About Layer Marney Tower
Built in the 1520’s, Layer Marney Tower is a grand house, built by Henry, Lord Marney in the 1520’s. A Tudor Palace, built as a statement house. It says a lot about the man who built it – he is rich, important and is in with the King. It is built to the height of fashion. With no local stone, Lord Marney used buff (stone coloured) terracotta decorations to look like stone, so his friends would think how rich he was, to import stone for his house. Although built at a time when traditional crenellations were changing from being practical fortifications, to merely decorative, the King still had to give permission to use them on the Tower.
Layer Marney Tower is the tallest Tudor Gatehouse in the country. It has 99 steps to the top and appears to have eight floors, but double windows were built into the Tower, to make it appear to have more floors than it really did. The clay for the red bricks were probably brought in from a few miles away, chosen for its colour. Black glazed bricks are intermingles for decoration, mostly symmetrical, though you may spot some mistakes. The black pattern of the bricks is called diapering.
History of the Tower
Click the titles below to read the full history of Layer Marney Tower and find out what the Tower is like in the 21st century.
16th Century (Tudors)
Built in the first half of Henry VIII’s reign, Layer Marney Tower is in many ways the apotheosis of the Tudor Gatehouse. The building is principally the creation of Henry 1st Lord Marney, who died in 1523, and his son John, who continued the building work but died just two years later, leaving no male heirs to continue the family line or the construction. What was completed was the main range measuring some three hundred feet long, the principal gatehouse that is about eighty feet tall, a fine array of outbuildings, and a new church.
In building on this scale the Marneys were following the example of their monarch, Henry VIII, who believed that a building should reflect the magnificence of its owner. Henry Marney as Lord Privy Seal, Captain of the Bodyguard and many other influential positions clearly intended to display his status through his new building. Many other courtiers wished to do the same, and just as they rivalled each other for influence and power at court, so they tried to out-do each other in the splendour of their buildings. The Marneys enthusiastically entered this game of one upmanship, building tall, with lavish use of terracotta and stucco, together with decorative detailing derived from Italy. The tomb of Henry, 1st Lord Marney is perhaps the highpoint of all that was built, combining beauty, innovation and a lightness of touch.
After the death of John, 2nd Lord Marney, the house passed to Sir Brian Tuke, Treasurer to the Royal Household and Governor of the King’s Posts. His widowed daughter-in-law entertained Queen Elizabeth 1st for two days in 1579, the Queen most probably staying in what is now the billiard room on the first floor of the gatehouse. The house has passed through many different families over the last five centuries, some only staying for a few years and others for several generations.
17th – 19th Century
Nicholas Corsellis bought the estate in 1667 for £7,200 with money he had made as a merchant selling indigo, lead and tobacco. He had been educated at Felsted School and soon after buying Layer Marney he gave the living and accompanying Rectory to his old headmaster, the Rev. William Drake. The Corsellis family sold the estate in 1835 to Quintin Dick, a successful Far East trader and MP for Maldon. He is reputed to have spent more money bribing his constituents than any other MP of the time. It seems to have worked since he held the seat for seventeen years.
The buildings suffered considerable damage from the Great Earthquake of 1884, and a subsequent report in The Builder magazine described the state of the house as such that ‘the outlay needed to restore the tower to anything like a sound and habitable condition would be so large that the chance of the work ever being done appears remote indeed’. Fortunately the repairs were begun, by brother and sister Alfred and Kezia Peache, who re-floored and re-roofed the gatehouse, as well as creating the garden to the south of the Tower.
20th – 21st Century
The next owner was Walter de Zoete who carried on and expanded the work, with a team of 13 domestic and 16 outside staff. He enlarged the gardens, built a folly known as the Tea House (converted to a long let cottage in 1999), and converted the stables into a Long Gallery where he housed his collection of furniture, paintings and objets d’arts. As a consequence of all this work it would be fair to say that the interior owes more to the Edwardian aesthetic of Walter de Zoete than to the Marneys.
Walter de Zoete lost money in the Japanese stock market crash, and sold the house to Dr and Mrs Campbell. Their daughter, Maybud was a well known botanist and botanical explorer who developed the botanic gardens at Val Rahmah in Menton, South of France.
The house came to the Charringtons because Gerald and Susan were married in Layer Marney church, and two years later, in 1959, Mrs Campbell’s executors put the house up for sale. It has been occupied by the Charrington family ever since.
The Tower in Present Day
Layer Marney Tower retains its Tudor façade but inside has been adapted for twenty first century living. The Long Gallery, once the Tudor stables were adapted in Edwardian times as a drawing room, clad with recycled Tudor panels and a Jacobean fireplace, the Gallery is now ideal for wedding receptions, parties and large conferences. The Corsellis Room, still showing its original wattle and daub has high pincer beams and is now used for wedding ceremonies, conferences and meetings, Tukes Chamber, alongside is a useful large ante room and there are several break out rooms nearby. The gardens are pretty and colourful throughout the year and views look down onto the Blackwater estuary in the distance.