View of the Church of the Reconciliation with a side view of Hengrave Hall in the background. Originally built in Saxon times and expanded over the years, it contains the family tombs of the Kytson and Gage families. Roman Catholic rites were practiced here long after the Reformation, and the parish was suppressed in the late 16th Century.
In Hengrave Church. Sir Thomas Kytson between the effigies of his two wives. Photo by Lawrence OP 24 March 2007
Sir Thomas Kytson, (1485–1540) was a wealthy English merchant, sheriff of London, and builder of Hengrave Hall.
He was son of Robert Kytson of Warton, Lancashire. He came to London when young, and was apprenticed to Richard Glasyer, a mercer, and on the expiration of his indenture was admitted a freeman of the Mercers' Company in 1507. He twice served the office of warden of the company, in 1526 and 1534, and held the office of master in 1535.
He had financial dealings with the crown on a large scale; his mercantile transactions were also extensive. He was a member of the Merchant Adventurers' Company, and traded at the cloth fairs or staples held by the company at Antwerp, Middelburg, and other places in Flanders. He served the office of sheriff of London in 1533, and on 30 May in that year was knighted, an honour which was not conferred on his co-sheriff, William Forman. In May 1534 he was associated with Roland Lee, bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, in receiving oaths of fealty from priests and monks.
Kytson died 11 September 1540, and was buried in Hengrave Church. In the north-east angle of the chapel is a tomb to the memory of Margaret, countess of Bath, his widow, and her three husbands. A recumbent figure of Kytson in armour is placed on the step in front of the tomb.
He had a London dwelling-house in Milk Street (with a chapel attached), a garden in Coleman Street, and a house and chapel in Stoke Newington. Like oher wealthy London merchants, he appears to have had a house and staff at Antwerp.
In 1521 Kytson purchased from Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham the manor of Hengrave, Suffolk, and the manor of Colston Basset in Nottinghamshire. On the attainder and execution of the Duke of Buckingham in the following year, Kytson was for a time deprived of the estates, but they were restored to him, confirmed by an act of parliament of 1524. At Hengrave he obtained a license from Henry VIII to build an embattled manor-house on a magnificent scale. The building was begun in 1525, and finished in 1538. A later inventory of the furniture and goods at Hengrave shows its extent and elegance.
Subsequently he purchased several other manors in Suffolk from the crown. Besides Hengrave, he had houses at Westley and Risby in Suffolk, and at Torbrian in Devon.
Kytson was twice married. By his first wife, whose name is not known, he had Elizabeth, wife of Edmund Crofts of Westowe in Suffolk. By his second wife, Margaret, only child of John Donnington of Stoke Newington in Middlesex and Elizabeth Pye, he had a posthumous son, afterwards Sir Thomas Kytson, and four daughters: (1) Katherine, married to Sir John Spencer of Wormleighton, Warwickshire; (2) Dorothy, married to Sir Thomas Packington of Westwood, Worcesterehire; (3) Frances, wife of John Bourchier, 5th Baron FitzWarin, eldest son of John Bourchier, 2nd Earl of Bath; and (4) Anne, wife of Sir William Spring of Pakenham, Suffolk.
Dame Margaret (died 1561) was married secondly to Sir Richard Long, and afterwards to the Earl of Bath.
Hengrave Hall is a Tudor manor house near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk, England and was the seat of the Kytson and Gage families 1525-1887. Both families were Roman Catholic Recusants.
Work on the house was begun in 1525 by Thomas Kytson the Elder, a merchant and member of the Mercers Company, who completed it in 1538. The house is one of the last examples of a house built around an enclosed courtyard with a great hall. It is constructed from stone taken from Ixworth Priory (dissolved in 1536) and white bricks baked at Woolpit. The house is notable for an ornate oriel window incorporating the royal arms of Henry VIII, the Kytson arms and the arms of the wife and daughters of Sir Thomas Kytson the Younger (Kytson quartered with Paget; Kytson quartered with Cornwallis; Kytson quartered with Darcy; Kytson quartered with Cavendish). The house is embattled, and in the great hall there is an oriel window with fan vaulting by John Wastell, the architect of the chapels at Eton College and King’s College, Cambridge. The chapel contains 21 lights of Flemish glass commissioned by Kytson and installed in 1538, depicting salvation history from the creation of the world to the Last Judgement. This is the only collection of pre-reformation glass that has remained in situ in a domestic chapel anywhere in England. In the dining room is a Jacobean symbolic painting over the fireplace that defies interpretation, bearing the legend ‘obsta principiis, post fumum flama’ (‘Beware the first signs, behind the smoke are flames’).
The house was altered by the Gage family in 1775. The outer court and the east wing were demolished and the moat was filled in. Alterations on the front of the house were begun but never completed, and Sir John Wood attempted to restore the interior of the house to its original Tudor appearance in 1899. He rebuilt the east wing and re-panelled most of the house in oak. One room, the Oriel Chamber, retains its original seventeenth century paneling, in which is embedded a portrait of James II painted by William Wissing in 1675. It is thought that some of the original panelling found its way to the Gage’s townhouse in Bury St. Edmunds, now the Farmers’ Club in Northgate Street.
Some have speculated that Mary I stopped briefly at Hengrave on her way to Framlingham Castle in 1553, but there is no evidence for this other than that John Bourchier, Earl of Bath, who had married Sir Thomas Kytson’s widow Margaret, was a loyal supporter of the Queen. (However the Queen's father Henry VIII was godfather to Margaret's son Henry Long from her 2nd marriage, so it is not entirely improbable). Elizabeth I stayed at Hengrave from 27–30 August 1578 and a chamber is named in her honour. The madrigalist John Wilbye was employed by the Kytsons at Hengrave and in Colchester from around 1594 until his death in 1638, as was the composer Edward Johnson. King James II visited Hengrave throughout the 1670s and attended the wedding of William Gage and Charlotte Bond in 1670. The lawyer and antiquarian John Gage was the brother of William Gage, 7th Baronet, and wrote 'The History and Antiquities of Hengrave in Suffolk' in 1822. It is said that the greengage was named after a tree first grown in England at Hengrave, but the tree was actually named after the Viscounts Gage of Firle, Sussex who were cousins of the Hengrave Gages.
The ornate windows and mouldings at the front of the building feature on the coverpiece on the Suffolk edition of Pevsner's Buildings of England.
When Sir Thomas Kytson died in 1540, he left Hengrave and all his other property to his wife, Dame Margaret (née Donnington). With her he had a posthumous son, afterwards Sir Thomas Kytson, and four daughters, Katherine, Dorothy, Anne, and Frances. Just two months after her first husband's death, she married 2ndly, Sir Richard Long (c.1494-1546) of Shengay (Gentleman of the Privy Chamber to Henry VIII). The marriage settlement of Dame Margaret and her 3rd husband, the 2nd Earl of Bath, in 1548, gave her complete control over the extensive personal property she brought into their marriage, including the right to devise it by will should she predecease him. Hengrave eventually passed down the female Kytson line, and on the death of Elizabeth Kytson in 1625 the house was inherited by her daughter Mary Kytson, who had married Thomas Darcy, 1st Earl Rivers. By her granddaughter Penelope Darcy’s marriage to Sir John Gage, 1st Baronet, the house passed into the Gage family. The house was used as a refuge by the English Augustinian Canonesses of Bruges from 1794–1802, led by their Prioress Mother Mary More. The Canonesses ran a school. In 1887, on the death of Lady Henrietta Gage, the house was bought by John Lysaght, one of the founders of the Australian steel industry. In 1895 it was bought by Sir John Wood, and on his death sold to the Religious of the Assumption, who ran a convent school until 1974.
On 14 September 1974 the Assumptionists founded the ecumenical Hengrave Community of Reconciliation, originally a group of families of different Christian denominations. Later, the Community came to consist of long-term members, who remained in the Community for up to seven years, and short-term members, many of whom came from countries in Central and Eastern Europe for periods ranging from one year to three months. Although strongly inspired by other ecumenical communities like Taizé and the Iona Community, the Hengrave Community had a distinctive character owing to the Sisters’ continued presence. The Hengrave Community was dissolved in September 2005, closing its Christian and conference centre at the site, after failing to fund £250,000 for improvements. The current owner of the hall is David Harris who has submitted plans to convert the existing building into private housing. It is currently used for wedding receptions and other exclusive functions.
Gage, John The History and Antiquities of Hengrave in Suffolk (1822);
Gage, John The History and Antiquities of Suffolk: Thingoe Hundred (1838);
Harris, Barbara J. English Aristocratic Women, 1450-1550: Marriage and Family, Property and Careers (2002)
^ Mounting debts force Hengrave Hall to close Bury Free Press, 20 May 2005
Images of England — details from listed building database (283754)
Hengrave Hall website
found on ancestry.com
Son of Robert Kytson of Warton in Lancashire, was born in 1485. He came to London in his youth, and was apprenticed to Richard Glayser, mercer, and on the expiration of his indenture was admitted a freeman of the Mercers' Company in 1507. He twice served the office of warden of the company, in 1526 and 1534, and held the office of master in 1535. In 1521 Kytson purchased of the Duke of Buckingham the manor of Hengrave, Suffolk, and the manor of Colston Basset in Nottinghamshire for 2,340 £, the estates being valued at 115 £ yearly. On the attainder and execution of the Duke of Buckingham in the following year, Kytson was for a time deprived of the estates, but they were ultimately restored to him, and were confirmed to him by an act of Parliament of 1524, which describes him as a 'citizen and mercer of London, otherwise called Kytson the merchant'.
At Hengrave he obtained a license from Henry VIII to build an embattled manor-house on a magnificent scale. The building was begun in 1525, and finished in 1538. An elaborate inventory of the furniture and goods at Hengrave, taken in 1603 (Gage, History of Hengrave, pp. 21-37), illustrates its great extent and elegance, and the vast wealth of its owner. In the valuation of the lands and goods of the inhabitants of London, taken in 1522, Kytson was assessed in goods at a thousand marks (altered to four thousand marks), and in lands at six hundred marks (State Papers, Hen. VIII, iii. pt. ii. p. 1052). In the following year he appears indebted to the Crown for £600, and at the time his financial dealings with the crown were on a large scale. (ib. p. 1530, vol. iv. pt. iii. p. 2771, vol. ix. p. 567, iii.) His mercantile transactions were very extensive. He was a member of the Merchant Adventurers' Company, and traded at the cloth fairs or staples held by that company at Antwerp, Middelburg, and other places in Flanders. Like many other wealthy London merchants, he appears to have had a house and staff of servants' at Antwerp (ib. vii. 166).
Kytson served the office of sheriff of London in 1533, and on 30 May in that year was knighted, an honour which was not conferred upon his co-sheriff, William Foreman (ib. vi. 279). In May 1534 he was associated with Rowland Lee, Bishop of Coventry and Lichfield, in receiving oaths of fealty from priests and monks (ib. vii. 283). Kytson was assessed for the subsidy of 1535 at four thousand marks (ib. viii. 184).
Subsequently he purchased several other manors in Suffolk of the crown of the yearly value of £202, 4s, 7d., for which he paid £3,710 1s. 8d. From an inventory of his effects taken after his death, it appears that his warehouses in London were stored with cloth of gold, satins, tapestry, velvets, furs, fustians, bags of pepper, cloves, madder, &c., to the value of £1,181 15s. 1d., and the ready money and debts (goods, doubtful, and desperate) amounted to a very considerable sum. He had a dwelling-house on Milk Street (with a chapel attached), the 'implements' in which were valued at 154£. 8s. 3 1/2d.; a garden in Coleman Street, and a house and chapel at Stoke Newington. Besides Hengrave, he had houses at Westley and Risby in Suffolk, and at Torbrian in Devonshire.
Sir Thomas Kytson died 11 September 1540, aged 55 years. Upon the 21st of the same month allegations were taken to prove his noncupative will. John Crofts, of Westowes, Esq.; Edmund Crofts, on Lincoln's Inn, Gent., and others, deposed, that on Saturday, the 11 September, Sir Thomas Kytson being sick, and lying within his manor of Hengrave, about 8 o'clock of the night, Henry Payne, in the presence of the deponents, asked him, then lying in his bed, if he had any will made; to whom he answered, "No"; and that then the said Payne, speaking again, said "for ye have told me in times past that my lady your wife should have this manor of Hengrave"; and that the said Sir Thomas Kytson answered and said, "Yea, marry shall she"; and that then the said Payne, speaking again, said "And Felton's too?"- "Yea, answered Sir Thomas Kytson, "and Felton's too"; that the substance of this conversation was immediately set down in writing, in the form of a will, by Henry Payne, at the request of Sir Thomas Kytson, in his presence and in that of the deponents; and that Sir Thomas Kytson lived four hours after this conversation.
Kytson was buried with much state in Hengrave Church (ef. Gage, pp. 112-115). In the north-east angle of the chapel is a well-executed tomb to the memory of Margaret, countess of Bath (his widow), and her three husbands. A recumbent figure of Kytson in armour is placed on the step in front of the tomb, the frieze of which contains an inscription to his memory. On 22 September 1540 allegations were taken to prove his nuncupative will, by which he left his manors of Hengrave and Feltons and all his other property to his wife, Dame Margaret. The will is dated 11 September (P.C.C. Spert, 30).
Kytson was twice married. By his first wife, whose name is not known, he had Elizabeth, wife of Edmund Crofts of Westowe in Suffolk. By his second wife, Margaret, only child of John Donnington of Stoke Newington in Middlesex and Elizabeth Pye, he had a posthumous son, afterwards Sir Thomas Kytson, and four daughters: Catherine, married to Sir John Spencer of Wormleighton , Warwickshire; Dorothy, married to Sir Thomas Packington of Westwood, Worcestershire; Frances, wife of John, Lord Fitzwarren, eldest son of John Bourchier, Earl of Bath; and Anne, wife of Sir William Spring of Pakenham, Suffolk.
Dame Margaret (died 1561) was married secondly to Sir Richard Long and afterwards to John Bourchier, Earl of Bath- a strenuous supporter of the cause of Queen Mary.
A portrait of Kytson by Holbein is at Hengrave, and was engraved by Sievier for Gage's 'History of Hengrave' (p. 106). [Records of the Corporation of London and of the Mercers' Company]
In 1589, the parish was suppressed. Why? Why was this church closed? What happened here for it to be given up? It is very simple. The Kytsons and the Gages were militantly recusant families. They maintained their Catholic faith and identity throughout the penal period. And they were powerful enough to face off the legal penalties that came with such a position. This is less rare in the north-west, for instance, but quite an unusual position in East Anglia.
The son of the Sir Thomas who built the hall was powerful enough to have entertained Queen Elizabeth in 1578, despite his Catholic faith. It is said that she tried to argue him into protestantism; in return, he presented her with a beautiful jewel. No wonder, then, that it was easier to hive off Hengrave church from the diocese of Norwich, than to tolerate the recusant priests that Sir Thomas, as patron of the living, would no doubt impose on them!
The will of Margaret Donnington, named members of the Spring family and Henry Payne. And she appointed her trusty and well-beloved son-in-law, Sir John Spencer and Sir Thomas Packington, her son Thomas Kytson, and her son-in-law William Barnaby, executors of her will, and to be associated with them her loving friend Henry Payne; to each of whom she gave twenty pounds.
The wardship of her son, Sir Thomas Kytson, belonged to the King and was granted by the Crown first to Lord Chancellor Rich and afterward to the Countess of Bath.
found on ancestry.com
There were still many extremely wealthy merchants like Thomas Kytson, who would build Hengrave Hall from 1525 to 1538 at a massive cost of £3000. The hall was built of brick and faced with stone. Building materials were brought to Hengrave by barge up the River Lark. Kytson had bought the estate of Hengrave from Edward, Duke of Buckingham, in 1520. The Duke was beheaded in 1521, and for a time the King seized the estate for himself, having backdated the Bill which condemned Buckingham for 4 years. Kytson managed to persuade him to let the estate remain in his hands. Kytson's sister Margaret was married to John Washington, and Kytson would employ their son, Thomas Washington, as his agent in Flanders. George Washington, a direct descendant, became President of the United States of America.