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Who built the Tudor mansion?

Late 17th century view of the Tudor mansion at Rycote.

The great mystery surrounding Rycote’s lost Tudor mansion is for whom was it built? To date no documentary evidence concerning the precise date of the mansion’s construction has been discovered. Historians have differed in their interpretation of the mansion’s architectural styling with suggested construction dates ranging from the early 1500s to the 1550s. The Tudor mansion, therefore, can only have been commissioned by one of three individuals: Sir Richard Fowler, Giles Heron or John, Baron Williams of Thame.

Channel 4’s Time Team placed the mansion’s probable construction date as not earlier than 1500 but no later than 1530. The Time Team conclusion was that the mansion was built for Sir Richard Fowler. Citing the Tudor antiquary John Leland’s claim that Fowler was “very onthrift” they argued that the mansion’s construction had bankrupted Fowler and necessitated his sale of Rycote to Sir John Heron in 1521. However, documentary evidence suggests that Fowler was already in financial difficulties at the beginning of the sixteenth century and may not have possessed the wealth to build such a lavish residence. Fowler is cited as a debtor in Chancery and Exchequer records at The National Archives.

The architectural historians Garner and Stratton date the styling of the mansion to the 1520s, a view also supported by Sherwood and Pevsner (Garner & Stratton, Domestic Architecture, p. 144; Sherwood & Pevsner, Oxfordshire, p. 748). If it was constructed during the 1520s, then the mansion was almost certainly built for Giles Heron. Heron had inherited Rycote upon the death of his father Sir John in 1522.

Other evidence suggests that the mansion dates from the mid-sixteenth century and was therefore the work of John, Baron Williams of Thame. Williams acquired Rycote from Giles Heron in 1539. Writing in the 1740s, Thomas Delafield claimed that “it has been said, that the most antient part of the present great House at Rycote, was the work of the Quatremaynes: And the Remainder seems to have been built, or eminently repaired, by John Lord Williams of Thame, his Arms appearing on the Portal in the grand front” (MS. Gough Oxon. 31, fol. 216r). A clause in Williams’s 1559 will, respecting “the new lodging, and the old without the moat at Rycote” may provide further evidence in support of Delafield’s assertion (Some Account of Lord Williams, p. 30). More recently, John Goodall has argued that the architectural style of the mansion is consistent with that of the mid-sixteenth century (Goodall, 'Rycote Park', p. 66).

Your comments: Add to the archive

Whoever first built the house,the restoration work carried out by Bernard and Sarah Taylor since 2000 is both sympathetic and superbly impressive.

Tony Westhead 08/05/2014

It is interesting that a house which became so influential and was linked with royalty for such a sustained period was initially built in relatively obscure circumstances. The physical history of the house can be taken to represent the socio-economic history of the occupants. As the inhabitants attained patronage and political influence they demonstrated their authority by remodelling and enhancing the house. Perhaps each development of the estate can be seen as a statement of authority by the occupants of the house, firmly based within a framework of established cultural trends.

Theodora Boorman 23/10/2012

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Who built the Tudor mansion?

The greatest mystery surrounding Rycote’s lost Tudor mansion is for whom was it built?
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