Langley at that time belonged to the Burnells, after whom the neighbouring village and castle of Acton Burnell are named. By 1400, however, Langley had passed by marriage to the Lees, whose main seat it became. In 1591, it was inherited by Humphrey Lee, who besides being Sheriff of Shropshire in 1600 was made a baronet by James I in 1620. He enlarged the Hall and the chapel, and it is now clear that he did the same for the Gatehouse in about 1610.
Some doubts have been raised in the last few years as to whether the Gatehouse was built in several phases, with front and back being of different periods and whether its northern third was also a later addition. While building work was in progress in 1992, however, the Hereford Archaeology Unit made a detailed survey of the Gatehouse, and dendro-dating was done on samples from several of the main timbers. These confirmed that the whole upper part of the building, front and back, with the section north of the gate arch, were all built at one time.
On top of an earlier, possibly single-storied building, Sir Humphrey added what amounts to a small house, a late flourish in a tradition of grand pseudo-defensive entrances that began in the late Middle Ages. Inside the Gatehouse, the rooms on the first floor were of good quality, warmed by fires, so they were almost certainly for living in, either by an officer of the household such as the Steward, or by important guests.
Sir Humphrey's son, Sir Richard, had no son so on his death Langley was inherited by one of his daughters who was married to Edward Smythe. The Smythes lived at Langley for a time, but by 1700 had moved to Acton Burnell. Langley Hall itself became a farmhouse and was eventually pulled down. The Gatehouse was used for storage and perhaps as a dormitory for farm servants.
In this state it survived into this century, occasionally repaired and altered in small ways to suit some new need, but slowly growing ever more derelict. From this state it was rescued in 1978 by the Department of the Environment, which proposed to take the Gatehouse into guardianship, and erected scaffolding around it. Before more than minor repairs had been carried out, however, work stopped due to a change in government policy on guardianship monuments. The Department's successor, English Heritage, was still keen to secure the future of the Gatehouse but how to do this was unclear.
Then, in 1986, English Heritage approached the Landmark Trust with a proposal for a joint scheme to repair the building and provide it with a new use. After lengthy negotiations between all the parties concerned, including the Langley estate, Treasure & Son started work in January 1992, under the supervision of the architect Andrew Thomas. The Gatehouse was furnished in July 1993 and has been let for holidays ever since.
For a short history of Langley Gatehouse please click here.
To read the full history album for Langley Gatehouse please click here.
To download the children's Explorer pack for Langley Gatehouse please click here.