The West Horsley Place Trust is a relatively young organisation, founded in 2015. Archival records from the Crewe family who purchased the house in 1931 tell us little of the Manor House’s development prior to their ownership. Since the Trust’s conception we have learnt many things about this beautiful building and its previous occupants, but there will always be much more to discover.

The house has developed since the medieval period and is a ‘puzzling palimpsest’ containing layers of construction from different periods. In September 2022 we began investigating the development of the site through an archaeology and building recording project called What Lies Beneath.

What Lies Beneath is funded by National Heritage Lottery Fund. Thank you, National Lottery players!

Archaeological excavations were undertaken by Surrey County Archaeological Unit with the help of 190 volunteers of all ages. Surrey Archaeological Society carried out  geophysics surveys in the gardens, and Surrey Domestic Building Recording Group (SDBRG) investigated the development of the Manor House. They did this with support from our volunteer community, by exploring the current building and searching for clues from the past.

We’re excited to share the findings of this work with you!

Dating the Manor House 

Previously it was thought that the oldest section of the building was the west wing, shown on the image in blue. This has been dated to 1425 using dendrochronology*.

However, during this research project, older timbers were discovered in the central section of the house that dated to 1382. These provide evidence of an older hall in place before the current Stone Hall. These timbers, identified in the attic and Geraldine room also indicate a no longer standing ‘ghost wing’ located to the east of our current front door (shown here projecting forwards in red to the right of the hall). 

In 1382 there would have been accommodation for the family in addition to the hall and ‘ghost wing’ shown in red. These were replaced by our extant west wing built in 1425, and a no longer surviving north wing built 3 years later in 1428. Built on a palatial scale and to the quality of a palace, these would have been a very grand addition to the Manor House.

The detached building to the east was probably the kitchen at this period. Its south wall survives as it was subsequently raised in height to support the roof of a structure linking this kitchen to the surviving ‘Stone Kitchen’ that replaced it. Originally the kitchen was just one-an-a-half storeys in height and probably open to the roof with a central hearth. Archaeological excavation uncovered the foundations of a large fireplace which later served the space.

*What is Dendrochronology? Dendrochronology is a scientific dating technique, examining the rings of a tree to assess its annual growth and provides the precise age of a piece of wood.

Continue with part 2 of our What Lies Beneath blogs when we will explore the Manor House in the Tudor era!