Fig.4 1st edition 6” OS map, 1889 (LVIII.SE)
2.37 In December 2013, samples were taken from timbers used in the construction of the Lodge with the aim to provide additional understanding of the structure with the aid of the technique known as tree-ring dating. The findings from the subsequent analysis of ring-width patterns appeared in Dr Martin Bridge’s ‘Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory Report, 2013/34’.
2.38 The felling date for the north-west corner post was given as 1472-5. Caution needs to be exercised in interpreting the date of a whole phase on this single timber, but it does imply a fifteenth century date for the primary phase.
2.39 Four timbers from the roof over the secondary phase dated and appeared to form a single group felled at the same time. One timber, an upper purlin, gave a felling date of summer/autumn 1609. This accorded well with the carved date on the door lintel to the former outside door bearing the text ‘EW 1610’, and Bridge concluded that the roof was therefore an early seventeenth century roof and not a late seventeenth century roof as suggested in the listing description.
2.40 In the light of the dating provided by Dr Bridge’s analysis, a comprehensive ‘Historic Assessment’ of the Lodge is currently being prepared by Leigh Alston. In his provisional ‘Synopsis’ (2014), Alston describes the Lodge as being ‘among the most historically important and picturesque houses in Britain’, and puts forward the argument that:
The Lodge, built in 1472 by the powerful Wingfield family, was designed as a hunting lodge or ‘gloriette’ from which high status visitors could watch the hunt and admire the surrounding landscape in the latest fashion of the day. Surrounded by a water-filled moat the house lies on high ground 1km south of the Wingfield’s principal seat at Letheringham Old Hall. The property’s position as the dominant feature of the local landscape, with uninterrupted views in all directions, represents a key part of its historic integrity as a medieval hunting lodge.
2.41 Analysing the building itself, Alston records that the original building was a remarkable timber-framed structure of 29ft square, with a jettied upper storey supported by massive, finely carved posts at all four corners. He adds that similarly carved posts projected from the corners of the first floor to support an overhanging roof or cornice ‘in a manner that has no known parallel elsewhere’.
2.42 Alston’s interpretation of the original layout of each storey is that it was identical, with a wide gallery to the rear (north), two heated rooms of modest scale but with finely moulded ceilings on both sides of a central chimney, and a small, plain antechamber in the north-eastern corner. A rear extension with a massive gable chimney was added in 1610, along with an impressive new staircase, but the property, Alston discerns, has since remained little altered.
2.43 Alston’s concluding remarks are that ‘medieval hunting lodges are exceptionally rare’. Recent dendrochronological analysis has dated its timber frame to c.1472, this being ‘some forty years earlier than previously thought’. He affirms that the Lodge substantially predates the famous ‘Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge’ in Epping Forest, which was begun by Henry VIII in 1543.
2.44 Further research into the history of the Lodge is also presently being undertaken by Edward Martin. In his interim report (2014), Martin describes the Lodge as being ‘a unique and internationally significant survival from the late Middle Ages’, and puts forward the following argument:
It immediately stands out from the other medieval moated sites of Suffolk by its small size – at only 0.1 of an acre it is the smallest occupied moated site in the county. Although small, the building on the moated island stands out as not being a normal domestic building. The original part is a perfectly square timber-framed structure that was jettied on all four sides, with large and decorative wooden posts at each corner.
This immediately indicates that this was a ‘display’ building – something designed to impress visitors, and to underline this, the building is prominently sited on a hilltop. Historical maps indicate that the Lodge was originally adjacent to or, more likely, actually within a deer park. Both moats and deer parks were important ways of displaying lordly power and prestige in the Middle Ages.
2.45 Acknowledging Sir Anthony Wingfield’s close contact with the court of King Henry VIII, Martin suggests that his well-decorated Letheringham Lodge was perhaps a combined banqueting house and an observation place for watching hunts in his deer park, adding:
There are only a few parallels for ornate banqueting houses or ‘housis of pleasure’ for relaxed dining, entertainment or quiet withdrawal at this time, most notably Henry VIII’s own banqueting howse at Nonsuch Palace in Surrey, which was in existence by 1550.
There are also some parallels for simpler hunt-watching places or ‘standings’, like the so-called Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge in Epping Forest, Essex. Cited as a ‘unique example of a surviving timber- framed hunt standing’, this was actually built in 1543 for King Henry VIII.
The Nonsuch banqueting house only survives as foundations and Queen Elizabeth’s Hunting Lodge is a simpler, less decorative structure than Letheringham Lodge.
2.46 In the light of the dating provided by Dr Bridge’s analysis, Martin declares:
As a banqueting house/hunt standing of Henry VIII’s reign, Letheringham Lodge would be an important rarity, but recent dendro- dating has dramatically increased its importance. One of the principal corner posts of the building has yielded a felling date of 1472-75. This makes the structure considerably earlier and without any surviving parallel. The tree-ring dating suggests that the builder of Letheringham Lodge was Sir John Wingfield (1428-81). Although only of knightly rank, the Wingfields had ready access to both royal and noble households and are likely to have been aware of the latest fashions in gardens and architecture.
2.47 Martin notes that the interior of the Lodge was ‘refreshed’ by Sir Anthony Wingfield, by the insertion of decorative panelling and probably other improvements, sometime after his marriage to Elizabeth de Vere in the late 1510s.
2.48 On the subject of Sir Anthony’s grandson, Sir Thomas Wingfield, who died in 1610 and, in particular, his young wife Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Drue Drury of Riddlesworth in Norfolk, Martin writes:
Elizabeth appears to have renovated the Lodge, reroofing it and making some additions – the recent tree-ring dating revealed a felling date in the summer/autumn of 1609 for one of the rafters and there is the inscription ‘EW 1610’ above one of the doors. Her works to the Lodge may have been connected to her second marriage in August 1610 to Henry Reynolds. This marriage was a failure well before her early death in 1620.
2.49 Elizabeth’s son, Anthony, was created a Baronet in 1627, but by this time the family had moved to Godwins Place in Hoo, and then, in the early 1630s, to a new residence called The White House in Easton. Sir Anthony died in 1638.
2.50 Martin concludes that by the early 1700s, the deer park would have almost certainly been converted into farmland. The Lodge, he adds, would have become a farmhouse, but continued to form part of the Letheringham/Easton estate until 1919.
3.0 LOCAL PLANNING AUTHORITY RECORD
3.1 Letheringham Lodge and record of planning applications submitted to Suffolk Coastal District Council, 1987-2013.
C/11/0978, C/11/0979 and C/11/0980 C/13/0374
C/88/0729 and C/88/0730
C/94/0227 and C/94/0228
C/01/1501, C/01/1502 and C/01/1503 13/3847/LBC
C/9605 and C/9606
C/99/0850, C/99/0851 and C/99/0852
Fig.5 Summary of planning applications submitted to SCDC, 1987-2013
Reference, Building: May 1999, Proposal
C/9605 - 5 and 6
Conversion of redundant agricultural building to 3 no. holiday cottages
Approved 1 February 1989 (subject to section 52 agreement, rescinded in 1998)
Change of use of redundant agricultural building to farm shop
18 September 1987 (Revocation Order 1989)
Conversion of redundant barn to dwelling
Approved 6 June 1989
￼Partial-demolition and other alterations in connection with conversion of barn to dwelling
Approved 6 June 1989
C/88/2566 - 2
Conversion of redundant agricultural building to farm shop (alternative building to that approved under C/9606)
11 August 1989
C/91/0962 - 1, 7, 9, 11 and 12
Conversion of redundant agricultural buildings to 5 no. holiday cottages
Approved 24 August 1992 (subject to section 106 agreement, rescinded upon implementation of C/99/0851 or C/99/0852)
Conversion of redundant barn to dwelling (renewal of planning permission C/88/0729)
￼Approved 6 April 1994
￼￼￼Partial-demolition and other alterations in connection with conversion of barn to dwelling (renewal of listed building consent C/88/0730)
￼￼￼￼￼￼Approved 6 April 1994
￼￼￼￼￼C/96/1073 - ￼1, 7, 9, 11 and 12
Conversion of redundant agricultural buildings to 5 no. holiday cottages (renewal of planning permission C/91/0962)
21 October 1996 (subject to section 106 agreement, rescinded upon implementation of C/99/0851 or C/99/0852)
C/98/1396 - ￼￼￼￼￼5 and 6
￼￼￼Change of use of holiday cottages to residential use
￼￼￼￼￼￼Refused 4 May 1999
C/99/0850 - ￼￼￼2
￼￼Change of use of farm shop to B1 office and domestic storage use
14 September 1999
Change of use of pair of semi-detached cottages to use as accommodation ancillary to Letheringham Lodge
31 July 2000 (subject to section 106 agreement)
￼￼￼￼￼￼￼Change of use of holiday cottages to residential use (re-submission)
￼￼￼￼￼￼Approved 31 July 2000 (subject to section 106 agreement)
Conversion of west section of barn to provide accommodation ancillary to existing dwelling
￼￼Approved 13 November 2001
￼￼￼Alterations to west section of barn
￼￼￼￼￼￼Approved 13 November 2001
Alterations to west section of barn
13 November 2001
Retention of insertion of windows
Withdrawn 20 April 2011
Retention of insertion of windows
24 August 2011
Retention of insertion of windows
4 October 2011 (Listed Building Enforcement Notice authorised)
￼Retention of removal of chimney
24 August 2011
Reinstatement of windows; replacement of render, together with associated repairs to timber-frame
19 April 2013 (subject to condition requiring reinstatement of windows within 18 months of date of consent)
Retention of summer-house
2 October 2013
Internal alterations; insertion of windows and rooflights
3.2 The agent’s letter dated 6 April 1987, which accompanied application reference C/9605, included the following handwritten note:
Please could you confirm that an application for listed building consent is not required for these proposals.
3.3 The agent’s letter dated 19 July 1991, which accompanied application reference C/91/0962, included the following typed note:
When submitting application C/9605 we did enquire whether an application for listed building consent was necessary to which your reply was no. As these buildings are further away from the main house (the Lodge) we have assumed this to be the case in this instance.
3.4 An enforcement investigation, reference EN/05/0347, into possible unauthorised works to ‘outbuildings’, concluded that no breach of control had occurred, and the case was subsequently closed on 17 July 2009.
4.0 THE PRINCIPAL BUILDING(S)
4.1 In 1949 Letheringham Lodge was included on a ‘Provisional list of buildings of architectural or historic interest’, and was described in the list entry as follows:
Sixteenth century with indications of fifteenth century work in the corner posts and some internal woodwork. The early work is seen in four very substantial corner posts, with enriched caps. An original well staircase, probably late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. There was until recently some good carved panelling.