1. During the Tudor era the Baconsthorpe estate owned perhaps as many as 30,000 sheep.
Built in the mid-fifteenth century without a formal licence to crenellate, Baconsthorpe Castle was the property of the Heydon family who rose in prominence during the reign of Henry VI. The family made their fortune from the lucrative Wool market and trade with the Low Countries.
HISTORY OF BACONSTHORPE CASTLE
Baconsthorpe Castle was built in the mid-fifteenth century on the site of an earlier manor house known as Wood Hall by John Heydon. His patron was William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk who was a prominent magnate in the court of Henry VI. However, as English defeat in the Hundred Years War led to a loss of virtually all the continental possessions, he was impeached by Parliament. Although Henry VI intervened, he was nevertheless exiled and his enemies intercepted and murdered him on his way to Calais. John survived his master's downfall and continued to prosper; both he and his son, Sir Henry Heydon, continued to develop Baconsthorpe throughout the latter half of the fifteenth century. By 1500 the castle included a Great Hall, a small Gatehouse Keep and a walled courtyard which was occupied by a number of service buildings including kitchen, stables, bakehouse and brewhouse.
A formal licence to crenellate Baconsthorpe was granted in 1561 to Sir Christopher Heydon who built the outer gatehouse. By this time the castle was the centrepiece of a vast estate earning huge venue from wool. The Eastern Range was modified for spinning and weaving of the Wool to produce cloth. However, with the bulk of their trade with the Netherlands, their income was severely hit by the Spanish Wars of 1588 to 1604. This perhaps prompted the involvement of Sir Christopher in the 1601 rebellion by Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex against Elizabeth I.
During the Civil War the family supported King Charles with the then owner of Baconsthorpe, John Heydon, acting as an artillery commander for the Royalist army. Their involvement led to the seizure of their estates in the aftermath of the war and a requirement to buy back the castle in 1657. This severely undermined the family’s wealth and parts of the castle were demolished in order to sell the building materials. The outer Gatehouse was converted into a separate dwelling known as Baconsthorpe Hall which was occupied until 1920.
The Wool Factory
The Elizabethan Gatehouse added by Sir Christopher Heydon