A new in-depth analysis of Thomas Cromwell’s houses in the City of London provides rich new detail of the home life of Henry VIII’s right-hand man. The research was carried out by Dr Nick Holder from English Heritage and the University of Exeter using letters, leases, surveys, and inventories.
Despite having stayed in many houses in his lifetime, Cromwell really only had – apart from his childhood home in Putney – two family homes. The first was a 14-room townhouse within the precinct of the Austin Friars monastery in London, where he lived for about 15 years during the 1520s and 1530s (see CA 338 for more on Nick Holder’s research into Austin Friars and London’s other medieval friaries). But the second, an elaborate mansion he built next door in the 1530s, was where he put much of his time, money, and energy.
This artist’s impression, by illustrator Peter Urmston, shows the scale of the 58-room mansion, with its halls, kitchens, and chapel, as well as the largest private garden in the city (which included a bowling alley and a tennis court). Elaborately decorated with fine tapestries, distinctive oriel (bay) windows, and bedding made from cloth of gold, damask, and velvet, the house was a tangible representation of his wealth and status. In this reconstruction, Master Cromwell can be glimpsed standing at the top of his new tower in 1539, looking out over his gardens. He was only able to enjoy the fruits of his labour for a few months, however, before he was executed for treason and heresy in July 1540.
The full paper highlighting Nick’s findings can be read for free in the Journal of the British Archaeological Association.
Text: K Krakowka Image: Artist: Peter Urmston; copyright: Nick Holder
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