Henry VIII's Great Tudor House
By Michael Ford
Sir William Oldhall built the original house
in 1447 in the form of a tower which would have
looked something like Tattershall Castle in
Lincolnshire, being constructed of brick. The
barrel vaulted cellar still exists as do
buttresses and some masonry. Edward IV bought the
property around 1471 and granted it to Thomas
Howard when he was made Duke of Norfolk. His son
reduced the height of the tower around 1524,
having considered it unsafe at the time.
Henry VIII possessed the house from about 1525
and carried out a programme of building through
to 1534. It was then a great Tudor house of
palatial proportions, having royal apartments and
a great gallery, and was a very early example of
a pre-Elizabethan E-plan mansion. It had a moat,
which was filled in towards the end of the 18th
century, and a gatehouse and summerhouse which
still exist. King Henry was a frequent visitor.
He liked to eat in private in Oldhall's tower.
However, the house was largely used as a
residence for the King's three children. Prince
Edward spent much of his youth at Hunsdon,
the year 1546 when his portrait was painted there
with the house in the background. Legend says
that Princess Mary here taught her young sister,
Elizabeth, to play cards.
The Lordship of Hunsdon was created, by
Elizabeth I, for her maternal cousin, Sir Henry
Carey, after she granted Hunsdon to him in 1559.
It is thought that much of Henry VIIIs
house was pulled down in the early 17th century.
The estate was sequestered after the Civil War.
More of the house was pulled down around 1745
but, at the beginning of 19th century, an almost
new house was built incorporating what little
remained of Henry VIIIs mansion. It again
fell into a ruinous state in early Victorian
times after its builders, the Calverts, left. It
was brought back to life in about 1860 when
renovations and unfortunate Victorianizations
were carried out.
In 1983 the building was once again repaired
at which time much 15th century brickwork was
revealed. The house is now less than a quarter of
the size of Henrys great Tudor house and is
thought to be based on one of its wings.
Hunsdon, which lies North West of Harlow
in Hertfordshire, is set in formal gardens and
mature parkland and is presently for sale through
the agent FPD Savills.
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