In the first of a series of interviews with Catholic peers, Lord Camoys talks to Christopher Howse about his own view of life as a landless baron with a home and family to support.
CAMOYS, 7th Baron c 264 (called out of abeyance, 1839), R•lph Thomas Campion George Sherman Stonor; Manming Director, Barclays Bank Ltd, since 1978; b 16 April 1940; s of 6th Baron Camoys and of Mary Jeanne, d of late Captain 1-Ferhert Murmaduke Joseph Stourton, OBE; S father, 1976; or 1966. Elisabeth Mary Hyde, d of Sir William Stephen Hyde Parker, I lth Bt; one ir three d. Educ.. F.ton Coll.: Balliol Coll., Oxford (BA). Gen. Manager and Director. National Provincial and Rothschild (London' Ltd, 1968; Man. Director. Rothschild Intercontinental Bank Ltd. 1969: Chief Exec. Officer, LORD CAMOYS is an idealist of a very unusual kind. His ideal is expressed in bricks and motar — sto nor.
Stonor is the name of the house in Oxfordshire handed down in the male line of the Stonor family for more than fifX) years. The Stonors stayed Catholics and the Blessed Sacrament has been reserved in the chapel since it was built in the 15th century. St Edmund Campion printed a tract defending the Faith in a Secret room among the eves.
Stonor has become Lord Camoys's vocation, and it was hard won. "1 have no other income than the money I earn as Managing Director of Barclays Merchant Bank," he told me. "I bought Stonor, to which I am very attached: otherwise I would not have gone to the considerable trouble to keep it in the family. I have a great devotion to the house and chapel, and the continuity of practice of the Catholic Faith there inspires many people.
"You have to make a choice whether you are going to spend time and money on that or on travel or fast cars. And it does require on the part of my wife and my sister a lot of physical work and planning. We have opened to visitors in the summer for two years now, and so far it is very rewarding. Hopefully it opens a new window for somebody.
"The house has a purpose again. The chapel is used more now than it has been for a long time.
"We knew what we were giving
up — we lived in a beautiful house in Suffolk, with the security of money invested. But I have no regrets. To wake up in the morning and look out of the window, with the deer in the park and so on ...
"I hope my children will come to love Stonor as much as my generation of Stonors. But I'm not going to force it down their throats."
Lord Camoys is a busy man, but as well as working for his living and spending time with his family and house, he attends a committee of the House of Lords twice a week and sits in the House when he can.
"I am not really suited to political life, because I don't think could change with the speed of changes of policy, which seem to be too often for electoral rather than fundamental reasons.
"I have absolutely no doubt that the House of Lords as a second chamber has a very very important checking role on the Other Place. It is a very good revising mechanism for improving proposed legislation.
"Actually I doubt whether the country at large is at all unhappy about the admittedly rather peculiar structure of membership of the House of Lords. Life peers are a marvellous institution and have helped enormously. Their depth of knowledge and experience is exceptional and daunting."
Lord Camoys feels that a Catholic has the same duties as any Christian peer. He also found his schooldays at Eton before it had a Catholic chaplain enjoyable and helpful — while he admits his home grounding in the Faith was firm.
Next year is the 400th anniversary of Edmund Campion's martyrdom and Stonor will hold special exhibitions, They need to attract 30,C00 visitors. But there will be no lions or funfairs — the idea is preservation, not showbusiness.
Lord Camoys concludes: "Ultimately places like Stonor will only survive if families keep together."