Gidea Hall

Gidea Hall, 1908

The British landscape has lost over 1,800 old Halls, Manors and Castles. Gidea Hall (also Giddy Hall or Gydihall) dates back to 1250, and is best remembered as the residence of Sir Thomas Cooke, Lord Mayor of London. In 1466, he received royal licence by King Edward IV to empark, rebuild and crenellate Gidea Hall:

Grant, of special grace, to Thomas Cook, knight, of licence to enclose 140 acres of land, 20 acres of meadow, 20 acres of pasture with all vivaries (vivariis) imparked of his lands and demesnes at Gydihall by Ramford, co. Essex, with palings or hedges and to hold the same as a park, and of licence to enclose the site of the manors of Gydihall with stones and mortar and to provide the same with turrets, crenellations, battlements and machicolations; and to hold the foregoing to himself and his heirs, even though the said lands are within the metes of the king’s forest; grant also to the said Thomas and his heirs of free warren in the said lands, even though they are within the metes of the king’s forest. (CChR) Granted at Westminster. Grant by privy seal and of the said date etc. {by authority of parliament}.

These alterations were completed in 1568 by his grandson, Sir Anthony Cooke (1504-1576). The finished Hall included a large courtyard and a moat. The Hall served the Cooke family for six generations. The house was demolished in 1720 and replaced by a new, three story mansion. In the early 18th century, the Hall was surrounded by a formal arrangement of canals, avenues, lakes and a medicinal spring. By the late 1800’s it was divided into two dwellings, in 1918 used by the Army in support of World War I, and still later used as a club house. It was demolished completely in 1930, with no visible remains. British History Online has this record of the various owners and residents:

The manor of GIDEA HALL, (fn. 102) from which the modern Gidea Park is named, lay north-east of Romford town. In 1250–1 the daughter of Simon of Gidea Hall (Gidiehulle) held two tenements in the manor of Havering, of 1 virgate and ¼ virgate respectively. (fn. 103) Since these were large virgates her total holdings were probably about 150 a. In c. 1355 Sir John of Havering held Gidea Hall (150 a.), East House, in Romford, and other lands, comprising a total of 501 a. (fn. 104) The Gidea Hall section of this estate had previously belonged to John of Abbenach. In 1376 Gidea Hall and East House were held by William Baldwin, saddler of London, to whom they had been granted by Robert of Havering. (fn. 105) Robert Chichele, a London merchant, and brother of Henry Chichele, later archbishop of Canterbury, was holding Gidea Hall in 1412. (fn. 106) By then the estate also included the manor of Bedfords. In 1441 it was held by Robert Saltmarsh and his wife Christine. (fn. 107) They sold it in 1452 to (Sir) Thomas Cooke (d. 1478), a London draper who was lord mayor in 1462. (fn. 108) He also bought the manor of Bedfords and Earls in Havering, and that of Redden Court in Hornchurch. During an eventful career he was twice imprisoned, but he retained the estate, which descended in his family until the 17th century. The Cookes became the leading local gentry. (fn. 109) Notable among them was Sir Anthony Cooke (d. 1576), tutor to Edward VI and father-in-law of Lord Burghley. (fn. 110)

Gidea Hall, 1500’s

Charles Cooke (d. 1629) was the last of his name to hold Gidea Hall. His heirs were his sisters Ann (d. 1652), wife of Sir Edward Sydenham, and Vere (d. 1685), wife of Sir Charles Gawdy. East House and Redden Court had been alienated before 1629, but the estate still included Bedfords and Earls as well as Gidea Hall itself. In the division of the Cooke property the Gidea Hall estate passed to the Sydenhams. (fn. 111) Sir Edward Sydenham suffered sequestration as a royalist in 1642, but his wife and children were allowed to remain at Gidea Hall. (fn. 112) In 1658 Sir Edward and his son Charles Sydenham sold the estate to Richard Emes, cooper of London. (fn. 113) Emes sold Bedfords and Earls in 1659, but retained Gidea Hall until 1664, when he sold it to John Burch, a West India planter. (fn. 114)

Burch (d. 1668) left Gidea Hall to his wife Margaret (d. 1685), for life, with remainder to his sister Rebecca Hothersall, and his nephews Thomas and Burch Hothersall. (fn. 115) The Hothersalls duly succeeded to the manor on Mrs. Burch’s death, and lived at Gidea Hall at least until 1694. (fn. 116) In 1710, under the will of Thomas Hothersall, grandson of Rebecca, the manor was sold to Benjamin Haskins Stiles and John Hunter. (fn. 117) Stiles and Hunter were probably agents for Stiles’s brother-in-law, (Sir) John Eyles (Bt.) (d. 1745), who certainly acquired Gidea Hall about that time. (fn. 118) In 1744 Sir John, as lord of the manor, was receiving quit-rents from 54 tenants in Romford town, Hare Street, Collier Row, and Hornchurch. (fn. 119) He was succeeded by his son Sir Francis Haskins Eyles-Stiles, who sold the manor in 1745 to Richard Benyon (d. 1774), governor of Fort St. George (Madras, India). (fn. 120)

Gidea Hall descended like Newbury in Ilford (fn. 121) until 1802, when Richard Benyon, grandson of the purchaser, sold it to Alexander Black (d. 1835). (fn. 122) In 1846 Alice Black, Alexander’s widow, was holding the Gidea Hall estate, then comprising 742 a. (fn. 123) She died in 1871. (fn. 124) The estate had previously been settled on Black’s two daughters and their husbands: Anne and William Neave, and Adelaide and Alfred Douglas Hamilton. (fn. 125) After Mrs. Black’s death the estate was put on the market with a view to development, and in 1883 the main part of it, comprising some 500 a., was bought by the Lands Allotment Co., a member of Jabez Balfour’s Liberator group. (fn. 126) The company tried to develop the estate, but with little success, and in 1893, after the collapse of the group, Gidea Hall was again put up for sale in one lot. (fn. 127) It was not then sold, but in 1897 the house and 480 a. were bought by (Sir) Herbert H. Raphael (Bt.). (fn. 128) By then the western edge of the estate (Lake Rise) had been detached. In 1902 Raphael gave some 20 a., including a lake, for the public park (Raphael park). (fn. 129) Soon after that he developed the rest of the estate as the Gidea Park garden suburb. (fn. 130) The western side, between Raphael park and Heath Drive, has been built over, but most of the eastern side remains open as Romford golf course and Gidea Park sports ground.

The manor-house stood north of Main Road, Gidea Park, about 300 yd. east of Raphael park. In 1466 Sir Thomas Cooke obtained the king’s licence to empark the manor, and to rebuild and crenellate Gidea Hall. (fn. 131) He left the house unfinished. (fn. 132) Sir Anthony Cooke (d. 1576) completed it before 1568, when he entertained Elizabeth I there. (fn. 133) The finished building was arranged round three sides of a courtyard, with an open colonnade on the fourth side. (fn. 134) In the 17th century Gidea Hall was the largest house in the liberty except for the king’s house at Havering. (fn. 135) Marie de Medici, mother of Queen Henrietta Maria, stayed there in 1638. (fn. 136)

Sir John Eyles, Bt., demolished the old house about 1720, and replaced it with a three-storey mansion. (fn. 137) Some stabling from the 16th-century house survived until 1922. (fn. 138) Richard Benyon (d. 1796) appears to have altered and enlarged Gidea Hall. (fn. 139) In the later 19th century the house was divided into two dwellings. (fn. 140) It was used by the Army during the First World War, and after the war became a club house for the garden suburb. (fn. 141) It was demolished in 1930. (fn. 142)

The early-18th-century house had a formal arrangement of canals and avenues converging upon it. (fn. 143) The northern canal, called the Spoon pond, was the main survivor from that scheme. (fn. 144) Its site, now drained, is used as tennis courts. Richard Benyon (d. 1796) enlarged the park, probably to the design of Richard Woods, c. 1776. (fn. 145) He made it less formal, and introduced a lake in the valley west of the house. The greater width of water at the main road made a new bridge necessary, and that was designed by James Wyatt. (fn. 146) It is of three brick arches, forming the north side of the present road bridge. The lake, known from a later owner as Black’s canal, is now included in Raphael park. The fishponds also survive farther east. Near them, in Heath Drive, are sections of garden walling from Gidea Hall, probably of the early 19th century. A medicinal spring at Gidea Hall was the subject of a book published in 1783. (fn. 147) It was occluded c. 1906.

Gidea Hall c.1930

A few sources report that in 1610, Gidea Hall in Romford, was the birthplace of William Steele (1610-1680), son of Richard Steele of Sandbach (??-1645), and whose grandson was Richard Steele (1672–1729) the writer. Other sources, perhaps more credible, report that he was born in Giddy Hall in Sandbach, and that this house was similarly moated. At the end of 1648, William was made Attorney General of the Commonwealth, but he conveniently was ill for the King’s trial in January 1649. He was to prosecute King Charles I, with John Cooke as Chief Justice; when Charles II assumed the throne, John Cooke’s fate was sealed, and he was executed in 1660. William was made Lord Chancellor of Ireland in 1656. Here is a picture of Gidea Hall, Romford, before demolition in 1930, when it was being used as a tennis club house. It is now the site of the Gidea Park Lawn Tennis Club.

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