Hill Hall, brick kiln and deserted manorial settlement of Mount Hall


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Epping Forest (District Authority)
Theydon Mount
National Grid Reference:
TQ 49047 99339

Reasons for Designation

Medieval manorial settlements, comprising small groups of houses with associated gardens, yards and paddocks, supported local communities devoted primarily to agriculture, and acted as the foci for manorial administration. Although the sites of many of these settlements have been occupied continuously down to the present date, many others declined in size or were abandoned at some time during the medieval and post-medieval periods, particularly during the C14 and C15. The reasons for desertion were varied but often reflected declining economic viability, changes in land use or population fluctuations. As a consequence of their abandonment, these settlements are frequently undisturbed by later occupation and contain well-preserved archaeological deposits, providing information on the diversity of medieval patterns and farming economy and on the structure and changing fortunes of manorial communities. An important element of the medieval manor of Theydon Mount was the lesser important, but still significant medieval Hill Hall, a new foundation imposed on the landscape, probably towards the end of the C12. Its development took the form of separate buildings rather than a fully integrated plan, its layout reminiscent of the royal hunting lodge at Writtle to the west of Chelmsford and it may have served as a lodge to Mount Hall. The medieval remains give a clear indication of the nature and scale of the house which Sir Thomas Smith acquired on his marriage to Phillipa Hampden and show how its site and layout largely determined that of his new building. Although some excavation has taken place, the scheduled status of the site ensured that most of the archaeological deposits were left in situ beneath the existing courtyard and thus the potential for further evidence of the evolution of this important site is certain to be preserved beneath the present hall. The outstanding importance of Smith's house is recognised by its Grade I listing. The ceramic building materials used at Hill Hall in the 1570s included simple mosaic tiles, rectangular and hexagonal tiles in two colours, unglazed terracotta for mouldings and much of the classical detail and tin-glazed terracotta for small-scale architectural details and decorative tiles. The tin-glazed terracotta and the geometric floor tiles are apparently unique in this country and were almost certainly made by foreign craftsmen. The site of the kiln in which they were fired is thus of great interest and, given the limited archaeological work, has the potential to yield important information on the origin and manufacture of the material which contributes to the exceptional special interest of Hill Hall.


The monument includes the approach road to the extant Hill Hall and the buried remains of medieval buildings beneath it, the earthworks of the deserted manorial site of Mount Hall approximately 300m to the east and the buried deposits of the medieval kiln site approximately 150m to the south-east. Hill Hall sits at the highest point of a flat-topped hill; 'the Mount' of the parish of Theydon Mount. Mount Hall and its associated medieval settlement lie to the north of the Church of St Michael; both of which lie within a series rectilinear enclosures surviving as cropmarks. The scheduled area that comprises the medieval site falls within the much larger extent of the registered Park and Garden of Special Historic Interest at Hill Hall. Hill Hall itself is a Grade 1 listed building and has a Grade II listed outbuilding alongwith three Grade II listed garden structures in the vicinity. The first identifiable documentary evidence of an earlier house beneath the existing Hill Hall dates to 1373 when 'Hill Hall' was bought by Richard de Northampton and was known as the messuage to the manor of Mount Hall. The medieval manor house, located to the west of the current hall, was extended to form a small courtyard house probably in the C13 and C14. By the late C15 the buildings were in need of repair prompting Margery Hampden to demolish the hall in 1486, replacing it with a small country house using higher status materials including painted glass in the windows and wall paintings. It was at this date that Hill Hall became the manorial house, the pre-Elizabethan manor at Mount Hall becoming secondary, eventually serving as a farmhouse. The Manor of Theydon Mount continued to be held by the Hampden family until the widow of the last Sir John, Phillipa, married Thomas Smith (1512-77) in 1554. In 1557 Smith commenced the rebuilding of Hill Hall and continued with many building campaigns until his death. The mural buildings were completed in 1575. The Hall was used as an open prison from 1952, gutted by fire in 1969 and taken into care by the Department of the Environment in 1980. The north range was re-roofed in 1982 and the shell restored by English Heritage. The hall was subsequently converted into apartments with Scheduled Monument Consent. Limited excavations by the Chelmsford Archaeological Trust were undertaken between 1882-5 and further small-scale and non-invasive archaeological work has since been carried out by Wessex Archaeology and Northampton Archaeology. Archaeological intervention in the environs of Hill Hall during the 1980s revealed buildings pertaining to the earliest buildings on the site which appear to date from the late C12. The limited excavations revealed traces of narrow ridge and furrow in buried soils and rubbish pits containing late C12 and early C13 pottery beneath the existing courtyard. A number of buildings were also revealed to the west of the courtyard including the lower part of an undercroft to a detached chamber block, constructed of flint rubble. This chamber was located to the east of the earliest hall, probably originally approached from the direction of the manor at Mount Hall and the church. The hall had a service end to the north and a detached kitchen block beyond that, and measured approximately 6.75m x 9.5m. Nothing is visible above ground of the probable site of the kiln which produced the brick, tile and terracotta for Sir Thomas Smith's building in the 1560s and 1570s, but the field was known historically as Tile Croft (estate map of 1657 in Essex Record Office D/DU 884) and substantial footings were recorded in a trench 400ft NNW of the church in 1965 (DOE AA 40460/2 pt2). An early C17 Nuremburg Jetton showing Hercules was found at the same time. The estate map of 1657 shows Mount Hall to the east, the site of the medieval manor of Theydon Mount. The earthworks are substantial, although not clearly interpreted and probably represent the remains of the manor house and small settlement surrounding it which was present in 1777 (Chapman and Andre map, sheet XVI) The manor house was demolished at around 1800 and by 1838 only one cottage remained on the site. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling: these are Hill Hall and associated outbuildings and garden features, all modern field boundaries, all gates and stiles, fence posts and all road and path surfaces. The ground beneath all these structures and features, is however, included. There are also three areas of total exclusions north west of Hill Hall: in these areas both the ground above and below is excluded from the scheduled area; this includes the cottages numbered 19 to 22 and the central area between the garages.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


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This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

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