Despite its apparent uniformity of style, Burton Constable has a long and complicated building history. A brick manor house was built at Burton Constable in c1500 coinciding with the clearance of a substantial village of over one hundred inhabitants, considered necessary to allow for the creation of a deer park. The new house replaced an old pele tower, which had served to protect the village since the reign of King Stephen in the twelfth century. Stonework from the pele tower forms the foundation of the north tower (‘Stephen’s Tower’), which, together with the north wing, is the oldest part of the house that survives to the present day.
In the 1560s Sir John Constable tore down the greater part of the manor house, leaving only the north lodgings wing with its tower, and proceeded to build the grand Elizabethan mansion. Sir John transformed the house, adding a central block incorporating a great hall, parlour and great chamber, and the south wing that included another tower and turret in order to harmonise with the existing north wing. This south wing contained a kitchen, additional lodgings and a chapel.
The development of the west front was piecemeal, but the main range containing the Long Gallery on the first floor was probably completed by the end of the sixteenth century and is described in detail in a document dated 1610.