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The Hermitage

Grafton Regis Hermitage

Was this where Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville? The evidence seems to support it....

The Hermitage site lies just to the West of the A508 in a field at the Northern side of the village. Now just a ruin, it is believed that it was here that Edward IV secretly married Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen on May Day, 1464....

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The Hermitage seems to have been established as far back as the 12th Century by a single hermit, who may have moved to Grafton from St. James's Abbey in Northampton. It is possible its location was determined by the former road leading from Grafton to Alderton which is now a public footpath. After growing into a small, prosperous religious community by 1256, its fortunes declined somewhat after the Black Death in 1348, becoming a perpetual chantry belonging to the Woodville family after 1370. During the reign of Edward IV, the Woodvilles undertook a major reconstruction of the building which they may have used as a private chapel. Following the Woodvilles' fall from power the house probably fell into decay again.

The site was extensively excavated in 1964-5 when a pillaried cloister, measuring 34 ft by 35 ft was found flanked by a chapel and several other buildings, some of two storeys. Beyond lay a dovecote, possibly a hospital and an industrial complex including a malt kiln and an emplacement for a brewer's vat.


During the 15th century rebuilding the cloister was sealed off and the chapel refloored with tiles decorated with the arms of Woodville and the House of York, leading to suggestions that the chapel may have been the scene of the marriage between Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville in 1464. Some of these tiles are now displayed in the village Church (also see Gallery). After the chantry was suppressed sometime before 1538 it seems the buildings were demolished and the site later absorbed into the parkland which in the 16th century came to occupy much of the south western corner of the parish.

On 4th September, 2000, Grafton Regis was honoured to be visited by a member of the present Royal Family, HRH Prince Charles, who planted the 'Woodville Oak' at the site of the Hermitage.

Find out more about his visit and its purpose here. 


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