Drayton Old Lodge.

Historic building and former nurses home.

Drayton Old Lodge

Part I: The Ruin

This former fifteenth century fortified mediaeval manor house is situated off Drayton High Road, four miles North West of Norwich, England. It is a Grade II* Listed Building and Scheduled Ancient Monument. Although it now lies in the grounds of an Edwardian building which has inherited the same name, this ruin is the original Drayton Old Lodge.

It was built in the 1430s by the English knight Sir John Fastolf (on whom Shakespeare's Falstaff is based). The building is believed to have been a strategic lookout and hunting lodge, which could be garrisoned if needed. It was probably completed around 1437 1 and originally stood in open heath. 2

The Lodge was located on the brow of the hill overlooking the valley of the Wensum. This included a view of Costessey (pronounced Cossy please) and a mansion of the de la Poles, Duke of Suffolk, with whom Sir John maintained an ongoing hostile relationship. No doubt this included staring at each other through telescopes for prolonged periods of time.

Upon Fastolf shuffling off this mortal coil in 1459 the Lodge was left to his relatives, the auspicious Paston family. At the time the somewhat avaricious Duke of Norfolk coveted Caister Castle, Sir John's largest property, while the Duke of Suffolk had designs on Drayton and besieged it with a view to taking it over. During this acquisitive tirade, he managed to glom the neighbouring manor of Hellesdon, but Drayton Manor was initially defended successfully by Margaret Paston and her crew.

However Drayton Lodge was finally annihilated by the rapacious Suffolk in 1465, following a dispute with the Pastons relating to the rights to collect rents in Drayton. This was noted in a number of Paston's correspondences including references to the Duke of Suffolk's demo teams reportedly breaking down the walls of the Lodge, purloining the lead off the roof and making away with the doors and electrical fittings.

The Pastons had lost any mojo about repairing the building after the attack. In June 1469, King Edward IV rode from Norwich to Walsingham and cast a lofty eye across the ruined lodge en route. When he saw it, he royally grunted that it might as well be left to fall down by itself and refused to take any further interest. Such was he.3

The ruins of Drayton Old Lodge may have been used later for shelter by shepherds, warreners and other troglodytes who harrassed the local sheep and rabbit population..

 

Part II: The 1914 Building

The name of Drayton Old Lodge was later attributed to the large-and-rather-splendid building which stands adjacent to the ruin. This 'new' Drayton Old Lodge was built in 1914, as depicted by a beaming wall plaque at the rear of the building. It wasn't lived in as a private house for long and through acquisition by Norwich Health Authority, became a nurses' home and thus a centre for raucous activity.

To add confusion, other buildings in the area have similar names. One Drayton Old House stood opposite the Red Lion pub and has since been demolished. Although some people claim to have been born at Drayton Old Lodge, they are hopefully referring to Drayton Hall Maternity Home in Hall Rd. Perhaps they are confusing birth with conception..

In the 1990s the building was used as an administrative centre where much less fun was had by all and later it became a wedding function centre and restaurant.

Inevitably this beautiful building is finally being converted into flats. If those walls could talk..

Andrew Mallett

 

References

1. Documented by the Paston family's secretary, William Worcester in 1466 (Barnes, H.D., Drayton Lodge, in: Norfolk Archaeology, Vol.XXIX, p.228).

2. Harrod, H., The Ruined Lodge at Drayton, in: Norfolk Archaeology, Vol.II, pp.363-368.

3. Barnes, H.D. Drayton Lodge. In: Norfolk Archaeology, Vol.XXIX, p.228-237.

 

Further Reading

Psych Nursing at Hellesdon Hospital in the 1950s
Norfolk Historic Environment Record - NHER 7854
Norfolk Heritage - Drayton Parish Summary
Drayton Old Lodge For Sale
Drayton Old Lodge Conversions

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