The Anne of Cleves, Burton Street, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire:
Historic Building Survey Report
by Stephen Liquorish, Neil Finn, Nick Hill & Robert Howard
University of Leicester Archaeological Services Report Number 2011-098


The survey of the Anne of Cleves on which this report is based was instigated by the late Stephen Derek Liquorish (16.6.1954 – 4.7.2010). The measured survey element was undertaken by Stephen with the assistance of Neil Finn. Stephen had intended to write the report but his untimely death prevented this. The description and interpretation of the building are based on notes produced by Nick Hill following a site visit in October 2008, with subsequent additions by Neil based on discussions with Stephen and Nick. The results of a dendrochronological dating programme undertaken by Robert Howard of Nottingham University Tree-Ring Dating Laboratory are appended.

The report is based on information compiled from a range of different sources; any errors, inaccuracies or omissions it contains are the sole responsibility of Neil Finn.

1. Summary

This building probably dates back to 1384, when land was acquired to build a priests’ house. The main stone walls, arched rear (west) doorway and remains of a former window to an open hall survive from that date. Timber was felled in 1479 for a major programme of alterations in which a new roof was constructed on raised walls, the open hall was floored over and three first floor chambers were created. The central chamber is unusual in being of small proportions, but with a fine arch-braced display truss across its centre; this plan form no doubt relates to use by priests. The building is said to have housed about 14 chantry priests by the late medieval period. After the Reformation this was the parsonage house to the adjacent parish church of St Mary the Virgin. The building was re-fronted in the 11h century updating its appearance. Around 1760 a new vicarage was constructed on the opposite side of Burton Street and this building became a private residence. Further alterations were made in the 19th century, including a major refurbishment c. 1860. In the early 20th century the house was converted into a cafe called the Anne of Cleves and today is a public house and restaurant of the same name. The name commemorates the fact that in 1540 the building had formed part of an estate, the revenues of which made up the divorce settlement of Henry VI/I’s fourth Wife.

2. Introduction

The Anne of Cleves (or Anne of Cleves’ House as it is also known) is a substantial medieval building located c.2sm south-east of the parish church of St Mary the Virgin, on Burton Street, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire (National Grid Reference SK 753 189). The grade 11* listed building is constructed from coursed ironstone rubble with a slate covered roof (Plate 1). There are later, brick-built additions at the south end and to the rear (west). The medieval origin of this building has long been recognised but no detailed survey has previously been undertaken. There was some limited archaeological and fabric investigation during alterations in 1995-6 and the roof structure was tree-ring dated at that time (Appendix). This report aims to draw together the results of these previous investigations with the survey undertaken by Stephen Liquorish and Neil Finn in 2008-10 and taking account of available documentary and cartographic evidence.

Interpretation of the structural sequence and chronology relies to some extent upon the documentary and map evidence, which is summarised before the description of the building.

3. Acknowledgements

This project would not have been possible without the help of a number of individuals and their assistance is acknowledged with gratitude. Mike Kitt-Geraghty, landlord at the Anne of Cleves, kindly allowed us to visit the building on several occasions over an extended period to undertake the survey. Nick Hill generously offered the use of his field notes, discussed the interpretation of the development sequence and gave much helpful advice and comment on an earlier draft of the report. Robert Howard provided a copy of the tree-ring dating report. Dr Michael Hawkes illustrated the carved stone fragment found in the rear garden (Figure 10), which was identified by Professor Rosemary Cramp and Dr Joanna Story.

4. Survey Drawings

The report includes scale drawings of the ground floor (Figure 2) and attic floor (Figure 3) plans, the west elevation (Figure 4) and cross-sections of the building (Figure S) and roof structure (Figure 6). The ground floor plan is based on a survey produced in 1995 by Sampson Lear Ltd (drawing number s96/1A), with the addition of historic architectural details. Bar fittings and partitions installed during alterations to the building in 1995-6 (Planning Permission no: 94/0699/6) are not shown; walls removed at that time are indicated. Accommodation on the first floor was occupied at the time of the survey; a brief visual inspection suggests that comparatively recent alterations have obscured the earlier room layout, although the present living room appears to correspond with the small central first floor chamber (see below). The survey drawings have been produced in accordance with the guidance set out in Understanding Historic Buildings: a guide to good recording practice (English Heritage 2006).

5. Documentary and Cartographic Evidence

Before the Norman Conquest Melton was an Anglo-Saxon estate centre with a minster church. The Domesday Survey of 1086 records two priests at Melton, reflecting the superior status of the church there (Morgan 1979, 29; Parsons 1996, 21; 26). A series of valuations illustrate the high value and increasing prosperity of the church in the 13th century (Parsons 1996,30).

An entry in the Patent Rolls, dated February is” 8 Richard II (1384), records the grant of a licence for the alienation of 2 acres of land in Melton Mowbray ‘for making a dwelling house for the habitation of the priests of Melton’ {Hunt 1965, 74}. It is generally accepted that this refers to the building known today as the Anne of Cleves and the earliest elements of the built fabric are consistent with a construction date in the late 14th century.

The antiquarian John Nichols, in his History and Antiquities of the County of Leicester (Vol. II, part 1 (1795), 248), records that: ‘Following the words of Bishop Gibson, the authors of the Magna Britannia say, that at the South East corner of the church there was before the dissolution a chantry for about fourteen priests; which, being repaired was afterwards the parsonage-house, and belonged to the impropriator.’

Jack Brownlow states that the building was, after the Reformation, ‘used as a Parsonage, and was known as the Old Rectory House, until a new vicarage was built on the other side of the street around 1760′ (1980, 37-8).

In Melton Mowbray in Olden Times, published in 1879, the Rev. J Ward notes that the building was ‘Sometimes called the Old Rectory House’ (Ward 1879, 82). At that time it was the property of a Captain Blake and had ‘recently undergone a complete renovation, and is now in the occupation of Mr. Henry Goodall, Veterinary Surgeon’ (Ward 1879, 85). Hunt gives the date of this renovation as 1860 (Hunt 1979, 76).

A woodcut engraving in Melton Mowbray in Olden Times, facing page 82 (reproduced here as Figure 7), shows the medieval house with a stone-built lean-to extension at the south end, set back from the street. The title of the illustration is ‘The Old Rectory or the House of Anne of Cleves’. This illustration pre-dates the construction of the existing brick-built range with bow window at the south-east corner of the building (the rendered section in Plate 1). It is noted in the Preface to the book that the engraving was taken from a photograph by Messrs.

John Burton and Sons, though no date is given for this. John Burton had established a bookbinding and bookselling business in Leicester by 1842 and opened a photographic studio at his premises there by 1858. Branches of the photographic business were subsequently opened in Melton Mowbray, Oakham, Burton on Trent, Birmingham, Nottingham and Derby. The photograph on which the engraving is based is therefore unlikely to be earlier than c. 1860. Construction of the present brick-built range with bow window at the south end of the Anne of Cleves (which incorporates the earlier stone-built lean-to shown in the engraving) therefore appears to have formed part of the restoration referred to by Ward and Hunt undertaken between c. 1860 and 1879, based on their accounts. Pevsner {1992, 319} had suggested an 18th or early 19th century date range for the brickwork and bow window at the south end of the medieval building, which cannot be correct given the above evidence.

In the late 18th and 19th centuries cock fights were staged in a pit to the rear of the building: ‘The old cock pit was in the paddock at the rear of Anne of Cleves House in Burton Street, close to the Play Close wall. The sunken amphitheatre or pit was of considerable size and surrounded by tiered banking which provided seating for a large number of spectators. Unfortunately this historic reminder of the cruel sport was filled in during the 1930s’ (Brownlow 1980, 76; 249).

Captain Blake is listed as the owner and Mr Goodall the occupant of the ‘Old Rectory’ in the 1887-8 edition of Wright’s Directory of Leicestershire and Rutland; it is referred to by the same name in the 1899 edition.

The building remained a private residence until about 1935 when it became a cafe. Further ‘restoration’ in that year was, according to Hunt, ‘rather roughly carried out’ {1979, 76}. An undated pamphlet in the University of Leicester library (probably produced between the 1930s and 19s0s) relates to this period of use. It has been known as the Anne of Cleves, or Anne of Cleves’ House, since that time.

Cartographic evidence

The earliest available map of Melton Mowbray was produced in 1839 (ROLLR DE39s MA/219/1; Figure 8). The Anne of Cleves is readily identifiable on this map, located to the south-east of the church adjacent to the churchyard wall. The 1839 map shows a substantial range of building at the south end of the medieval structure. This was presumably an 18th century or earlier range of building, that was demolished before c. 1860 since is does not appear in the engraving in Melton Mowbray in Olden Times (see above). The stone-built lean-to set back from the street frontage that is shown in the engraving must have been constructed in the years between 1839 and c.1860.

The First Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1884 (Figure 9) shows a southern range of building extending up to the Burton Street frontage. This is presumably the extant brick-built range with bow window, which must therefore have been constructed between c.1860 and 1884 and which incorporates the stone-built lean-to shown in the engraving of c.1860 (Figure 2).

The 1884 map also shows an addition to the west (rear) of the medieval building, which did not appear on the 1839 map. This is probably the extant two-storey brick-built rear range.

Later maps indicate that another range was added at the south-west corner of the building between the 1930s and 1960s; this was demolished in 1995 to make way for the construction of a new beer cellar, which occupies a similar ground plan to the building it replaced (Figure 2).

Anne of Cleves

The association with Anne of Cleves dates back to the Reformation. The church of St Mary had previously been a cell of Lewes Priory and, as noted above, this building appears to have housed a number of priests who served the various chantry chapels in the church and probably in other religious establishments in the area (e.g. Hunt 1979, 74-5). At the Reformation the house passed to the crown and, along with other property, was granted to Thomas Cromwell. Nichols states that:

‘This manor, with the impropriation and advowson of the vicarage (being with many other possessions in the hands of king Henry VIII as forfeited estates of attained rebels), together with divers other lands, profits, rents &c. was given to Thomas, lord Cromwell, the famous vicar general, who by tradition is said to have resided some time at Melton in a house over against the church to the East’ (Nichols 1795, 247).

Cromwell fell out of favour with Henry VIII over his role in the king’s marriage to Anne of Cleves; in 1540 he was imprisoned then executed and his possessions reverted to the crown.

The revenues from these estates made up the settlement of £3000 a year which Henry allowed Anne when he divorced her, hence the name of the house. There is no evidence to suggest that Anne of Cleves ever visited Melton Mowbray.

Nichols’ suggestion that Cromwell may have occupied the house for ‘some time’ is an interesting one. Cromwell certainly favoured this part of Leicestershire and chose the nearby priory at Launde, which he was granted by Henry VIII in April 1540, as the site for his main country residence. Thomas Cromwell did not live long enough to realise his plans for Launde, but his son Gregory oversaw the conversion of the priory buildings into a substantial country house known as Launde Abbey. Gregory Cromwell died there in 1551 and there is a fine memorial to him in the chapel at Launde Abbey (Pevsner 1992, 198; Finn, Smith and Hayward 2005).

6. Summary of Tree-Ring Dating Results

Eight core samples were taken from roof timbers for tree-ring dating. Analysis of these resulted in the production of a single dated site chronology spanning the period AD 1372 – 1468. One sample, dated both in relation to the site chronology and independently against the reference chronologies, retained complete sapwood and has a last ring date of 1479. This is almost certainly the felling date of all the timber used in this phase. The full tree-ring dating report is appended.

9. Discussion

The building known today as the Anne of Cleves was constructed around the year 1384 to house the priests who served the adjacent parish church of St Mary the Virgin. Enough of the original fabric remains to suggest that this was probably a typical three-unit medieval hall house, which could have accommodated two priests, each having a separate first floor chamber one above the parlour and the other above the services. Pantin recorded similar 14th century priests houses in the south-west of England (1957).

The building was remodelled less than a century later, in 1479, when the original roof was replaced by the present structure and the open hall was floored over providing additional first floor accommodation. The unusual arrangement of the upper floor rooms at this time, with a small but elaborate central chamber flanked on either side by larger chambers, is probably related to its use by priests, with the central chamber perhaps being an oratory or study.

The building is said to have housed 14 chantry priests before the Dissolution, who served chantry chapels in St Mary’s church and possibly elsewhere (Nichols 1795, 248). Perhaps it was the need to accommodate a larger number of priests that led to the remodelling of 1479. The present building would not have been large enough to accommodate this number, however, and, assuming that the figure of 14 priests is correct, it is likely that the building would have formed part of a more extensive complex. Excavated foundations of is” or is” century date may have formed part of a cross-wing added at the south end the ia” century building. Alternatively these remains may have been the foundations of a detached kitchen or other service building.

Hunt notes that there were several chantry chapels in St Mary’s church (Hunt 1979, 20). In the Roman Catholic religion it is believed that the souls of the faithful departed spend a period of time in purgatory before entering the kingdom of heaven. During this time sins are atoned for and the soul is cleansed in order to achieve the holiness necessary to enter into heaven. In the medieval period it was believed that memorial masses for the dead could speed the soul through purgatory. The priest was paid to sing the memorial mass and it became common practice, for those who could afford it, to make provision for this in their will. A chantry or fund was established to pay for a priest to celebrate mass on a regular basis. In some cases the chantry was endowed with property, the income from which maintained one or more chantry priests. This developed into a significant ‘industry’ in the later medieval period and the 14 chantry priests at Melton would presumably have celebrated masses for the souls of wealthy merchants, land owners and guild members.

Chantries of this type were abolished during the Reformation under two Acts of Parliament, in 1545 and 1547.

After the Reformation the building effectively reverted to its original role, as the home of the parish priest. The association with Anne of Cleves dates to this period, as detailed in a previous section of the report, though the building was not known by its present name until much later. The earliest published reference to it being called ‘the House of Anne of Cleves’ is in 1879 (e.g. Figure 7). The building was generally referred to as The Old Rectory in the second half ofthe is” and throughout the 19th century.

The alterations undertaken in the rz” century served to update the appearance of the ageing medieval structure, in particular the principal east facade to Burton Street, which was rebuilt (Plate 7). The building continued to serve as the parsonage house or vicarage until about 1760 when a new vicarage was constructed on the opposite side of Burton Street (Brownlow 1980, 38).

After 1760 the house became a private residence and was altered and enlarged over the next 175 years to suit the preferences of successive owners and occupiers. Fortunately this did not involve any major changes to the medieval core of the building. It is clear that by the is” century the historical significance of the house was widely recognised, which may have been a factor in the preservation of the remaining medieval fabric. Despite the many changes made over the course of more than six centuries of continuous occupation, enough of the medieval structure survives to understand the form of the late 14th century building, with much of this evidence visible in the west elevation (Figure 4).

The is” century roof structure is well preserved and appears to be largely complete although some elements are not presently visible. The combination of tenoned purlins in the end trusses with clasped purlins for the internal trusses is interesting in terms of the development of roof carpentry in this region. Clasped purlin roofs were constructed throughout the is” and into the early is” century, often with diminished principal rafters in the is” century. Tenoned purlins had superseded clasped purlins by about the mid is” century. The roof of the Anne of Cleves, tree-ring dated to 1479, illustrates the process of transition. Presumably the carpenter believed that tenoned purlins were a more appropriate or secure form of construction for the gable end trusses, while the earlier clasped purlin form was sufficient for the internal structure.

There are strong grounds to suggest the existence of a minster at Melton Mowbray in the Anglo-Saxon period and indirect evidence that this occupied the same site as the Church of St Mary (Parsons 1996). The present church is mainly 13th century and later, though with some earlier fabric in the lower part of the tower (Pevsner 1992, 316-8). Ancient foundations were uncovered during work on the cemetery boundary wall along Burton Street in March 1981, which may represent an earlier phase of the church (Courtney 1994, 2).

To date, however, no clear evidence has come to light of pre-conquest fabric confirming the location of the old minster. In this context the discovery of a carved stone fragment of possible io” century date in the garden of the Anne of Cleves – immediately adjacent to the Church of St Mary – is significant. Much of the fabric evidence for pre-conquest churches within Leicestershire is in the form of reused and reset Anglo-Saxon masonry, including cross fragments and other sculptural pieces (Parsons 1996, 16, Fig. 4).