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Wingfield Manor, Derbyshire (1976)

Wingfield Manor, Derbyshire (1976)

Ralph, Lord Cromwell, was a big hitter in the politics of the reign of King Henry VI.  He made a great deal of money and owned five major houses, two of which still survive – Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire and Wingfield Manor in Derbyshire.  (The other three were Collyweston Manor House, Northamptonshire, Lambley Manor House, Nottinghamshire, and Ampthill Castle, Bedfordshire.)

Its position at the top of a steep hill, its dry moat and its robust High Tower indicate that it was seriously defensible, yet Wingfield has a much more domestic atmosphere than Tattershall.  Nevertheless, it was – and is – a magnificent complex of palatial dimensions.  John Leland, the Tudor antiquary, commented, “Winfield, or Wenfield, in Derbyshire, is but a maner place, but yt far passith Sheffeld Castel”.

Significantly, when it passed on Cromwell’s death in 1455 to the 2nd Earl of Shrewsbury, it needed no major extension for the grander nobleman.  Only when the 6th Earl, long-suffering husband of Bess of Hardwick, used it to accommodate the captive Mary, Queen of Scots were extensions made.

Mary took against it, saying the air made her ill, and Shrewsbury retorted that “the very unpleasant and fulsome savour in the next chamber” came from “the continual festering and uncleanly order of her own folk”.

It was slighted – rendered indefensible – after the Civil War, and the Great Hall was adapted as a two-storey residence by the astronomer Immanuel Halton (1628-1699), whose connection with the first Astronomer Royal, John Flamsteed, is explained in…22B.

His successor, Immanuel Halton III, took stone from the ruins to build his Georgian house in the valley below.

Wingfield Manor has been for generations the site of a working farm, so that although it is conserved by English Heritage, public access is extremely limited.  Arrangements are set out at

Otherwise, public access to the site is strictly prohibited.

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