Author Topic: (The Historical) Hengrave Hall needs you!  (Read 2612 times)

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Offline Vyxen

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(The Historical) Hengrave Hall needs you!
« on: February 21, 2009, 08:44:22 AM »
This is a post from Paula Peterka, Feb. 19th, 2009 @ 06:46 pm,  that I've copied here for your consideration.  Please consider reposting this item where you think it will receive wider attention.

Hengrave Hall Needs YOU!

For those of you who don't know me, I am a reenactor and historian. I am one of the Living History Directors at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, where I have been privileged to lead a fine group of people who portray the household of Sir Thomas and Lady Kytson, at Hengrave Hall.

Hengrave Hall, as some of you know, is not merely the focal point around which the Living History Company of St. George at the Maryland Renaissance Festival exists; it is also a very real building, located near Bury St. Edmonds, in Suffolk, East Anglia, England.  It is a very old manor house, having been listed in the Domesday Book, which was written for William the Bastard to detail all of the holdings in his newly conquered kingdom. Its ownership passed through various hands, and by the early 1500's it belonged to Edward Stafford, Duke of Buckingham. Buckingham sold it, along with several other properties, to an up-and-coming young mercer named Thomas Kytson (later Sir Thomas), who set about renovating and expanding the old house into one of the grand and stately manors that so typified the age of Great Tudor Building. It is an embattled manor-house, built along the quadrangle with inner courtyard style. It is made of yellow limestone specifically quarried for the purpose, and has stone dressings with expensive and specially-commissioned architectural features, including octagonal turrets and an oriel window over the front entrance that includes original 16rh Century Arms of the Kytson and Gage Families, as well as the Royal Arms of King Henry VII. In the great hall there is an oriel window with fan vaulting by John Wastell, the architect of the chapels at Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge. Its gateway, according to Mr. Gough in his Additions to the Britannia, vol. ii. p. 82. edit. 1789, “is of such singular beauty, and in such high preservation, that perhaps a more elegant specimen of the architecture of the age in which it was erected cannot be seen.”

The Kytsons never fully accepted the break with Rome, and enclosed their chapel to become part of the manor house to keep their recusancy concealed. Because of this, it contains one of the finest collections of pre-reformation stained glass in existence today, including 21 lights of Flemish glass commissioned by Kytson and installed in 1538, depicting salvation history from the creation of the world to the Last Judgment. This is the only collection of pre-reformation glass that has remained in situ in a domestic chapel anywhere in England.

Hengrave Hall underwent major alterations 1775 and again 1897-1900, and yet still contains much of it's original work and flair, including stone fireplaces, oak door cases with ogee-molded chamfers; first-floor coved ceilings of trefoil form, with molded cornices; and a large limestone fireplace in the dining room in Renaissance style with Ionic columns, strapwork, and painted coat of arms.

It has hosted King Henry VIII, Queen Mary I, and Queen Elizabeth I on their Royal Progresses, and King James I for a family wedding. It was the home of madrigalist John Wilbye and composer Edward Johnson. It is a unique witness to nearly 1,000 years of English history, and stands in mute testimony to the artists and architecture that transformed the country. It has an American link as well, for Margaret, the sister of Sir Thomas Kytson the Elder, married into the Washington family, and is an ancestress of George Washington, and Sit Thomas Kytson the younger married Elizabeth Cornwallis, whose many-times-removed grand-nephew Charles Cornwallis led British troops against his cousin George.

The Hall itself passed from the Kytson to the Gage Family, and from there to the Lysaght family in 1887, and the Wood family in 1895. It was then bought by the Religious of the Assumption, who ran a convent school until 1974, and then founded an ecumenical Community of Reconciliation and Christian Conference Center.

Hengrave Hall has inspired the thousands who passed beneath its stately entrance and served their callings upon its grounds, and the thousands who know of it only as off-site home of a group of devoted reenactors who are dedicated to preserving and sharing the knowledge of Renaissance customs, skills, crafts, and folkways.

And now it needs your help.

In 2005, the Sisters of the Assumption had to sell Hengrave Hall because they could not raise enough capital for necessary improvements. It's new owner, David Harris, has submitted plans to convert this long-lived, grand old house that truly IS living history, into private flats. I ask anyone and everyone that has been touched by this house, or by the Company of St. George and its mission at the Maryland Renaissance festival, or by Living History and reenactment activities of the Tudor and Elizabethan eras, or by a love of history and preservation, to please join me in urging the local zoning commission to disallow this plan, and the Heritage Trust to purchase Hengrave so that future generations may study and enjoy this most precious piece of property for the national jewel that it is.

Please help by writing positive, polite, and concise letters to the people listed below. These are the contacts for the conservation office. I am trying to get contact information for the Heritage Trust, and will post with it later.

Conservation Team,
Environment Directorate,
St Edmundsbury Borough Council,
Western Way, Bury StEdmunds, IP33 3YS

Christine Leveson
Principal Conservation Officer
T: 01284 757356

Claire Johnson
Senior Conservation Officer
T: 01284 757339


Thank you from the bottom of my heart,

Vyxen, the Yuletide Wench
Renegade Snowflake; Bodhisattva Babe
MDRF IWG 1531/ Merc 480/ IFoRP 104


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