“A Complete History of the Tower of Esher – A William Wayneflete Landmark” by Penny Rainbow

          A Complete History of the Tower of Esher

“A Complete History of the Tower of Esher – A William Wayneflete Landmark” is the first book to be solely devoted to Wayneflete Tower and its impressive catalogue of residents. It encompasses more than five hundred years of English history, and touches upon the social and political trends that had a direct bearing on its architectural development. The story is embellished with memorable anecdotes, and is woven with biographical portraits of a succession of historic English figureheads, wealthy, fashionable and charismatic owners and visitors. The final chapter is dedicated to the archaeological findings of the Time Team’s September 2005 dig, which set out to determine the footprint of Wayneflete’s Palace; and also features Surrey Archaelogical Society’s 2007 excavation. The book incorporates a superb collection of illustrations, some of which have not been printed before; these alone merit                                                                                           publication, but combined with the text, beautifully set the scene in celebration of this national landmark.

The history of Wayneflete Tower is fascinating. It takes its title from its 15th century builder, William Wayneflete, who gained his name from his birthplace, Wainfleet, Lincolnshire.  The Tower was the former gatehouse to his grand Esher Palace, sited on the banks of the River Mole in Surrey, and is all that remains today.  Wayneflete’s Esher Palace was the precursor to Tudor architecture and later inspired Cardinal Wolsey’s Hampton Court. The gatehouse was repeatedly added to and stripped of its architectural limbs, having twice been the central structure of two successive properties in the 17th and 18th centuries. These vicissitudes represented distinctive periods in English history, with perhaps William Kent’s commission for Henry Pelham being the most outstanding. Significantly, William Kent invented the Gothic Revival at Esher. Quite remarkably the Tower has survived it all.

Owners of the Esher estate include two Kings (Henry VIII and Edward VI), a Queen (Elizabeth I), a Protector of England (Duke of Northumberland), a Prime Minister (Henry Pelham), a Cardinal (Thomas Wolsey), a Lord (Lord D’Abernon), a Lady (Lady Helen D’Abernon), two Equerries (Richard Drake and John Latton), a Governor Lieutenant of Jamaica (Sir Thomas Lynch), a stockbroker (John Spicer), a Master of the Rolls (Sir Raymond Francis Evershed) and an American stage and screen actress (Frances Day).

Residents include an Earl (Earl of Leicester, Robert Dudley), a Lady (Lady Sheffied of Butterwick), three Spanish Admirals captured during the defeat of the Spanish Armada, (Don Pedro de Valdez, Alonso de Zayas of Laja and Vasco de Mendoza de Silva of Jerez de los Caballeros) and other visitors include the great circumnavigator Sir Francis Drake, English antiquarians and writers (John Aubrey and Horace Walpole), a novelist (Jane Austen) and a Russian ballerina (Anna Pavlova).  Reference has even been made to the estate of ‘Asher’ by the literary great, William Shakespeare.

Penny asserts: ” In 1992, I became the proud owner and guardian of the Tower and I hope that by bringing its characters to life, set against a backdrop of more than five hundred years of English history, neither the Tower nor its residents will slip from memory and into oblivion.”

Links

Esher District Local History Societ – www.edlhs.co.uk

Surrey History Centre, Woking – www.exploringsurreyspast.org.uk  This is a major website with a fully searchable database.

St. George’s Church, Esher – www.stgeorgesesher.org  A short history and information about Esher’s oldest public building.

British Association for Local History – www.balh.co.uk  Aims to encourage and assist the study of local history.

National Archives at Kew – www.nationalarchives.gov.uk  Search and download the National Archives collection of digitised records.

The Elmbridge Hundred – www.elmbridgehundred.org.uk  Records the famous folk who lived, loved and worked in Elmbridge.

English Heritage’s PastScape   website entry

Wayneflete Tower of Esher - Wessex Archaeology report on the Time Team investigation  Detailed report on “The First Tudor Palace” excavation, September 2005.

Nairn, Ian; Pevsner, Nicholas (2002). Cherry, Bridget. ed. The Buildings of England: Surrey (Revised 2nd ed.).  ISBN 0-300-09675-5.                         Yale University Press.