The History of Cowdray Ruins

The Cowdray Ruins are one of England’s most important early Tudor Houses.

The History of Cowdray Ruins, located on the Cowdray Estate, in the heart of the South Downs National Park, Cowdray is known to have been visited by both King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. In September 1793, whilst undergoing repairs and refurbishments for the impending marriage of the 8th Viscount Montague, a devastating fire took hold and most of the property was destroyed. The Kitchen Tower is the only part of the mansion to remain intact today.

“The house we see today was begun by Sir David Owen, who was probably the illegitimate son of Henry VII’s grandfather. He pulled down the stronghold built on the site by the Bohun family, who were lords of the manor of Midhurst and Easebourne from the 1180s. The Bohuns had moved to this site from their castle on St Anne’s Hill in around 1273. The name ‘Cowdray’ comes from the French ‘la coudraie’, meaning ‘hazel-wood’. When the last male Bohun died in 1492, his eldest daughter married Sir David Owen, who became ‘tenant for life’ at Cowdray.” – The Novium Museum

Before the fire, the famous plotter, Guy Fawkes is known to have worked at the house, which in turn nearly implicated the the Viscount in the famous Gunpowder Plot.

Finally Restored

Since 1793 it largely remained untouched however the 1st Viscount Cowdray commissioned a restoration project between 1909-1914 when St John Hope was asked to report on Cowdray, Easebourne Priory and St Anne’s Hill.

The History of Cowdray Ruins
The History of Cowdray Ruins

This work is generally credited with having saved the Cowdray ruins from total collapse. Nevertheless this period of desertion ensured that the features that remained of this important Tudor building were untouched and consequently give us today a unique glimpse of many important features of Tudor architecture which would otherwise have been lost.

Cowdray today is in the care of the Cowdray Heritage Trust, an independent charity now responsible for managing the site.