Hidden in the Hertfordshire countryside are the ruins of the Old Gorhambury House. The crumbling bits of the surviving building do little to hint at the house’s former grandeur.
This 16th-century, once-magnificent Elizabethan mansion was the home of the celebrated Bacon family. The house was built in the 1560s by Sir Nicholas Bacon, who was Lord and Keeper of the Great Seal and one of Queen Elizabeth the 1st’s most important advisors.
The queen was known to have visited the house at least four times during her reign. She and Nicholas Bacon weren’t the only impressive historical figures to grace the property, as the estate later belonged to Francis Bacon, the renowned polymath.
While having the house designed and built, Nicholas Bacon used what was then considered modern design ideas from Italy such as the elaborate porch and clock tower. The lavish interior included a long gallery leading to a great hall where the family would entertain guests and hot water was supplied to every room.
The ruined mansion is now one of the earliest surviving examples of this architecture in England. But that still doesn’t mean it’s in great shape. Today, its showpiece of a porch tilts precariously, looking as if one hard gust of wind would topple it.
Know Before You Go
It is free and best visited on foot or by bicycle. Its hours are typically between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., so be sure to plan your visit within those hours as it is part of the private Gorhambury Estate. The site is rarely visited and you are likely to get the place to yourselves.