Wingfield Manor: a medieval great house


Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument

List Entry Number: 1014829

Date first listed: 30-Nov-1926

Date of most recent amendment: 24-Oct-1997


Ordnance survey map of Wingfield Manor: a medieval great house
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County: Derbyshire

District: Amber Valley (District Authority)

Parish: South Wingfield

National Grid Reference: SK 37424 54736


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Magnates' residences are high status dwellings of domestic rather than military character. They date from the Norman Conquest (in some cases forming a continuation of a Saxon tradition) and throughout the rest of the medieval period. Individual residences were in use for varying lengths of time; some continued in use into the post-medieval period. Such dwellings were the houses or palaces of royalty, bishops and the highest ranks of the nobility, usually those associated with the monarch. They functioned as luxury residences for the elite and their large retinues, and provided an opportunity to display wealth in the form of elaborate architecture and lavish decoration. As such, these palaces formed an impressive setting for audiences with royalty, foreign ambassadors and other lords and bishops. Magnates' residences are located in both rural and urban areas. Bishops' residences are usually in close association with cathedrals, and all residences tend to be located close to good communication routes. Unless constrained by pre-existing structures, magnates' residences comprised an elaborate series of buildings, usually of stone, that in general included a great hall, chambers, kitchens, service rooms, lodgings, a chapel and a gatehouse, arranged around a single or double courtyard. As a consequence of the status of these sites, historic documentation is often prolific, and can be of great value for establishing the date of construction and subsequent alterations to the buildings, and for investigating the range of activities for which the site was a focus. Magnates' residences are widely dispersed throughout England reflecting the mobility of royalty and the upper echelons of the nobility. There is a concentration of sites which reflects the growing importance of London as a political centre, and the majority of magnates' residences tend to be located in the south of the country. Despite their wide distribution, magnates' residences are a relatively rare form of monument due to their special social status. At present only around 236 examples have been identified of which 150 are ecclesiastical palaces and 86 are connected with royalty. Magnates' residences generally provide an emotive and evocative link with the past, especially through their connections with famous historical figures, and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to the organisation and display of political power, and wider aspects of medieval and post- medieval society such as the development of towns and industries and the distribution of dependent agricultural holdings. Examples with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be of national importance.

Wingfield Manor is considered to be the most important great house to survive from the mid 15th century. Elements contributing to its outstanding importance are the extent and quality of its remains, the lack of later alteration, the lack of reference to earlier buildings on the same site and its association with a leading minister of the period whose position as Lord Treasurer was second in importance only to that of Chancellor. It is one of a group of major buildings built at this time by self-made men and, as such, is symbolic both of Cromwell's rise to power, wealth and high social status and of his success in protecting the country's economy during the long war with France. It reflects the level of comfort and amenity required and expected of a man of his position and, notwithstanding its elevated location and the retention of earlier defensive features, is of particular interest in being a house of purely domestic (that is, non-defensive) character. In addition to this, it is important for its influence on national architecture. The scale, design and layout of Wingfield were copied both regionally, as at Haddon Hall, and further afield, as at Thornbury Castle, Hampton Court and Gainsborough Old Hall. It is a well-preserved and well-documented example of a medieval great house and retains extensive upstanding remains through which its form and function can be clearly established. The survival of earlier medieval features as buried archaeological remains is also of importance and, though it is appreciated that Cromwell's levelling of the site and the erection of later buildings will have caused significant disturbance of these remains, limited excavation of the site has already established that features do survive and that they contribute significantly to the understanding of earlier phases of occupation.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes the medieval great house known as Wingfield Manor. It includes the upstanding remains of the house which are located on an adapted natural knoll defined by a bank and ditch. The bank and ditch relate to a period of earlier medieval occupation which was identified during part excavation of the site by the North Derbyshire Archaeological Trust between 1978 and 1980. Excavation revealed a 12th century building and defensive ditch and a 14th century dwelling. Further buried remains relating to all periods of occupation will survive in the unexcavated areas of the monument. Also believed to survive are remains relating to the estate which formerly surrounded the great house. These are likely to include such features as fishponds, gardens and a deer park. They have not been included in the scheduling as their extent and state of preservation is not sufficiently understood. Wingfield Manor was built in the mid-15th century for Ralph, Lord Cromwell, Lord Treasurer to King Henry VI. Its upstanding remains date to four main building phases between 1439 and 1455. In its final form, it is a double-courtyard great house comprising an inner court to the north and a larger outer court to the south. The bank and ditch extend further south than the outer court and enclose an area without upstanding remains which is currently occupied by modern farm buildings. This area is likely to have been the site of timber buildings and structures dating to all periods of medieval occupation and whose remains will survive as buried or rock cut features beneath the modern buildings. The buildings of the outer court were two-storeyed and provided accommodation and offices for staff. The east and west building ranges are ruinous but the former includes an upstanding gatehouse with square turrets, upper rooms and entrance arches for both vehicles and pedestrians. The passage through the gatehouse is flanked on either side by a gate lodge while immediately south of the gate is an aisled barn with a residential upper storey thought to have been used as a dormitory for staff. A buttressed wall forms the south side of the outer court and, according to a plan of the site made by Ferrey in 1870, may originally have been part of a third building range. There are no visible remains of such a range. However, if it existed, evidence for it will survive as buried archaeological features beneath the farm buildings south of the medieval wall. The house was approached via a sunken track from the north east and entered through the gateway noted above. Access to the inner court was through a second gateway in the cross range between the two courts. This inner gateway was three-storeyed and similar in design to the outer gateway. There is an heraldic panel over the entrance arch depicting, in addition to the arms of Cromwell and associated families, the purses of the Lord Treasurer's office. The inner court was the site of the principal residential buildings and comprises three upstanding building ranges and the site of a possible fourth range on the east side which may have included a chapel and high status lodgings for visiting royalty. The west range and south (cross) range are occupied by lodgings and include, at the south west corner, a five-storey residential tower known as the Western or High Tower. The north range, in addition to several reception and audience chambers, includes the great hall, with its traceried bay window and two-storey entrance porch, and Cromwell's private accommodation. It also includes, at the western end, a complex of service rooms which include a kitchen, a pantry and a buttery. Underneath the great hall is a vaulted undercroft which is believed to have served as a servants hall. It leads to a small garden which occupies the lower ground north of the inner court. Between the early 12th and mid-14th centuries, the manor of Wingfield was held by the Heriz family and subsequently passed through the Belers and Swyllington families to John Swyllington. His death, in 1418, led to it being inherited by his sister, Margaret Gra, who died without issue in 1428. Ralph Cromwell was designated her nearest heir but his claim was disputed by Margaret's husband and brother and, later, by Sir Henry Pierpoint, a descendent of Heriz. Cromwell won his claim against Gra in 1431 and, by 1439, had reached a settlement with Pierpoint whereby he was able to keep Wingfield and begin clearing the site preparatory to building work on the new manor house. Building work was complete either by the time of Cromwell's death in 1456 or shortly afterwards, following the acquisition of the property by John Talbot, second Earl of Shrewsbury. The Shrewsburys continued to occupy the house for the next 200 years during which time it was besieged twice during the Civil War and subsequently slighted in 1646. In 1678 it was bought by Immanuel Halton who built a house in the shell of the great hall. The site was abandoned in the last quarter of the 18th century though a section of the cross range continued to be occupied as a farmhouse and is still lived in today by the present owners of the manor, the Critchlows, whose family purchased the site at the end of the 19th century. The ruins are a Grade I Listed Building and have been in the care of the Secretery of State since 1960. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these are the occupied 15th century farm house, all post-medieval farm buildings lying at the southern end of the monument, all modern fixtures and structures including farmyard gates, greehouses, an oil tank and English Heritage fixtures and fittings; although the ground beneath all these features is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number: 27227

Legacy System: RSM


Books and journals
Addy, S O, Croston, J, An Account of Winfield (sic.) Manor in Derbyshire, (1885)
Emery, A, 'Archaeological Journal' in Ralph, Lord Cromwell's Manor at Wingfield..., , Vol. 142, (1985), 276-339
BA Thesis, University of Nottingham, Floyd, S, South Wingfield Manor, (1982)
BA Thesis, University of Nottingham, Lucy, S, A Study of the Kitchen Complex at South Wingfield Manor, Derbys., (1986)
Courteney, T , Excavations at Wingfield Manor: 1978-80, (forthcoming)
Ferrey, EB, South Wingfield Manor, Derbyshire, (1870)

End of official listing