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Waynefletes Tower, Esher

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Waynfletes Tower; Wolseys Tower; Esher Palace; Esher Place; Esher Episcopi

In the civil parish of Esher.
In the historic county of Surrey.
Modern Authority of Surrey.
1974 county of Surrey.
Medieval County of Surrey.

OS Map Grid Reference: TQ13086510
Latitude 51.37374° Longitude -0.37678°

Waynefletes Tower, Esher has been described as a probable Masonry Castle, and also as a certain Palace.

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains.

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


Wayneflete's Tower is the only surviving remains of the late 15th century Bishops palace and later Royal Palace of Esher. The site has been occupied since the 11th century and Bishop Wayneflete's palace was built on the site of an earlier medieval manor house. The palace was built around 1465-80, and was taken over by Cardinal Wolsey in 1529, who carried out various alterations. After his downfall, Henry VIII took possession of the palace in 1530 and it became one of his royal residences. The palace was used by Henry VIII and by Edward VI but during the reign of Queen Mary it was returned to the see of Winchester. Various alterations were subsequently made to the building, however in 1678, the whole building, apart from the tower, was demolished. The tower was the palace's gatehouse and is the only early structure that has survived. In 1729 William Kent built, for the statesman Henry Pelham, a new mansion on the site which incorporated the tower. Today (2009) the tower is a privately owned house.
Wayneflete's Tower or gatehouse is three stories high with four-storeyed turrets. It is built of brick with stone dressings to the battlements and window surrounds. The tower contained a central vaulted hall with a heated room on the south side and a stair turret and a possible porter's lodge on the north. The central hall probably rose up through the first and second floors of the central and south bays of the building. Recent excavations by The Time Team have identified the layout of Wayneflete's original palace which included a curtain wall, a great hall, associated buildings such as kitchens and a large castle-like keep with octagonal corner turrets.
The 1730s alterations to the surviving gatehouse by William Kent included the addition of three-storey wings either side of the gatehouse, however these were demolished in the early 19th century. His internal alterations in the gatehouse are early examples of the Rococo-Gothic style. (PastScape)

Former gatehouse to Esher Place. 1475-80, probably by John Cowper for Bishop Waynefleet of Winchester, altered by William Kent for Henry Pelham 1729. Red and blue brick in diaper pattern. Square. 3 storeys with 4 storied polygonal angle turrets, stone string courses between each, on dentilled band to second floor and on arcaded corbel band to turrets. Stone dressings to battlements and window surrounds, 2 quatrefoil leaded casements on top stage of angle turrets,designed by Kent who also remodelled the leaded, ogee arched windows on the lower floors- 3 to each storey. Single, stone ogee arched porch between the turrets with stone crockets to gable and Greek geometric pattern impost blocks to arch-also designed by Kent. C20 panelled door in arched stone surround behind. Interior: Entrance Hall (original gateway) rib-vaulted and stuccoed by Kent, some ceiling and wall decorations survive. Remodelled with some of the earliest examples of Rococo-Gothic. Designs for the work by Kent, dated 1733, survive in R.I.B.A. The now vanished gardens, also designed by Kent, were famous in their day. (Listed Building Report)

Wayneflete's Tower was built circa 1475-80 by Bishop William Waynflete of Winchester as the gatehouse to Esher Palace (Time team date to 1462-72). It is four storied, built of brick and in its general form is similar to a number of contemporary brick gatetowers built by other major religious and aristocratic patrons. It contained a central vaulted hall flanked on its south side by a large heated room entered through a high quality door. On the north side there was a stair turret and a room which probably served as a porter's lodge. At first floor level there may have been a tall hall rising through the first and second floors of the central and south bays of the building. The other major surviving phase of fabric dates from the 1730s and was executed by William Kent for Henry Pelham. Never very defensive but later C18 Gothick alterations make it look even less so. Site of palace of bishops from C13. Early C17 plans show keep-like building (square tower with corner turrets) so possibly site of castle.

Excavated by Time Team in Sept 2005.
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This record last updated 15/08/2017 15:56:52

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