Redgrave Park in the 15th and 16th centuries


In 1542 the Manor of Redgrave, including the Park and "a mansyon place nowe for lacke of Reperacions sore decayed", were bought from the Crown by a lawyer, Sir Nicholas Bacon. He was one of the new class of men who profited greatly from King Henry VIII's plunder of Church property.

He became a famous statesman, and the first Lord Keeper of the Privy Seal to Queen Elizabeth I. He is buried in Westminster Abbey, although there is nothing to see now, as his tomb was destroyed in the Great Fire of London, 1660.

His motto was 'Mediocria Firma', meaning 'the middle ground is best'.

Old Nick

The Lord Keeper


Bacon rebuilt the Hall in Tudor style in 1545-54 with a symmetrical front around a courtyard with flanking wings. An account from his Building Book survives. Some of the remains of Abbot Sampson's lodge were included in the walls.

Redgrave Hall, c.1676

The house had its own water supply piped from a spring in the Park to a storage cistern, from where it was distributed to the kitchen, cellar, brewhouse and gardens.
The gardens comprised two walled enclosures: a small, square privy garden beside the Hall, and a larger, rectangular one behind it containing an orchard and a pond. The walls were made of brick decorated with battlements and turrets or pinnacles. A number of statues graced the grounds, including Cerberus, the mythical three-headed dog of Hades.

Sir Nicholas Bacon made some alterations to the Park. He planted an avenue of trees which ran from the front of the Hall down into the valley. He straightened the meandering course of the river there, and built a bridge over it.

Sonne, I have desyred my frend MR Wytherpowld to come to Redgrave, to see my newe ryver whom I have enformed howe I wold have that part of the Ryver made Over the which my Bridge shall go.
(From a letter from the Lord Keeper to his eldest son Nicholas)

A causeway ran from the bridge across the valley, possibly in between fish ponds; in exceptionally dry summers this causeway can be seen on the bed of the present day Lake. Deer were kept in the Park as a ready source of meat and sport. An avenue of trees led eastwards towards Wortham Long Green.



Sir Nicholas Bacon died in 1579, aged 70. He had five sons:

  • Sir Nicholas Bacon, eldest son by his first marriage, who inherited Redgrave. He kept a personal notebook (or 'commonplace book') which has survived; it shows that he was a well-educated man with a lively interest in husbandry, medicine and poetry as well as his Estate.
  • Nathaniel Bacon, a lawyer and Member of Parliament.
  • Sir Edward Bacon, a member of Parliament.
  • Anthony Bacon, a diplomat.
  • Sir Francis Bacon, 1st Baron Verulam; an essayist and philosopher, whose work laid the intellectual foundations of modern science.

The Bacon arms

The Bacon coat of arms

Mounting mortgages forced Sir Robert Bacon, the 5th baronet, to sell the Redgrave Estate in 1702. It was bought by Sir John Holt, the Lord Chief Justice. There is some evidence that he was in debt to Holt (see Contents of Muniment Room, West Side, Second Row, Box 26).

  • Diarmaid MacCulloch (ed), Letters from Redgrave Hall: The Bacon Family, 1340-1744; Suffolk Records Society, Boydell Pres, 2007.
  • Jean Sheehan, Redgrave Reflections; Redgrave History Group, Suffolk 1993.
  • Ernest Sandeen, The Building of Redgrave Hall, 1545 -1554; Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology, 1964.
  • Hassell Smith, The Gardens of Sir Nicholas and Sir Francis Bacon: an Enigma Resolved and a Mind Explored, in Religion, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain; Eds Fletcher & Roberts, Cambridge 1994.
  • Lisa Jardine & Alan Stewart, Hostage to Fortune: The Troubled Life of Francis Bacon; Hill & Wang, 2000.

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Before 1542