with wildflower meadows and nature reserve areas to enhance the diversity we have on offer.
Favorite place to stay at Merriscourt…
I have tried to make every house and cottage better than each other here. I would happily stay in all of the houses at Merriscourt and over the years have actually lived in most of them at one time or another.
Favourite places nearby?
A 30-minute stroll will take you to the Chequers Pub in Churchill for a gastro extravaganza. Daylesford organic shop, Wild Rabbit and The Plough in Kingham, Rollright Stones, the Park at Blenheim Palace, the Deli in Woodstock and for my daughter, Soho Farmhouse with its pool and spa.
We know you’re a man who likes a cocktail, what’s your go to?
Toss up between a Vodka Martini with a twist or Champagne cocktail. Both effective in their own right.
What kind of couples get married here?
No one wedding is ever the same. I cannot begin to describe the variety of clients. It makes for a wonderful surprise every weekend. The one thing I did not bank on when starting this business was the effect a hundred people arriving in a celebratory mood would have on me and the hard-working staff here.
And finally, what’s next for Merriscourt?
A second smaller venue. We noticed a gap in the market for those who want a smaller and more intimate gathering. The Corner Barn at Merriscourt has some of the best views on the place. It will be a sublime addition and is separate from the other buildings. It stands apart and will have a 5-bed Cotswold cottage, plus two smaller 3-bed cottages, plus a 3-bed house sleeping 23 guests in total.
For more info visit: https://merriscourt.com/