Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Day 11: Ingateston Hall, Essex.

This place was one that Scott was going to put on our itinerary when we go on our tour of Essex, but when he found that it was going to be closed for that week, he suggested that I go with Deana.

It turns out that she’s very familiar with this place. When she was working at a school, this used to be a place where they’d take the kids to every year. She agreed that it’s a lovely place to see.

We had a leisurely morning. She took the dogs for a walk while I wrote a blog post. She prepared a Deana picnic for us, then we set off.

Ingateston Hall was acquired by the first Lord Petre, a man by the name of John Petre, for the huge sum of £849 back in the reign of Henry VIII. He must have been a very shrewd operator who knew where the bodies were buried, because even though he and his wife were Catholic, they survived and thrived through the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I.

He first came to the attention of the powers that be when he was a tutor to the Boleyn boys.

The interesting thing about this man is that HE was the diplomat sent to the court of Cleves to arrange the marriage between Anne of Cleves and Henry VIII, (the marriage that ended in divorce because he said she was too ugly), yet Cromwell lost his head over this marriage and John Petre didn’t.

Even though he was Catholic, he was involved in breaking up huge cathedrals such as Canterbury when the dissolution was happening, which enriched the family very much. His second wife was extremely good friends with Mary I, being with her when she entered London after defeating Jane Grey who tried to steal her throne; her coronation, wedding and sadly, her funeral.

Mary Tudor stayed here on her way to London and Elizabeth I stayed in July 1561 on one of her summer country holidays away from the stink of London.

There is a letter they’ve found that John Petre sent to Elizabeth I, asking for permission to retire due to illness and old age. He died safe and secure in his own bed.

I took this shot before I knew that you weren’t allowed to take photos inside. I did my best to behave, but…

Omg, here’s a priest hole! This house has two. This one is in Lady Petra’s sitting room so she could worship in secret and bundle popish things away when the inspectors came knocking.
The other one was only discovered in 1855 when a child lost a toy through the floorboards. When looking for it, they discovered a trapdoor. There was a long ladder down, with a plate, a knife, fork and some chicken bones beside it. Clearly, someone had been sheltered there.

The dining room has genuine Tudor panelling on the walls. It was more than flesh and blood could stand, to not take a picture of this!

There’s a view of the master bedroom. This house has been in the same family for 18 generations and this room has always been used for this purpose.

The 16th Baron had 16 kids and said, “Thank the lord for the colonies!” Apparently there are quite a few Petres in New Zealand.

The bed has carvings on the bed head of the family crest and John Petre’s first wife’s portrait. The second wife had to sleep underneath this for the rest of her life…

Look at this girl! She is “ The Rape of the Lock” inspiration. She was a wealthy heiress who came to London to marry a rich man. The 8th baron cut off a lock of her hair and ruined her reputation. She went back to the country and married a nobody. Alexander Pope wrote a poem about the whole thing.

After the tour of the house, we were talking with the guide, whose knowledge was encyclopaedic. She recognised my family name, which was nice.

Deana and I then chose to sit under this tree to eat our Deana picnic. My contribution was some Belgian chocolate biscuits that were in a fabulous art deco tin that I bought in the gift shop at Eltham.
I’ve been buying tins to take home to use in my sewing room, but of course I can’t take the fudge, shortbread and chocolate biscuits inside them. They’re far too heavy for a woman with just carryon! So every day since Buckingham Palace, I’ve been harassing people to eat.

After lunch we walked around the gardens. This was the Lime walk. The autumn leaves were crunching under our feet as we walked. Every now and then we might see someone else wandering around, but we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

All we could hear was the sound of the nearby stream and the cooing of doves.

I tasted a blackberry along this path.

Look at this Lime tree with the hollow at its base. It’s still happily growing away.
You can imagine kids having a magical childhood here.

We came out where the old stables and other buildings were.
As time went on, the family used this estate to basically train the eldest sons how to run a working estate.

On the way home we stopped at the site of Worley Place. A woman called Ellen Willmott made it her life’s work to create an incredible garden. It was way famous in its day, but after she died the house was pulled down and the gardens were totally neglected.
It’s a shame. The pictures posted around the various paths show that it was an amazing place.

Home for a dinner, a great chat with Deana’s son Alex and his lovely girlfriend, a last night talking our heads off before the adventure moves on to its next stage.

Tomorrow I fly to Ireland to see James from my North Korea trip!


  1. Lucinda

    Another brilliant day! Fortunate Frogdancer indeed. Wherever I hear or read lime tree, I always think of Coleridge. “This lime tree bower my prison.”

    • FrogdancerJones

      I’ll have to look that one up.

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