Little Wenham Hall

Has been described as a Possible Fortified Manor House

There are major building remains

NameLittle Wenham Hall
Alternative NamesWenham Castle; Wenham Parva
Historic CountrySuffolk
Modern AuthoritySuffolk
1974 AuthoritySuffolk
Civil ParishWenham Parva

Emery writes "Nothing illustrates the hazy distinction between fortified and non-fortified defensive houses ... than Little Wenham Hall. This is one of the most memorable late C13 houses in England. Though the site is moated, we have no evidence about the form of the enclosure, and the surviving tower-like structure of c, 1265-80 was not defensive. Yet two centuries later, Gilbert Debenham (d.1481) and his son, Sir Gilbert (d.c.1495) - 'exceptionally able and unscrupulous villains' - were able to use Little Wenham Hall as a base for their malevolent attacks against all Lancastrian supporters."

Moated fortified manor house, built circa 1260-90 and altered circa 1569 and in the 19th and 20th centuries. The ground floor of the house is rib-vaulted and the first floor contains a chapel. A wing added to the south west corner, probably in the 16th century, was later demolished. This house represents one of the earliest uses of home made brick in England. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

The C13 parish church, contemporary with the hall with some fine surviving wall paintings, seems to share the same enclosure as little Wenham Hall. The moat may never have enclosed the whole site and may have just been on the approach front of the house. There is some discussion as to if there was a timber hall attached to the brick chamber block and its size and form. Compare with Letheringham Hall a house attacked by Gilbert Debenham. The Hall is sometimes said to have been built by Sir John Vallibus (aka Vaux) who was the tenant of the manor but this manor was sublet to a royal clerk Master Roger de Holbrook who is more probably the builder of this particularly fine building. As well as being a royal clerk and cleric Roger seems to have had some business interests in Ipswich. These interests may have meant Roger had relationships with Flanders and the Flemish brick making industry and the early bricks may well be Flemish imports or made by Flemish experts. The clerical status of Roger may explain the large, high quality chapel that features prominently in the Hall and the relative lack of domestic quarters reflecting the modest needs of a single man. Gatehouse speculates the large chapel may have been useful for oath making associated with the legal and business interests of Roger Holbrook.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTM080390
Latitude52.0109786987305
Longitude1.03051996231079
Eastings608070
Northings239070
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved

Most of the sites or buildings recorded in this web site are NOT open to the public and permission to visit a site must always be sought from the landowner or tenant.

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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 29, 232-3
  • Martin, E., 2002, 'Little Wenham Hall, Suffolk: the reinterpretation of one of the 'incunabula of English domestic architecture'' in Pitte, D. and Ayers, B. (eds) La Maison Medievale en Normandie et en Angletaire, Actes des table rondes de Rouen et de Norwich (1998-1999) p. 157-166
  • Salter, Mike, 2001, The Castles of East Anglia (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 81
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 119
  • Martin, Edward, 1999 (3edn), 'Medieval Castles' in Dymond, David and Martin, Edward (eds) An Historical Atlas of Suffolk (Lavenham) p. 58-9
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 236
  • Blair, W.J., 1993, 'Hall and chamber: English domestic planning 1000-1250', in G. Meirion-Jones and M. Jones (eds), Manorial Domestic Buildings in England and Northern France (London: Occasional papers of the Society of Antiquaries of London 15) p. 1-21
  • Brown, R.Allen, 1989, Castles from the Air (Cambridge University Press) p. 226-7
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 461
  • Martin, Edward, 1977, in Sandon, E. (ed), Suffolk Houses A Study in Domestic Architecture p. 22-24 (Plan)
  • Pevsner, N., 1961, Buildings of England: Suffolk (London, Penguin) p. 43-4, 314-15
  • Dickinson, P.G.M., 1957, Little Guide to Suffolk
  • Lloyd, Nathaniel, 1925, History of English Brickwork (London: H Greville Montgomery) p. 4,5, 8, 40, 65, 56, 60, 89, 96, 107, 359 (Reissued 1983 by Antique Collectors Club, reprinted 2003)
  • Tipping, H.A., 1921, English Homes, period 1 Vol. 1 (London) p. 92-100
  • Crisp, F.A., ?1911, Little Wenham Hall (privately published)
  • Copinger, W.A., 1910, Manors of Suffolk Vol. 6 p. 111 (tenurial history) online copy
  • Turner, T.H., 1851, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 1 p. 151-3 (plan and illustrations) online copy

Journals

  • Guy, Neil, et al, 2011-12, 'CSG Annual Conference April 2011' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol. 25 p. 55-61
  • Martin, E., 2009, 'Geophysical Surveys at Little Wenham Hall' Eavesdropper The Newsletter of the Suffolk Historic Buildings Group Vol. 39
  • Goodall, John, 2000 July 6, Country Life
  • Quiney, Anthony, 1999, 'Hall or Chamber? That Is the Question. The Use of Rooms in Post-Conquest Houses' Architectural History Vol. 42 p. 24-46
  • < >Martin, E., 1998, 'Little Wenham Hall: a reinterpretation' Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Vol. 39.2 p. 151-64 < > online copy
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1958, 'Domestic Planning from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 115 p. 150-83 online copy
  • Wood, Margaret, 1950, 'Thirteenth-century Domestic Architecture in England' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 105 supplement p. 76-81
  • Tipping, H.A., 1914, Country Life Vol. 36 p. 358-65
  • Redstone, V., 1903, 'Little Wenham' Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Vol. 11.1 p. 73, 74 online copy
  • Lermit, G.F., 1878, 'Observations at Little Wenham Hall and Church' Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Vol. 5.2 p. 183-5 online copy
  • Jackson, S.,1859, 'Little Wenham Hall' Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History Vol. 2 p. 183-8 online copy