Monday, 1 November 2010

Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex part 3

Stansted Hall stands on land once occupied by the Romans and nearby were found the remnants of a substantial villa. The Roman settlement probably gave rise to the Saxon name of Stansteda meaning stony place.

Following the conquest Robert de Gernon (Robert Greno in the Domesday Book) was granted the barony of Stansted and built a motte and bailey castle which has been re-created in recent times. Robert’s son, William, took the name Montfichet and built, or laid the foundations of, St Mary the Virgin.

The first Hall at Stansted was built after King John sacked the castle in 1216. Richard de Montfichet, one of the Magna Carta sureties, died without issue in 1258 and his sister, Margaret de Bolebec, inherited the Hall. Upon the death of her grandson, Walter, without male issue the Hall had a succession of owners until Thomas de Vere, son of Robert, 3rd Earl of Oxford, bought the estate.

In 1438 Elizabeth de Vere, nee Howard and daughter of Sir John Howard and Joan Walton, inherited the Hall and estate. Her husband and son, John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, and Aubrey were on the losing, Lancastrian, side at Towton and were both beheaded. The de Vere lands, including Stansted, were sequestered and Stansted became the property of the Duke of Norfolk for the next 23 years.

In 1485 Henry VII gave the estate to his mother in law, the Dowager Queen Elizabeth, but two years later, after her banishment, he restored the lands to the de Veres with whom it remained until the 17thEarl, Edward de Vere, sold it to John Southall in 1582.

In 1588 John Southall conveyed the manors of Stansted to Edward Hubbard or Hubert who was a Clerk in Chancery; it was his son Sir Francis Hubbard who sold the estate in 1615 to Sir Thomas Myddleton, who was a Member of Parliament, a former Lord Mayor of London in 1613 and a dynamic merchant, who appears to have been a wealthy man of many talents. It was Sir Thomas Myddleton who built the Jacobean Hall in the early 1600’s. Sir Thomas Myddleton died aged 81 on the 12th August 1631 and is buried in the Parish Church.

His splendid monument and effigy may be seen on the south side of the Sanctuary in the Church. Inscribed on this monument are the words "Resigned his soul to Heaven, his body to the ground, in earnest expectation of a better life than this". (It is not known what better life he expected. He had lived well and been married four times.)

The Hall remained in the Myddleton family until 1710, when another Thomas Myddleton MP (a Member of four successive Parliaments in the reign of Queen Anne) died, leaving five daughters but no male heir.

The title was then bought by Thomas Heath, Member of Parliament for Harwich and the son of William Heath who had been a Captain in the service of the East India Company.

Thomas died in 1741 and was succeeded as Lord of the Manor by his two sons, Bailey and William. Bailey was Sheriff of Essex in 1747 and died in 1760.

William inherited the estate and died in 1797. He was succeeded by another Bailey Heath, upon whose death in 1808 the family became extinct.

Sometime during the 1800's, the upper floors of the Jacobean Hall were devastated by fire. From an old map we know that the Tudor/Jacobean Halls were sited at the lower end of the lake field near to the Church. The Hall fell into disrepair until 1825, when it was referred to as a 'farm house'.

Stansted Park and the creation and development of its landscape between 1750 and 1900 survive relatively intact today. Humphry Repton in 1791 produced one of his ‘red books’ of designs for Stansted. The parkland covered 146 acres and there was a narrow rectangular pond, with a narrower curved extension to the north.

The Hall then came into the ownership of Miss Berthia Ellis (1780-1863), and upon her marriage to Mr E. Fuller-Maitland (1781-1858) Stansted Hall became the property of that family. However, Berthia disliked the residence and after a fire in 1880 when the old hall burnt down leaving only a tower, she allowed it to fall into further ruin.

Their son, William Fuller-Maitland, MA was a traveller, connoisseur and art collector and he was, in 1870, looking for a place in which to house his priceless collection of paintings and other artefacts. His home across the valley from Stansted was already bursting at the seams and he needed more space in which to display his treasures. It was this William who commissioned Robert Armstrong a young architect to design a new Hall, apparently on the site of the earlier stables and offices, which would combine a Jacobean style with 19th century building techniques.

Building work commenced in 1871 and by 1876 the mansion was ready. William Fuller-Maitland died in that year before he could take up residence in his new home.

To provide a sense of continuity and authenticity, various items were salvaged from the old Halls and incorporated into the new house. These included a small Cupola which was made into a Bell Tower and incorporated on the roof of the Kitchen Wing. Two of the larger Cupolas from the towers of the Jacobean Hall were brought across, one of which was placed on the Stable Block.

Various other items were incorporated such as the two magnificent Adam fireplaces, a wooden fireplace surround and some 16th c. wood panelling.

The Hall then passed to his son, also called William, who lived there until 1921, when the Hall was sold to Sir Albert Ball. William Fuller Maitland died in November 1932. In the Parish Church and Churchyard are various monuments to the Fuller-Maitland family.

In 1923 Arthur Findlay and his wife from Scotland visited the property with a view to purchasing it. They fell in love with the place, and in 1923 after some tough bargaining they bought the estate

They moved into the house in 1926, and in the years to come he became an English landowner, farmer, magistrate and author of some standing, as well as taking a very active part in local affairs. During the Second World War, Stansted Hall was loaned to the Ministry of Defence for use as a convalescent hospital by the Red Cross. During this period some 5,500 soldiers, recovering from accidents, wounds and illness, recuperated within its walls and enjoyed the beauties and pleasures of its surroundings. They could go anywhere they liked in the pleasure grounds, but were not allowed in the three hundred year old walled kitchen garden. Following the war Mr & Mrs Findlay came back to live at the Hall.

Mrs Annie Gertrude Findlay died in 1963 and Arthur J Findlay died 24th July 1964 and Stansted Hall was bequeathed to the Spiritualists' National Union to house the Arthur Findlay College for the Advancement of Psychic Science.

Stansted hall (3)

STANSTED MOUNTFITCHET. Its houses look down on a Roman road, but its name comes from the Norman family of Mountfitchet, whose castle was destroyed in the year of Magna Carta. There are traces of its earthworks and some rubble foundations. There are Tudor houses here with their imposing timbers, one in Church Road with brackets carved with foliage, and others of the 17th and 18th centuries. A fine tower windmill stands in the background. The church is a little way off in the 200 acres of Stansted Hall, and has three archways through which men were walking in Norman days, a chancel arch carved with small heads and two doorways with tympanums, all with Norman decoration. The tower is 17th century, but the chancel was refashioned by the 13th century men, and has graceful shafts and a handsome wall arcade. It opens to a chapel by two arches, one of the l3th century, with rich foliage on its capitals, and one of the 14th. Five big linenfold panels are left from a Tudor screen, and from the 17th century are two carved chairs, an attractive cover for the 700-year—old font, and a curious panel carved with the thirty pieces of silver, the Crown of thorns, a kneeling cherub, and instruments of the Passion. There are two fine candlesticks from Italy; a reredos with the Resurrection, the Tree of Life, and a phoenix; and a window of Faith and Hope in memory of a father who died in 1915 and his son killed in France two years later. The oldest monument is the worn figure of a cross-legged knight in armour, said to be Roger de Lancaster from the beginning of the 14th century. He wears a surcoat, and has his feet on a grinning lion. Far more imposing is the great marble monument, 20 feet high, of Sir Thomas Middleton who died in 1631. He is wearing a fur cloak over his armour, and the collar he wore as Lord Mayor of London; there are angels by the inscription, and seven shields of arms. His wife lies on an altar tomb panelled and carved with elaborate heraldry. She is a coloured figure wearing a cloak, a lace collar, and a tall hat, and her sad little story is that she was killed by a stag in the park.

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