House and Heritage features another guest post on the history of Hussey Tower – King Henry VIII’s embarrassment.
This post consists of research from 2008 onwards courtesy of Art History students at Eumemmerring College, Victoria, Australia.
Hussey Tower, in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, was once an impressive manorial home including a great hall, servants’ quarters, kitchens, stables and a large gatehouse. The building dates from around 1450-60 and is one of the oldest brick buildings in Lincolnshire.
It was originally built for Richard Benyington, collector of customs and excise in Boston which was a very important port at that time.
The tower was constructed entirely of hand-made red brick produced using local clay.
Around the time of being knighted after the Battle of Blackheath in 1497, John Hussey (son of Sir William Hussey) acquired the Sleaford estate. Hussey held a number of important positions in the Household of Kings Henry VII and VIII. He would become the Chief Butler of England and was Chamberlain to Henry’s daughter, Princess (later Queen) Mary.
Lord Hussey was one of five people to carry the canopy over the infant Princess (later Queen Elizabeth I) at her baptism on 10th September, 1533.
In 1529, he was raised to the peerage as Lord Hussey, 1st Baron Hussey of Sleaford, and remained living at his Sleaford estate – complete with refurbished tower. Henry lodged there one night, and ‘held a court’ next morning; the monarch was heading towards York to meet the King of Scotland.
The tower later passed into the ownership of England’s Boston Corporation where little care was taken of it. Today it is a popular tourist attraction. Hussey’s legacy also lives on in the ‘American Wing’ at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Bachiler-Hussey joined armchair (c.1650-1700) is a remarkable piece of early American carved furniture which has elements of Hussey’s coat-of-arms: “Ermine motifs are repeated along its back and are interspersed with elements of his father-in-law’s Bachiler heraldry; the interplay of semicircles representing the sun rising from its base”.
Although his descendant’s chair survives, Lord Hussey’s story, like that of his dilapidated tower, is indeed a sad one, showing King Henry VIII at his worst.
Despite Lord Hussey’s closeness to Henry VIII, the Kings’s determination to break ties with Rome did not sit well with Lord Hussey – a staunch Catholic. Hussey and Henry fell out, with Hussey being accused of treason. Henry ordered his former confidante to be sent to the Tower of London and, tragically, beheaded in Lincolnshire in 1537.
Off Skirbeck Road, Boston, Lincolnshire, PE21 6DA