Monument record MCC9321 - Berechurch Hall, West Donyland (site of)


Berechurch Hall probably has medieval (14th century or earlier) origins. The manor house was damaged during the Civil War, when it was the home of Sir Henry Audley, and presumably repaired. It was rebuilt several times, before demolition in 1952.


Grid reference Centred TL 9914 2181 (42m by 18m)
Map sheet TL92SE
County ESSEX


Type and Period (1)

Full Description

The VCH records:

A freehold estate in the south-west corner of West Donyland, later called BERECHURCH, was held in 1385 by Roger Bulbeck. It passed to his daughter Alice who married John Algood of Colchester before 1419, and then descended in the Algood family until 1464 or later. Sir Thomas Audley had acquired it by 1519 when he conveyed it to Elizabeth Barnardiston, mother of his wife Christine, perhaps as part of a marriage settlement. In 1530 it was called Algoods manor. By 1536 Audley had acquired lands adjoining Algoods, including Friday wood and Cannons field which had belonged to St. Botolph's priory, lands held by John Wentworth of the manor of East Mersea, land in West Donyland and Fingringhoe bought from John Christmas, and the glebe of Berechurch church. Kirton wood was probably acquired somewhat later.

Audley gave his estate to his brother Thomas (d.1558) for life with remainder to Thomas's son Thomas, who died in 1572 leaving as heir his son Robert (d.1624). The manor passed in the Audley family to Robert's son Sir Henry (d.c.1672), and Henry's sons Thomas (d.1697) and Henry, who died in debt in 1714, leaving Berechurch mortgaged to James Smyth of Upton in West Ham (d. 1741). The estate, which comprised 774 a. in 1769, passed in successsion to Smyth's nephew Sir Trafford Smyth, Bt. (d. 1765), Sir Trafford's son Sir Robert (d.1802) and Sir Robert's son Sir George Henry (d.1852). It was settled upon Sir George's illegitimate daughter Charlotte (d.1845) and her husband Thomas White (d.1864) and passed to their son Thomas G.G. White (d.1877). In 1878, after a suit in Chancery, the estate, then comprising c.3,300 a., was sold to Octavius E. Coope, M.P. (d.1887). In 1892 Coope's executors sold it to Frederick Gordon of Bentley Priory, Stanmore (Mdx.). Gordon sold the estate in 1898 to Mrs. Frances A. Hetherington, who in 1921 put the estate, then 2,420 a., up for sale; during the next 12 years it was broken up.

Audley entertained Henry VIII at Berechurch in the 1530s and inclosed a park there c.1540. The manor house was damaged during the Civil War when it was the home of the royalist Sir Henry Audley, but had presumably been repaired by 1662 when it had 20 hearths. That was probably the house depicted standing in a courtyard south-west of the church in 1717. James Smyth rebuilt the house and Sir Robert Smyth (d.1802) employed Samuel Wyatt to improve it. Most of the Georgian house, which had a parapeted front of 11 bays with central pediment and porch, was demolished in 1882. A new house of c.80 rooms was built on the same foundations in red brick with stone dressings in 'domestic French Gothic' style to the designs of E.C. Lee. The dining room and saloon of the Georgian house were retained. The house, having its own generator in 1882, was one of the earliest to be lit by electricity. A stable block for 30 horses was built west of the house, and new staff houses were built on the estate. After 1921 the house was unoccupied until the War Department requisitioned it during the Second World War. It was demolished in 1952.

The park was extended northward in the late 18th century, inclosing the church and diverting Berechurch Hall Road farther from the house. Sir G.H. Smyth (d.1852) planted Charlotte's wood and Lethe grove, where he made a bathing pool and grotto for his daughter Charlotte.

A P Baggs, Beryl Board, Philip Crummy, Claude Dove, Shirley Durgan, N R Goose, R B Pugh, Pamela Studd and C C Thornton, 'Outlying parts of the Liberty: West Donyland', in A History of the County of Essex: Volume 9, the Borough of Colchester, ed. Janet Cooper and C R Elrington (London, 1994), pp. 408-418. British History Online [accessed 13 June 2016].<1>

There is a postcard of Berechuch Hall, posted in December 1904, [accessed 13 June 2016]

The Hall stood to the south-east of St Michael's Church and churchyard (MCC7561), with a large stable block to the west, based on Epoch 1 1:2500 map (1874-1887).

Sources/Archives (1)

  • <1> Monograph: Cooper, Janet (Ed). 1994. Vol. IX, The Borough of Colchester, A History of the County of Essex. Volume IX. pp.408-418.

Finds (0)

Protected Status/Designation

  • None recorded

Related Monuments/Buildings (1)

Related Events/Activities (0)

Record last edited

Jun 13 2016 2:11PM

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