Grafton Regis Manor

Has been described as a Possible Palace (Royal)

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameGrafton Regis Manor
Alternative Names
Historic CountryNorthamptonshire and the Soke of Peterborough
Modern AuthorityNorthamptonshire
1974 AuthorityNorthamptonshire
Civil ParishGrafton Regis

Grafton Manor, built prior to the mid 15th century, came into royal possession in 1526 when Henry VIII acquired the manor and surrounding land from Thomas, second Marquis of Dorset, exchanging it for land at Loughborough and Shepshed in Leicestershire. Soon after the acquisition Henry ordered alterations to be carried out, repairing the decaying manor house. Henry visited Grafton often throughout his reign, and it was here that he met with Cardinal Wolsey for the last time, in 1529. By 1536 Grafton was one of Henry's houses that received regular maintenance and in 1542 it was appointed the head of a new 'honor', or grouping of royal estates in that area. Elizabeth I was to visit Grafton on progress in 1564, 1568 and 1575, however by the reign of James I the house was falling into disrepair. In 1628 King Charles I sold the manor to Sir Francis Crane who was said to have partially demolished the house. In 1643 Parliamentary forces took control of the house and set it alight for the 'prevention of future inconveniences' and leaving it in ruins.

Grafton Manor which currently occupies the site is a 17th and 19th century house and said to have 16th century origins, however another source notes that the house contains no recognisable 16th century fabric. It is a 2-storey house constructed of coursed limestone rubble and limestone ashlar with a slate roof. (PastScape)

The capital messuage belonging to the manor of Grafton (and from 1542 to the honor) has always stood on the site of the existing Grafton Manor to the west of the church; the idea that the medieval hermitage was later a manor house is supported by neither archaeological nor historical evidence. The mansion next to the church was presumably built by the Woodville family during the period in which they were tenants of either the de la Poles or, before 1348, Grestain abbey

Although there appear to be no medieval references to such a house, it is clear from the earliest accounts of work done at Grafton immediately after Henry VIII acquired the estate that an existing house was being repaired, not a new one being built. In 1528-9 stone and other materials were removed from the old castle at Castlethorpe (Bucks.) and timber taken fron the royal parks at Hanslope and elsewhere to refurbish Grafton.

Further work was done in 1536-7, when new chimneys were added to the house, a great wrought-iron folding gate was installed next to the church on the street side, and a bowling alley built, enclosed by a wall 14 ft. high built of rubble from Castlethorpe, with the alley itself defined by banks made from potters' clay dug at Potterspury. This appears to be the feature, of which traces are still visible, later called the 'Gallery', (fn. 55) running parallel with the lane which leads to the mansion, almost as far as the main road, bounded on one side by the lane and on the other by an earthen bank. It may have been built (as a kind of exterior version of a long gallery) to enable Henry VIII to walk from the mansion to his new park on the other side of the main road.

In 1539 it was noted that there was roofing timber, lead and slate at three recently suppressed religious houses in Northampton that might be suitable for Grafton, (fn. 57) but there is no evidence of further work at the house until 1541, when a campaign began that continued until 1543, coinciding with the creation of the honor of Grafton. There was renewed expenditure at Grafton in 1545-8, although much of this was probably on lodges, palings and other works in the adjoining parks.

Both before and after the establishment of the honor, Grafton was one of Henry VIII's favourite houses. He spent several weeks there in most years of his reign from 1527 onwards, typically arriving towards the end of August and leaving in early October, often as part of a progress that included a visit to Ampthill either before or afterwards. In 1528 the king was prevented from visiting because of an outbreak of plague at Grafton, and in 1537 he was advised against including the house on his itinerary, since the plague had reached Towcester and Buckingham, both less than ten miles away. Privy Council meetings were held at Grafton in 1540 and 1541 and possibly other years; the ambassadors of Hungary were received there in 1531 and the Scotish ambassador in 1537; and, most famously, the negotiations with the papal envoy, Cardinal Campegio, which led to Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, when Cardinal Wolsey had his last interview with the king, were partly conducted at Grafton in the summer of 1529. Apart from business, Henry came to Grafton to hunt: during his reign the parks at Grafton and Potterspury, about a mile to the west of the mansion, were enlarged and combined into one, and a new park was created a short distance to the north at Hartwell.

No later sovereign showed as much interest in Grafton. About £170 was spent in 1551-3 and £450 in 1553-4 on repairs to the mansion, which was described as the queen's 'stately honor house' in 1558, but Elizabeth visited Grafton on only three occasions, in 1564, 1568 and 1575, each of which led to minor expenditure. Robert earl of Leicester, who was then leasing the demesnes at Grafton, may have been referring to one of these visits when he told the queen that of the places she would be staying at on her latest progress, none would be 'more pleasant and healthful' than Grafton, which she had ordered to be repaired and which would be made ready for her. Between 1573 and 1575 £1,842 was spent on Grafton, under the supervision of Leicester's protege William Spicer. Old buildings were repaired but the principal work was a 'new building', containing two floors and covered by four roofs. The queen was at Grafton in June and July 1575, when she held a series of Council meetings there. Further repairs were carried out in 1585-6 at a cost of £396. (VCH)

Not scheduled

This is a Grade 2 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 ReferenceSP758468
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Photo by Lee Hutchinson, Northampton Museums All Rights Reserved

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  • Riden, Philip and Insley Charles (eds), 2002, 'Grafton Regis' VCH Northamptonshire Vol. 5 p. 142-76 online transcription
  • Thurley, Simon, 1993, The Royal Palaces of Tudor England (Yale University Press) p. 49, 130, 157, 189
  • Colvin, H.M., Ransome, D.R. and Summerson, John, 1982, The history of the King's Works, Vol. 4: 1485-1660 (part 2) (London) p. 92-6



  • The History of Grafton Regis and the Grafton Estate on CD (Grafton Regis Millennium Committee)