ENTIRE generations of families living in and around north Essex have enjoyed days out to the historic Layer Marney Tower.

And they might also have enjoyed a wedding or two there - but how much do you actually know about its history ?

The Tudor building has been owned by the Charrington family since the 1950s and since the 1980s has been going from strength to strength thanks to Sheila and Nicholas Charrington who have made sure to maintain its very important heritage.

This has included putting on a number of exhibitions and displays over the years such as the one to mark the 500th anniversary of Henry VIII ascending to the throne which has costumes, interactive games, furniture and displays.

The former royal apartments close to the top of the famous gatehouse are where Henry VIII may well have stayed when he visited Sir Henry Marney, after whom is named, at Layer Marney Tower in August 1522.

The tower, dating back to 1520, is the tallest Tudor gatehouse in the country and has been used as the background for a number of television programmes including the Antiques Roadshow and most recently Danny Dyer’s hit show about his well-documented regal connections.

Henry, the first Lord Marney, started the work on the tower during the first half of the reign of Henry VIII, but when he died in 1523 his son, John, carried on the project.

He died two years later, leaving no heirs but work carried on to finish the tower and the outbuildings along with a new church.

The buildings were badly damaged by the major earthquake of 1884 which caused considerable havoc across north Essex and beyond.

But brother and sister Alfred and Kezia Peache were not afraid of the challenge and were the next owners.

Their contribution included re-flooring and re-roofing the gatehouse, and creating the Grade II Listed garden.

Layer Marney Tower itself is Grade I listed.

After the Peache siblings, it was owned by Walter de Zoete who continued their restoration using a team of almost 20 staff both inside and out.

Walter has the stables converted into the long gallery, which now hosts weddings, to put his collection of furniture, paintings and artworks which meant the interior had more of an Edwardian feel to it.

As well as enlarging the gardens, he was also responsible for having what was called the Tea House built which was converted into a self-catering holiday cottage in 1999.

Having lost money in a stock market crash, Walter sold the house to a Dr Campbell and then Gerald and Susan Charrington in 1959, who had been married at the tower.

In the late 1980s Gerald and Susan passed it to their son Nicholas and wife Sheila, but Sheila soon had a decision to make in terms of its upkeep, which was enormous.

Nicholas gave up his day job, commuting into London, and the couple set about making the house earn its keep by opening it up to public events and occasions such as weddings.