Layer Marney Tower
History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: One of the finest Tudor houses in England, with massive gatehouse towers
Layer Marney is a beautiful Tudor house begun in 1523 by Henry, 1st Lord Marney on a site overlooking the River Blackwater about midway between Colchester and Maldon. He intended to build a palatial courtyard house, but his elaborate scheme was scarcely begun before the family line died out and construction stopped.
The most impressive feature of the house is a striking red-brick gatehouse tower, probably designed by the Henry VIII's architect Guiliamo de Travizi. The imposing tower stands 80 feet high (roughly 24 metres), and is dressed with terracotta and decorated with diapering patterns. The south side has twin semi-octagonal turrets, 8 storeys high. To the north are 7 storey turrets on a square plan.
Henry, Lord Marney served Henry VIII as Lord Privy Seal. As such he was one of the most influential men in the country. Just how important is born out by the inscription on his tomb in the nearby church. It reads in part:
Henry, First Lord Marney, Sheriff of Essex, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Executore of the Countess of Richmond, Privy Councillor to Henry VIII, Captain of the King;'s Bodyguard, Fought Battle of Spurs 1513 Knight of the Garter, Lord Privy Seal: 1522, Baron Lord Marney: 1523, Died in London May 24, 1523, Buried here at Layer Marney.
Such an important person needed an impressive house to showcase his wealth and influence. Around 1515 Marney began to make plans for a palatial residence, one intended to outshine Cardinal Wolsey's Hampton Court Palace. But little of the residence had been complete when Marney died in 1523. Even so, Henry VIII managed to visit the house, in 1522, when it must have been a shambles of building materials.
Layer Marney is supposedly one of the most haunted buildings in Britain. Among the various spectres said to have been seen here is Henry, the 1st Lord Marney. He stalks the staircase, clad in a full suit of armour. Apparently he is annoyed that his grand plans for the house were never carried out. Lord Henry has also been seen riding his horse through the grounds, still clad in armour. Other reports talk of strange noises and doors banging where there are no doors. Visitors have reported a woman in Vicvtorian costume in grounds, looking very agitated. Ghosts of workmen have been seen in the barn, and poltegeist activity has been reported in the east wing.
The house is set in lovely formal gardens and open parkland with views to the Blackwater estuary. There is a knot garden in the style of a Tudor dsesign, old roses, and rare trees. Beside the house is the sizeable church of St Mary the Virgin, where you will find the very impressive tombs of generations of Marneys, including the 1st and 2nd Lord Marneys.
I knew very little about Layer Marnery before visiting it for the first time. So to say I was impressed with my intitial viw of the huge gatehouse towers is an understatement. I was blown away. It is staggering to think what the house would have looked like if Lord Marney had lived long enough to finish his grand building project.
Do take time to visit the nearby church to see the Marney tombs, including that of Sir William Marney (d. 1360). There's just as much historic interest in the church as the house itself!
About Layer Marney Tower
Address: Colchester, Essex, England, CO5 9US
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: 7 miles SW of Colchester, off the B1022.
Website: Layer Marney Tower
Phone: 0126 330 784
Historic Houses Association
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
Historic Time Periods:
Find other attractions tagged with:
13th century (Time Period) - 16th century (Time Period) - Cardinal Wolsey (Person) - Decorated (Architecture) - Elizabeth I (Person) - Henry VIII (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - Tudor (Time Period) -
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Layer Marney, St Mary's Church - 0.2 miles (Historic Church)
Copford, St Michael and All Angels Church - 3.2 miles (Historic Church)
Audley Chapel, Berechurch - 4.8 miles (Historic Church)
Lexden Earthworks and Bluebottle Grove - 5.2 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Coggeshall Abbey - 5.3 miles (Abbey)
Coggeshall Grange Barn - 5.5 miles (Historic Building)
Coggeshall, St Peter ad Vincula Church - 5.7 miles (Historic Church)
Coggeshall Museum - 5.8 miles (Museum)
Nearest Accommodation to Layer Marney Tower: