Be transported back almost 500 years at Acton Court

June 22 2017
Be transported back almost 500 years at Acton Court

We all put on a bit of a show when visitors come to our homes, trying to show off our best sides. But no-one is going to build an extension for someone staying for a few days.

We all put on a bit of a show when visitors come to our homes, trying to show off our best sides.  But no-one is going to build an extension for someone staying for a few days.  Back in the sixteenth century though, you did if that visitor was King Henry VIII.  It’s left one of the most important Tudor buildings one our doorstep, as Lisa Kopper explains 

Right on your doorstep in Iron Acton is one of the most important Tudor buildings in the UK yet it is still something of a secret. ACTON COURT is said to be the the most original Tudor building in England. In 1535 the owner, Nicholas Poyntz built a magnificent new East Wing on to the existing moated manor house in honour of HenryVIII and Anne Boleyn’s summer progress around the West Country. 

The new wing was a splendid testament to Nicholas Poyntz’s loyalty to his King. He went to immense trouble and expense, decorating the state apartments lavishly and fashionably. He was well rewarded as it is thought he was knighted during the royal visit.

Today, the East Wing which was built in just nine months comprises most of what remains at Acton Court. It offers a rare example of 16th century royal state apartments and some decorations which are the finest of their kind in England. Also surviving, hidden in the masonry until it was discovered during conservation work, is the King’s ‘en suite’ garderobe. 

Sir Nicholas went on building at Acton Court until his death in 1556. The surviving Eastern half of his long gallery can still be admired. It was a daring construction with large windows and a painted frieze of biblical text and moralising verses in Latin.

During archaeological excavations at Acton Court, there were many exciting finds, thought to be associated with King Henry’s visit. These included examples of the finest Venetian glass of its time, Spanish ceramics, and some of the earliest clay tobacco pipes yet discovered. Dating from the 16th century, these support the view that Sir Walter Raleigh gave one of the first demonstrations in England of the technique of smoking during a visit to Acton Court. 

One item of particular importance was found by chance in a nettle patch next to the building. It is a Cotswold limestone sundial designed by the royal horologist Nicholas Kratzer, dated 1520.

All artefacts are currently held at Bristol city Museum. 

The Poyntz family owned Acton Court from 1364 until 1680 when the direct line of succession ended and the house was sold. It was subsequently reduced in size and converted for use as a tenant farm house. The building’s fortunes declined to the point of dilapidation in the 20th century. It is due to this neglect that Acton Court was left largely untouched and as a result a unique Tudor building has been preserved virtually intact. 

Restoration work was largely funded by ‘English Heritage’. It is Grade 1 listed and the house and grounds are also Scheduled Monuments. 

Today Acton Court is preserved as far as possible in its original state.

It is a Soil Association Certified organic site and the grounds are managed to try and support native wildlife species. There is a walled wildflower meadow and orchard and a kitchen garden. We cultivate Old English and wild roses. 

The house is open to the public for a limited period in the summer. Due to the fragile nature of the construction, only small, escorted groups can view the rooms at any one time.

Full access to the house and grounds is with a professional guide only.

We also host a number of special events. Our renaissance concerts are always very special. To view our events please visit 

Acton Court is open to the public 5 July to 13 August 2017, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Groups must book in advance.

Tour times: 2pm and 3:30pm Wednesday to Sunday inclusive.

No tours Sunday 13 August, closing event only. 

Admission prices: £8 | £6 concessions   

Teas and home made cakes are available. There is partial access for disabled visitors. Parking and loos on site.

Email booking:| Information line 01454 228 224