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Recent Findings on the Grey Family ~ new research by David Ramsey triggered by The Time Team visit in 2010.


(a) It is very unlikely that Elizabeth Woodville actually lived at Groby

(b)The last Grey to live at Groby Old Hall was Sir Edward Grey (c1415 - 1457) Baron Ferrers of Groby married to Elizabeth (Ferrers) Grey (1419 - 1483)

(c) The footings of the buildings found by Time Team are those of the quadrangular hall that Edward and Elizabeth Grey lived in  between 1430 - 1446.

(d) After they moved to London between1446 & May1455. Edward could have returned to Groby as he died in 1457 - but this is unknown.  John Grey, his son almost certainly met Elizabeth Woodville during his fathers time spent in London.  Elizabeth’s  father, Richard Woodville, 1st Earl Rivers lived in the manor of Lee, Kent close to Greenwich and Lewisham.  

(e) Indications are that their quadrangular house at Groby was vacant and awaiting a long term tenant for a very long time between 1460 - 1510.

(f) Thomas Grey 1st marquis 1451 - 1501 and his son Thomas Grey second marquis 1472 -1530 in all probability never lived in Groby Hall.  They were serving kings Henry VII and VIII from their Thames side mansion and tied to the assize court movements south of the Trent.  Restrictions on Thomas Grey 2nd marquis were relaxed only when he gained the confidence of Henry VIII.

(g) When building works began at Bradgate Park Thomas  second marquis built his Lodge at Bradgate (Hallgates) and supervised from there when visiting - not Groby.


Did the Grey’s ever reside at Groby?

Groby Hall in Leicestershire is often put forward as the Grey family home in the mid 15th century yet the building we see today is basically a rebuild on a footprint of a much earlier building. The present hall stands on ground prepared and used before the grand courtyard buildings uncovered in the Paddock by Time Team in April 2010.   The final Ferrers buildings, forming a quadrangle, or courtyard, located  by Time Team - stood at the rear of the present hall and these were pulled down c1510.

There are no indications from existing documents and observations recorded at other Grey locations in the 15th century that Elizabeth Grey (nee Woodville) came further north than Astley Castle, Warwickshire or Grafton in Northamptonshire or ventured further south than  her father’s manor at Lee, Kent after she married Sir John Grey in 1457.  Three years later in 1460 she was widowed after her husband died fighting for the losing side in the battle of St. Albans. Now with two young sons she was left without support and forced to fend for herself. It is likely she left Astley Castle, a Grey family home and returned to her own family at Grafton after John Grey died.  It was whilst she was spending time close to her own family at Grafton that she met and  married Edward IV. After this date until her death in 1492 she maintained far higher expectations of her day to day accommodation than would be ever offered at Groby Old Hall.                

(1525  Grey mansion on River Thames + nine houses, from the Old London map collection to be found freely on the internet)

The 2nd marquis of Dorset (Thomas Grey) lived in some style with a grand mansion and nine additional houses close by.  The myth that he and his family could serve the king from Groby, Leicestershire rather overlooks the necessary size of his staff, estimated at 150+ and the wide ranging tasks both he and his father performed at court and the travelling assize court  they both administered south of the Trent between 1486? – 1530.

When it is realised that the Grey family c1500 had a substantial mansion and a further nine large houses close to their former home at Baynard’s Castle on the north bank of the Thames, London, the accommodation which was offered at Groby must be seen as somewhat small and substantially lacking in the facilities to meet their daily requirements!  Both father and son, Thomas Grey the 1st and 2nd marquis of Dorset, would use the mansion in Vintry parish, near Southwark bridge, on the north bank of the Thames as their base during their service to both Henry VII (1485 – 1509) and Henry VIII (1509 – 1547 when the second marquis died). Elizabeth Woodville lost all her estates after the death of her first husband, John Grey in 1461. Two years later and near destitute after living on what she could borrow from her immediate family, Elizabeth ‘arranged’ a successful meeting with Edward IV and their marriage in which followed in 1464 is now legend. There are no indications from existing documents and observations recorded at other Grey locations that Elizabeth came further north than Astley Castle, Warwickshire or Grafton in Northamptonshire during this late 15th century period (Elizabeth Woodville died in Bermondsey Abbey in 1492 some 28 years before Bradgate House was occupied).

The present day Groby Hall in Leicestershire often put forward as the Grey family home is basically a refurbishment c1510 recycling remnants of buildings on site. In addition there are numerous second hand materials gathered from other locations within its fabric. Some areas of the hall show the addition of new brick work, carried out before the final Ferrers quadrangle of buildings were pulled down. This would place the building date of these  alterations to be almost the same as the prominent brick tower at the present entrance to Groby Hall c1500 – the second tower was not complete when Bishop Vesey’s offer of timbers was made.( More follows)

The Grooby pre enclosure map of 1757 drawn by John Doharty with Grooby Hall top centre.
From the Enville Hall collection of documents.

The Ferrers logo shows in the base of the tower nearest the Markfield road but this is only half of an envisaged two tower approach.  To this day only one tower is complete and one half built, a gatehouse design which appears to have been stopped at a late stage of building due to a change of plan when the old Ferrers Hall standing in the Paddock at the rear of the present buildings was pulled down.

The design of the original gatehouse c1500 appears to have been centred on the erection of a red brick gatehouse and a new entrance using locally fired bricks, a new building material for Leicestershire, facing the Markfield Road. However changed circumstances as the building works were underway would cause a radical rethink once the 1st marquis of Dorset gained the enlarged lands at Bradgate in 1499/1500.  The old Ferrers buildings at Groby appear to have attracted little local interest at this time and with no lessee and finances at a minimum the restructuring of the Bradgate estate was placed on hold.

Ten years later and with periods of time spent in prison both in England and Calais between 1500 -1509 the second marquis must have been very aware that his father had died in 1501 and he had made very little progress towards finding a firm rental for the old Ferrers works at Groby and realising his vision of a house standing in spacious grounds at Bradgate was still months if not years away. This was in spite of the new brickwork added to the gateway towers to improve the hall approach.

When the offer came to exchange stonework of the Groby Ferrers buildings for a large number of substantial timbers, some in excess of 30 foot long from Sutton Coldfield Old Hall, West Midlands, the offer was welcomed. Thomas was released from prison shortly after Henry VII died of consumption (April 1509) and he very slowly began to re establish himself at court. He would go on to gain the confidence of Henry VIII due to his exceptional skills in the joust and his prowess when playing real tennis – he became the number one to beat - all skills which Henry himself wished to advance.

In 1509 family funds were still tight and monitored, Thomas’s father had been dead almost ten years and still no one had come forward to take on the lease of the Ferrer’s Old Hall at Groby. The following year 1510 Thomas would came to an arrangement with John Harman, later to become well known as the Bishop of Exeter under the name John Vesey, for a an exchange large quantity of second hand materials. John Vesey, to exchange large number of substantial second hand timbers which had been recovered from Sutton Coldfield Old Hall.  These timbers, some over 12 meters long, were then brought back to Leicestershire where some would be used in the fabric of Bradgate Lodge. Thomas Grey 1st marquis was only 50 when he died, Thomas second marquis would have been 32 when he finally decided the Ferrer’s Old Hall was worth trading for other materials, rather than waiting even longer for a lessee to come along.  The population of Great Britain at this time is put at 2m – 2.5 million. Taking into account what was being offered – an old building of a much previous age and style – it is most unlikely that anyone of substance would have wished to live on the rather restricted Groby site. Thomas 2nd marquis meanwhile would have been very aware of his own age and the time left to fulfill his own ambitions, particularly at Bradgate.

With the Ferrer’s Old Hall down, attention must have turned to the building or buildings which pre dated the quadrangle complex. One, possibly more were standing on the original hard footprint of a much earlier site within.. I suggest that the original hall building, built  sometime after the tower on the mott became part of the new plan. This building  in a dilapidated state in 1510 would serve as the core of the next Groby Old Hall. Extra brick works facing the Markfield Road prepared to be keyed into the brick tower would not progress, the materials would be removed to Bradgate.  The doorway which led from the east side of the tower was bricked up, now not required as the complex it was originally going to serve was no longer there.

The surplus bricks at Groby would be used on building sites at Bradgate, within the deer park and Bradgate Lodge (Hallgates). By 1515, the 2nd marquis would have three very slow moving building sites within an area of miles – These were (a) the Groby Hall, a re-build, (b) Hallgates to be known as Bradgate Lodge and (c) Bradgate House itself.  The build quality at Groby proved poor and within 67 years the gatehouse is described during its time in Crown hands (1554 -1600) as being in need of repair and the rest of the buildings were down and described as, beyond repair and worth to be sold as even £2,000 will not repair it. “It” we may speculate, indicating a single building with an upper floor. (Lady Jane Grey and her father were beheaded 1554)

An impression of Groby Hall with both gatehouse towers complete. The inner tower today still remains half built. The original intention was to lease the Ferrers Old Hall which stood at the rear in the Paddock and raise funds for further buildings at both Groby and Bradgate. The original c12th hall house stands behind the figure in the foreground.    (John Flowers original drawing is acknowledged)                                     

(Time Team map of Paddock showing Ferrers quadrangle footings)

The position of the Ferrers complex of buildings in relation to the present “Groby Old Hall” The geo’ phys’ suggests an entrance through ‘C’ rather than a complete enclosure formed by A,B,C & D   The Old Hall is a resurrected building earlier than the Ferrers Quadrangle but later than the tower which stood until 1174 -  see Stair Trench (Top)    T and T( bottom right) mark the position of the one and a half brick towers.

The inner fabric of the present Hall is thought to be of 12/13th century date and the outer fabric we see today is mainly a refurbishment of the standing features of a much earlier and much decayed Old Hall. 

Previously on site (all dates approximate) the castle/tower on the mound 1120? (William de Ferrers) – pulled down 1174.  The early house within a moat 1290? The Ferrers quadrangle in the Paddock 1350? – pulled down and exchanged for timbers 1510.  The early house c1290 ruinous by 1510 hastily rebuilt as a hall house but completely collapsing 1577. Rebuild of latter takes place post 1600 when John Grey of Pirgo takes charge of the Bradgate Estate ruinous again by 1679.  Groby Pool pre 1127 – man made

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