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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, notably Prince Edward (later King Edward VI) at Hunsdon 1546throughout 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 VIII’s 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 VIII’s 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 Henry’s 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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