How Thomas Cromwell lived: Henry VIII henchman's 16th century mansion recreated

Spectacular 58-room home was considered one of London's finest

The magnificent 16th century home of Thomas Cromwell has been revealed in unprecedented detail by an artist's impression.

Cromwell, who rose to a position of power in Tudor England as King Henry VIII's henchman, is said to have had “one of the most spectacular private houses” in 1530s London.

The illustration was created using the painstaking research of Dr Nick Holder, a historian at the University of Exeter in England, and published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the British Archaeological Association.

Dr Holder scrutinised a rich source of information, including letters, leases, surveys and inventories for his study of Cromwell's mansion. The research was then brought to life by illustrator Peter Urmston.

The abode had 58 rooms, including servants' garrets, a large garden, and was situated beside the Austin Friars monastery in the City of London, now in the heart of the English capital's commercial district.

The building served as a family home, an administrative base and a venue for entertainment.

It is believed to have cost £1,600 ($2,206) to build, including about £550 on the land, and was probably heavily influenced by fashionable new Italian Renaissance architecture.

About 80 workmen were enlisted for the project, which began in 1535 and was completed years later after being hit by delays.

Interest in Thomas Cromwell has grown in recent years, due in part to novelist Hilary Mantel's award-winning Wolf Hall series, which has also been adapted for television.

Incidentally, Cromwell would not have had much time to enjoy his home once it was complete. He eventually fell out of favour with the monarch, partly over his role in the marriage of Henry and Anne of Cleaves, and was executed after being accused of treason at the Tower of London in 1540.

Dr Holder also examined Cromwell's previous London home: a 14-room neighbouring town house which his family lived in during the 1520s. Documents, including two inventories from his tenancy, provided a room-by-room description of that home and its contents.

“These two houses were the homes of this great man, they were the places where he lived with his wife and two daughters, where his son grew up. It was also the place he went back to at night after being with Henry VIII at court and just got on with the hard graft of running the country," Dr Holder said.

“No one else has looked at these two houses in quite as much detail comparing all the available evidence. This is about as close as you are going to get to walking down these 16th-century corridors.”

Updated: July 28th 2021, 7:25 AM
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