Ingatestone Hall

A Grade 1 Listed 16th Century Manor House

Saturday 9 June 2018

It was a warm sunny Saturday morning in June when my granddaughter Grace and I packed our lunch and joined 30 other members of the History Group. We boarded the coach which safely carried us to Ingatestone Hall in Essex. The hall sits proud just beyond the village of Ingatestone. 

Ingatestone Hall is a Tudor manor house built by Sir William Petre (pronounced Peter). In 1535 William, a young lawyer from Devon, was given the task of visiting the Monastic houses of Southern England, drawing up records of their possessions, with a view to persuading surrender to the king. Among the abbeys he visited was that of Barking and immediately loved the Steward's house, which stood in the grounds.  In 1539 William purchased the property and set about building the Tudor house which more or less is what we see today. This could have been construed as plundering church property but Pope Paul IV exonerated Petre from all charges as he endowed the foundation of an almshouse for the poor.

We arrived at the gates where two guides were waiting to guide us around this Grade 1 listed building.  As we strolled through the Gatehouse this imposing slightly mellowed building ahead enriched us with  almost 500 years of history. The Gatehouse has a one-handed clock under which are the words Sans dieu rien which means ‘without God nothing’. This is the motto of the Petre family who were and still are Catholic and have triumphed through very difficult times.

As the tour progressed we were to learn that the Petre family still own Ingatestone and live in part of the property.  Grace mentioned how squeaky the floors were. We were shown two Priest holes, which we decided must have been terrifying for the clergy who were forced to hide here during the 16th and 17th centuries.

In 1561 Queen Elizabeth visited and stayed at Ingatestone with her entourage which cost considerably more than the price of the property when purchased for £849 12 shillings and 6 pence.  Sir William Petre died in 1572 and his son John became the 1st Baron.

It was said of Sir William Petre that he was a just and fair landlord, able and devoted in his public service and a kind and generous father. It is now said that the ghost of Sir William walks the long gallery!

Grace and I thought the house was dark, with lots of oak panelling. There were no corridors - each room led to the next as is common in Tudor house design.

Robert Petre the 9th Baron was a leading figure in the movement for Catholic emancipation.   I feel Sir William Petre has passed his strength of character and fairness through his descendants.

After lunch we wandered through the gardens and came across a secret garden gate which we passed through. We walked down a dapple shaded path which was cool and so quiet that for a minute or two we wondered where it would lead. But we were soon walking along the Cedar Walk and back to the house.

As we sat chatting to our fellow members it was revealed, with much surprise, that two of us were in the same class at school miles away from Martham.  I met Irene who went to my primary school in Hayes, Middlesex.  It made us wonder - was the Ghost of Sir William Petre at work continuing his family’s endeavours to unite people? Or was it just Grace and me being a bit whimsical?      

Janet Edwards


(Above: Clocktower)


(Below: wooded lane)

Wooded lane
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