DiCamillo Companion

Copped Hall (Copt Hall)

  • Earlier Houses: An earlier Tudor house was demolished in 1748 and replaced with the current house.

    House & Family History: Recorded history at Copped Hall starts in the 12th century when there was already a substantial building on the site. At that time Copped Hall belonged to the Fitzaucher family who served the king as huntsmen. In 1303 the Copped Hall Estate consisted of 180 acres – comprising parkland, arable land and meadowland. In 1337 Copped Hall came into the hands of Sir John Shardlow, who conveyed it to the Abbots of Waltham in 1350 in exchange for other lands. The Abbots described Copped Hall as "a mansion of pleasure and privacy." Edward III granted them leave in 1374 to extend the park by a further 120 acres on the Epping side. In 1537 the Abbot gave Copped Hall to Henry VIII in the vain hope of saving Waltham Abbey from being dissolved. This failed to appease Henry and the Abbey was dissolved in 1540. Henry VIII visited Copped Hall but never lived there. In 1548 his son Edward VI allowed the future Queen Mary to live at Copped Hall, where she remained – to a large degree – a prisoner, as she was Catholic. When Mary became Queen in 1533, Copped Hall was leased to Sir Thomas Cornwallis. In 1558 it was transferred to the Duchy of Lancaster. In 1564 Queen Elizabeth I granted Copped Hall to one of her closest friends – Sir Thomas Heneage. Almost immediately he started to rebuild the mansion, incorporating part of the old house in the southwest corner. The building was complete by 1568, when Queen Elizabeth came to stay. The new mansion was U-shaped in plan and arranged around a symmetrical open courtyard. A single-story covered corridor connected the outstretched wings. Entry was from the north, where a large enclosed carriage turning-circle was constructed. The mansion had two principal floors with attics above the wings. There were cellars over part of the House. The most important internal feature was the long gallery, which occupied the entire first floor of the east wing. Its dimensions were 174 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 23 feet high. Abutting this gallery was a two-story chapel that could be viewed from a balcony off the long gallery. The west wing appeared similar to the east wing from the courtyard and from the north but did not extent as far to the south. The South Façade of the mansion looked out over a large formal garden terrace. Stepped up from this was a large parterre leading to distant gates. Sir Thomas Heneage occupied high office, including vice chamberlain of the Royal Household. In 1594, after his wife's death, Sir Thomas married the Countess of Southampton. Shakespeare's "A. Midsummer's Nights Dream" was almost certainly written for their wedding celebrations and was first performed at Copped Hall in the long gallery after the wedding ceremony in London. In 1739 Edward Conyers purchased the Elizabethan Copped Hall from Sir Thomas Webster, who had owned it since 1701. Edward Conyers only enjoyed the house for three years before dying in 1742. Edward Conyers son, John, inherited the property and considered repairing it as it had become dilapidated. Two excellent paintings were executed by George Lambert showing the house in its landscape; these paintings are now in the Tate Britain. John Conyers, brother-in-law of Sir Roger Newdigate, carried out extensive measured drawings of the interior of the House. John Conyers moved in cultural circles and wanted to express the latest architectural ideas of the day, which were incompatible with living in the old house. His architect, John Sanderson, drew up plans for a Palladian mansion. Assisting with these ideas were Sir Roger Newdigate and another architect – Thomas Prowse. Very grand proposals were produced: a main block with a vast dome, a portico, and attached curved colonnades leading to symmetrical pavilions. In the end, only the main block was built - on a different site to the Elizabethan mansion. It was completed by 1758. The new mansion was superbly sited overlooking two valleys with a third valley to the north. The building was very well proportioned on all fronts. The chimneys were successfully arranged in tight geometric arrangement. It was a perfect example of the "18th century house in landscape." Internally there was a particularly good arrangement consisting of two top-lit stairwells surrounded by a circuit of inter-connecting grand rooms at first floor level. At second floor level there was an excellent arrangement of circulation spaces at the top of the staircases, with four sets of triple arches in line. In the basement are superb brick vaulted ceilings. The choice of a different site for the Georgian mansion resulted in a very interesting garden arrangement, as the gardens of the new house did not interfere with the gardens of the Elizabethan house, which were largely left intact. A magnificent four-acre walled garden was built to grow fruit, flowers, and vegetables. In 1775 John Conyers died and his son, also John, commissioned the architect James Wyatt to make internal changes to the mansion. These changes did not improve the architecture and was largely comprised of sub-dividing the rooms. James Wyatt did, however, design the southern gatehouses, and screen, which are very satisfactory. During the first part of the 19th century Copped Hall was little altered, its occupant, Henry Conyers (1782-1853), being more concerned with enjoying the place than improving it. His daughters did not appear to carry out any improvements before the estate was sold to George Wythes in 1869. George Wythes (1811-83) was an extremely wealthy man who had made his fortune in the construction of railways and as a developer. Wythes never lived at Copped Hall, but bought the Estate for his only son George (1839-75), who lived there until his early death. During this time the mansion was given a new wing to the north to accommodate the rapidly expanding service requirements of a large house. After George Wythes, Jr., died, his two young sons went to live with their grandfather at Bickley Park, near Bromley, and Copped Hall was let for a period to a Mr. Burns. In 1887, four years after their grandfather had died, the elder of these two sons (George Wythes, 1867-87) also died aged 19, so when the younger son (Ernest Wythes, 1868-1949) inherited he came into two fortunes: his own and his older brother's. Ernest Wythes started spending immediately. In 1890 he commissioned one of the largest yachts in the Royal Yacht Squadron in which he sailed around the world. In 1894 he married a member of the aristocracy: Aline Thorold (1869-1951). His half-sister married the 4th Marquess of Bristol. Copped Hall simply was not grand enough and from 1893 Ernest Wythes set about making substantial improvements. The stables were largely rebuilt and completed in 1894. In 1895 a larger one replaced the new wing. The mansion roofline was given a balustrade and elaborate chimney tops. The stone architraves that existed on the East Facade were repeated on all the windows and the central portion of the west front was encased in stone with pilasters and a carved pediment. The mansion forecourt was given grand railing screens with ornamental gates and piers. To the south a large elaborate stone conservatory or winter garden was built - with a glazed corridor linking it to the mansion. The inside of the House was extensively remodeled and filled with a very important collection of pictures, furniture, and art. At the same time as the works to the mansion, an extensive Italianate architectural garden was constructed to the west of the mansion with temples, grand flights of steps, a parterre, gates, fountains, and statuary. Other works were carried out in the gardens and on the estate. By 1900 there were at least 31 gardeners and 27 house servants looking after Copped Hall, together with all the farm workers. The Wythes were only at Copped Hall for part of the year; the rest of the time they were either at their London house, in Scotland, or abroad. When the family was not in residence the servants would clean the House and workmen would carry out building works. World War I changed life at Copped Hall. Many servants went off to the war and did not come back. The land girls helped in the gardens and the family, especially Ernest Wythes's three daughters, who looked after wounded soldiers. The family used to watch the zeppelins over London from the roof of Copped Hall. During the war, in 1917, the main 18th century block of Copped Hall was largely burnt-out in a disastrous fire one Sunday morning. Much of the contents were saved, but many items were also lost. The family moved to Wood House on the Estate, which had been built by Ernest Wythes toward the end of the 19th century. The move was supposed to be temporary, but in the end Mr. Wythes never rebuilt Copped Hall. The gardens were all kept up until World War II. The wing and the conservatory were untouched by the fire. The Laundry, the Stables, and Motor House were kept in use. The walled garden continued to produce flowers, fruit, and vegetables, some of which were sold in Covent Garden. This produce supplied Wood House and the London house. Mr. Wythes died in 1949 and his wife died in 1951. The Estate was sold in 1952; at that time anything of value that could be stripped from the House and gardens was sold. The wing was stripped of its timberwork, the staircases were removed from the mansion, railings and gates were sold; garden balustrades, statues, steps, etc. were mostly removed. Even many of the ancient specimen trees were cut down for their timber. The Conservatory was eventually dynamited. Later the M25 was driven through a corner of the landscaped park. Although this destruction was very serious, the essential identity of Copped Hall remained. The mansion shell was remained in surprisingly good condition, although it needed stabilizing, and the structure of the gardens was still present. The motorway was at a sufficient distance from the House to be largely ignored. Copped Hall and its park was still a very attractive and historic place. However, once the M25 was built, Copped Hall became a developer's dream. Large-scale schemes were proposed again and again. After many battles against such proposals, the parkland was saved by the Corporation of London, who purchased it in 1992. The specially formed Copped Hall Trust saved the mansion and gardens by purchasing these in 1995. (This history of Copped Hall written by and used with kind permission of Alan Cox - The Copped Hall Trust).

    Collections: The Cartoon Gallery at Knole, Kent, contains six large copies of Raphael's cartoons, said to have been presented by Charles I to Lionel Cranfield, the 1st Earl of Middlesex. They were at Copped Hall until 1701, when the House was sold to the 6th Earl of Dorset. George Lambert and Francis Hayman were commissioned in 1746 by John Conyers to paint views of Old Copped Hall before its demolition (it was taken down in 1748). The paintings they produced, "View of Copped Hall in Essex from the Park" and "View of Copped Hall in Essex from Across the Lake," are today in the collection of Tate Britain in London. Tate Britain says of the paintings "Here for almost the first time, a country house is represented as an integral aspect of the English landscape."

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Copped contains an unusually large 18th century walled garden that, along with other gardens on the property, is being restored. The Stables were largely rebuilt in 1894. The Garden Temple, designed by James Wyatt for Copped Hall, was removed to St. Paul's Walden Bury, Hertfordshire, in 1950. Statues of sphinxes, said to be portraits of Louis XV's mistresses, are now also at St. Paul's Walden Bury.

  • Architect: Nicholas Stone

    Date: 1638-39
    Designed: Work on OLD HOUSE (demolished 1748), including new windows in Gallery for 1st Earl of Middlesex.

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    Architect: John Sanderson

    Date: 1753-58
    Designed: Rebuilt House for John Conyers under amateur direction of Sir Roger Newdigate and Thomas Prowse

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    Architect: James Wyatt

    Date: 1775-77
    Designed: Interior alterations and redecoration for John Conyers. Garden Temple (now at St. Paul's Walden Bury, Herts).

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    Architect: Charles E. Kemp

    Date: Circa 1895
    Designed: Enlarged House, added north wing, refaced garden.

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  • Vitruvius Britannicus: C. IVth, pls. 98, 99, 1739.

    Country Life: XXVIII, 610, 646 Plan, 1910. XXX, 102 [Furniture], 1911.

  • Title: Gardens - St. Paul's Walden Bury, The
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 1998
    Publisher: NA
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Light Softback

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Burke's and Savills Guide to Country Houses, Volume III: East Anglia
    Author: Kenworthy-Browne, John; Reid, Peter; Sayer, Michael; Watkin, David
    Year Published: 1981
    Publisher: London: Burke's Peerage
    ISBN: 0850110351
    Book Type: Hardback

  • House Listed: Grade II

    Park Listed: Grade II

  • "Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)" (2000 - TV series, episode 1.5 "A Blast from the Past," as the ruined house). "A History of Britain" (2000 - TV documentary series). "Flyboys" (2006). "Hot Fuzz" (2007).
  • Past Seat / Home of: Fitzaucher family, 12th century. Sir John Shardlow, 14th century. Sir Thomas Cornwallis, 16th century. Sir Thomas Heneage, 16th century. Lionel Cranfield, 3rd Earl of Middlesex, 17th century. Sir Thomas Webster, 18th century. Lionel Cranfield Sackville, 7th Earl of Dorset and 1st Duke of Dorset, 18th century. Edward Conyers, 18th century; John Conyers, 18th century. George Wythes, 19th century. Ernest Wythes, 19th-20th centuries.

    Current Ownership Type: Charity / Nonprofit

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

    Ownership Details: Owned by Copped Hall Trust

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 02072-671-679

    Fax: 02074-820-557

    Email: coxalan1@aol.com

    Website: http://www.coppedhalltrust.org.uk

    Historic Houses Member: No