Hidden behind the Georgian facade is the original chantry college of priests, founded in 1362. Inside are the medieval Great Hall, part of the 14th century cloister and Tudor and Georgian interiors. Four acres of gardens include a walled kitchen garden, medieval fishponds, meadows, woods and an eccentric topiary garden. Tour includes Wingfield Church.
Wingfield College is a remnant of the chantry college founded by Sir John de Wingfield in 1362. Sir John was a soldier of high reputation in the reign of Edward III, and Chief Counsellor of the Black Prince. In 1355 he accompanied him to Languedoc, and some letters of Sir John's written during the campaign still survive as important records of the War. He fought at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 and made a fortune from ransom money, by ransoming captured members of the French aristocracy.When he died of the Plague in 1361 he left in his will the request for the establishment of a chantry college, next to the church at Wingfield.
It is believed that the College buildings took the form of a quadrangle of timber-framed buildings grouped around the mediaeval hall. The college had a Master and nine Secular Chaplains and three choral scholarships for boys. These were required to live at the college, pray for Sir John, the Black Prince and Edward III, run a boarding school and minister to local parishes. Sir John's daughter and heiress married Michael de la Pole, later 1st Earl of Suffolk. Subsequent benefactors included William de-la-Pole, Earl of Suffolk, 1428; and John de-la-Pole, 1491.
During the Wars of the Roses the de la Pole family suffered badly and the 5th and the last Earl was beheaded by Henry VIII. The College came under the patronage of Charles Brandon and Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's sister. In 1542 the college was dissolved and given to the Bishops of Norwich. The College was then leased to a series of tenants and a large part of the building was demolished.
The remaining wings were remodelled in provincial Palladian style in the later 18th century by Squire Buck (or Brick - the manuscript is unclear). The Georgian appearance concealed the 14th century building and its medieval origin was largely forgotten. Some Historians and Antiquarians suspected that what was then called College Farm may still retain parts of the old bnuilding, including the Wingfield vicar Reverend Aldwell in his book "Wingfield" in 1921. However it was not until 1971 that careful restoration by the then owner Ian Chance finally revealed the hidden 14th century structure and proved that the lost college had amazingly survived.
Tour 2½ hours, £14 including tea and home-made cakes.
Location: near Eye, Suffolk
|Tour Dates 2013|
|May||Sat 11, 2.00 pm|
|June||Fri 7, 2.00 pm|
|July||Wed 10, 2.00 pm|
|September||Fri 6, 2.00 pm|
|September||Sat 21, 2.00 pm|
To book, call the Mercury Theatre on 01206 573948 or book on-line at;