Hall Place in Kent

Hall Place is perhaps one of the most unusual places we have been in search of the Regency. It is situated in Bexley in Kent.  During the time I grew up theren the house was not open to the public, but it was a well-known local land mark.

Hall place dates back to before Henry VIII's reformation and around that time fell into the hands of one of London's Lord Mayors, Sir John Champney a self-made man who died of the plague in 1556.

This is a view of the Tudor courtyard built for Champney with its stunning pattern of grey and white stone.  A mark of his wealth and importance. Originally it would have had only one large oriel window looking into the courtyard, as all the other windows also would have done.

Over time, the house was added to and altered by succeeding owners and in 1772, the era in which we are interested it passed into the hands of Sir Francis Dashwood, later Baron Le Despenser.  Apparently there really were Dashwoods around in Jane Austen's time.

The red brick extension, with its two wings and front facing outwards now, was added to what would have been the back of  Tudor buildings as seen here. The extension formed a central enclosed courtyard between the new front and the old tudor great hall, and provided a corridor between the wings.

A view along the side shows where the new was added to the old.  I must say I found it rather odd from this angle, but I cannot contain my respect for those who decided to keep the old Tudor part in tact.

A bell tower was added within the new courtyard with a fashionable prospect room at the top for watching the hunt and for entertaining.  What and interesting looking tower it is.  The rectangular windows follow the ascending stairs to form an unusual asymmetric pattern.  The courtyard at this time would have been the hub of the household. Water was fetched from the pump and arrivals and departures would be observed from the upstairs windows. The archways around the courtyard lead to the new architectural development --- corridors.  It enabled privacy, one room no longer leading directly into the next

At the time Sir Francis inherited the property it was rented out to a Richard Calvert Esquire and then to the Reverend Richard Jeffreys in 1798 who set it up as a School for young gentlemen. And so it remained until the 1860's.

What a wonderful place for boys to go to school. At the time there were coach houses, stables, outhouses, office buildings, boat yards, orchard gardens, shrubberies, a pleasure ground and appurtenances thereto.

What a great setting for a story.

Hall Place today is a mix of original Tudor, Commonwealth and Restoration.

Next time will will take a peek around the interior.  Until then.....


Searching for Regency England IV

I am excited and nervous. My robin hatched a chick sometime overnight - didn't quite make Mothers Day. I do hope you all had a wonderful day. We spent the day at home, very much a family time. Now we are once more trying to think of ways not to use the front door.

Otford is another of those English villages in Kent that reminds us how rural England was in the Regency. Otford is a Kent village on the river Darent two miles north of Sevenoaks and twenty-five miles south east of London. The Pilgrim's Way passes through the village and its centre is the spring-filled duck pond. The pond is in fact in the middle of a modern day roundabout, when I am sure originally it would have been the village green.

One of the buildings facing the pond is chantry cottage dating back to 1150. Pilgrim's Way by the way is the historic route supposed to have been taken by pilgrims from Winchester in Hampshire, England, to the shrine of Thomas Becket at Canterbury in Kent.

Another feature of English villages in Kent around Sevenoaks is the oast house. They are farm buildings used for drying hops in preparation for the brewing process. They consist of two or three storeys on which the hops were spread out to be dried by hot air from a wood or charcoal-fired kiln at the bottom. The drying floors were thin and perforated to permit the heat to pass through and it escaped through a cowl in the roof which turned with the wind. The freshly picked hops from the fields were raked in to dry and then raked out to cool before being bagged up and sent to the brewery.

The earliest surviving oast house is that at Cranbrook near Tunbridge Wells which dates to 1750 but the process is documented from soon after the introduction of hops into England in the early 16th century. Early oast houses were simply adapted barns but, by the early 19th century, the distinctive circular buildings with conical roofs had been developed in response to the increased demand for beer. So very much a Regency era building for a very popular form of entertainment. Beer Drinking.

Hop picking by hand is a most labour intensive business and once the acreage began to grow it was necessary to bring in pickers from outside the immediate area. Oh, and while the hops were grown in fields they were called hop gardens.

The migration of town to country to pick hops continued for more than two and a half centuries – it is first mentioned in an Act of 1710. Ellis in his Modern Husbandman 1750 refers to a Kent grower who was providing a small hut or shed for his pickers furnishing it with wheat straw for bedding, and a cask of small beer ‘so that they may not lose time in a quest for drink’. Each morning he gave each picker a quartern (1/6 of a pint) of gin which he thought to be a preservative against the Kentish Ague that generally has the greatest power to seize those who live the poorest. Another Mr Ellis, a grower from Barming, the largest grower in Kent in the 1830s, employed between 3,000 and 4,000 pickers each year. Kentish Ague was in fact Cholera. Gypsies, who were migrant workers, also picked hops during Regency times.

Until next time, Happy Rambles.