Cowdray House

Has been described as a Certain Fortified Manor House

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameCowdray House
Alternative NamesCodray; La Coudreye
Historic CountrySussex
Modern AuthorityWest Sussex
1974 AuthorityWest Sussex
Civil ParishEasebourne

The ruined and buried remains of a medieval fortified house, arranged around a quadrangular courtyard, and constructed in at least two main phases during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The main courtyard was designed on a particularly grand scale, resembling the contemporary royal palace of Hampton Court. The buildings are faced with sandstone ashlar decorated with contrasting, lighter coloured stone dressings, and are topped with crenellated parapets. The wall cores, surviving chimneys and some facing, and subsequent repairs and alterations also contain substantial amounts of red brick. The eastern range survives mainly in the form of foundations represented by low modern walls, and housed the main domestic apartments, including a central hall, served by an adjoining chapel. At the southern end of the range are service rooms and a projecting, hexagonal corner tower surviving to its full height of three storeys. The ruined, three-storeyed northern range is lit by tall bay windows and contained a first floor gallery. Documentary evidence suggests that most of the eastern and northern ranges were built by Sir David Owen from around 1492. The southern range of the main courtyard also survives largely in the form of foundations marked out by modern walling, and contained further service rooms. The western range incorporates more substantial ruins, including a central gatehouse. The southern and western ranges were constructed by Sir William Fitzwilliam, later Earl of Southampton, who bought the estate in 1529 and was granted licence to crenellate in 1533. The buildings of the main courtyard were severely damage by fire in 1793, after which the house fell into disuse. Finds of 13th century floor tiles and worked masonry among the ruins suggest that the Tudor house may have been built on the site of an earlier manor house, further traces of which are likely to survive as below ground features

(PastScape)

The fortified medieval house of Cowdray survives well, despite some subsequent alteration and disturbance, retaining substantial portions of its original buildings, associated structures and landscaping. It constitutes a particularly fine example of this type of monument, incorporating some of the most up-to-date architecture and highest quality building work of the period. The monument lies about 280m to the north west of a motte and bailey castle on St Ann's Hill, which formed the original focus of the medieval estate. The close association of the earlier castle with the later fortified house provides evidence for the general development in high status medieval dwellings away from mainly defensive, military forms to great houses geared towards comfort and display.

The monument includes a fortified medieval house and part of its landscaped grounds, situated on the banks of the River Rother immediately to the north east of the town of Midhurst. The monument survives in the form of ruined and reused buildings and structures, earthworks and associated buried remains, and lies within the western sector of the landscaped park surrounding Cowdray House, a 19th century country mansion situated around 1.2km to the east. Cowdray Park is included in the Historic Parks and Gardens register at Grade II*. The main buildings range around a NNE-SSW aligned quadrangular courtyard, constructed in at least two main phases during the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The main courtyard was designed on a particularly grand scale, resembling the contemporary royal palace of Hampton Court. The buildings are faced with sandstone ashlar decorated with contrasting, lighter coloured stone dressings, and are topped with crenellated parapets. The wall cores, surviving chimneys and some facing, and subsequent repairs and alterations also contain substantial amounts of red brick. The eastern range survives mainly in the form of foundations represented by low modern walls, and housed the main domestic apartments, including a centrally placed hall, served by an adjoining chapel with an apsidal eastern end. At the southern end of the range, separated from the hall by a screens passage, are service rooms and a projecting, hexagonal corner tower surviving to its full height of three storeys, which contains a ground floor kitchen. To the north was the parlour with a great chamber over it, and further domestic cellarage. The ruined, three-storeyed northern range is lit by tall bay windows and contained a first floor gallery. Documentary evidence suggests that most of the eastern and northern ranges were built by Sir David Owen from around 1492. The southern range of the main courtyard also survives largely in the form of foundations marked out by modern walling, and contained further service rooms. The western range incorporates more substantial ruins, including a central gatehouse with a four-centred carriage archway flanked by octagonal, three- storeyed turrets, pierced by gun loops. The southern and western ranges were constructed by Sir William Fitzwilliam, later Earl of Southampton, who bought the estate in 1529 and was granted licence to crenellate in 1533. The buildings of the main courtyard were severely damaged by a fire in 1793, after which the house fell into disuse. The buildings of the main courtyard are Listed Grade I. Finds of 13th century floor tiles and worked masonry among the ruins suggest that the Tudor house may have been built on the site of an earlier manor house, further traces of which are likely to survive as below ground features. Adjoining the main courtyard to the south is a contemporary outer court, formerly linked to the kitchen tower. This is represented by an 'L'-shaped range of buildings likely to have been in use originally as service accommodation, stables, brewhouses, granaries and barns. The eastern range and the eastern end of the southern range of the outer court have been substantially modified and converted into dwellings. The western end of the southern range is now occupied by later ancillary buildings and stables, Listed Grade II. A small 17th century timber-framed granary built on staddle stones within the central, open part of the outer court is also Listed Grade II. Lying immediately to the south of the outer court is a contemporary, roughly square, brick and stone-walled kitchen garden. The eastern garden wall is constructed of red brick and survives to its full height of around 5m. It is pierced near its northern end by a sandstone-dressed doorway headed by a four-centred arch. The surviving courses of the western garden wall have been incorporated within the rear wall of mainly 18th century stables, Listed Grade II. At the south western corner is a small, square sandstone building with a tiled, hipped roof, interpreted as a garden pavilion or gate lodge. This has undergone some subsequent alteration, but retains in situ Tudor masonry, including ashlar quoins and, in its eastern wall, a central doorway with a four-centred arch. Stone footings situated around 10m to the east may represent a matching, now ruined building. The original approach to the house was from the west, across low-lying marshy ground and the river. In order to provide dry access for carriages, a raised, battered causeway around 380m long, up to 12m wide and 2m high was constructed from the Easebourne road, now part of the modern A272. The river and a now dry, subsidiary channel are spanned by stone, two and four-arched bridges, interpreted as 18th century replacements of original, Tudor bridges, traces of the foundations of which are likely to survive in buried form. The western end of the causeway has been destroyed by the construction of a modern car park, and this area is therefore not included in the scheduling. To the east of the river is an 18th century stone gateway with wrought-iron gates, Listed Grade II. These formerly stood at the western end of the causeway but were moved prior to the construction of the car park. The great house would have been surrounded by a planned landscape and formal gardens, and a group of regular, roughly rectangular earthworks immediately to the north west of the main courtyard may represent associated contemporary terracing. From the 16th century, water was supplied to the main buildings via an octagonal, stone-built conduit house, constructed 120m to the north. The conduit house is Listed Grade II. Further below ground archaeological evidence and environmental remains associated with the garden, grounds and water supply can be expected to survive in the areas around the main courtyard. To the south east and east, the monument is bounded by a ha-ha with a stone- faced retaining wall approximately 1m high, flanked on its outer, eastern side by a sloping ditch up to 8m wide. This has been dated to the mid-18th century, and may have followed the course of an earlier boundary feature. The ha-ha continues north-east towards Easebourne Priory, although this is not included in the scheduling. (Scheduling Report)

The Ruins of Cowdray House 18.6.59 I Ruins of a fine stone mansion comprising a complete courtyard with gatehouse, hall with oriel windows, chapel, kitchen, etc. The east and north sides were built by Sir David Owen in 1492 circa, the west and south sides by Sir William Fitzwilliam, later Earl of Southampton, in 1533 circa. Further alterations were made by the latter's half-brother, Sir Anthony Browne, and his son, the first Viscount Montague. It remained the home of the Montague family until partly destroyed by fire in 1792. Ashlar with quoins of a different coloured stone. Castellated parapet. Casement windows. Large bays of two storeys with two tiers of six lights. The gatehouse was on the west side. Four-centred carriage archway flanked by octagonal turrets of three storeys. Hall and chapel on east side of the courtyard. (Listed Building Report)

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 ReferenceSU891216
Latitude50.9876594543457
Longitude-0.731630027294159
Eastings489120
Northings121680
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
Photograph by Philip Davis. All rights reserved
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. 25, 413, 425-7
  • Salter, Mike, 2000, The Castles of Sussex (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 35-6
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 23 75, 147, 279, 308
  • Guy, John, 1984, Castles in Sussex (Phillimore) p. 54-9
  • Salzman, L.F. (ed), 1953, 'Easebourne' VCH Sussex Vol. 4 p. 49-50 online transcription
  • Hope, William H. St John, 1919, Cowdray and Easebourne Priory (Country Life Publications)
  • Roundell, J.A.E., 1884, Cowdray: The history of a Great English House (London) online copy
  • Elwes, Dudley George Cary, 1876, A history of the Castles, Mansions, and Manors of Western Sussex (London: Longmans) p. 77-81 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 1 (London) p. 373-8 online copy
  • Turner, T.H. and Parker, J.H., 1859, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 3 Part 2 p. 316-8 online copy

Antiquarian

Journals

  • Goodall, John, 2009 June, 'The rescue of a romantic ruin' Country Life p. 82-5 online copy
  • Woodburn, Bill and Guy, Neil, 2005-6, 'Cowdray House' Castle Studies Group Journal Vol 19 p. 31-47 online copy
  • Guy, Neil, 2005, 'The Cowdray and Midhurst Heritage Project' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 18 p. 166-8
  • 1985, 'Proceedings of the Summer Meeting of the Royal Archaeological Institute at Chichester in 1985' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 142 p. 58
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 226
  • Scott, Sir Sibbald D., 1863, ' Old Papers found in a Tower of Cowdray House' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 15 p. 67-73 online copy
  • Scott, Sir Sibbald D., 1852, ' Cowdray House and its Possessors' Sussex Archaeological Collections Vol. 5 p. 176-189

Guide Books

  • Ray, David, Cowdray Ruins (The Cowdray Estate Office)
  • Trotter, T., 1975 (Rev 7edn), Cowdray - its early history (The Cowdray Estate)
  • Trotter, T., 1948 (3edn), Cowdray - its early history (The Cowdray Estate)
  • Trotter, T., 1922 (1edn), Cowdray - its early history (The Cowdray Estate)

Primary Sources

  • Gairdner, J. (ed), 1882, Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry VIII Vol. 6 p. 44 No. 105.25 online copy

Other

  • Harris, R.B., January 2010, Midhurst Historic Character Assessment Report: Sussex Extensive Urban Survey Download copy