PREPARATIONS are underway to mark the 500th anniversary of one of Britain’s most well-known monarchs visiting Layer Marney Tower.

In August 1522, King Henry VIII – then 31 and married to Catherine of Aragon – made a point of visiting Layer Marney to visit a gentleman known as one of his favourites.

Henry Marney, who rose to favour in the court of Henry VII, became something of a father figure to Henry VIII in the early 1500s, and it is thought the monarch made a beeline for Layer Marney to visit the man he would eventually appoint Lord Privy Seal.

King Henry had been staying relatively close by, at the Palace of Beaulieu near Chelmsford, as co-owner of Layer Marney Tower, Sheila Charrington, explained.

She said: "The most extraordinary thing about it is that this place must have been a building site at the time – why does the King of England choose to come and stay here?

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"There are two reasons – he was very fond of Sir Henry Marney and because he was an old man he wanted to come and see him.

"King Henry was also really interested in the architecture that was going on, because we have some very fine terracotta work here – we have some of the finest to be found anywhere.

"I think he wanted to see his old friend and meet these talented craftsmen doing this work – that’s what we’re celebrating; it’s a really interesting story."

As part of the celebrations on Sunday, August 21, there will actors playing Henry VIII and Lord Marney, alongside a raft of activities and performances.

The lower lawn will have archery activities and demonstrations open throughout the day, and the barn will also be showing armour and blackwork to visitors.

Pipers will entertain the crowds, and people will also be welcome to join Maypole dancing and watch the birds of prey.

Gates open at 11am, with entry costing £12 per adult, and £6 for under-16s.

Family passes are priced at £32 for two adults and two children, with the activities expected to start clearing up towards 5pm.