At this time the kings and queens ruled over a period of great changes. Henry VIII wanted to divorce Catherine of Aragon, because she had not given him a son. He broke away from the Catholic Church which did not allow divorce and made himself Head of the Church in England in 1534.
Royal palaces such as Nonsuch as well as Hampton Court were built for Henry VIII. When he died in 1547, he owned eleven royal palaces in Surrey. Henry’s youngest daughter, Elizabeth I, used these palaces often.
Over a quarter of the land in England at this time was owned by powerful monasteries such as Chertsey (link to the Abbey’s HER page) and Waverley (link to the Abbey’s HER page) who were loyal to the Catholic Church. Henry knew he could make a lot of money by selling off the rich monasteries, which the king of Sweden had already done in his country. The King ordered his chief minister to lead an investigation into the behaviour of the monks. It was not a good report, so he decided to close the monasteries down. Land was taken and sold off and the buildings were pulled apart and used to build new houses. Stone was taken from Chertsey Abbey and used to build a new palace for the King at Oatlands, and some from Waverley Abbey was used in the building of Loseley House. Other courtiers also built new grand houses in Surrey, and began the countys collection of fine gardens.
The reign of Henrys daughter Mary was a difficult time, as she wanted to bring back the Catholic religion, but when she died, her sister Elizabeth restored the Church of England.
Surreys towns grew during this period, with shops, markets, and many houses. Some of these buildings can still be seen today in Guildford, Reigate and Dorking. Important industries grew up brewing, leathermaking, pottery and iron working gave work to many people in the county. There were still plagues which killed many people, so the population was quite small, and most people who survived the illnesses lived fairly well, selling farm produce to the towns and cities. The roads of Surrey would have been full of carts and wagons going to and from London with food for sale and new ideas to take home – from the plays of Shakespeare to strange fruits from the New World, like potatoes!
- Nonsuch Palace – Henry VIII demolished the nearby village of Cuddington, including the manor house and church, in order to make way for this enormous and luxurious hunting lodge on the scale of an incomparable palace. Building began in 1538 on the 30th anniversary of Henry’s accession. There is little left to see but it may get its name from Henry’s wish that there should be ‘Nonsuch like it’! More can be discovered about Nonsuch Palace at the Bourne Hall Museum, Ewell.
- Oatlands Palace, Weybridge – one of Henry VIIIs palaces, the Tudor gate can still be seen.
- Woking Palace – the site of Woking Manor and until recently known as Woking Old Hall. Find out more at The Lightbox, Woking.
- Hampton Court Palace – strictly, in Middlesex but almost in Surrey and both Oatlands and Nonsuch Palaces seem to have been sited in relation to Hampton Court!
- Loseley House near Guildford – constructed in 1562 by Sir William More, one of Elizabeths most trusted advisors and supporters in Surrey. Much of the stone used to build the house was taken from the Cistercian Abbey of Waverley. (link to the Abbey’s HER page)
- Trouts Farm, Ockley – built 1581, the house had an early version of a brick chimney.
- Sutton Place – a private house.
Other Tudor Buildings
- Guildhall, High Street, Guildford – 16th/17th century building.
- Godalming Museum – Housed in a timber-framed building dating from 15th and 16th centuries. Click here to visit the museum website.
Museums with Tudor Collections
- The Lightbox, Woking – includes finds from excavations held at the Woking Palace site.
- Elmbridge Museum – objects from the excavation of Oatlands Palace.
- Shere Museum – contains a Tudor hat found in a secret room.
- The Royal Logistic Corps Museum – the history of supply and transport to the army since the 14th century.
- Guildford Museum – for the history of Guildford. A beautiful 17th century building adjacent to the castle grounds. Click here to visit the museum website.
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