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Take a Trip Back in Time at West Stow Hall

Tucked away in a village a few miles from Bury St Edmunds is a large beautiful Tudor country house steeped in history and mystery with links to the Abbey of St Edmund and a French Queen.

Arriving at West Stow Hall, the red brick Tudor country house with its turrets, gatehouse and colonnade, take your breathe away.

The house is set in six acres of beautiful grounds featuring areas of formal gardens and woodland as well as orchards and paddocks. It's just 10 minutes from Bury St Edmunds and full of history.

The hall is believed to have been built by Sir John Croftes, Master of Horse to Mary Tudor, Queen of France and the Duchess of Suffolk, whose final resting place is at nearby St Mary’s Church in Bury St Edmunds.

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Mary Tudor was the sister of Henry VIII and was married to the Louis XII, King of France, until his death in 1515. Soon after she married Charles Brandon, the Duke of Suffolk.

Mary Tudor's coat of arms as Queen of France can be seen over the door to the Hall’s gatehouse and the terracotta figures and decorations on the gatehouse are similar to those found by archaeologists at the Duke of Suffolk's house at Westhorpe in Stowmarket.

Although it is known that John Croftes was Master of Horse to Mary Tudor, what led Sir John to pay tribute to the Queen of France at West Stow Hall is something of a Tudor mystery.

In 1526 Sir John, who was knighted in 1553 at the coronation of Queen Mary, Henry VIII's daughter, leased West Stow Manor from the Abbot of Bury St Edmunds and in 1540, after the dissolution of the Abbey, purchased it from the Crown for £497. The source of Sir John's money is not known although it is thought he was a substantial sheep farmer who may have been involved in the manufacture of woollen cloths in Bury St Edmunds.

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While some historians have suggested that the Hall was built by the last Abbot of Bury St Edmunds Abbot John Reeve, evidence obtained by the hall’s owners, Eileen and Andrew Gilbert, suggests that Sir John, and his grandson were responsible for its construction.

The links with the Abbey do not end there though. The hall's lounge area contains stonework from the Abbey of St Edmund. The Abbey was stripped of all valuable building materials and artefacts after the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.

The house was originally moated but the moat was filled in by 1840. The very decorative gatehouse is linked to the main house by a long colonnade, which gives it quite a monastic feel which even among other Tudor houses is unique. The hall features an enormous inglenook fireplace, which is said to be the second largest in Suffolk.

In the chamber of the gatehouse is a beautifully preserved wall painting known as the Four Ages of Man which is thought to date from 1575.

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West Stow Hall remained in the Croftes family until 1670 and was left to the Proger family, who were Royal servants.

Since then it has been owned among others by the Marquis of Cornwallis, the Rector of Culford the Rev Edward Benyon, and the Earl Cadogan. Since 1937 it has been owned by four different families.

In 2009 it was bought by Eileen and Andrew Gilbert who set about renovating it sympathetically in accordance with its Grade 1 Listing and with the guidance of English Heritage.

West Stow Hall is open to the public on specific days of the year under the Invitation to View scheme but perhaps the best way to experience it is to stay there.

The grounds contain a self-contained Studio and 2 Holiday Cottages, making it the perfect retreat for couples, families and solo travellers who simply want to relax and explore Suffolk. To find out about staying in the grounds of West Stow Hall visit West Stow Hall website.

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