Essex has much in the way of Tudor history, including the tallest gatehouse in the country.
Built about 1520, Layer Marney Tower was begun by Henry, the first Lord Marney. Even in its unfinished state, Henry’s friend Henry VIII came to stay in 1522. Sadly, Marney died in 1523, leaving son John to continue with the construction project bequeathed to him by his father. John, alas, didn’t last much longer, leaving a building site in lieu of a male heir. What you see is a fraction of the development that was intended to rival Hampton Court Palace.
Don’t let that put you off. It’s still an impressive structure. After John’s death, the house passed to the royal household’s treasurer, Sir Brian Tuke. His family owned the house when Elizabeth I stayed there in 1579. It would seem that some were as reluctant to leave as the royals were to visit. The ghost of Lord Marney is alleged to haunt the staircase clad in a suit of armour, decidedly grumpy that no one bothered to finish his house.
These days, in summer it’s a popular visitor destination and wedding venue, set amidst acres of beautiful parkland. It’s also the residence of the Charrington family, who bought the place in the mid 20th century. The star attraction is the tower; climb it, and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views over the Essex countryside. It’s well signposted and easy to reach, located a few miles south west of Colchester off the B1022.