further history of the site ...
The listing description describes Letheringham Lodge as a 16th century hunting lodge, and goes into such detail that it indicates that the lister had full access to the building (1966).
More detailed investigation however, suggests that the building has a more complex history. One suggestion is that it had been built as a dowager house for Elizabeth Wingfield, in the mid 15th century. She was thought to have been the grandmother of Sir John Wingfield. The Wingfield family had been powerful landowners and politicians in Suffolk from the mid 14th century well into the 18th century. Sir John Wingfield was an eminent politician, serving as a soldier and bodyguard, vice chamberlain to King Henry VIII, privy counsellor, responsible for introducing legislation into the House of Lords, including that for the disillusion of the monasteries. He was the King’s guard at the entrance of Anne of Cleaves into the country at Deal, and by marriage related to the de Vere family, the Dukes of Oxford.
Sir John Wingfield's cousin was the Duke of Brandon, who later married Mary Tudor and his daughter, Katherine Wingfield was a close friend of Anne Boleyn, who was condemned to death partly on Katherine’s deathbed confession.
The size of the massive oak timbers, each of them measuring 19” x 19” square would suggest both a significant show of wealth and possibly a date earlier than the beginning of the 16th century, timbers of this size becoming extremely rare after about 1550 due to the demand for great baulks for the navy, and the giving up of the forests following the disillusion of the monasteries. The close studding visible internally and the semi circular heads to the windows on the first floor north gallery suggest an earlier Tudor date rather than a later Tudor date, leading us to think that the original building was a “gloriet” or banqueting house in which to entertain guests. As such, this had jetties on all four sides and seems to have been built around the central chimney stack. The staircase might have been internally to the rear (roughly in the space partly occupied by the proposed en-suite bathroom or further to the exterior over the stairs now leading to the cellar). The location is substantially lost.
The rear extension, also in timber frame construction but with a northern brick gable, is of later construction, and the head of the door leading into the kitchen, formerly an external door, is inscribed EW 1610.
There are several members of the Wingfield family to which the letter E could be ascribed, including Elizabeth Wingfield, the great-granddaughter of Sir John, or her son Edward Maria Wingfield who returned in disgrace from Virginia, USA in 1608, and died in Stonley in 1619. The date 1610 is reasonable for the door and its framework; it is satisfactory also for the exposed timberwork. It may have at this time merely been a service wing and the large inglenook fireplace on the north wall would seem to indicate that this was its primary function. The provision of a cellar beneath and other rooms, with slightly inferior bedrooms to the rear might also indicate that this was the primary function of this element of the house. This date would also suit the re-roofing of the property, the roof structure comprising trenched purlins in oak trusses, prominent from the end of the 16th century but using timbers from a collar purlin roof, popular from the mid 15th century onwards.
The staircase wing to the west is later, possibly late 17th century and is possibly the same date as the brick gable wall to the north, which in Flemish garden bond could be dated to the 1680’s or the early decades of the 18th century. Of similar date, would be the brick noggin infill visible in the north wall of the earlier building exposed in the kitchen, and the cluster of four chimneys appearing above the gable wall at the same location. Later brick additions on the dormer window are predominately 19th century.
The 18th century works are difficult to deduce, some of the windows may date from the late 18th century, the lining of the external render finish in imitation of stonework could be late 18th century/early 19th century, the likelihood is that very little work was undertaken in the middle of the 18th century due to economic factors.
Close examination of the timber frame particularly at first floor level but also at ground floor level indicates the location of windows roughly in the present position. With paired windows on either side of the principal beam on the north wall of the jetted section being replicated in the ground floor section of the same building, with further evidence for windows shown by shutter grooves on this elevation and on the east elevation in particular.
The property had a major refurbishment in the 19th century, which added the bay window to the sitting room, Suffolk casement to ground and first floor window locations elsewhere, and possibly sanitation.
Edward Martin (Cambridge Garden Society) has suggested that most moated sites in Suffolk were developed between 1200 and 1350, suggesting that the earliest property on this site could have been 14th century. Most moated sites at that time were gardens, the purpose of the moat being to protect from rabbits and deer. In this case, the size is such that it may have been too small for a garden, in our opinion and is much more likely to have been constructed for a building of some sort.