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The History of
Wingfield Manor
By John Timbs

Wingfield, situated four or five miles eastward of the centre of Derbyshire, is one of the richest specimens extant of the highly ornamented embattled mansions of the time of Henry VII and Henry VIII; the period of the transition from the Castle to the Palace, and undoubtedly the best era of English architecture. The present manor-house, according to Camden, was built about the year 1440, by Ralph, Lord Cromwell, who was Treasurer of England; and the testimony of Camden that he was the founder, is strongly corroborated by the bags or purses of stone (alluding to the office of Treasurer which he filled) carved over the gateway leading to the quadrangle. Bags or purses are mentioned to have been carved on the manor-house of Coly Weston, in Northamptonshire, augmented by this Lord Cromwell; and there were similar ornaments carved in wood, removed about two hundred and fifty years ago from Wingfield Manor.

The manor-house originally consisted of two square courts, and a noble hall, which was lighted by a beautiful octagon window, and a range of Gothic windows. Part of the chapel remains, with the great State apartment lighted by a rich Gothic window (See Architectural Detail Essay) .

In the thirty-third year of the reign of Henry VIII, it appears that Wingfield Manor was in the possession of the Earl of Shrewsbury, who, in the time of Queen Elizabeth, held in his custody here the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots. Her suite of apartments were traditionally on the west side of the north court, which is remembered as the most beautiful part of the building. It communicated with the great tower, whence, it is said, the ill-starred captive had sometimes an opportunity of seeing the friends approach with whom she held a secret correspondence. It is inferred that her captivity at Wingfield commenced in 1569, in which year an attempt was made by Leonard Dacre to rescue her. After which, Elizabeth becoming suspicious of the Earl of Shrewsbury, under pretence of his Lordship being in ill-health, directed the Earl of Huntingdon to take care of the Queen of Scots in Shrewsbury's house: and her train was reduced to thirty persons. This change happened the year after Mary was removed from Bolton Castle, in Yorkshire, to Tutbury Castle, in Staffordshire, and placed under the care of the Earl of Shrewsbury. Her captivity at Wingfield is stated to have extended to nine years; but it is improbable that so large a proportion of the time she was in the custody of this nobleman should have been spent here. For it is well known that from 1568 to 1584, she was at Buxton, Sheffield, Coventry, Tutbury, and other places; and if her confinement here continued so long, it must have been with many intervals of absence.

Wingfield continued to be the occasional residence of the Shrewsburys till the death of the Earl Gilbert, in the year 1616. After this, the property was sold to Mr. Immanuel Halton who, in 1666, was resident at the manor-house. In 1817, it was still in the possession of one of the Halton family, but not then inhabited. The last of the family who resided here became its spoiler. For, desiring to build himself a house at the foot of the high hill upon which the mansion stands, he pulled down and unroofed part of the fine old structure, so that the hall, with its proud emblazonry of the Shrewsbury arms and quarterings, became exposed to the decaying influences of the elements.

The mansion had been, however, previously much injured during the Civil War in the reign of Charles I; and there are a few singular incidents in its fate. Wingfield, being possessed by the Royal party, was besieged and taken by Lord Grey of Groby and Sir John Gall of Hopton - brave officers in the service of the Parliament who, according to Whitelock, voted them a letter of thanks for this and other services. The assault was begun on the east side with caution placed on Pentridge Common and a half-moon battery, raised for its defence, was soon carried; but a breach being found impracticable, the cannon were removed to a wood on the opposite side. They soon opened a considerable breach in the wall and captured the place. Colonel Dalby, who was the governor, was killed in the siege. He had disguised himself in the dress of a common soldier, but being seen and known by a deserter, he was shot by him in the face as he was walking in one of the stables. The hole through which the assailant introduced his murderous musket was long shown near the porter's lodge.

Extract from John Timbs' Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales (1870)


Discover Wingfield Manor in Derbyshire
off the A615 between Alfreton and Matlock. Turn off on the B5035 towards South Wingfield and Chirck. The entrance to Wingfield Manor is on the left-hand side of the road, soon after passing through the former. It is quite difficult to find and there is a distinct lack of signs. The manor can be seen crowning the adjoining hillside. There is little space for parking by the gate and a long walk up the hill to overcome - but it's worth it!

Wingfield Manor is privately owned, but is administered by English Heritage. Check their site for dates you can visit. There is a working farm within the grounds.

There is an entrance fee for the general public.
Free entry for English Heritage, Heritage in Wales (Second Year) & Historic Scotland (Second Year) Members.

Architectural Details

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