Harlow Museum is an oasis of tranquility, a research centre, a family day out and much more besides. The Museum is located in the former Mark Hall stables, linked with the Mark Hall Manor House – which had many distinguished occupants, dating back to the Norman Conquest. The great house was visited on three occasions by Queen Elizabeth 1 and her retinue. It is surrounded by the beautiful Walled Gardens which were originally the kitchen gardens for Mark Hall and the famous families which lived there.
In the 1086 Domesday Book, it is recorded that in 1066 the Lord of the Manor was Guthmond, brother of Abbot Wulfric. In 1086 the Tenant in Chief is Hugh de Montfort, and the house is rented by a Norman named Nigel. After a failed plot to overthrow the King, Henry I, by the grandson of Hugh de Montfort, the manor is granted to Hugh de Essex (date unknown). However, Hugh de Essex flees in a battle against the Welsh in 1157, which leads to defeat. He is charged with treason, although the King intervenes and his life is spared. The manor is removed from his possession and granted to the Markshall family, who hold it for over 500 years. In 1330, the earliest surviving record of a church at Marks Hall is found.
In 1605, Robert Honywood purchases Marks Hall from William Deraugh, the grandson of Edward Deraugh. Soon after purchase, he pulls down part of the old timber framed house and erects a brick building. Initials discovered and dated RH 1609 probably commemorate the completion of his building project. In 1631, Thomas Honywood (born 1587), inherits the Mansion on the death of his widowed mother. Thomas was a Parliamentarian, who commanded militia during the Civil War, and played an important role in the Siege of Colchester. It is local rumour that Roundhead troops dug the lakes at Marks Hall during this time. In 1666, Thomas's wife, Hester Honywood, inherits the mansion. Thomas (knighted by Charles I in 1632, before the Civil War) dies, aged 87. The mansion is left to his wife, Hester, for the remainder of her life. In 1681, Hester Honywood dies, and the house is left to John Lamotte Honywood, her second son by Sir Thomas Honywood. Their first son, also named Thomas, dies in 1672. In January 1694, John Lamotte Honywood dies, leaving no children. The Essex branch of the family dies out. Robert IV Honywood, a distant relative, becomes the next heir; he is a Member of Parliament and is responsible for further modernisation of the mansion.
In 1735, Richard Honywood inherits the mansion from his father, Robert IV. In 1758, Philip, the third son of Robert IV, inherits the mansion and estate after Richard II Honywood dies, aged only 10. He is a general in the army and makes many alterations to the house. In 1785, Elizabeth inherits the house for the remainder of her life after Philip dies. No date is given for Elizabeth's death. The house is then inherited by the distant cousin Filmer Honywood, son of Sir John Honywood of Evington, in Kent. In 1809, William Honywood, grandson of Sir John Honywood of Evington, succeeds his half-uncle, Filmer Honywood, who had no children. William, like Filmer, is a Member of Parliament. In 1818, William Philip I Honywood inherits the mansion.
In 1831, William Philip I Honywood dies, leaving his 3 sons in the guardianship of his wife, Priscilla, and his brother, the rector of Marks Hall. There is no mention of his successor or when they died. William Philip II Honywood eventually inherits the mansion. In 1859, Frances Emma Honywood inherits the house from her husband, William Philip II. It is left in his will to her, for the remainder of her life; this is contested by William Philip II's brothers. Francis Emma lives at Marks Hall for 36 years with her cousin, Elizabeth Atkinson. In 1875, Frances Emma Honywood starts an ambitious overhaul of the little Marks Hall church. In 1895, Frances Emma dies. William Philip II's godson, Philip Courteny inherits the estate. At the end of 1897, the mansion (including its interior) and surrounding lands are put up for auction to offset the great debts of the estate. In 1898, Thomas Phillips Price, an MP and well-to-do solicitor from South Wales (born 1844), buys the whole estate. He begins the restoration of it as soon as possible.
The four main Galleries of Harlow Museum tell the story of Harlow over four periods: from recent times and the story of how modern Harlow was designed and built, through the Victorians, Stuart and Tudor times, reaching back through the middle ages to the remarkable Roman finds in the local area. Their new Living History Gallery shows how we explore and explain history through archeology, conservation work, displays and exhibitions. Gallery 5 is used for temporary exhibitions. Harlow Museum is a great place to spend a contented and enjoyable morning or afternoon – you can always bring a picnic to enjoy in the superb 16th Century Walled Gardens.
The Time Machine and the Harlow Museum and Walled Gardens are both suitable for visitors in wheel chairs and they have disabled rest room facilities. Please note that some pathways in the Gardens are shingle surfaced. If you have a carer to help you there is no admission charge for them. Assistance dogs are welcome at both sites, but otherwise please note that they do not allow other dogs. They have disabled parking bays available on request in the Courtyard entrance of Harlow Museum.
Location : Harlow Museum, Muskham Road, Harlow, Essex CM20 2LF
Transport: Harlow (National Rail) then bus (508, 509, 510). Bus Routes : 8, 10, 47, 59, 508, 509 and 510 stop close by
Opening Times : November through March, Tuesday to Saturday, 10:00 to 16:00; Summer hours TBA
Tickets : Adults £2.00; Children (5 - 15) £1.00
Tel: 01268 684272