Wingfield College, Eye, Suffolk
Hidden behind the Georgian facade is the original chantry college of priests founded by Sir John de Wingfield in 1362. Inside are the medieval great hall, part of the 14th century cloister and Tudor and Georgian interiors. 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 of Sir John's letters still survive as important records of the war. He fought at the Battle of Poitiers in 1356 and made a fortune 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 medieval hall. The college had a Master and nine Secular Chaplains, who 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 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 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 tenants and a large part was demolished.
The remaining wings were remodelled in provincial Palladian style in the later 18th century. The Georgian appearance concealed the 14th century building and its medieval origin was largely forgotten. 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.
Wingfield church and the tombs of the de la Poles, ground floor rooms of the College, including the great hall, upstairs rooms. After tea, visitors are invited to explore the four-acre gardens, which include a walled kitchen garden, medieval fishponds, meadows, woods and an eccentric topiary garden.
A big, big 'thank you' for the College tour yesterday. We both thoroughly enjoyed it. We learnt so much about the history, delivered with just enthusiasm, in Wingfield church and in your beautiful home. Your garden was lovely to walk round, and your tea and cakes were a wonderful finale to a lovely afternoon.
From Stradbroke take the B1118 north towards Diss. Take the second right (after about a mile). It is signposted for Wingfield College. Take the second left down a narrow lane. At the end of the lane please park in Wingfield Arts/Barns car park. Meet at the church.
Tea and home-made cakes.
Photography restricted to the great hall only. Because our properties are old and fragile, unfortunately we cannot include children under 14.
Disabled drivers are welcome to park in the drive rather than the Wingfield Barns car park. There is wheelchair access to the church and the ground floor of the College but not to the first floor. Disabled cloakrooms at Wingfield Barns next door and the de la Pole Arms pub 100 yards away.