Heritage: The original Hare Lodge was Ardleigh Green’s forgotten mansion

The second Hare Lodge, in Gidea Park, was demolished in February 2018.

The second Hare Lodge, in Gidea Park, was demolished in February 2018. - Credit: Archant

Local historian Prof Ged Martin uncovers a stately home

It’s strange that a stately home could vanish completely.

There’s no trace of the imposing Hare Lodge in Ashlyn Grove, the quiet Ardleigh Green street that leads to the railway line.

In 1825, it was stated that the “first-rate mansion” had been “erected not more than thirty years ago”. Other documents suggest work began soon after 1790.

Previously called Watts Farm, its new name was “borrowed” from Hare Hall, the Gidea Park mansion that is now the Royal Liberty School.

It’s likely that Hare Lodge was built by Thomas Jackson “Esq.”, named as the owner on a map of 1812.

In 1825, Hare Lodge was described as a “Capital Freehold Mansion, agreeably removed from the high road, ideally adapted to accommodate a large family with perfect convenience”.

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The 1812 map shows a central range, with two L-shaped wings projecting southward.

Hare Lodge faced north: its 15-acre “Front Field” is now under the railway.

Access was along a drive from the east, now roughly the line of Hillman Close. An oval “banjo” enabled coaches to turn in front of the mansion.

Another drive led to Upper Brentwood Road. The western section of Stafford Avenue follows part of it.

When the contents of the “spacious mansion” were sold in 1825, they included luxury furniture, glassware, china, “grand pianofortes” and “fine old pictures”.

Bounded by Squirrels Heath Lane and Ardleigh Green Road, the property stretched across to Durham Avenue.

Its 76 acres included “very superior meadow”, with shrubberies and “productive walled gardens”. A map of 1777 shows the gardens already existed, covering much of today’s Stafford Avenue.

The land was also attractively ringed by trees – hence the name of Ashlyn Grove.

A large fish pond is now a side street, The Limes.

By 1825, Hare Lodge belonged to Zachariah Button, a lawyer from Grays. He was keen to sell.

When no buyers appeared at a May 1825 auction, he offered the contents and the land separately.

The fields were “abounding with fine brick earth”. Perhaps it could become an industrial site.

The house could be demolished for its valuable building materials: “good sound brickwork”, fine timber panelling, two staircases, a turret clock and a very unusual amenity, a water closet.

There were still no takers: an 1829 sale suggested Hare Lodge would make a “first-rate seminary”.

In 1839, the Eastern Counties Railway was built right past the front door. That finished Hare Lodge as a stately home.

Luckily, the railway company bought the estate. They used about 50 acres to erect a factory, which manufactured tarpaulins to cover goods wagons. By 1850, 48 adjoining terraced houses for workers – later called Factory Road – were “newly built”.

At the 1841 census, a family called Manning farmed at Hare Lodge.

Soon after, it’s likely that the railway company demolished the mansion, using the materials for its factory and housing.

In 1850, the railway company offered “Hare Lodge Farm” for sale, with now only “27 acres of capital pasture land”, not luxurious parkland but a “grass farm”.

But the 1851 census reported just two railway labourers and their families living in cottages on the site.

Maps still marked Hare Lodge, but the railway had cut the link to Hare Hall, so the name made no sense.

Perhaps it was the 34-acre Hardley Green Farm offered for sale in 1875. (There were two spellings for Ardleigh Green back then.)

The name Hare Lodge was used for a house built in Upper Brentwood Road in 1904. It was demolished in 2018.

Ardleigh Green was developed around 1930: its primary school opened in 1933.

A triangle of grass in the school precinct is all that survives of the “fine old meadow”.

Factory Road was replaced by Elvet Avenue in 1964. The railway factory became apartments.

Bungalows line the site of Hare Lodge.

It’s as if the mansion and its walled gardens never existed.