Newarke Houses Museum is made up of two historic houses: Wygston Chantry House and Skeffington House. William Wygston, Leicester's richest citizen, built Wygston's Chantry House around 1511. It became an urban gentry house after chantries were abolished in 1547 and is the only Elizabethan urban gentry house that survives in Leicestershire. Skeffington House is likely to have been built around 1583 by Sir Thomas Skeffington. Originally a one room deep stone building, it has been altered and made bigger over the centuries.
Many different people have used, lived in, changed and extended these buildings over the centuries - without doubt, they have a fascinating story to tell. Have a look and see how these two houses, built in different times, now fit together as one building.
The Gardens & Surrounding Area
The area around Newarke Houses was built as a religious precinct by the Earl of Lancaster and Leicester. It was called 'New Work' (hence Newarke) to distinguish it from the older buildings of the Castle and St Mary de Castro Church. The area has a rich and interesting history, intertwined with visits by legendary names such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Richard III. It was in this area during 1645 that the Parliamentarians fought the Royalists during the 'Siege of Leicester'. The holes in the north garden wall were gun loops where muskets were positioned. You can discover more of the history of the area at the museum. The picturesque museum gardens are laid out to show the development of small English gardens through the introduction of new plants over the last thousand years. The different sections within the gardens demonstrate some of the features of English gardens through the ages: The Chantry House Garden - plant introductions until 1650; The Castle Wall Border - plants that were associated with myth, religion and superstition; The Rose Garden - rose cultivars from 1650 to 1850; The Apothecary's Garden - plants believed to heal ailments; The Sundial Garden - plant introductions from 1650 to 1850.