Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The real Wolf Hall?

You've seen the tv series, now follow the sign
I've read the books, I've seen the tv series and now I've seen the house. Well actually I haven't – it's not there any more – but I have visited the spot where Henry VIII's wife to be, Jane Seymour and her family lived.
The clue was a road sign pointing to 'Wolf Hall' and the name of the canal bridge above the top lock of the Crofton flight.
And it leads you to Wolf Hall Manor but not the real one
All that's left of the Seymour manor house today is a sprawling but decidedly down at heel part 16th century house, called, yes, Wolf Hall Manor and across the road is Wolf Hall Farmhouse, whose hugely out of scale Tudor chimneys suggest a property much older than the rest of the present building. Historians reckon it was probably the laundry for the main house.
And where is that? Well somewhere in between the two buildings but not a trace remains. Not even a painting. Last surviving part was a great barn which Henry apparently visited. This was destroyed by fire in the early 20th century though by then was in ruins.
Huge Tudor chimneys are a clue to the farmhouse's origins
Hilary Mantel fans will know the story of Jane Seymour, the modest lady in waiting he took a fancy to while married to Anne Boleyn, wife number two. The day after Anne's head was removed he married Jane!
But it wasn't long before the Seymour family's luck changed. Jane produced the much wanted male heir (the future Edward VI) but died of complications shortly afterwards at only 29. Her two brothers later cashed in on the family contacts with royalty - Thomas tried to marry various royally connected women including the then Princess Elizabeth but finally had to settle for the dead Henry VIII's ageing widow. He then got involved in various treasonous plots and lost his head too.
Brother Edward was made Protector to the young King Edward VI but syphoned off the royal cash to fund building of Somerset House and Syon Park House. He was beheaded as well after unwisely going for a third new build pile too. Later his son crossed Elizabeth I, was chucked in jail for a few years and came out to find Wolf Hall in rack and ruin so it was pulled down.
The present manor spent some years as a haunt of local hippies and druggies before it was recently inherited by the grandchildren of the late owner. One of these now lives there with his family and, boy, do we wish him luck with his restoration project. It makes our ten year restoration of the White House in Suffolk look look like a quick re-decoration job.

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