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Friday, 27 September 2013

Hall Place Gardens - Bexley

Situated in South East London is the delightful Hall Place house and gardens. The house itself dates back to around 1540 when wealthy merchant Sir John Champneys, Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1534, used stone recycled from a nearby former monastery, Lesnes Abbey, to build himself a country house on a site where a manor house was recorded some 300 years earlier in 1241.

Alterations to Champneys' house were made in 1560. In 1649, the house was sold to another wealthy City merchant, Sir Robert Austen (1587–1666), who added a second wing built of red bricks, doubling the size of the house but without trying to harmonise the two halves built in highly contrasting architectural styles. He was created 1st Baronet, of Hall Place in Bexley, on 10 July 1660 and briefly held the office of High Sheriff of Kent.

The hall and gardens are now looked after by Bexley Heritage Trust (a charitable organisation which runs Hall Place and nearby Danson House). Under the guidance of the trust Hall Place has been restored to its original Tudor and later 17th century designs. Among the most well-known of Hall Place’s rooms are the Great Hall (where medieval visitors to the house would have dined while being serenaded with the sound of lyres from the Minstrels' Gallery) and the Tudor kitchen where haunches of venison would have been spit-roasted on the hearth (the current fireplace is a latter day replica installed by Lady Limerick in the 1920s).

Recently Bexley Heritage Trust received a £2 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop and improve the site for the benefit of visitors. This grant enabled the construction of the new Riverside Cafe alongside the River Cray, and a new visitor centre. Attached to the visitor centre is the Stables Gallery, another building funded by the grant, which displays works by local artists.

Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides)
Hall Place also has 65 hectares of landscaped gardens and grounds including a topiary lawn, herb garden, tropical garden and long herbaceous cottage garden-styled borders. The gardens also feature the Queen's Beasts topiary display. The former walled gardens includes a tropical house and a large vegetable garden. Model gardens have been created to show visitors how to make use of space in small urban gardens. Specimen trees in the grounds include an Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides), a Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), and a Black Poplar (Populus nigra).

If you plan to stay in the area then the local Holiday Inn at Bexley is close by to the gardens, just 3 minutes away by car. Depending on your plans then there are also two other Holiday Inns within 25 minutes, the first at Rochester and the second in Maidstone. If you want to check out the Hall Place website has more details of both the House and the Gardens.
The house and gardens are well worth exploring, so I would say plan on spending a full day there.
DG

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