A history of Beckingham Hall


o  Introduction

o  A Connection with Cardinal Wolsey

o  The Beckingham Hall Panel in the V&A

o  New England Company involvement

o  Tudor Gatehouse drawings

o  How the gatehouse once appeared

o  Gatehouse photographs

o  The various Stephen Beckinghams

o  The Gatehouse Sgraffito Decorations

o  The Ancient Stained Glass

o  Early descriptions

o  Timeline of past events

o  Similarities with other gatehouses

o  Sources of Information

o  The tower on church next to the Hall





Beckingham Hall is not, and has never been within Goldhanger parish, It is in the parish of Tolleshunt Major, but it is sufficiently close to Goldhanger and has many historic connections with the village to justify its inclusion in this Goldhanger Past website, not least that historical information about the Hall has been donated to the local History Group by Goldhanger residents. The Beckingham estate once included Follyfaunts, Longwick, Highams, Joyces, Manor Farm, and probably Rockleys Farms, all on the parish boundaries and having connections with the Goldhanger. The Hall was also once the most impressive Tudor building for miles around that in itself justifies a place in our local history...

A drawing of the original Hall

The perimeter wall and gatehouse in 1916with the later farmhouse behind

watch an introductory video...

at...    www.youtube.com/watch?v=7szuhTdAFqg



Sadly, the original Tudor Hall disappeared in the 1700s, probably having demolished as the result of a fire. It has been described as a “Fortified Manor House”, with both an outer protective wall and a moat, the combination of which surrounded and protected the entire house. The text on the drawing above indicates it to be a “Prospect from ye West”, taken from a map of 1657, but recorded as drawn in 1905. If it is the church tower behind the Hall, which seems likely, it has been incorrectly placed. The moat can be seen to the left of the Hall and the Blackwater Estuary can be seen in the background. As well as the drawing and photo above which shows the more modern farmhouse behind the wall, the three maps below (which can be enlarged) give clues to the grandness of the original building...

1709 map

1875 map

1890s map

Unfortunately the 1709 map does not reveal much about the Hall, other than it shows a much a larger building than is shown on later maps. No moat is shown, and there appears to be two large buildings at the side of Church Road with curved frontages that don’t appear on later maps. These are probably a representation of the gatehouse. The Church is shown on this map with the family chapel extending into the land adjacent to the Hall. The 1875 map clearly shows the replacement farmhouse and many more outbuildings. The moat can be seen on both the 1875 map and the 1890s map. A detailed description of the hall that refers to maps and drawings in ERO is given in...



The Beckingham Hall Panel in the V&A

Perhaps the best know relict of the original Hall that demonstrates how grand the Hall originally was, is the oak panel that is prominently displayed in the Victorian and Albert Museum in London. . .

The panel is thought to have formed an over-mantel to the chimney-piece in the hall or principal apartment, and is said to have been saved from fire which destroyed the Hall. The superbly-carved renaissance ornament of scrolling stems, boys and dolphins has been combined with the arms of the Beckingham family, and the arms of Henry VIII, so as to promote the family's own status, and their loyalty to the King, who had granted them the manor in 1543.

The family motto is inscribed in Latin, which translates as ‘Ingratitude is death’. It has been suggested that members of the Beckingham family, specifically the first Stephen Beckingham and his son also Stephen, are portrayed in the sculpture. The sculpture was bought by the V&A from The New England Company in 1912 for £370. Henry’s coat of arms in the centre upper panel and the Beckinghams coat of arms in the lower central panel can be seen in detail in these drawings. . .

Henry VIII coat of arms

Beckingham family coat of arms


The Tudor Gatehouse Drawings

The most notable remaining structure at the site is the Tudor gatehouse which has been much painted by artists over the centuries, which has been recorded by many artists over the last 200 years...

view all 12 known Beckingham Hall Gatehouse paintings


Gatehouse Photographs

The gatehouse has also frequently been photographed...                                                                select images to enlarge





scenes from 100 years ago

scenes from 2017


The Gatehouse Sgraffito Decorations

At one time the gatehouse outer walls were elaborately decorated...

Sgraffito or sgriffiti is a technique of wall decoration of Italian origin, produced by applying layers of plaster which are tinted in contrasting colours. It can also be made in tile form. Small samples of the work on the outside of the gatehouse have remained into the 20th century and appear to be two contrasting black and white tile like decorations running in bands around the front, as seen above. The following two extracts describe the same external decoration as “pencilling” and “Ruddling” and indicate that the it was, and still is unusual...




Early  Descriptions

There is a full description in Philip Morant’s History and Antiquities of Essex, dated 1768 given on pages 390 & 391 and adjacent to the Morant’s description of Beckingham Hall is included....


This extract from Miller Christy’s Handbook for Essex published in 1887 has an interesting description of the wall and gateway...


extracts from... English homes - Early Tudor: 1458-1558, by H. Avray Tipping in 1921

...It is unlikely that the Beckingham panels, although no doubt wrought in England for Stephen Beckingham, are by an English hand. The sculpture of the scrollwork, birds, beasts and boys, is of high order, and although there were Englishmen in Henry VIII's time who could produce work of greater finish than that at Tolleshunt Darcy, yet the deft elegance and mastery shown in the Beckingham panels are rather such as was possessed by the Italian and French carvers who found employment in England.

...The dwelling stands in a remarkable enclosure of Early Tudor brickwork, forming a court or garden over a hundred feet square. In the centre of the west side is a ruined gatehouse, of which the archway (now filled in) was not of width to allow more than a man on horseback to pass through. The upper floor was reached by a narrow stair in the thickness of the south wall, and from the room thus reached another flight conveyed to the roof. The room was lit towards west and east by three-light, arch-headed windows, and towards north and south by squints. The fireplace flue was carried up into one of the corner circular turrets, two of which are hollow with arched entrances to their exiguous space.

The same arrangement is found at the north-west corner of the enclosure, where a tiny garden alcove occupies the bottom section of the conically topped turret. Beyond the south wall of the enclosure a broad cartway, once arched over, is flanked by tall turrets with embattled parapets, such as we also see on the inner turrets of the gatehouse. On the gatehouse walls are still portions of original plasterwork painted in bands of black-and-white geometric patterns.

...The enclosing wall has a fine diaper of burnt ends. Smallish triangles rise from the plinth, and from the apex of every other one of these rise larger triangles. The wall is topped with an ample coping set on an over-sailing, toothed course, and the whole composition is one of dignified mass, relieved by interesting details.

The tower on church next to the Hall

The tower attached to St. Nicholas church next the Hall was built by Sir Stephen Beckingham at the same time as the Gate House, and is built of the same type of Tudor red brick with blue brick diapering. Historian Nikolaus Pevsner wrote that the tower is disproportionately large compared the nave of the Church...


Similarities with other East Anglian gatehouses

One wonders how unique the Beckingham Hall gatehouse is and if there are, or were, any similar structures nearby. Layer Marney Tower is certainly the nearest Tudor building and has a large impressive gatehouse. The Palace of Beaulieu, a former royal establishment at Boreham, also called New Hall and is now New Hall School, also once had an impressive gatehouse, but both of these gatehouses were part the main buildings...

Layer Marney Tower

New Hall gatehouse


However, three other ancient gatehouses have been identified in the eastern region which appear to have a much closer in resemblance to the Beckingham gatehouse. The Abbeygate at Thetford priory, is older at c.1400 and not built of red brick. Erwarton Hall gatehouse near Shotley in Suffolk was built at the same time as Beckingham Hall and Nikolaus Pevsner described that gatehouse as “similar to that of Beckingham Hall which can be dated c1545 with certainty”. The gatehouse with even greater similarity however is the Water Gate at Cardinal Thomas Wolsey's ill-fated “Cardinal’s College of Saint Mary” which is in College Street, Ipswich, close to the river. All the college buildings were destroyed by Henry VIII, but the gatehouse remains but with its chimneys and pinnacles missing, and is of a similar appearance, even with similar adjacent boundary walls.

Neither the Water Gate at Ipswich nor Erwarton Hall gatehouses have any signs of windows, so had no accommodation for a gatekeeper as at Beckingham Hall. However the Abbeygate at Thetford does have windows...

Abbeygate at Thetford priory

Erwarton Hall Gatehouse at Shotley



Wolsey's original Water Gate 


The Water Gate at Ipswich today 



A connection with Cardinal Wolsey

Strangely, and perhaps not a coincidence, at the time of the Reformation there was a local connection between Cardinal Thomas Wolsey and Tolleshunt Major. Cardinal Wolsey was gifted The Priory on Tiptree Heath and Wykes Manor in Tolleshunt Major by Henry VIII for his efforts in closing down the Augustinian Priory and evicting the “Black Canons”.

Now called Wicks Manor, it is located on the opposite side of Tolleshunt Major on the Beckingham Road just a half mile away. Cardinal Wolsey(1585–1596) and Stephen Beckingham(1518-1588) must have know each other and could well have shared architectural ideas.

Another historical artefact that connects Cardinal Wolsey, Wicks Manor and Beckingham Hall, is possibly the bookplate shown here. It changed hands at Bonhams auctioneers in 2012 as part of the large collection of early bookplates belonging the late Arthur Dorling of Woodford who was a renowned collector of such material.

The annotation at the top of the plate reads "Wykes - Tiptree Heath”. Despite Cardinal Wolsey’s association with Wykes Manor, the coat-of-arms has little or no resemblance to the various coat-of-arms of Cardinal Wolsey but does have similar elements to the Beckingham family coat-of-arms. This would suggest that at some stage Wykes Manor belonged to the Beckingham family.



New England Company involvement

The Revd. Dr. Williams (1643-1711), was a formidable non-conformist preacher who had a major influence on religious dissenters throughout the UK. He acquired great wealth through marriages and inheritances, which included the Beckingham Hall estate. In his will he left a substantial trust to the New England Company, which was, and still is, a missionary society in North America. These short extracts from a booklet published in 1991 entitled:

The New England Company

a short note and history

The New England Company is an ancient missionary society — the first to be established in England since the Reformation - set up in 1649 to spread the Gospel among the North American Indians, and, since 1745, among the people of the West Indies. Its North American mission was at first to the Indians in New England, mainly in Massachusetts but also in Connecticut and Rhode Island. After the American War of Independence in 1775 the Company transferred its work to the native Indians in Canada, some of whom had migrated there with the loyalists. In time it enlarged its sphere of operations in Canada. The Company's mission work in the West Indies started effectively only in the early nineteenth century...

The New England Company managed the properties and land through its UK agents for just over 300 years and used the income to help fund its activities in North America. Over that period many tenant farmers have lived in the Hall and farmed the land. In 2017 The New England Company put the properties and land on the market...

Links to more information on The New England Company...





How the gatehouse once appeared

Recent and old photographs, lithographic drawings from the early 1800s, and other historic information from various sources given on this webpage enable us to envisage what the gatehouse might of looked like when it was originally built, and in turn give some clues to the appearance of the original Hall, as it is unlikely that the gatehouse was more ornate than the Hall. The castle-like gatehouse originally had chimneys built into the two front turrets, with two matching ornate rear castellated turrets (also replicated on the gateway turrets close by), and castellated top edges on all four sides. The early drawings also show the front turrets with small castellations and signs of two bands of decorative black and white sgraffito tiles arounded the outside. The entrance arch would probably not have been filled with brickwork and a plain wooden door. The Tudor brick arch top and window tops are the same design as the windows in the church tower. The perimeter wall had prominent blue brick diapering also matching up with the church tower...

a computer art impression of the original gatehouse




The various  Stephen Beckinghams associated with the Hall

Typical for the period, and confusingly now, the first name Stephen was passed down through several generations of the family. They were all wealthy educated professionals, well known in their day and have historical records...

Stephen Beckingham the 1st (1518-1588) original owner

married three times:

1. Anne Unton (m.1538, d. about 1550) - mother of Thomas (c1540-1596), Mary, Alice, Thomasin, Elizabeth

2. Elizabeth Browne of Wiltshire (d about 1554) (m.about 1550) - mother of Stephen (1550-1611)

3. Johanna of Bygrave Herts (d.1588) (m.about 1555)


Stephen Beckingham the 2nd (1550-1611) married to Avice Tyrrell

Here is an extract from Stephen Beckingham the 2nd‘s Will, which reveals both their wealth

and their complex family relationships using the same first names...


Stephen Beckingham the 3rd was admitted in 1665 as a Fellow-Commoner at Jesus College Cambridge.

This Stephen Beckingham of Tolleshunt Darcy was made a barrister in1671.


Stephen Beckingham  the 4th (c1697-1756) lived at Bourne place, Bishopsbourne, Kent

Stephen Beckingham’s wedding to Mary Cox in 1729 was recorded by Hogarth...


Stephen Beckingham the 5th (c1729-1813) of Bourne Place, Bishopsbourne, Kent,

was the son of Stephen Beckingham the 4th. This Stephen Beckingham was painting by

the famous artist P G Batoni (1708-87) in 1752-3...



The Ancient Stained Glass In Bishopsbourne Church, Kent

extracts from... http://www.kentarchaeology.org.uk/Research/Pub/ArchCant/Vol.046%20-%201934/046-12.pdf

written by N E Toke in 1934 and recorded by Kent Archaeological Society

...The fine Renaissance glass in the St. Catherine's Chapel, was inserted by the Beckingham family, who owned Bourne Place in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The estate was originally the seat of Sir Anthony Aucher who died in 1692 leaving two sons. On the death of the younger of these in 1726 the estate devolved to their sister Elizabeth, the wife of John Corbet, Esq. of Shropshire, who died in 1736. The latter's eldest daughter Mary Catherine, became the owner of Bourne Place, and carried it with a marriage to Stephen Beckingham, who died in 1756. The Beckinghams then held Bourne Place until 1844...

A series of tablets, ten on either side of the window, commemorates members of the Aucher and Beckingham families beginning with Sir Anthony Aucher, Master of the Jewel House in the times of Henry 8th, Edward 6th, and Queen Mary, slayen at the loss of Callis" in 1558, and ending with Miss Louisa Beckingham, who died in 1844...

The heraldic glass bears the date 1550, and was probably brought from Beckingham Hall in Tolleshunt Major, Essex, where the family of Beckingham was seated at one time...

In Mr. Herbert Cole's Heraldic and Floral Forms used in Decoration there is an illustration of a carved oak panel from Beckingham Hall. It shows the arms of Henry VIII and the date 1546. These panels are illustrated also in "Early English Furniture and Woodwork" by H. Cescinsky and E. R. Gribble, who state that they are probably the work of Walloon craftsmen resident in Essex. The panel is are now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, South Kensington...

The lower portion of the window in the Church is divided into three of which the two lateral ones contain six shields, three on either side, ith the arms of Beckingham and their various impalements. The centre portion contains the Royal Arms, as borne by the Tudors, together with two finely-wrought pieces of seventeenth century Dutch glass...

The shield (on the left of this photo) is dated 1550. It bears : Beckenham, impaling: Argent, three rooks' heads erased, sable, and for Sharpe of Essex. The lowest shield is undated, and is ornamented at the top with a mauve coloured medallion containing the bust of a Queen holding a sceptre, and at the bottom with a similar medallion with the bust of a King with a sceptre. Medallions on either side contain, respectively, a warrior brandishing a sword, and what appears to be a Tartar warrior in a quilted tunic. It bears: Beckingham, impaling: Azure, on a fess, or, a greyhound courant, sable, between three spearheads of the second, for Unton...

The shields (in the right on this photo) compartment are almost identical with those on the left as far as the ornamentation round them is concerned. The uppermost one is dated 1550, and bears : Beckingham, impaling : Argent, three hawks' lures, sable, for Bromwich. The centre one bears: Beckingham, impaling: Azure,  chevron between three escallops, for Browne of Horton Kirby, Kent. The shield has the arms of Beckingham alone...

Note: Bourne place, Bishopsbourne was the Beckingham family seat in the 1700 &1800s and today is called Bourne House.



John Marius Wilson's Imperial Gazetteer of England, and Wales in 1870-72 recorded the following, and is another indication of the Beckingham legacy and the family’s connection with Kent...

TOLLESHUNT-MAJOR, or Beckingham, in Maldon district... A seat of the Beckinghams was erected here in the time of Henry VIII., and is now represented only by an embattled gateway. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Rochester. Value £187.




Timeline of past events and milestones

1150s      The estate was given to Coggeshall Abbey by Godfrey de Darcy, also known as Godfrey de Tregoz

1536        Coggeshall Abbey was dissolved

1537        The manor was rented to a John King

1544        Henry VIII sold it to Stephen Beckenham and his wife Anne, together with Follyfaunts and Longwick,farms for £929.

The Charter granted to Stephen Beckingham by Henry VIII for the sale is held in the  London Metropolitan Archive in London...

1545         Stephen Beckingham built the tower on St Nicholas Church

1546        Wooden panelling from Beckingham Hall displaying this date is in the V&A, (purchased in 1912).

1574        Sir Thomas Beckingham, (c.1574-1633), of Tolleshunt Major, Essex

“His grandfather acquired the Essex manor of Tolleshunt Major from the Crown in 1543, and thereafter this property was s known as Tolleshunt Beckingham. He owed his election to the first Stuart Parliament for Sudbury to his father-in-law, Sir William Waldegrave, whose family had been electoral patrons in the borough in the Elizabethan period. He was also a neighbour of the Darcy family.”

1609        A family chapel and mausoleum was built on the north side of St Nicholas Church with kneeling effigies of Stephen Beckingham and his wife with their heraldic shield. It was pulled down later when the Beckinghams sold the estate.

1609        Stephen Beckingham constructed a heraldic shield in the church which featured statuettes of himself and his wife Alvis Beckingham (née Terral).

1613         Sir Thomas Beckingham was removed from the Essex bench and received a licence to travel for three years, which might suggest he was in debt.

1620         Sir Thomas Beckingham sold parts of the estate to Christopher Clitherow.

1636         The Beckingham family sold the Hall to Sir Thomas Adams.

1647        Sir William Adams, son of Sir Thomas Adams, sold it to Thomas Fox, a London cheesemonger.

1710        Thomas Fox’s wife re-married and the Hall was acquired by the Revd. Dr. Daniel Williams.

1711        The Revd. Dr. Williams left Beckingham Hall in trust to the New England Company.

1753        The Beckinhams were in residence in the Hall at this time as noted in The Gentleman’s Magazine of 1797

                 and are referred to as “one of the oldest Saxon families in this island”.

1782        The Hall was demolished and replaced by a much smaller farmhouse. (Wikipedia)

1783         The Beckingham family still owned the lands at this time.

1700s      The Sir Stephen Beckingham Trust  gave £2 per year out of Freme Farm,

                 but it has not been paid since 1815 (White's 1848 Directory)

1880s       James A Piggot farmed 420 acres of the Beckingham estate, employing 22 men and 4 boys

                 and was know at the time as “Baron Piggot”.

1890         A fire destroyed the ancient farm buildings – they were re-built in red brick

1920s       Ernest Page farmed the Beckingham estate and his brothers also farmed in Goldhanger.

                 His daughter Dione Page who was born at the Hall became a well know East Anglian artist

1950s       Allan Hunter farmed the estate for over 50 years.

2017         The New England Company sold the estate to a local farming family.



Sources of Information

Some on the information on this webpage is taken from:

Miller Christy’s Handbook for Essex published in 1887

History and Antiquities of Essex by Philip Morant dated 1768, page 390

      see... Virtual Library - Morant  and extracts available on this site which include page 390

Tolleshunt Major in words and pictures by Karen Tuke in 2002, Essex libraries reference: E.TOL.4

The History of Beckingham a booklet published by W L Hall in 1936

Early English Furniture & Woodwork by Herbert Cescinsky & Ernest. R. Gribble in 1922

The Priory of Dartford and The Manor House of Henry VIII by A W Clapham In 1926

English Medieval Industries: Craftsmen Techniques, Products by J Blair & N Ramsay in 1991

An image of the Beckingham Panel in the V&A at... http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O140692

The New England Company website at... http://www.newenglandcompany.org/




English Heritage listing for - Beckingham Hall

English Heritage listing for - Beckingham Hall walls and turrets



other webpages referring to Beckingham Hall and the Beckingham family within this website are...

Revd Dr Daniel Williams

Reformation effects

Charities – Beckingham Trust


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Surrounding Area

Local Farms