The mystery of Willington stables

What was the purpose of this extravagant building?

The stables building at Willington was built during the late 1530s as part of the splendid new manorial complex commissioned by lord of the manor John Gostwick. However, this extravagant building is likely to originally have been designed for something much more high profile, a royal visit perhaps?

Looking around the stables today you will see plenty of evidence showing how the building was used as a stables, including four loose horse boxes on the ground floor, each with space for four horses. However, the brick floor is not thought to be more than 200 years old, so what was the building used for before 1800?

Indeed, the whole building is rather puzzling. 

As you walk around you will see openings in the walls that have been closed up. At one time the windows were glazed and there is evidence that there may have been an entrance from the outside to the upper floor.

Originally the layout upstairs was very different. The partitions were moved to divide up the north end of the upper floor to store a variety of foodstuffs for the horses below. 

Today the building is roofed in hand-made tiles but it may originally have been thatched. The roof is very steep and unusually there are two different designs of roof timbers. 

It is believed that King Henry VIII held his council meeting at Willington on 21 October 1541 and if so, Gostwick would have needed to offer lodgings fit for a king. It is possible Gostwick remodelled an earlier farm building to make accommodation for extra guests on the first floor of this building. Or perhaps it could have been a hunting lodge or a banquet hall?

Whatever the truth of it is, this is a high status building generally considered too extravagant to have been built originally as a stable.