The village of Westhorpe is very proud of its Tudor and royal connections, and Westhorpe Hall is central to both. In 1514 Henry VIII sent his seventeen year-old sister Mary to France to marry the then King, Louis XII. However this fifty-three-year-old died three months after their marriage, so Henry duly despatched his trusted friend Charles Brandon, the first Duke of Suffolk, to France to escort Mary home.
But Charles and Mary had been childhood friends and, to the immense outrage of Henry, in March 1515 the two secretly married in Paris. Whilst many in England feared for Brandon's life (after all he had technically committed treason by marrying a royal princess without the King's consent), with the aid of Thomas Wolsey, Henry eventually forgave them and fined Charles £24,000 - that's almost £2 million in today's money!
In the same year Brandon acquired the Manor of Westhorpe and he and Mary set up their home here. They quickly built Westhorpe Hall, spending the modern equivalent of over £1 million on it to create a grand, estate house with sixteen principal rooms arranged around a central courtyard and a chapel with stained glass windows. The house was surrounded by a moat and beside the three-arched brick bridge stood a porter's lodge.
Outside of the moated area were extensive gardens designed in the ‘French manner' and the wider parkland contained both Red and Fallow deer.
Mary, who preferred the title the Queen of France, bore Brandon four children, but died at Westhorpe Hall on 25th June 1533 aged just 37. Her body was embalmed and lay in the Hall's chapel before an elaborate funeral procession walked the coffin to the Abbey in Bury St Edmunds. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries her body was moved to St Mary's church in Bury where her tomb can be seen today.
The house was large and costly to maintain and was sadly pulled down around the mid 1760s. The only feature remaining from that Tudor period being the three-arched bridge - one of the few remaining Tudor bridges in East Anglia - that can still be seen here today. It is Grade II listed.
The present Georgian building, which is also Grade II listed, replaced the 'palace' and in time the Hall became a public house, then a hotel, a family home and finally a care home in the 1980s. Over this time it was extensively added to so as to create the complex of buildings you find today.