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The Past Life of Cressing Temple


The Greate House - Tudors 1485 - 1603, Stuarts 1603 - 1714

By 1532 Cressing Temple had been under lease to John Edmondes, Gentleman for some forty years. The Hospitallers were dissolved in 1540 and the property eventually passed to the Neville-Smyths who built the mansion house. It incorporated the hall and chapel (which was remodelled from apsidal to square) and expanded greatly upon them. Three brick cellars are known, along with a brick stair tower and comprehensive culverted drainage system.

Excavations reveal a brick built cellar.

It is likely the stone built chamber became the kitchen as it would have been the safest building to fulfil this function. A thin brick division was placed about halfway along its length and a waste chute was built into its east wall connecting straight into a large brick culvert that was fed from a sluice box built near the chapel.

The Greate House as pictured by Frank Gardiner

A brick frontage faced the road (seen in the remote sensing survey) and it is thought that a second building to match the granary, built in 1623, flanked the approach from over a brick bridge. The current farmhouse, originally two buildings was incorporated into the house to complete the quadrangle.

The Walled Garden was built and bonded to the corner of the chapel and also probably to another extremity of the house to form a private refuge. The moats were landscaped and revetted and the sophisticated sluice system was built to handle the surface water and garderobe flushing. Balance drains were also laid in to prevent flooding across the farmyard. The drains were updated throughout the course of their life and it was likely the cellars suffered flooding and subsidence especially on the south face where the cellar had been sunk into the soft soils of the Templar latrines.

Remains of the Greate House.

In the 16th and 17th centuries the documentary sources show that there was a fine manor house on the site, with, according to the diarist John Evelyn in 1659, "a chapel in the house". Traces of foundations in the BVAS and ECC excavations were the first clues as to the location of the missing building. A resistivity survey in 1993 suggested that the medieval buildings were incorporated into the later "Greate House"

Excavations over the next two years confirmed this with the discovery that the medieval house was altered and extended in Tudor times. A cellar sunk into the foundations around 1600 had steps rising into the older structure, clear evidence that the medieval stone building was still in use. The end product appears to have been a large courtyard house composed of linked stone, brick, and timber-framed parts built over 400 years.

The Granary was one of a pair of buildings flanking the approach to the house. We believe that the other was a building housing stables and a coach house, also with granaries on the upper floor.

The loss of the Greate House





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