Stansted House

Stansted House

St Paul's Church

St Paul's Church

Stansted Park (including Stansted House) is near the city of Chichester, West Sussex, England. It lies within the parish of Stoughton, near the village of Rowlands Castle over the border in Hampshire. The Edwardian country house is set in the 1,750-acre (7.1 km2) park, with woodland and open land grazed by deer. Stansted House has Carolean revival decor and is listed Grade II*. The house began as a hunting lodge in the 11th century.


In 1185 there is the first mention of a park at Stansted. About the year 1214 Richard de Mountfitchet living at Stansted Castle joined with other noblemen to make a stand for their rights, because of the opposition by King John to the status bestowed upon them by William I. In the year 1215 on the 15th June, the Barons finally forced King John to meet them at Runnymede, near Windsor by the River Thames. There in the water meadows they forced the King to sign and seal their great charter, now known to everyone as the Magna Carta. At this point one might ask what the connection with this great event is in English history and Stansted Hall. The connection is, that the same Baron Mountfitchet who owned the land at Stansted, also owned the land at Runnymede. Richard was one of the 25 Barons chosen in 1215 to govern the realm in the reign of King John. Alas, this story has a very sad ending, because in 1216, King John who could never forgive and forget sent a small army to Stansted, laid siege to the castle and eventually destroyed it, together with the slaying of some of its inhabitants..


It is most likely about this time that the first Stansted Hall or Manor House was built with stones from the castle. History does not record the exact date, but we do know that there have been various Halls on a site in the field below the present terrace walk, near the Church, since the 14th century. Richard died in 1258 without issue, and Stansted Hall reverted to his sister Margery, wife of Hugh de Bolebec of Northumberland. She was succeeded by her son Walter de Bolebec, who was then succeeded by his son, also Walter, who died without issue. Stansted Hall then had various owners until it was sold to Thomas de Vere, a son of Robert, third Earl of Oxford. In the Church there is an effigy to either Sir Roger or Sir John, but history does not record which one. In 1438, Elizabeth, wife of John de Vere, 12th Earl of Oxford, inherited the Hall and Estate. Her husband espoused the Lancastrian cause and after the battle of Towton in 1461 the Earl and his son Aubry were arrested and tried for plotting to kill the King. They were both beheaded and all their lands, including Stansted Hall, were confiscated. The estate then became the property of the Duke of Norfolk and remained so for 23 years.


On his coronation in 1485, King Henry VII as an act of kindness conferred the land and estates of Stansted upon his mother-in-law, the Dowager Queen Elizabeth, widow of King Edward IV. Elizabeth (nee Woodville) was the mother of the two Princes (Edward V aged 12 and his brother Richard aged 9) who were reputedly murdered by their uncle Richard III in the Tower of London. It was her eldest daughter, Elizabeth of York, who married Henry VII, so uniting the rival factions of Lancashire and Yorkshire after the Wars of the Roses. However, two years later Henry VII banished the Dowager Queen Elizabeth to a nunnery and restored Stansted Hall and its estates to the de Vere family, in whose possession it remained until 1582 when the 17th Earl, who was at that time Great Chamberlain of England, sold it to John Southall. In 1588 John Southall conveyed the manors of Stansted to Edward Hubbard or Hubert who was a Clerk in Chancery; it was his son Sir Francis Hubbard who sold the estate in 1615 to Sir Thomas Myddleton, who was a Member of Parliament, a former Lord Mayor of London in 1613 and a dynamic merchant, who appears to have been a wealthy man of many talents. It was Sir Thomas Myddleton who built the Jacobean Hall in the early 1600’s. Sir Thomas Myddleton died aged 81 on the 12th August 1631 and is buried in the Parish Church. His splendid monument and effigy may be seen on the south side of the Sanctuary in the Church. Inscribed on this monument are the words "Resigned his soul to Heaven, his body to the ground, in earnest expectation of a better life than this". (It is not known what better life he expected. He had lived well and been married four times.)


The Hall remained in the Myddleton family until 1710, when another Thomas Myddleton MP (a Member of four successive Parliaments in the reign of Queen Anne) died, leaving five daughters but no male heir. The title was then bought by Thomas Heath, Member of Parliament for Harwich and the son of William Heath who had been a Captain in the service of the East India Company. Thomas died in 1741 and was succeeded as Lord of the Manor by his two sons, Bailey and William. Bailey was Sheriff of Essex in 1747 and died in 1760. William inherited the estate and died in 1797. He was succeeded by another Bailey Heath, upon whose death in 1808 the family became extinct. Local legend has it that part of the Tudor Hall was destroyed by fire and a new hall built on the same site. We also know that it was Sir Thomas Myddleton who built the Jacobean Hall, which was a massive four story building with two large domed-shaped towers. Sometime during the 1800's, the upper floors of the Jacobean Hall were devastated by fire. From an old map we know that the Tudor/Jacobean Halls were sited at the lower end of the lake field near to the Church. The Hall fell into disrepair until 1825, when it was referred to as a 'farm house'.


Stansted Park and the creation and development of its landscape between 1750 and 1900 survive relatively intact today. Humphry Repton in 1791 produced one of his ‘red books’ of designs for Stansted. The parkland covered 146 acres and there was a narrow rectangular pond, with a narrower curved extension to the north. The Hall then came into the ownership of Miss Berthia Ellis (1780-1863), and upon her marriage to Mr E. Fuller-Maitland (1781-1858) Stansted Hall became the property of that family. However, Berthia disliked the residence and after a fire in 1880 when the old hall burnt down leaving only a tower, she allowed it to fall into further ruin. Their son, William Fuller-Maitland, MA was a traveller, connoisseur and art collector and he was, in 1870, looking for a place in which to house his priceless collection of paintings and other artefacts. His home across the valley from Stansted was already bursting at the seams and he needed more space in which to display his treasures. It was this William who commissioned Robert Armstrong a young architect to design a new Hall, apparently on the site of the earlier stables and offices, which would combine a Jacobean style with 19th century building techniques.


Building work commenced in 1871 and by 1876 the mansion was ready. William Fuller-Maitland died in that year before he could take up residence in his new home. To provide a sense of continuity and authenticity, various items were salvaged from the old Halls and incorporated into the new house. These included a small Cupola which was made into a Bell Tower and incorporated on the roof of the Kitchen Wing. Two of the larger Cupolas from the towers of the Jacobean Hall were brought across, one of which was placed on the Stable Block. Various other items were incorporated such as the two magnificent Adam fireplaces, a wooden fireplace surround and some 16th c. wood panelling. The Hall then passed to his son, also called William, who lived there until 1921, when the Hall was sold to Sir Albert Ball. William Fuller Maitland died in November 1932. In the Parish Church and Churchyard are various monuments to the Fuller-Maitland family.


In 1923 Arthur Findlay and his wife from Scotland visited the property with a view to purchasing it. They fell in love with the place, and in 1923 after some tough bargaining they bought the estate. They moved into the house in 1926, and in the years to come he became an English landowner, farmer, magistrate and author of some standing, as well as taking a very active part in local affairs. During the Second World War, Stansted Hall was loaned to the Ministry of Defence for use as a convalescent hospital by the Red Cross. During this period some 5,500 soldiers, recovering from accidents, wounds and illness, recuperated within its walls and enjoyed the beauties and pleasures of its surroundings. They could go anywhere they liked in the pleasure grounds, but were not allowed in the three hundred year old walled kitchen garden. Following the war Mr & Mrs Findlay came back to live at the Hall. 1951 was the year of the Festival of Britain. Consequently there was staged a wonderful pageant on the four acre lawn surrounded by tall stately trees. It was called “Stansted through the Centuries". Then came 1953, the Coronation Year and Stansted Hall entertained some of the Commonwealth visitors and another pageant took place. Over the years Arthur and Gertrude Findlay welcomed over thirty thousand visitors to their home at Stansted Hall. In order to fulfil his dream of a residential College for the training of competent mediums and speakers and also for personal reasons J Arthur Findlay conveyed to the Spiritualists' National Union parts of the Stansted Hall Estate by a Deed of Gift dated 13th April 1964.


The Walled Gardens, Garden Centre, craft workshops and Pavilion Tea Room all have level access, but some paths in the grounds are sloping. There is a wheelchair lift and an Edwardian caged lift for access to the historic House. They are not suitable for large powered wheelchairs. Disabled visitors can be set down and collected at the door of the House by prior arrangement. Assistance dogs are welcome. Enjoy a picturesque ride on the Stansted Park 7 1/4 guage miniature railway which winds its way through the Bessborough Arboretum. A fun ride for all ages. Weather permitting, the railway is open Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday between 11:00 - 16:00. The Stansted Maze, in the Lower Walled Garden, opened in 2011 as a fun, family attraction where adults can be challenged and children can let off steam! It is a circular maze, based on the target maze at Villa Pisani, Italy. Included in admission price are giant games including chess, Jenga, Connect 4 and three holes of minature golf. The Studio at Stansted is a working pottery that also offers practical workshops such as throwing on the potter's wheel, tile making and decorating. A small shop area sells ceramics, knitwear and jewellery. The Stansted Park Cricket Club plays its home matches in front of the Mansion, where cricket has been played since the 1740s.


Location : Stansted Park, Rowlands Castle, Hampshire, PO9 6DX

Transport : Southbourne (National Rail) then bus (121). Bus Routes : 121 and 147 stop 15 minutes away.

Opening Times Stansted House: Easter - September, Sun Mon Tues Wed 13:00 - 17:00

Opening Times Grounds: Open daily 9:00 - 17:00 with restricted access during the winter and during events

Opening Times Maze: Open weekends and school holidays April - October 12:00 - 16:00

Tickets : Adults £10:00;   Concessions £8.00;   Children £5.00.

Tickets Maze : Adults £2.00;   Children £1.50.

Tickets Railway : Adults £2.00;   Children (2 - 13) / Seniors £1.50.

Tel. : 023 9241 2265