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Hunsdon House

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Honesdon; Hunsdon Tower; Turris manerij de Howndesdon

In the civil parish of Hunsdon.
In the historic county of Hertfordshire.
Modern Authority of Hertfordshire.
1974 county of Hertfordshire.

OS Map Grid Reference: TL41901275
Latitude 51.79540° Longitude 0.05628°

Hunsdon House has been described as a certain Palace, and also as a certain Tower House.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law*.

Description

Country House. Mid C15 moated brick tower house of Sir William Oldhall; altered 1527-34 for Henry VIII; altered and extended to W by Carey family in first half of C17; W parts demolished by Josias Nicolson c1745 and moat filled in c1788; raised and extensively rebuilt, and replanned with main entrance at E, by Nicolson Calvert 1805-11 in castellated form; interior remodelled, windows altered and elaborate cast iron verandah added on S c1861 for James Wylie. A large rectangular red brick block, of 3 storeys and cellars, with low 2 storeys service wing extending to W looking into a walled yard with 2 storeys crenellated NW gate house and octagonal 2 storeys SW tower. The main block has 2 parallel hipped slate roofs concealed behind an embattled parapet, and large, pointed, diagonal buttresses at each corner. The broad, projecting, 3 storeys, E porch appears to have had similar buttresses removed. A square, brick, stair- turret projects in the angle on the N side and runs up above the parapet. The exterior of the block has been refaced extensively but at the W end, and on the return on the N wall up to a rectangular bay, the old brickwork has been only disguised by red mortar tuck-pointed in white, which has weathered to reveal the old walls. These are characterised by a broad stone string at 1st floor level, diapering in black headers above this, tall stone arrow-slits often set at the angle of the buttress and wall, and small square stone windows, now blocked. The present large windows have presumably obliterated others. The top storey and parapet above a hollow moulded string course are later additions. The stone arrow-slits have ogee-cusped expansions at top, bottom and half-height. They are copied elsewhere around the building using brick for the plain vertical jambs. The present C19 windows have plaster surrounds and 2-light or 3-light moulded wooden mullioned and transomed windows. Of the oldest period are the cellars under the E parts, notably 1 with a lofty pointed arched brick vault covering 48'6" by 18'6" lying N-S with a doorway into the base of an octagonal garderobe shaft. Elsewhere are brick masses presumably to support the 100' great tower of Oldhall's house described by William of Worcester in 1478 (Itineraries ed and trans J H Harvey (1969) Oxford). The very high Ground floor rooms have fine Classical interiors of the later C19 with modelled plaster ceilings, cornices and friezes, moulded woodwork, and marble fire surrounds. A heavy, triple arched, 2 storeys screen of marbled columns with astylar caps gives onto the stairwell. Chimneypiece in dining room dated 1882. Lintel built into garden gateway to W inscribed 'HH 1593'. S side of octagonal SW tower a summerhouse with pointed arched openings. A house of the greatest historical interest (Pevsner (1977) 210). It incorporates fragmentary remains of 1 of the most important medieval houses in the county, the architectural history of which has recently been traced by the RCHM (Typescript). A royal residence with extensive parks for hunting, forming the centre of the honour of Hunsdon from 1532 and associated with all the Tudor monarchs from Henry VIII until Elizabeth granted it to her cousin Sir Henry Carey, Lord Hunsdon in 1558/9. The house has a suite of C19 interiors of special interest. It forms a picturesque historic group with the parish church. (Listed Building Report)

A Royal licence to crenellate was granted in 1447 May 26 (Click on the date for details of this licence.).

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Sources of information, references and further reading
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This record last updated on Wednesday, July 2, 2014

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