Taken from: Get Surrey
ONE of Esher’s most historically significant but lesser known buildings has come under the spotlight after its owner decided to detail its origins in a book.
Wayneflete Tower, once part of Esher Palace, has long lived in the shadow of Hampton Court.
Now its centuries of history are catalogued in the book The Tower of Esher, written by Penny Rainbow, who started to research the site soon after buying it in back in 1992.
“I think a lot of people believe it to be Victorian folly and a mimic of Hampton Court and don’t actually realise that it was here before Hampton Court,” she said.
“It is just tucked away here in Esher.
“Cardinal Thomas Wolsey would stay at the tower while Hampton Court was being built.
“I couldn’t live somewhere like that and not feel compelled to research its history.”
The tower, completed in the 1460s, was named after its builder William Wayneflete.
It was the former gatehouse to Esher Palace and one of 240 properties he owned in his role as the Bishop of Winchester and Lord High Chancellor of England.
Subsequent owners of the site included King Henry VIII, King Edward VI and Cardinal Wolsey.
Ms Rainbow said the most eye-opening find during her research was a 1673 drawing of the entire Esher Palace site in its original form, found at Bodleian Library in Oxford.
In 1677, the estate was bought by Sir Thomas Lynch, who imported African slaves to knock down Esher Palace, leaving only the gatehouse standing.
“I was told that there were no other drawings so that was just incredible,” she added.
“I maintain that I will find other drawings and I haven’t drawn a line under my research.”
It was only after the First World War that the land was broken up and turned into private estate.
During the 1930s it had been neglected and vandalised but was saved from demolition by the actress Frances Day.
Ms Rainbow was alerted to the availability of the Grade I-listed building after she saw it in theSurrey Advertiser.
She estimated she had spent almost £1m on restoring the property over an 18-year period, including renovating the powdery stone.
“The place was a wreck because of water damage to the roof,” she said. “All the time I have Wayneflete Tower I am asset rich but liquid poor.
“I’m never going to have money in the bank but I’m a lucky girl because I own Wayneflete Tower.”
Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, added: “Penny Rainbow must be congratulated on this labour of love.
“Few owners of important buildings make the time or have the talent to fully research their houses, let alone publish the results.”
Anybody who wants more information about the book should visit www.waynefletetower.com.