The REAL Wolf Hall is unearthed: Palatial home of Seymour family where Henry VIII fell for third wife Jane is discovered 300 years after it was destroyed
- Home of Seymour family was where Henry VIII first showed an interest in his third wife Jane Seymour
- But magnificent 16th century property fell into ruin within 40 years of being built in Burbage, Wiltshire
- Original features have been uncovered by archaeologists and historians who have proven true location
- Remarkable findings include network of Tudor brick-built sewers and foundations of towers and rooms
The real Wolf Hall made famous by Hilary Mantel’s books on Henry VIII has finally been unearthed nearly three centuries after it was razed to the ground.
The magnificent 16th century home of the Seymour family, where the Tudor King first showed an interest in his third wife Jane Seymour, fell into ruin within 40 years of being built in the Wiltshire village of Burbage.
It was eventually lost and nobody today is sure of exactly its location or appearance – but original features of the property have now been uncovered by archaeologists and historians who have proven its true location.
Dominic Binney, present occupant and a descendant of Jane Seymour, in the rediscovered Tudor sewers under Wolf Hall
The Binney family’s minature paintings of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, with unearthed Tudor tiles
The present house at Wolf Hall is far smaller than the grand Tudor pile built by Sir John Seymour in the 16th century
Robin Holley and Graham Bathe hold fascinating Tudor tiles in the rediscovered foundations of Wolf Hall in Wiltshire
Original features of the property have now been uncovered by archaeologists and historians who have proven its location
The remarkable findings include the network of Tudor brick-built sewers and some of the foundations of two towers and several large rooms of the palatial home.
Ornate tiles that are likely to have been walked on by Henry VIII were also dug up. The discoveries were made in the grounds of the much later built Wolf Hall Manor that remains today in Burbage.
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Off the back of Mantel’s award-winning books and the hugely popular TV adaptation, the owners of Wolf Hall, who are direct descendants of the Seymours, have allowed archaeologists to explore the site for the first time.
The team of up to 20 volunteers have spent 20 months on the project. Dominic Binney, who with his siblings inherited the manor in 2013, said as a child he was told various theories about where the original building was.
Mr Binney, 34, said: ‘It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet but it’s remarkable. I was completely oblivious what was beneath our feet for so long and I never could have imagined what was hidden in the garden.
The foundations of Tudor Wolf Hall begin to appear in the grounds of the present house in the Wiltshire village
Team members work on the dig (left), which uncovered Tudor tiles, on which a painting of Jane Seymour is pictured (right)
A Tudor brick, complete with the maker’s fingerprints, was found during the new dig in the grounds of the historic property
Archaeologist Robin Holley with Tudor tiles (left, and right) in the rediscovered foundations of Wolf Hall in Wiltshire
Dominic Binney said as a child he was told lots of different theories about where the original building would have been
‘Growing up we were given so many mixed ideas from different people of where the original Tudor manor was, the feeling was no one really knew for sure – the Seymours were in charge of a large area.
How Wolf Hall played a major role in Henry VIII’s reign and Tudor history
The Tudor Wolf Hall was built as the seat of the Seymour family in the early 1530s with a loan from King Henry VIII – and brokered by Thomas Cromwell – of £2,400, which would be about £1million today.
It was rapidly built in time for Henry’s visit in the summer of 1535 with his second wife Anne Boleyn.
Historians say it was during this visit that Henry first noticed Jane Seymour and began wooing her.
By January 1536 Anne had fallen out of favour with the King after miscarrying a male child and Henry began openly courting Jane.
They were engaged the day after Anne Boleyn was executed for high treason, incest and adultery in May 1536, and were married ten days later.
Jane died 12 days after giving birth to the heir the King was desperate for and was the only one of his wives to receive a Queen’s funeral.
Following the King’s interest in Jane, the rest of the Seymour family also benefited, rising in social status.
Her brother Edward became the Duke of Somerset and her other brother Thomas was made a baron and Lord High Admiral.
But both brothers were eventually beheaded for plotting for more power after Henry’s death; Thomas in March 1549 and Edward in January 1552.
Edward’s son, also called Edward, was imprisoned in the tower by Queen Elizabeth in the 1560s for his clandestine marriage to Lady Catherine Grey and was only allowed to return to court after her death.
He abandoned Wolf Hall to build a new manor, Tottenham House, about a mile away. By 1571 Wolf Hall lay derelict and was finally demolished in 1723.
‘We would like to know as much as everyone else about the old Wolf Hall. It is fantastic what we’ve discovered so far and very exciting for us.’
Sir John Seymour, Jane’s father, was warden of the royal hunting forest of Savernake, and the Tudor Wolf Hall was built as his family’s seat in the early 1530s. It played an important role in the history of the Tudors – but lay derelict by 1571 and was finally demolished in 1723.
There is no surviving picture of the property as Henry VIII would have seen it, but historians know from records it was a large grand home with a King’s chamber, a broad chamber, a long gallery, a gatehouse, an armoury, halls, kitchens and other rooms and also had eight gardens.
Historian Graham Bathe, 63, who led the dig, said: ‘I approached the family because I had been working on researching Savernake Forest for about 20 years and Wolf Hall is absolutely central to that research.
‘I thought the likelihood was that the Tudor house would be on top of the hill and we had this extensive set of tunnels, which we have now identified as Tudor sewers, to guide us a bit and then it was trial and error – making exploratory trenches and seeing what we had in those.
‘Walk-through sewers were unknown until Henry VIII’s time and these would have been extremely prestigious at the time they were built – there’s 140 yards in total, it’s an extensive network.
‘There had been buildings at Wolf Hall since Saxon times, but it was radically upgraded in the years preceding Henry’s visit in 1535. To put in the sewers would have meant razing much of the existing building because you couldn’t tunnel under it.
‘The intention must have been to make it attractive for the King to visit and garner more favour. Nobody at that stage could have foreseen that the daughter of the household would marry the King.
‘We’ve uncovered the base of a great hexagonal tower and we’ve uncovered much of the stonework which shows signs of early chisel marks.
‘We’ve found lots of oyster shells and animal bones, relics of the feasts they would have had. We have records of the menus from Henry’s visits so we have an idea of what they ate.
The Binney family’s minature paintings of King Henry VIII (left) and Anne Boleyn (right), who was executed in May 1536
A Binney family print of Edward Seymour, Jane’s brother and the Duke of Somerset (left) and a print of Jane Seymour (right)
Ornate Tudor glass has been found during the excavations of the site where the historic 16th century property once stood
The Seymours’ elaborate coat of arms with the motto in French, ‘Faith For Duty’ (left), and a Seymour window taken from Wolf Hall and re-installed at Great Bedwyn Church in 1905 (right)
Mark Rylance plays Thomas Cromwell in the hugely popular historical TV drama Wolf Hall, which was filmed in summer 2014
The tomb of Sir John Seymour, Jane’s father, at Great Bedwyn Church, near the village of Burbage where Wolf Hall is located
‘And we found a room that would have been tiled throughout, we’ve found bits of tiles that almost certainly would have been the tiles the royals walked on. We think they would have been put in as part of this massive upgrading before Henry’s visit.
‘We want to reconstruct what it would have looked like in Tudor times but we’ve still got a long way to go – we’re probably some years away from completing that.’
Brothers Dominic, Theo and Orlando Binney and sister Genevieve inherited the property following the death of their mother in 2013.
They hope to organise visitor attractions and events in the future to help fund work to restore and repair the existing property.
Mr Binney said: ‘Before Hilary Mantel’s books and the BBC series we got maybe one visitor a year, if that. Now we get lots of people all the time, they have really put Wolf Hall on the map.’
Wolf Hall was filmed in various country houses in 2014 – including Montacute House and Barrington Court in Somerset, Lacock Abbey and Great Chalfield Manor and Garden in Wiltshire, and Chastleton House in Oxfordshire.
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