History in Structure

Hedingham Castle House and detached service wing

A Grade II* Listed Building in Castle Hedingham, Essex

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Latitude: 51.9927 / 51°59'33"N

Longitude: 0.6027 / 0°36'9"E

OS Eastings: 578792

OS Northings: 235889

OS Grid: TL787358

Mapcode National: GBR QHY.35P

Mapcode Global: VHJHZ.D5GR

Plus Code: 9F32XJV3+33

Entry Name: Hedingham Castle House and detached service wing

Listing Date: 21 June 1962

Last Amended: 5 April 2016

Grade: II*

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1122962

English Heritage Legacy ID: 114524

ID on this website: 101122962

Location: Castle Hedingham, Braintree, Essex, CO9

County: Essex

District: Braintree

Civil Parish: Castle Hedingham

Traditional County: Essex

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Essex

Church of England Parish: Castle Hedingham St Nicholas

Church of England Diocese: Chelmsford

Tagged with: Architectural structure

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Castle Hedingham


Country house built in 1718-19 for Sir Robert Ashurst and detached C19 service wing.


Country house built in 1718-19 for Sir Robert Ashurst.

MATERIALS: red brick laid in Flemish bond with stone dressings and some salvaged materials from demolished castle buildings. Red plain tile roof covering.

PLAN: the building is situated on the inner bailey with views to the south. It consists of two large rectangular ranges: a principal residential range on the east and a slightly smaller, former service range to the north-west. The ranges are joined by a late C19 entrance porch.

EXTERIOR: the Georgian house has symmetrical elevations. The principal, south-facing east range has seven bays, two storeys and an attic, and vaulted cellars. The leaded roof is not visible behind the parapet which has a blocked centre and two sections of painted wood balusters to the right and left. It has a dentilled cornice and a stone eaves band. The regular fenestration, which consists of six-over-six pane sashes with gauged brick arches, is used throughout the house. The basement has blocked half openings. The central, double-leaf glazed door has a rectangular overlight and is approached by a flight of steps from the right and left. The stone surround has Ionic columns and a moulded canopy, above which is a coat of arms with a cross and fleur de lis. The date 1719 is on the rainwater heads. The five-bay east elevation has, from the left, a large Victorian canted bay window with door-height sash windows and a dentilled cornice. To the right are two windows and the first floor is lit by five windows. The seven-bay north (rear) elevation has raised channelled brickwork between the lintels of the ground-floor windows and sills of the first-floor windows. The central door has a classical surround with square pilasters and moulded frieze. The five-bay east range has five first-floor windows and three on the ground floor in the right-hand bays. On the left, and adjoining the west range, is a single-storey three-angled porch of red brick with a stone parapet and balusters. The central six-panelled door has a rectangular overlight and a stone surround with square pilasters and a moulded frieze. The right face is lit by a sash window.

The two-storey, seven-bay west range, which is thought to be the remodelling of an existing building, is set back. The south-facing façade has a hipped roof with two red brick chimney stacks and a dentilled cornice. All the bays on the ground and first floors are lit by six-over-six pane sashes. The central three bays slightly project and have a moulded and dentilled pediment which is lit by an oculus with glazing bars and a keyed stone surround. The brickwork on the west elevation shows evidence of repairs and blocked and altered openings. It is lit on the ground floor by three windows, and by two on the first floor. The north (rear) elevation has, from the left, two groups of three ground-floor sash windows, a door, and two windows. The first floor is lit by six irregularly spaced windows; the fourth from the left has margin lights. The east elevation has, from the left, a door with a glazed circular feature and rectangular overlight, and a sash window above, followed by a double-height round bay window lit by three first-floor windows, and two further bays lit on the first floor by two sashes. The ground floor is completely covered in creeper so it is not possible to describe any windows.

INTERIOR: this retains a large proportion of the high quality fixtures, fittings and joinery, including panelled doors and much C18 panelling. There are brick floors throughout the house. The lobby and hall have linenfold and diamond pattern panelling, and the rear hall has C18 panelling and arches, and a wreathed handrail to the staircase. There is a dog leg staircase with ornate iron balusters in the front hall which has pedimented doors with panel paintings over and panelled walls. The first floor ceiling is embellished with plasterwork. The walls of the library are covered with Chinese wallpaper depicting bird and flower motifs on a green background, dating to the 1760s, and the book shelves have carved edgings. The overmantel of the chimneypiece in the dining room is the tester from a bed belonging to Edward IV which has carved panels bearing the coat of arms of both the King and the De Veres. It is flanked by carved posts either side (presumably also from the four poster bed) and has an Arts and Crafts grate. The bed was moved into the house from the Castle Keep in the early C20. Some of the rooms have alcoves, and many have fireplaces with marble surrounds and mantels of various types including Adam style, Chinoiserie wood and iron, glazed ware with cherub supports and birds and squirrels over, and carved wood with hops, pears and quince. Several fireplaces have tiled backs with ship and floral motifs. One iron fireback is inscribed Blomenpot 1701 NDW. The two kitchens retain many original and C19 fittings. There are very large vaulted cellars, some double vaulted, many of which have square support pillars with capitals and bases, and some with wine racks.

SUBSIDIARY FEATURES: there is a detached, mainly single-storey C19, rear service wing, constructed of red brick with a grey slate roof covering, which contains original coppers in the laundry room. The west end of this block is two storeyed with a hipped grey slate roof, possibly once a game larder, now converted to living accommodation and extended on the north side. The block forms a courtyard with the house and stables.


Hedingham Castle House was built for Sir William Ashurst but he died just as the house was completed in 1719. He had acquired the Hedingham Castle estate in 1713, ten years after the previous owner, Aubrey De Vere, the 20th Earl of Oxford, had died without an heir to inherit the title. His ancestor, also called Aubrey De Vere, had built the large earthen ringwork castle with two baileys (a scheduled monument) probably in the late C11 on land granted to him after the Conquest. The Keep (Grade I listed) was built in the mid-C12. The 13th Earl was responsible for a great rebuilding programme in or around 1496 but only the Tudor bridge (Grade II* listed) survives from this phase.

Sir William Ashurst sited his new house on a levelled area created by the removal of a section of the inner bailey earthworks, and at an angle to them so as to afford a direct view down the valley to the south. This view became the principal axis of the garden, represented by a straight vista carried by a long canal. The remainder of the inner bailey was shaped into a small private garden and the castle mound was probably landscaped. The deep ditches of the former castle were utilised for wooded walks, and kitchen gardens were laid out to the west of the canal which was created out of the medieval fishponds. Sir William’s son, Robert, completed the laying out of the gardens which were possibly designed by Adam Holt who had worked at Wanstead Park, Essex (demolished). Holt has one entry on the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens for Coopersale House, Epping Forest (Grade II).

An unattributed view of 1719 depicts the new house which consists of two detached elements: a principal residential block to the east and a smaller service block to the west. The stable block is shown to the north-west. From the south-west an avenue thickly lined with trees leads up to a carriage circle in front of the house. The next depiction of the house, by Samuel and Nathaniel Buck in 1738, contradicts the 1719 view in numerous ways. On the west side of the main house it shows a door in the central bay (which is a window in the 1719 view) and a raised terrace in place of the carriage circle. It also shows a walled garden south of the house but does not include the avenue, possibly in order to facilitate a clear depiction of the house. A survey carried out by Bailey in 1785 shows the avenue and carriage circle, as seen on the 1719 view, and also a door in the central bay of the service range which is now a window. The survey depicts the layout of the C18 gardens in great detail. Whilst the long canal still remains a major feature (2015), other elements of the C18 garden design have only survived as earthworks or have been destroyed by the C20 development of the garden.

Between 1766 and 1785 the estate passed by marriage to the Majendie family who during the 1890s tried to sell it on at least three occasions but it never reached its reserve at auction and was withdrawn. A late C19 plan of the house shows the layout of the rooms in 1896, with the hall and dining room in the principal rooms of the southern and northern fronts respectively. The hall was flanked by a boudoir to the west and a drawing room to the east, overlooking the private garden in the inner bailey, while the dining room was flanked by a study to the west and a library to the east. Around the same time an entrance porch was built in order to join the two ranges, and in the early C20 the service range was re-roofed and heightened. The estate is in private ownership but the castle is open to the public (2015).

Reasons for Listing

Hedingham Castle House, a country house built in 1718-19 for Sir Robert Ashurst, is listed at Grade II* for the following principal reasons:

* Architectural interest: it is a very good example of an early-C18 country house with the classically proportioned elevations and neatly jointed brickwork typical of the Georgian period;

* Intactness: the plan form and finely detailed interior has survived with a considerable degree of intactness and contains many well-crafted decorative elements;

* Interior: this retains a handsome staircase, C18 panelling, decorative plasterwork, and a variety of fireplaces. Particularly notable are the exquisitely patterned C18 Chinese wallpaper in the library, and the overmantel created out of the tester of Edward IV’s bed in the dining room;

* Historic interest: the original kitchen fittings, together with the outbuildings retaining coppers and game larder, complete the picture of how an C18 house of status and distinction evolved into the C19;

* Group value: it has strong group value with the scheduled elements of the castle, and with the four listed buildings on the site, namely the C12 Keep, C15 bridge and the C18 stable block and dovecote. Altogether these form an ensemble of structures dating from each key phase in the nine hundred year evolution of the site, thereby encapsulating important aspects of the historical and architectural development of England.

External Links

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