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History of Tudor House
Tudor House and Garden has a fascinating history and provides us with rich insight into the lives of people in Southampton over the last 800 years. This is perhaps best demonstrated by its respective owners, the lives of whom are all well documented, but described in brief on this page.
Owner of Tudor House from 1348-1369
John Wytegod was a wealthy merchant and Mayor. He owned the part of the property known as King John’s Palace as well as other properties nearby. Blue Anchor Lane, which runs alongside Tudor House, was originally called Wytegod’s Lane.
In 1338 Southampton had been attacked by French and Genoese raiders who wreaked death and destruction in the town. 20 years later, it was struck by the Black Death, causing further widespread death and misery. When calm returned, merchants began to arrive from foreign lands bringing wine to sell and buying goods to take back, especially wool. The river ran very close to King John’s Palace and ships and boats could moor here for loading and unloading.
King John’s Palace originally featured fine, large windows looking out over the river. However, when the town wall was built in 1360 to protect Southampton after the raids, these were bricked up for security and some converted to arrow slits.
Walter and Jane William
Owners of Tudor House in the late 15th Century
Walter William, a merchant also known as Watkyn William, inherited Tudor House from his father. Like many other Southampton traders he sent wool and cloth by ship to many countries and imported salt, wine, leather, oil, fish and many other luxury goods including woad – used for dyeing clothes.
Becoming Sheriff, and in 1483 Mayor of Southampton, William was involved in a plot against King Richard III, to the extent where some said that he may have been responsible for killing the two young princes in the Tower of London. He was labeled a traitor and to avoid persecution and punishment fled to Beaulieu Abbey where he sought sanctuary. He died shortly afterwards.
The Battle of Bosworth Field in I485 saw Richard defeated by Henry Tudor and killed in battle. The new King – Henry VII – pardoned William’s fellow traitors from Southampton and rewarded them with important positions in the town. William’s wife Jane became the wealthy owner of Tudor House, later marrying Sir John Dawtrey. It was through this union that the house came into the Dawtrey family.
Sir John Dawtrey
Owner of Tudor House from 1491 – 1518
Coming from a wealthy family in Petworth, Sussex, Sir John Dawtrey moved to Southampton to become the Overseer of the Port of Southampton and Collector of the King’s Customs (any cart entering or leaving the town through the Bargate paid a toll according to the goods being carried). Dawtrey was also a major landowner and merchant, an MP and Sheriff. He was also responsible for maintaining the town’s great defensive wall and ditch in good repair.
Dawtrey married Jane William, who already owned three houses on the corner of St. Michael’s Square. Deciding that he needed a house more appropriate for a man of his status, he had them joined together into one much larger, more fashionable house, very much like the one you can see today. Jane subsequently died and Dawtrey married Isabel Shirley in 1509, giving birth to their son Francis the following year.
Dawtrey received large sums of money from Henry VIII to provide food for the navy, at sea in defence of attack by France. Money was also provided for the building and fitting out and provisioning of ships – including The Peter Pomegranate and The Mary Rose. Dawtrey died in 1518.
Lady Isabel Lyster
In 1528 Dawtrey’s widow Isabel married Sir Richard Lyster, one of the richest men in Southampton. Lady Isabel traded in millstones for the many windmills and watermills in England. Both importing and exporting, she rented land at West Quay for storage.
Lord and Lady Lyster – as they became – were very wealthy and often entertained regally at Tudor House. Lady Lyster organised the household, having eight servants, who fetched water, cleaned the house, made beds, and washed the clothes. Large houses often also had a bake house, a dairy, and a kitchen often in a separate building to avoid the risk of fire.
Young women who worked in service were expected to live within the household, working very long hours. They were provided with food and clothing and when they left to get married they were often given some money to help set up their own home.
Most families in Tudor Southampton used their gardens for growing vegetables and possibly for keeping bees, pigs and chickens. Richer families like the Lysters would have had a decorative garden, also growing herbs for use in cooking and cleaning. Lady Lyster may have prepared medicines and made perfumes and cosmetics from the flowers and herbs she grew.
Sir Richard Lyster
Owner of Tudor House in the 16th Century
Sir Richard Lyster was born in Wakefield, in Yorkshire 1480. He trained as a lawyer in London and after 16 years became Lord Chief Justice of England, acquiring considerable wealth, and land across the country. In fact for many years, Blue Anchor Lane, the lane leading past Tudor House, was known as ‘My Lord Chief Justice Lane’, later shortened to ‘Lord’s Lane’.
Following the death of Lady Isabel, Lyster married Elizabeth Stoke. They had a son, Michael and daughter, Elizabeth. Lyster divided his time between London and Southampton, where he retired in 1552.
Lyster took part in many important events during the reign of Henry VIII including the trials of Bishop Fisher and Sir Thomas More and the procession of Anne Boleyn through London prior to her 1533 Coronation, in which he actually rode.
Lyster died in 1554 and Lady Elizabeth erected a monument to him in St Michael’s Church, opposite Tudor House.