Throwback Thursday: Brentwood historian explores the history behind Pepperell House

Old chapel buildings in 1820. Picture: Sylvia Kent

Old chapel buildings in 1820. Picture: Sylvia Kent - Credit: Archant

This week Enjoy Brentwood More’s history columnist, author and vice-president of the Brentwood Writer’s Circle, Sylvia Kent explores the history behind Essex’ timber framed buildings.

The renamed pepperell House in the High Street. Picture: Sylvia Kent

The renamed pepperell House in the High Street. Picture: Sylvia Kent - Credit: Archant

Essex historians are rightly bemoaning the threat to the county's timber-framed buildings, often now located among modern state-of-the-art high street structures.

Sixty years ago, Brentwood was also in this position, as some of the boroughs finest old buildings were destined for destruction.

The inevitable took place. As readers can see from this 1884 image of the eastern part of the High Street, there were many fine structures which had been in existence as private homes for several hundred years.

They were replaced by Mr Spurgeon's shops Nos 1-23.

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This view was photographed from the newly constructed St Thomas church tower in 1884.

Fortunately, in later years, the council added some of the older venerable houses to their protected listed building files, saving some, at least, from the bulldozers.

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Today, a few buildings that were familiar to local residents in Victorian times, still stand.

A picture of Brentwood High Street in the 1880s taken from St Thomas's tower. Picture: Sylvia Kent

A picture of Brentwood High Street in the 1880s taken from St Thomas's tower. Picture: Sylvia Kent - Credit: Archant

Numbers 12 (Mansion House now Halifax plc) and 44 (Pepperell House) which Professor Pevsner dated c.1700, remain.

Both must have seen much life - if only walls could talk!

We know much about the town from the chronicles of local property owner and philanthropist John Larkin who, with his brother George - owned several buildings in the High Street.

We learn about the highs and lows of this then busy farming town.

More importantly, in his busy life, John seemed to know everyone who owned or rented property in the towns unusually long and wide thoroughfare.

He obviously loved his High Street, describing who was who, shop by shop, and eventually this book was published by Gazette writer, the late Brian Lynch in the 1980s.

John Larkin particularly loved 44 High Street, now Grade ll listed, which he described in his memoir Fireside Talks about Brentwood in 1906 writing, "this square, red-brick house which was built on the old thirteenth-century Chapel of St Thomas the Martyr, was, no doubt, built in some way connected with the church, for the house and huge buttresses of the tower were all mixed up together, at the back."

By the turn of the twentieth century, this building had been rented by a succession of estate agencies and surveyors.

Other firms used the warren of little offices in the upper part of the building until October 2002 when the owner of the property, Mrs Elsie Pepperell, died.

This lady had spent many years of her life in the town with her husband Sam, and loved every aspect of it.

She bequeathed the premises for the use of the townsfolk.

That was when the building was re-named Pepperell House and appropriately, with such a central position in the High Street, it served the town as Brentwood Tourist Office for years until it became the hub of the Brentwood Community Transport Charity.

It is also now the address of the popular Brentwood Chamber (of Commerce).

Lets hope it will be standing in centuries to come.

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