Heritage: A bumpy 250 years for Hare Hall, Gidea Park, but worth celebrating

PUBLISHED: 14:53 09 January 2018

Hare Hall is now the Royal Liberty School. Picture: Archant archive

Hare Hall is now the Royal Liberty School. Picture: Archant archive


Hare Hall, Gidea Park, was a mansion which eventually became the Royal Liberty School. Prof Ged Martin looks at its history

Havering has few remaining mansions. Gidea Park’s Hare Hall survived because it became the home of the Royal Liberty School in 1921.

2018 marks the 250th anniversary of its construction. (It was completed for occupation in 1769.)

Hare Hall replaced a farmhouse called Goodwins, perhaps named after Godwin of Doe, Keeper of Havering Park in 1217.

The house was built by 
John Arnold Wallinger, a merchant who traded in Portland stone.

Gentry looked down on “old Wallinger the stone mason”. Hare Hall was his way of gate-crashing the elite.

Most stately homes faced south, to catch the sun. Wallinger’s mansion faced north, to be seen from the main highway.

Of course, its frontage was built from white Portland stone.

James Paine, the architect, was building the much grander Thorndon Hall near Brentwood for Lord Petre at the same time.

Employing an architect who worked for aristocrats was another coup for the social-climbing tradesman.

I doubt if Paine took much trouble over Hare Hall. It resembles an earlier project, Belford Hall in Northumberland (now apartments).

It’s also very small.

Paine’s standard design was an oblong central box with two square wings. The squire’s family lived in the three-storey main block. The smaller “pavilions” provided kitchens, a laundry, and servants’ bedrooms.

The high-ceilinged first floor was the main block’s living area, reached through a vestibule and an oval staircase, lit by a skylight two floors above.

A butler’s pantry, housekeeper’s room and storage space were crowded into the ground floor. A high water table made it impossible to dig cellars.

The attic-like second floor of the central block provided bedrooms, dressing rooms and two “closets”. There was no indoor plumbing until 1897.

The layout was inconvenient. The kitchen was in the west pavilion, the dining room on the east side of the first floor. Food had to be carried through an open colonnade – cold in winter – and up a steep back staircase.

Hare Hall was very small. The main frontage was only 60 feet. It was the Portland stone, with its Roman columns and topknot pediment, that made the house seem imposing.

The first floor contained just four rooms – a drawing room (now a conference room), a small breakfast room (headteacher’s office), and a dining room, with a small boudoir, rooms since combined to form the school office.

On the second floor were four bedrooms.

Four beds, four receps – a des. res. no doubt, but hardly a stately home.

One owner, Benjamin Severn (1813-29), combined an extravagant lifestyle with cattle farming.

Robert Pemberton (1852-95) described himself in census returns as “farmer” or “yeoman”.

The mansion became a giant farmhouse, and was very run down when he died.

Hare Hall had another problem. In 1753, the deeds had been destroyed in a fire in Fulham.

With the death in 1805 of the second owner, the wonderfully named John Wallinger Arnold Wallinger, it proved hard to sell the property, because potential buyers were deterred by the uncertain title.

In 1811, his widow secured a special Act of Parliament to validate the Wallinger claim to Hare Hall.

Even so, there were lengthy periods in the 19th century when buyers were scarce.

In 1897, Edward and Lucy Castellan purchased Hare Hall. He was a wealthy investor in bank shares. They spent much of their time travelling in Europe.

The Catellans remodelled the house. They preferred to live on the ground floor, adding two handsome rooms at the back of the house (one later the school staff room), plus a pimple-like porch at the front.

The Army occupied Hare Hall from 1915. Enrolments quickly soared at the Royal Liberty School. In 1927 work began on a three-sided classroom extension at the rear.

Hare Hall has experienced some bumpy history over 250 years. It’s not just its anniversary that should be celebrated, but its survival.

Related articles

1 comment

  • Thanks very much for this interesting piece. John Arnold Wallinger was my 6th great-grandfather and I'm trying to research the Wallinger family in more detail and this has helped to add some background colour to my story. I'm not local (I live in Leicestershire) so if any readers happen to have any more information about the family, I'd love to hear from them.

    Report this comment


    Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

Latest Romford News Stories

It might have a twitter account dedicated to parodying its daily delays, but c2c has been named the best train operator in the country at a prestigious rail industry awards night.


A dedicated volunteer at Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust is preparing to jump out of a plane to raise funds for charity.


Police and London Ambulance Service (LAS) were called to the scene at around 7am this morning.

Two West Ham United players have been testing out the council’s healthy eating app alongside children in the borough.


Ofsted’s chief inspector was pleased with the practical support offered to young people at a Romford support hub for children in care.

Drivers failing to look properly contributed to 168 road accidents last year in Havering.

Yesterday, 12:00

Letters, contributions and comments sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Yesterday, 08:00

Gallows Corner has been an ongoing headache for the people of Romford, Harold Hill, Harold Wood and Hornchurch for decades!


Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

The next step in renewable energy could be right beneath your feet as you walk through a Romford shopping centre.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition


Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today


Education and Training


Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now