The Deer Park

Originally known as Great Park, the estate was an enclosed medieval deer park, owned by the crown until 1550. It was ‘emparked’ with a paling fence in order to retain a herd of fallow deer to provide hunting and venison for the Lord ’s Table. This history lingers on with field names such as ‘Park field’ and ‘Hart’s Ley’ and fallow deer can still be seen. The manor house was Bardfield Hall and during the 14th century it was one of the residences of Elizabeth de Burgh, whose royal guests, including the Black Prince, would certainly have hunted here.  The first building on this site was thought to be a keeper’s lodge, built in the field in front of the existing house. It may have been quite large, with accommodation for hunting parties and a viewing platform or tower. There is still evidence of a moat, which may date from this time.

The ‘Anne of Cleves’ Barn

Although most of Henry VIII’s wives are listed in turn as owning Great Park, it is suggested that Anne of Cleves lived in Bardfield Hall after her marriage was annulled and that the ‘Anne of Cleves’ barn was built during her ownership, to store hay for the deer. Not only do the scale and construction indicate a royal building, but it is also thought to be the work of continental craftsmen. The brick and tile building is Grade 1 listed as the width and construction of the roof is thought to be unique not only in Essex but also in England.

The Mansion

In 1550 the manor and land was bought by Sir Thomas Wrothe and in 1622 by Sir Martin Lumley, a wealthy London draper and alderman. Rather than live at Bardfield Hall, Lumley built a mansion with extensive outbuildings at Great Lodge. The mansion stood on the site of the keeper’s lodge. He was succeeded by 3 further Martin Lumley’s.  The second Martin’s wife was a great friend of Mary Rich, Countess of Warwick who records many visits here. Unfortunately, the family’s fortunes declined when James, son of the 4th Sir Martin, who was declared a lunatic, ran up so much debt, that an act of parliament forced him to sell the estate.

The Current House

Great Lodge was bought in 1729 by Edward Stephenson, former Governor of the East Indies who demolished the Lumley mansion and converted the west end of the buildings in to a fine house. At that time the buildings joined up to the barn, in an open E. The land was disparked, probably for financial reasons, except for a 30 acre paddock, a field on the site is still called ‘Park’ today.

The estate was bought by Jones Raymond in 1754 and then passed to the Burrell family until 1808. The Burrells began a succession of owners who did not occupy, lasting until the 1980s.

1906 sales particulars list Joseph Smith as a tenant farmer. He was the great grandfather of one of the present owners and the estate has been farmed by Joseph Smith Farms Partnership ever since.

In 1920’s Mrs Bradbury was a further absentee owner and the house was listed as unoccupied between 1926 and 1929. C. Henry Warren writes in 1947;
‘…..time has no meaning at Great Lodge anymore. Any nobody, I think, will ever take the air again under its sunny, mellow wall. Inhabited by ghosts and jackdaws only, it must stand unwanted until it falls, or is pulled down. It’s day is done’. ‘Adam was a Ploughman’

Joseph Smith Farms, tried for many years to buy the house and farm, negotiations complicated by the fact that it is thought that Mrs Bradbury was reclusive and lived abroad. However, they finally succeeded in late 1951.

In the 1950s a large run of farm buildings linking the existing house with the barn was demolished due to the cost of repair.