Layer Marney Tower is a Tudor palace, composed of buildings, gardens and parkland, dating from 1520 situated in Layer Marney, Colchester, Essex, England. The building was designated Grade I listed in 1952. Constructed in the first half of the reign of Henry VIII, Layer Marney Tower is in many ways the apotheosis of the Tudor gatehouse, and is the tallest example in Britain. It is contemporaneous with East Barsham Manor and Sutton Place, Surrey, with which latter building it shares the rare combination of brick and terracotta construction. 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, an array of outbuildings, and a new church.
The buildings suffered considerable damage from the Great English earthquake of 1884. The Colchester earthquake, also known as the Great English earthquake, occurred on the morning of 22 April 1884 at 09:18. It caused considerable damage in Colchester and the surrounding villages in Essex. In terms of overall destruction caused it is certainly the most destructive earthquake to have hit the United Kingdom in at least the last 400 years, since the Dover Straits earthquake of 1580.A subsequent report in The Builder magazine described the state of the house as such that ‘the outlay needed to restore the towers 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.
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 self-catering holiday 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 a Dr and Mrs Campbell. The house came to the present owners, the Charringtons, in 1959. Gerald and Susan Charrington had been married in Layer Marney church in 1957; two years later Mrs Campbell’s executors put the house up for sale and the Charringtons purchased it. It has been occupied by the Charrington family ever since.
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.
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. Aside from the tower, with it's 99 steps, most of the other roomes are wheelchair accessible. Guided tours are available, conducted by the owners. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Layer Marney Tower, Layer Marney, Nr. Colchester, Essex C05 9US
Transport: Kelvedon (National Rail) then taxi. Bus Routes : No service
Opening Times : April - June, September, Sunday & Wednesday 12:00 to 17:00.
Opening Times : July, August, Sunday - Thursday 12:00 to 17:00; Bank Holidays 11:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £7.00; Children (5 - 15) £4.50.
Group Tours : £12.00 per person; minimum charge £240.00
Tel: 01206 330 784