Sunday 9th May 2010 - Married for 3303 days

History Of Gosfield Hall

In The Beginning

Gosfield Hall was built on the Gosfield estate, a site given to Robert Le Claire by William The Conqueror in 1066.  The Hall was Commisioned by Sir John Wentworth in 1545.  He wanted a defensible house, but King Henry VII had re-imposed a heavy tax on the building of castles.  Sir John compromised by building Gosfield Hall, which was capable of withstanding an attack or seige.  It was built around the courtyard with no ground floor windows, and entry was only possible by the huge postern gate by the west front.  It even has a secret chamber large enough to deposit dubious liquids on unwelcome visitors, which is still here today - so watch out!!  The original west wing still remains today, unchanged since Tudor times.  If we are lucky enough to have good weather we will be getting married here under the clock tower!

Sir John Wentworth

During his time at Gosfield Hall, Sir John Wentworth played host to many significant visitors, the most notable of these being Queen Elizabeth I.  The Queen thought of the Wentworths as distant kinsman, and was good friends with their daughter.  The 100ft Queen's Gallery on the first floor where we will be getting married in case of bad weather was said to be the Queen's favourite room!   

Sir Thomas Millington

The Hall passed through many hands over the following years, one of the most influential of these was Sir Thomas Millington who was in residence by 1691.  He was responsible for the reconstruction of The Grand Salon which is the room that you will be welcomed into upon arrival to our wedding!  This room remained the state banquiting hall for the next couple of centuries. Make sure you look up at the ceiling whilst you're there!  He also created many fine guest rooms above The Salon, one of which was later found to have a trapdoor in the floor leading to a secret chamber between the floorboards and the ceiling below.   Sir Thomas Millington had been the first physician to William III, Queen Mary and Queen Anne.  He later become president of the college of physisions and was knighted for his services.  His creast - a double headed eagle, can be seen above the central doors on the courtyard side.

John Knight

The next owner was John Knight who continued to make extensive alterations to the property.  He was responsible for building the ornate ballroom where our main wedding breakfast will be served This is also where all overnight guests will be served breakfast the following morning.  His crest was "on a spur laying fesswise, an eagle rising" and can be seen on the drainpipes. 

Lord Robert Nugent

John Knight's widow inherited Gosfield Hall after his death, and three years later married Irishman Lord Robert Nugent.  Already wealthy from a previous marriage, Lady Anne and Lord Nugent continued to make many changes, and was responsible for creating the Library and reception rooms.  The Library has large windows with a central door opening onto the manicured lawns, this is where we will be holding our drinks reception after the ceremony.  We will also be using this room as a chill out area in the evening.  During their residency the Nugents entertained lavishly and included The Prince of Wales among their friends.  They were said to have lent him money which he never repaid, compensating a while later by bestowing the aforementioned titles and other social benefits.  Maybe the political scandal of its day!  The Nugent's shield - a three feathered plume can be seen in various places on the walls around The Hall.

The Buckinghams

Gosfield Hall was then passed on to Earl Nugent's eldest daughter Mary, who later married George Nugent Grenville. Nine years later he was created Marquis of Buckingham.  He was succeeded by his son Richard, and his wife Lady Ann Brydges.  Richard was known as the second Marquis, and in 1822 was created Duke of Buckingham and Chandos.  The Buckingham family took a great interest in village life and established a school for the poor children of the parish.  They paid a "Governess" salary and gave a weekly sum to at least twenty poor people, whilst every Sunday they gave a dinner to the school children.  In a further bid to alleviate poverty they started a straw plaiting industry.  In an attempt to kindle interest Lady Buckingham decorated her straw hat and "wore it in sight of the whole village" and her husband wore his hat throughout an entire church service.  It worked and a great demand for straw plaiting was formed.  At it's peek skilled girls were earning as much as a guinea a week, far more than what was paid for domestic work, to the great  annoyance of the large houses who soon struggled to find staff.  The chef during this time was the founder of the world renowned "Simpson's Restaurant Piccadilly", John Simpson.

King Louis XVIII

After being exiled from France King Louis XVIII of France and Navarre, and his Queen Mary-Josephe-Louise of Savoy took refuge in England.  Lord Buckingham had long been in sympathy of Royalsit France, and in 1807 offered to loan them Gosfield Hall.  They gratefully accepted this offer and along with a huge entourage of courtiers and staff they stayed there for the next couple of years. Over this time the Hall become a home of lavish French hospitality, with many social gatherings including such distinguished guests as the Prince Regent.  According to French tradition on Sunday's the villagers were allowed into the kitchen to see the dinner set out for the King, and on occasions were allowed into The Grand Salon to watch him dine.  King Louis and his Queen moved out of the Hall in 1809.    

The End of the Buckingham Era

The Hall remained empty for some years after the departure of the royal party, and stated to fall into disrepair.  The Buckinghams let it out to various tenants over this time until in 1825 they decided to sell.   The house and estate sold for £157,000 to shipbuilder and later MP for Greenwich Mr Barnard.

Samuel Courtauld

By 1854 the hall was owned by Samuel Courtauld, the head of a well known textile firm.  Mr Courtauld was known as a fair and just man campaigning for religious and civil liberties.  During his time at Gosfield Hall he built the almshouses, a school, a coffee room and many more houses.  He was once said to remark to a friend "When I die I should like to have written on my tombstone, 'He built good cottages'"!  His textile business also florished with factorys set up in Halstead, Bocking and Braintree.  In subsiquent years the house was passed down to their adopted daughter Mrs Lowe.  The gardens were maintained to the highest standard over this time, with one of their gardeners Mr Dance being one of the first growers of pears.

House Staff 

A photograph published in the 1880's shows at least sixteen members of staff employed by the house.  Six of the staff pictured were maids who would have lived on the top foor with no heat or water.  They were each given a box lantern with one candle a week.  They started work at 6:30am and worked every day, with just one evening a week off and alternate weekend evenings, or an afternoon.  The maids had to back at the Hall by 9:00pm sharp when Mrs Lowe herself would lock all the doors.   

The War Years

During the war covered in wartime camouflage paint Gosfield Hall became a base for the Essex Army and the American Air Force who were flying out from nearby Gosfield air station.  Some evacuee children were also sent there.

Saving Gosfield Hall

The house stood empty for a while after the war, becoming derelict and dilapidated with hordes of rabbits, moles, muntjack and deer rampaging through the grounds.  The Lowe family had long since sold on, and there was plans to demolish the house and convert some of the outbuildings into cowsheds and piggeries until Essex County Council purchased the house for £14,000 and a preservation order was placed on the house forbidding any destruction on the grounds of 'antiquity and interest'.  The Council in turn sold on to the Wayfarers Trust Ltd and Gosfield Hall who expertly restored the house to it's former glory, converting it into a residential home for the elderly.  

Recent history

The home was planned to become self supporting once occupied, however despite many additional contributions they failed to earn enough to maintain it's upkeep and were forced to sell to the Country Houses Association. The association converted the house into private residential apartments for the elderly, while at the same time 'saving for the benefit of the nation, houses of historic importance, architectural interest, or of beauty which may otherwise decay'.  The money from the members subscribing to this charitable organisation along with the rent from the tenants helped to maintain the property.  The members in turn were allowed access to look around some of the residents gracious apartments, as well as the newly restored Tudor Gallery, Grand Salon, Library, Ballroom and grounds.  

Gosfield Hall Today

That venture eventually came to an end and Gosfield Hall was sold again to it's current owner, Country House Weddings.  The continued upkeep and preservation of the Hall is now funded by it's use as a venue for weddings and receptions, which is of course why we will all by there on the 9th of May!

Phew!!  Finally finished!  This History turned out to be a bit longer than I thought, but I hope it has been of some interest, and will give you something to think about when you come for our wedding!  Not long at all now!!