Old Gorhambury House - History and Facts | History Hit

Old Gorhambury House

St Albans, England, United Kingdom

The ruins of a Tudor mansion that was the contemporary cutting-edge, Queen Elizabeth herself visited the property. The house gained repute as home to Sir Nicholas Bacon and later his celebrated son Sir Francis.

Lily Johnson

17 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Old Gorhambury House

Set in picturesque countryside, Old Gorhambury House is a Tudor mansion built from 1563 to 1568. It gained repute as the home of the Lord Keeper Sir Nicholas Bacon and later his celebrated son Sir Francis. It was visited by Queen Elizabeth I on a number of occasions.

Old Gorhambury House history

Like many clerical properties in Tudor England, shortly after its construction Old Gorhambury’s future was plunged into uncertainty. With the Dissolution of Monasteries and Chantries first under the great Tudor King Henry VIII, and later pursued more rigorously by his son the Protestant boy king Edward VI, the mansion looked set to fall into disuse.

Fortunately, the site was purchased by a powerful man: Lord Keeper of the Seal, Sir Nicholas Bacon. With the help of his son he improved the property, with the beautiful remnants of Tudor architecture and its focal porch largely what remains today.

Although the original exterior of the house was modest compared to the palatial homes of the Lord Keeper’s predecessors, Elizabeth’s remarks towards the ‘little house’ in 1572 prompted Sir Nicholas to extend it further; even adding a statue of her father (Henry VIII) to the rear of the property in time for the Queen’s next visit.

Later, when his son Francis’ political fortunes improved upon the accession of James I, the many titles he received meant his status, and in turn the status of the property he had inherited, increased further.

Old Gorhambury eventually began to crumble however – as did its owners reputation. In 1621 Sir Francis faced charges of bribery and corruption and found himself locked away in the notorious Tower of London, if only for a few days. Regardless, his public career was disgraced and he fell into massive debt.

Old Gorhambury House today

Today, the site is maintained by the English Heritage Trust and is open to visitors. Set against the backdrop of the pleasant St Albans countryside, the ruins make for an interesting and picturesque day out.

Visits to Old Gorhambury House also provide the perfect accompaniment to a visit to the new Gorhambury mansion; built c.1777-84 in the Palladian style. The nearby water gardens of Sir Francis Bacon also complete the magical journey through the estate’s history, where guests can walk in the footsteps of some of the most important figures in early modern Britain.

Getting to Old Gorhambury House

Old Gorhambury House is located just off the A4147 on the outskirts of St Albans, with a 2-mile walk or cycle up Gorhambury Drive to reach the site. Closer access by car is only available on Thursdays 2pm-5pm between May and September. The nearest train stations are St Albans Abbey and St Albans, both around 3 miles away, while the Arriva/Uno services 300 and 301 pass the start of the drive.

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