Hall Place, 264m south-west of Bourne Cottage.
Reasons for Designation
Country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period comprise a distinctive group of buildings which differ in form, function, design and architectural style from country houses of both earlier and later date. Built after the dissolution of the monasteries they are the product of a particular historical period in which a newly-emerged Protestant elite of lawyers, courtiers, diplomats and other officials, mostly with close contacts at court, competed with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign, often overstretching themselves financially. Their houses are a development of the medieval hall with flanking wings and a gatehouse, often looking inwards onto a courtyard; later examples tend to be built outwards, typically on a U- or H-plan. The hall was transformed from a reception area to an entrance vestibule and the long gallery and loggia were introduced. Many houses were provided with state apartments and extensive lodgings for the accommodation of royal visitors and their retinues.
Country houses of this period were normally constructed under the supervision of one master-mason or a succession of masons, often combining a number of designs drawn up by the master-mason, surveyor or by the employer himself. Many designs and stylistic details were copied from Continental pattern-books, particularly those published in the 1560s on French, Italian and Flemish models; further architectural ideas were later spread by the use of foreign craftsmen. Symmetry in both plan and elevation was an overriding principle, often carried to extremes in the Elizabethan architectural `devices' in which geometric forms were employed to express religious and philosophical ideas. Elements of Classical architecture were drawn on individually rather than applied strictly in unified orders. This complex network of influences resulted in liberal and idiosyncratic combinations of architectural styles which contrasted with the adoption of the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, and with it the role of the architect, later in the 17th century. About 5000 country houses are known to have been standing in 1675; of these about 1000 are thought to survive, although most have been extensively altered or rebuilt in subsequent centuries to meet new demands and tastes. Houses which are uninhabited, and have thus been altered to a lesser degree, are much rarer. Surviving country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period stand as an irreplaceable record of an architectural development which was unique both to England and to a particular period in English history characterised by a flourishing of artistic invention; they provide an insight into politics, patronage and economics in the early post-medieval period. All examples with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.
Despite later additions and alterations, Hall Place is a well preserved example of a mid-16th century Country House. It incorporates re-used medieval carved stone and some fine 16th century masonry work. The site will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the history and use of the house and its medieval predecessor.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 30 March 2015. This record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes a mid-16th century country house, built on the site of an earlier medieval manor house, with 17th century alterations and additions. It is situated on low-lying, gently sloping ground between Bourne Road and the River Cray in Bexley.
The house is in two adjoined portions; the northernmost is 16th century and forms a half H-plan whilst that towards the south is a 17th century addition forming a quadrangle. It is orientated NNW to SSE. The northern portion is two storeys high with a Great Hall at the centre and two wings projecting at right angles toward the NNW. It is partly faced with a chequer pattern of stone and flints, above which are a cornice, parapet and slate covered roof. The central doorway in the north front has a basket arch in a moulded-stone architrave surround with a fanlight. On each side is a tall canted bay rising the whole height of the building and lit by eight windows. The wings are gable-ended and each has one window facing north. All the windows are casements with stone mullions and have hoodmoulds. The west front includes a projecting octagonal turret at the south end. The wings each have one long room on the ground floor and are reached by a cross passage with timber-framed walls. A central doorway leads into the Great Hall, which has a flat ribbed ceiling. The southernmost room on the upper storey of the west wing originally served as a chapel and includes a stone fireplace.
The southern 17th century portion of the house is of two storeys with a large attic. It is built of red brick with a tiled roof. Between the two floors is a string course and above is a wooden modillion eaves cornice. The main (south) frontage is of ten bays with sash widows, those to the ground floor in brick arcading with stone keystones above. In the roof are five pedimented dormer windows. The central doorway has a wooden architrave surround and pediment above. The north side of the courtyard, which is the south front of the central 16th century wing, has a red brick tower of four storeys capped by an octagonal lantern.
Hall Place replaced an earlier medieval manor house, which is likely to have stood on the same site. The manor dated to at least AD 814 but is first mentioned in the 13th century. The current building incorporates reused medieval carved stone. It was built in 1537-40 by Sir John Champneys, a merchant who held the position of Lord Mayor of London in 1534. It was altered and enlarged by his son, Justinian who inherited the property in 1556. Robert Austen, a London merchant knighted in 1660, extended the southern part of the house in red brick. Hall Place remained in the Austen family until 1772 when the estate passed to Sir Francis Dashwood. The Dashwood family owned the estate for the next 150 years and during some of this time let the house out as a private school. From about 1870, the property was let to a series of tenants, the last of whom was the Countess of Limerick who lived at Hall Place from 1917 until 1943. The property was bought in 1926 by James Cox Brady, who sold it to Bexley Council in 1935. The house has latterly been used to accommodate Bexley Museum and Bexley Local Studies Centre.
In 2006, partial excavation recorded structural evidence for the medieval and later manor house. Medieval pottery sherds have been recovered from the river bank to the south.
Hall Place is Grade I listed. It is within the bounds of a Grade II registered park and garden.