Hatfield Peverel - Hatfield Priory (Essex)
|There are two Giant Redwoods standing in 43 acres of parkland, behind Hatfield Priory which can be accessed from Church Road. The Benedictine Priory remains were attached to the parish church, but these were demolished by the builder of the present house, John Wright, master of the Guild of Coachmakers, whose descendants remained until 1927.
The house is built of pale Essex brick made of the local Gault clay — not as white or grey as Norfolk or Suffolk bricks, but a pale oatmeal with pink flecks where the red clay had not been fully separated. In places you can clearly see the marks left by the drying racks on which they were placed when they came out of the kiln.
Wright had employed the landscape gardener Richard Woods to draw up a plan for a ferme orné — an embellished agricultural retreat — around the old priory with a chain of small lakes threading through the park. He laid out a perimeter walk and planted shelter belts as well as ornamental clumps of conifers at the corners of the arable fields.
However, Wright evidently changed his mind about preserving the medieval remains. The Chelmsford paper records that a carpenter was killed by a falling beam in 1769 as the ruins were being demolished. Three years later his newly complete villa is illustrated in Peter Muilman’s History of Essex.
Hatfield was acquired by a Roman Catholic mission and became a school. Adrian Cowell and his wife bought the property in 1979 and embarked on an impressive restoration of the house and grounds. A local resident said that the comedian Mike Reid once owned the property for a while.
This year the house again changed hands to Mr Newman who had to deal with flooded cellars and has re-established a terrace to deal with the problem.