Historic monument built by man who inspired Shakespeare saved from collapse

HAR Drayton Old Lodge, Drayton Lodge Park, Drayton, Norfolk.View from south west.

Drayton Lodge has been repaired after spending over 20 years on Historic England's Heritage at Risk register. Photo: Patricia Payne - Credit: Historic England

A miniature castle built by a soldier who inspired a character in William Shakespeare’s plays has been saved from collapse.

Completed in 1437, Drayton Lodge, in the grounds of Drayton Old Lodge off Drayton High Road, was constructed by Sir John Fastolf, a soldier who was the inspiration for Shakespeare's character Sir John Falstaff. 

The Grade II listed monument is one of the earliest brick structures in the region and was put on the Heritage at Risk Register by Historic England in 1998.

HAR Drayton Old Lodge, Drayton Lodge Park, Drayton, Norfolk.Interior view from north west.

The restoration work was completed in partnership by Historic England and Hidden Talents Homes. Picture: Patricia Payne - Credit: Historic England

After a £11,000 grant from Historic England, Hidden Talents Homes worked in partnership with the organisation to repair the structure.

Work carried out by developers included the replacement of brickwork in decayed areas. 

Existing bricks were used where possible and any new bricks were specially commissioned from a Suffolk company to match the original historic bricks. 

Vulnerable sections of the structure were reconstructed with hidden stainless steel pins and straps added for additional support. 

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James Albone, inspector of ancient monuments at Historic England, said: “Drayton Lodge tells an important story about Norfolk during the 15th century and the life of Sir John Fastolf, a fascinating character who was immortalised in caricature by William Shakespeare. 

"It’s wonderful to be able to remove this historic site from the Heritage at Risk Register after more than 20 years. 

"We’ve been delighted to work with Hidden Talents Homes on this project." 

Sir John, who greatly differed from his Shakespearean counterpart, was a soldier who fought against Joan of Arc and used his wealth to build English estates.

HAR Drayton Old Lodge, Drayton Lodge Park, Drayton, Norfolk.Interior view from south east.

Drayton Lodge was built by Sir John Fastolf in 1437, who was a soldier that served under three English kings. Picture: Patricia Payne - Credit: Historic England

He also built Caister Castle near Great Yarmouth. 

Drayton Lodge currently stands at two storeys though evidence suggests that it was originally built to three.

Conservation architect Ruth Brennan said: "I enjoyed working on this miniature castle, which has been in a poor state for many years. 

"Despite the challenges of lockdowns and the difficulties getting the handmade pink bricks, the masons at S & L Restoration Ltd did an excellent job. 

"The ruin will continue to be a fascinating glimpse of the history of Drayton for many more years."