Woodham Walter Hall: an early C16 house and its associated garden earthworks


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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

Maldon (District Authority)
Woodham Walter
National Grid Reference:
TL 81315 06442

Reasons for Designation

Gardens have a long history in England. The earliest recognised examples are associated with Roman villas, while during the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods, herb gardens were planted, particularly in monasteries, for medicinal purposes. The major development in gardening took place in the late medieval and early post-medieval periods when the idea of the garden as a `pleasure ground' developed. Gardens of medieval and early post-medieval date take a variety of forms. Some involved significant water-management works to create elaborate water gardens which could include a series of ponds and even ornamental canal systems. At other sites, flower gardens were favoured, with planting in elaborately shaped and often geometrically laid out beds. Planting arrangements were often complemented by urns, statues and other garden furniture. Such sites were often provided with raised walkways or prospect mounds which provided vantage points from which the garden design and layout could be seen and fully appreciated. Whilst gardens were probably a common accompaniment to high- status houses of 16th century and later date, continued occupation of houses and related use and re-modelling of gardens in response to changing fashions means that early remains rarely survive undisturbed. Gardens provide a valuable insight into contemporary aesthetics and views about how the landscape could be modified to enhance the surroundings of a house and symbolise the social hierarchy. Their design often mirrors elements of the design of the associated house, particularly following the symmetry of the buildings. Gardens were probably not uncommon in the medieval and post- medieval period, but the exact original number is unknown. Fewer than 500 surviving examples of all types have now been identified. In view of the rarity of surviving examples, great variety of form, and importance for understanding high-status houses and their occupants, all examples of early date retaining well-preserved earthworks or significant buried remains will be identified to be nationally important; those not in use will be considered for scheduling.

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. They are the product of a particular historical period in which newly emerged Protestant elite, mostly with close contacts at court, competed with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign. 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. Country houses of this period 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. Woodham Walter Hall is an early C16 house and garden that seems to have been created as an integrated designed landscape. Its scale and complexity exemplify the ostentation of the new social and political elite, with the continuing rise in the fortunes of the Radcliffe family resulting in their eventually relinquishing the house in favour of the grander New Hall, Boreham. This relatively brief period of occupation means that the garden retains its early C16 form; a rare and intact survival from this period, it illustrates the development of the garden aesthetic between the medieval and the post-medieval period. Fragments of more detailed information may also survive, for example garden furniture such as statuary, as well as remains relating to the construction of garden features and to the management of water courses. There may also be surviving evidence of earlier occupation and landscaping. Lower lying areas will hold waterlogged deposits containing palaeobotanical evidence, providing information on the natural and cultivated environment. The remains of the church will provide evidence of its date of construction, and its form and fabric.


The monument includes the remains of Woodham Walter Hall: an early C16 house, house platform and associated garden earthworks; it also includes the buried remains of Woodham Walter old church, and a section of road to the north of that, both of which appear on aerial photographs. The monument lies about 600m south south-east of Woodham Walter village on glacially laid gravels. The construction of the house platform and the garden landscaping make use of the sides of a valley sloping down to a small stream that flows north into the River Chelmer. Woodham Walter Hall stood on a rectangular platform measuring 80mx60m, built out from the west side of the valley, with deep ditches to north, south and west, and rising 3.5m above the valley bottom to the east. The house occupied an area of about 40mx25m on the west side of the platform. A brickwork revetment laid in English bond with diaper work survives to a maximum height of 2m along the west and north sides of the platform. At the north-west corner is a tower, its exposed rubble core containing early C14 brickwork and fragments of worked stone. Other features of the wall footings include buttresses to both west and north, as well as a possible garderobe chute to the north. On the south side of the platform is a cellar measuring about 8mx6.5m and up to 2m deep, with facing brickwork standing up to 1.4m. To the north-west of the cellar plain glazed tiles were uncovered in the course of scrub clearance. Slight earthworks on the house platform to the east of the house indicate a formal garden of terraces and walkways, before the bank slopes down to the lower gardens and the valley bottom, where low earthworks indicate further terraces and walks. At the south-west corner of the house platform is a walled garden, 39mx37m. The wall of the house would have formed its north side, and brick foundations survive on the other three sides, with a scatter of brick rubble at the south-west corner visible in the arable field. The layout of the garden was formal, with diagonally crossing paths meeting at a central oval hollow. On the south side a breach in the wall indicates access to gardens in the arable field to the south. There are slight earthworks visible in this field, but very degraded by ploughing, and this area is not included in the scheduling. Further earthworks to the north, east and south-east of the house platform suggest more informal landscaping, in which the management of water and water features played an important role. The stream, which now runs along the valley bottom, was diverted from its course and directed along the east slope of the valley, retained by a clay bank. Although the retaining bank is now breached to allow the passage of a smaller stream rising from a spring to the east, the course of this stream was continuous as late as the 1922 OS map. Two dams controlled its flow to create a large expanse of water measuring c80mx180m immediately to the north of the house platform. The first dam is 170m long and 30m across at its widest point and 4m high; the second, about 80m to the north, measures 150m long and 21m wide and 5.5m high; both dams are now breached where the stream passes. These dams afforded both access and vistas across the site; the view from the north dam would have afforded a particularly fine prospect of the house, seen across a stretch of water. Further views across the valley from both east and west were provided by prospect mounds, one forming an island in the ditch to the south of the house platform, with probable access from the south-east corner of the walled garden. About 70m to the north on the east side the valley, at the east end of the south dam, is a second mound, with a stream curving around its east, south and west sides. The main access route appears to have been from the west, along a road visible on aerial photographs as a pale cropmark running in a straight line from the road that joins Woodham Walter village to the Maldon road. The road enters the south dam which here forms a bank between the broad expanse of water to the north and the wide house platform ditch to the south. After about 90m the bank turns back on itself to form a projection into the ditch to the north of the house platform. The end of this spur is the most likely location for a bridge to the house platform, although no physical evidence for this survives. The north dam is breached at its west end by a sinuous depression, possibly an overflow leat which would have filled the shallow bay to the north of the dam, creating a second expanse of water; part of this is included in the scheduling, but the section in the arable field to the north, degraded by ploughing, is not included. An early C19 house, Falconers Lodge, stood on the north dam until its recent demolition; other structures to the north have also been demolished. Smaller water features include two ponds oriented north to south terraced into the slight slope of the west side of the valley to the south of the house platform. The larger south pond measures 38mx8m and is filled with water. Slight features in the ditch north of the house platform are also interpreted as a string of small connected ponds running west to east along the ditch bottom, which could have been viewed from the windows of the house directly above. About 20m to the west of the house platform and its outer ditch, and immediately to the south of the access road described above, is a small rectangular building, visible as a cropmark. The building is oriented west-east, and is thought to be Woodham Walter old church, demolished in 1562 and replaced by a new church to the north. The reason given for its removal was its state of repair and its inconvenient distance from the village. Surface finds here include building stone, peg tiles, floor tiles and Roman tiles. Two fragments of late C12 or C13 grave covers were found in the field immediately to the west of the house in the 1980s. Both old and new churches were and are dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. The scheduled area of the house and its immediate garden landscaping lay at the centre of a deer park, and seem to have formed part of a wider managed landscape. The deer park is known to have been in existence in 1237, when the manor of Woodham Walter was held by the Fitzwalter family. In 1431 the estate passed by marriage to the Radcliffe family, and in 1529 Robert Radcliffe, courtier and loyal servant to Henry V111, was granted the title of Earl of Sussex; he died in 1542 and was succeeded by his son Henry. In 1573 Elizabeth I granted New Hall, Boreham, to the third Earl, Thomas, and this seems to have become their principal seat. In 1622 the deer park at Woodham Walter was disparked, and the land turned to agricultural use. The house was demolished in the late C17. Evidence from the brickwork and pottery found when the platform was cultivated in 1973 indicate a date for the house and its occupation between the late C15 or early C16 and later C17. It seems most likely, then, that the house was built and the gardens landscaped as a single event by either the first Earl of Sussex, Robert Radcliffe, or his son. The scheduling is intended to protect the remains of the hall and its surrounding garden earthworks, as well as the buried remains of the church and a section of the road in the arable field to the west. Apart from the remains associated with the hall, all upstanding structures, including fence posts, are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

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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