THE mystery tale of a burnt-down manor house can be explored thanks to a new history trail.

The two-mile Ascott Park Historical Trail in Stadhampton covers parkland that was once part of the estate of the rich Dormer family.

In 1662, William Dormer – known as The Splendid – built a stately home on the land for the family, but it burned down before they could move in.

And despite attempts to find remains of the house, no trace of it has ever been found.

The trail, unveiled to the public on Monday, was created jointly by Oxfordshire County Council, which owns the park, and the Oxfordshire Buildings Trust.

Spokesman for the trust John Sykes said: “We have tried to create a lovely and quietly appealing walk, where people can debate the mysteries of the land.”

Volunteers from the Oxfordshire Buildings Trust excavated where they believed the building had been in 2009.

Mr Sykes said: “But instead we found the groundworks of a house built in about 1720. We believe the family attem-pted to build a house again, but ran out of money.

“So they had two failed attempts.”

Mr Sykes added: “There are so many theories about this.”

The land was sold to the county council in 1920 as part of a scheme to provide homes for returning First World War heroes.

Small agricultural holdings were given to returning soldiers.

And after the Second World War, much of the estate was sold to tenants.

Walkers can now enjoy a walk around the remaining park, stopping at information points and viewing the various excavations that have taken place.

A dovecote, avenue of trees and a building which could have been a granary, ice house or garden pavilion still exist.

Mr Sykes said: “This has been a great achievement.

“We wanted to make this possible for people to enjoy themselves.”

The original Jacobean entrance archway to the park was on display in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London until recently and is now being stored by staff there.

The Bodleian Library now hopes to raise enough money to have it incorporated in the new entrance hall of the remodelled New Bodleian in Broad Street, Oxford. It would cost about £126,000 to bring the gatehouse back.