Heritage: Who lived at Cranham Hall, Romford?

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In Part 1 of a series, historian Andy Grant takes a look at the colorful and varied characters who owned and lived at Cranham Hall.

At the end of The Chase – a narrow, secluded country lane leading from St Mary’s Lane to Cranham – there is a typical Essex arrangement of a parish church with its adjoining mansion.

Such a complex has existed in this location since at least the 13th century and the estate is recorded in the Domesday Book, although the buildings have been reconstructed many times.

The first recorded iteration of Cranham Hall was to the west of the current building, a representation of its facade depicted on a 1596 map as a half-H plan, a medieval wooden hall.

Sir William Petre, the recusing Catholic from Ingatestone Hall, had bought the mansion in 1571 and had given it to his son.


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Around 1600, Lord Petre had a new room built to the east of the previous one. A 1663 succession plan shows both old and new buildings coexisting on the site.


A map showing Cranham Hall in 1596 and 1663.

– Credit: Andy Grant

In 1648, Nathan Wright, a wealthy merchant, bought the room and his descendants kept it for nearly two centuries.

Among them was Elizabeth Wright, who married General James Edward Oglethorpe in 1744. Mr. Oglethorpe founded the 13th American Colony (now the State of Georgia), becoming the hall’s most notable occupant.

He died in 1785 and Elizabeth in 1787, after which the hall was bequeathed to his nephew, Sir Thomas Hussey Apreece.

On November 19, 1789, the room was put up for sale on the condition “that it be dismantled by the purchaser and the premises cleared by June 1, 1790”.

The current hall building was obviously finished by this time, from June 6, 1790, it was occupied by Lord Callan (George Agar).

Lord Callan appears to have rented the house to a tenant, Robert Sewell esq., From 1798 to 1803.

In 1805, the sale of the hall’s lease was announced. In David Hughson’s London Vol IV (1809) he writes that “the old hall was a stately structure during the lifetime of General Oglethorpe and his lady, but was completely destroyed by the next owner; some of the old walls and remaining portals are sufficient indications of its grandeur “.

He continues: “Cranham Hall, since being abandoned by Lord Callan, was inhabited by its owner and current resident Sir Thomas Apreece.”

From 1816 Sir Thomas rented the hall to Thomas Boyd, who resided there until his death in 1846.

Upon Sir Thomas’ death in 1833, the mansion was inherited by his son, Sir Thomas George Apreece.

Sadly, he never married, became known for his eccentric behavior, and committed suicide on December 30, 1842. He bequeathed his estate to St George’s Hospital in London.

His sister, Amelia Peacock, challenged the will but to no avail.

The matter dragged on, however, and in 1848 a settlement was reached whereby the estate would be sold and shared between the hospital and Mrs. Peacock.

The mansion was auctioned on August 20, 1852 and sold to Samuel Gurney. Upon his death in 1856, it was inherited by his son, also named Samuel Gurney.

He was a partner in an investment bank, Overend, Gurney & Co, which went bankrupt in 1866, necessitating the liquidation of his estate.

The estate was put up for sale on June 7, 1867, divided into eight lots. Cranham Hall and Broadfields were offered as lot one and the stately rights as lot eight

Although Richard Benyon bought most of the lots, George Rastrick bought the seigneurial rights.

On Mr. Benyon’s death on July 27, 1897, he bequeathed his estate to his nephew, James Herbert Fellowes, on condition that he take the name Benyon

With the death of James Herbert Benyon in 1935, Benyon’s 4,000-acre estate was auctioned off in lots in 1937.

The Grade II listed Georgian Cranham Hall was purchased by the Southend Estate Company and in 1974 was sold as a private residence.

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