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The Poyntz family at Iron Acton Court

Acton Court was owned by the Poyntz family from 1364-1680. King Henry VII is known to have stayed there in 1486, and King Henry VIII visited in 1535.
When the last Poyntz died without a son and heir the house was sold and converted into a small farmhouse.

Over the years the building deteriorated rapidly but incredibly, because of this neglect, it has remained mostly untouched and intact - a unique Tudor building.

Acton Court recently finished a ten year conservation programme funded mainly by English Heritage and is open during the season for pre-booked visits.

It was recently featured in "The Six Wives of Henry VIII" on Channel 4!

King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

In 1535, the itinerary for King Henry VIII's summer Progress around the West Country was published. When Mr Nicholas Poyntz saw his name on the list for a royal visit, he spared no effort or expense at the chance to impress his king. For nine months, 350 labourers worked to build a magnificent new East Wing on to the existing moated manor house. The apartments were fashionably and lavishly decorated. King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn were obviously impressed, for Sir Nicholas Poyntz was knighted during their stay.

Archaeological finds related to the Royal Visit

Conservation work in 1994 discovered the King's en-suite garderobe, or privy, hidden in the masonry. The original plaster on the walls still survives.

Examples of the finest Venetian glass and Spanish ceramics have been excavated from the grounds.

Other archaeological finds

Found in a nettle patch next to the building was a Cotswold limestone sundial dated 1520, designed by Nicholas Kratzer, the royal horologist and tutor of the family of Thomas More. Kratzer himself was featured with a sundial in the 1528 painting Portrait of Nicholas Kratzer by his friend Hans Holbein the Younger [Louvre], and by coincidence Holbein also painted a portrait in 1535 of Sir Nicholas Poyntz!
Holbein portrait of Sir Nicholas Poyntz 1535
Sir Nicholas Poyntz (1510-57)
Courtier, Sheriff of Gloucestershire.
The Royal Collection.

Clay pipes have been excavated. These date from the late sixteenth century, and it is thought that when Sir Walter Raleigh visited Acton Court he gave one of the first demonstrations of smoking.
A tudor longbow was recovered during moat excavations.

At present all the artefacts discovered are in storage at the Bristol City Museum and are not on display at Acton Court.

Acton Court is open to the public for pre-booked visits.
Send a stamped addressed envelope for enquiries to Acton Court, Latteridge Road, Iron Acton, Bristol BS37 9TL
01454 228 224
or look at the official website at #

Tree-ring dating of Acton Court timbers

We are grateful to Michael Worthington for permission to print the following information from, the web-page of the Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory.

Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory


IRON ACTON, Acton Court (ST 676 842)

(a) East range

Felling date: Spring 1535

(1990) Joist 1534 (20¼C); Tiebeam 1508; Transverse beams 1463, 1528 (25), 1511 (6), 1534 (22¼C); Trimmer 1472; Wall pad 1520 (26); Wall plate 1512. Site Master 1328-1534 ACTON I (t=6.8, ALTON; 5.2 EASTMID; 4.8 OXON; 4.8 MC19; 4.6 KENT88)

(b) North range

Felling date range: 1531-1564

(1992) Purlin 1510 (H/S); Floor joists (1/2) 1523; Lintels (1/2) 1511 (5); Principal rafter (0/1); Transverse beams (0/5).

(a) North range roof (re-used)

Felling date range: 1486-1531

(1992) Principal rafters (2/4) 1479 (3), 1482; Purlin 1468; Tiebeams (1/3) 1477. Site Master 1393-1523 ACTONNR (t=7.5 FROSTER; 7.2 GEIRTZ; 6.1 EXMED)

(b) Staircase tower

Felling dates: Winter 1575/6, Spring 1576

(1990) Solid treads 1540, 1559 (4), 1575 (14C), 1575 (14¼C), 1575 (137#188;C). Site Master 1376-1575 TREADS (t=6.0 ACTON I; 4.3 EASTMID; 4.3 KENT88; 3.7 GIERTZ)

(1990) Acton Court, Avon, as revealed by recent excavation, was originally an extensive moated complex of medieval buildings, which was much demolished and remodelled by Sir Nicholas Poyntz into a roughly rectangular building in the sixteenth century. It is today a massive L-shaped house of Pennant sandstone, the south and west ranges having been demolished in c. 1700. An octagonal stair turret, topped by a rectangular chamber leading into the attic, is set in the angle between the two remaining ranges. These ranges, east and north, show a marked progression of architectural detail through the sixteenth century, notably in architrave ornament. The purpose of the tree-ring dating was to disentangle several distinct phases of style within a short period of less than 50 years, as well as to confirm the archaeological interpretation of the complex interrelation of building elements. The sequence can be summarised as east range; north range; east range remodelling; and staircase. The earliest, east, range is heavily buttressed, one buttress incorporating a garderobe, and comprises two storeys and an attic with a gable window. The floors are carried on exceptionally large transverse timbers spanned by joists, and the roof is of simple but massive trusses with wind bracing. An unexplained sequence of very narrow rings so weakened the cores that every one broke up on drilling. Nevertheless, careful re-assembly and correlation with slices from the roof timbers showed a felling date of 1534-5. No samples could be obtained for the later remodelling of this range.

The north range has a similar arrangement of first-floor timbers which were cored but failed to produce any acceptable tree-ring match. The ring-widths show recurring bands of narrow rings, a feature usually interpreted in smaller timbers as the effect of pollarding (as confirmed in discussion with Ruth Morgan), but precluded here by the length of the timbers (about 22ft). Other possible causes include different forestry practices, flooding or cyclic insect infestation. Interestingly, each joist is tenoned to a transverse beam at one end but notched at the other, allowing the joists to be fitted from above after the transverse beams were set in place. The arch-braced collar-truss roof is thought to have been re-used, possibly from an earlier building on the site, and no attempt has so far been made to confirm the probable mid-fifteenth century date of its timbers. The solid winders in the octagonal stair tower, the latest feature dated, included sapwood and bark edge, which not only showed the timber to have been felled in 1575/6 but also delimited the end of structural activity in the sixteenth century, thereby giving a terminus post quem nihil for the north range. Cores and slices were taken by D. H-R. and D. H. M. with the assistance of Dr Gay Wilson and Mr Paul Linford. Mr Paul Drury and the excavators, Mr Robert Bell and Mrs Kirsty Rodwell, are thanked for their information and advice. (Haddon-Reece, Miles, and Munby 1990, VA 21, list 38)

(1992) Acton Court, as described more fully in Tree-ring List 38, VA 21, 1990 (above), today comprises an east range (timber felling date 1535) and a north range at right angles to it with a semi-octagonal stair turret (tread timbers felled in 1575/6) set in their angle. The timbers of the arch-braced roof re-used for the north range are shown here to have been felled between 1476 and 1531. No precise felling dates are found for the north wing itself, although its felling date ranges are consistent with the structural evidence: that it was constructed later than the east range but earlier than the stair turret. The dating was arranged and funded by English Heritage. We are grateful to Mr R. Bell and Mrs K. Rodwell for site information. (Haddon-Reece and Miles 1992, VA 23, list 43)

Oxford Dendrochronology Laboratory