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14 April 2021: Copped HallDrawing of a Georgian mansion

Linda Stewart, a volunteer with the Copped Hall Trust joined our local National Trust Supporter Group online to tell us about the history of the Hall.

Until the reign of Henry VIII the land was owned by the monks of Waltham Abbey, who erected an impressive building. When Henry was engaged in the dissolution of the monasteries, the then monks of Waltham Abbey presented him with the land and buildings in the hope their abbey would be spared. Henry accepted the gift but dissolved their monastery nevertheless.

When Edward VI ascended the throne he banished his sister Mary Tudor, later to become Queen Mary, to Copped Hall. It is said she refused to see visitors, insisting on talking to them through a window instead.

The Hall eventually passed into the possession of Elizabeth I and from her to Sir Thomas Heneage, who had been instrumental in the defeat of the Armada.

From 1623 to 1701 it was owned by what Linda’s slide described as “a collection of notorious and extravagant characters”, who were all closely associated with the successive reigning monarchs, one being Lord Chamberlain. This enabled them to enrich Copped Hall, although the furniture was later moved to Knole House where it remains.

In the early eighteenth century the house passed into the ownership of the Conyers family. In the 1750s they demolished the Elizabethan house, parts of which were in disrepair, and replaced it with a Georgian mansion in Palladian style. This had three stories plus a basement with no fewer than eight state rooms on the first floor. There was a clear distinction between the parts of the house used by the family and the parts used by the servants. Some of the family rooms had “jib doors”, allowing the servants to enter without disturbing the family and their guests.

An additional wing and a large summer house were added to the Hall in Victorian times. Unfortunately in 1917 the Hall caught fire, possibly due to an electrical fault. No one was hurt but the building was completely gutted.

It was to remain in that state until the 1990s, when developers expressed an interest in the site. To prevent this the City of London, as Conservators of Epping Forest, acquired the surrounding parkland. Local people formed the Copped Hall Trust, which was successful in buying what remained of the buildings and gardens.

This century has seen the start of an intense conservation effort. The Trust first renovated the gardens and some of the outbuildings. The remains of the Hall require much more extensive work. The roof has been replaced, together with some of the flooring. One ground floor room can now be used for meetings and concerts. The structure of the hall has been largely restored, with an oak floor made from oaks on the estate.