Hill Hall: a singular house devised by a Tudor intellectual

Christopher Catling, 2009

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Christopher Catling (2009) Hill Hall: a singular house devised by a Tudor intellectual [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor] https://doi.org/10.5284/1000005

Introduction

Hill Hall: A Singular House Devised by a Tudor Intellectual, by Paul Drury and Richard Simpson, is the complete history of a building that began as a hunting lodge, late in the eleventh century and that grew to be the principal house of the manor of Theydon Mount in Essex, a small country retreat within easy reach of London.

Reconstruction of the south elevation, end of Period 2n

In 1556, the house was acquired by Sir Thomas Smith (1512-77), a man of humble origins but precocious intellect who became Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge at the age of thirty and Chancellor of the University two years later. He then forsook academic for political life, becoming Master of Requests to the Lord Protector Somerset. From 1557, Smith rebuilt the house in French-influenced classical style and decorated it with wall paintings of Cupid and Psyche and King Hezekiah, conveying complex messages of morality and affinity as part of a coherent programme of images in paint, glass and tiles.

Four centuries on, the house was first used as an open prison, then, in 1969, largely gutted by fire and finally, in 1980, taken into the care of the Department of the Environment. Archaeological excavation and detailed recording of the surviving fabric took place prior to the restoration of the house and its mural paintings, the results of which have now been published by the Society of Antiquaries (with funding from English Heritage) in a copiously illustrated account of one of the most important and influential houses to be built in Elizabethan England.