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Gainsborough Old Hall: Medieval Time Capsule Visited by Richard III & Henry VIII

Updated: Jun 11, 2020

Gainsborough Old Hall is a timber-framed gem hidden away in Lincolnshire. It is considered to be one of the country’s best preserved medieval manor houses. It also has a great late medieval kitchen, one to rival Hampton Court. #frozenintime This manor is first mentioned in a charter by King Stephen, in mid-12th century. He also mentions a castle, that is no longer there. The current building, dates back to the 15th century. A family called Burgh inherited it in the second half of the 15th century, and the 1st Lord Burgh was present at the coronation of both Richard III and Henry VII. Gainsborough was visited by Richard in 1483 and Henry VIII in 1541.

This trip of Henry's in 1541 was no ordinary venture. His aim was York, a meeting with his nephew, James V of Scotland, who stood Henry up. Henry’s other aim was to show people of the north who was boss. He believed that after the failure of the Pilgrimage of Grace in 1936 they needed a stark reminder. Henry showed dominance to his people, however, it was he who was beat, because it is believed that during this progress his queen was engaged in an amorous relationship with Henry’s groom of the stool #royalbottomwiper. The relationship may or may not have been carnal, but it was treason none-the-less. Katherine and her lover paid with their lives.

Gainsborough has another connection to Henry - one of the 3rd Lord Burgh’s sons married one Katherine Parr in 1529, who later would succeed Katherine Howard as Queen of England. After the Burghs, the ownership of Gainsborough Hall fell to the Hickmans. It is believed that they supported the Separatist congregation - the very ardent puritans, and it is believed they worshipped in secret in the Old Hall. Some of this group formed the Pilgrim movement who sailed to America on the Mayflower and they became known to posterity as the 'Mayflower Pilgrims'. (Read more here about the Mayflower here and here.)

I ardently recommend a visit. Two main attractions for me were the Great Hall (I love a great Tudor hall) and the kitchens. Many rooms surrounding the latter, with plaques explaining what is what, really give you a picture of what it was like to live there and at that time. Sounds cliché, but it's literally like stepping back in time. The hall also has a number of plaques telling you about the rituals involved in having a meal there. You didn't want to offend anyone.

Very spacey kitchens that can rival Hampton Court Palace ones.

Henry VIII & Katherine Howard visited Gainsborough

Here's their official website.

Address: Parnell St, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire DN21 2NB

Entry: £9.80, or free if you have English Heritage membership.You pay £5 a month and get into any English Heritage-owned or managed site in England. Very handy as there are a lot of them. Also you get free entry to Historic Scotland sites (e.g. Edinburgh Castle & Stirling Castle) and into CADW sites in Wales (e.g. Caerphilly Castle & Caernarfon Castle).

Public Transport Access: 🚂 11 minute walk from Gainsborough Central train station, or if you're coming from Lincoln it's a 24 minute walk (most of it along the river Trent) from Gainsborough Lea Road train station.

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