The Hall Place Story

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Hall Place derives its name from the fact that there were two country houses on the site before the present house which has been Aldro School since the 1940s.

Going back some 500 years we find recorded on Godalming Rental Roll:

1486 Richard Bydon for Hall Place Shackleford

1544 Richard Vine for Hall Place

1603 Richard Wyatt

1656 Henry Wyatt Gent for Hall Place

1765 Edward Garthwaite

The 1597 Will of Katherine Vine, daughter of Richard above, records a detailed description of the interior of the rooms of Hall Place, including chattels. From this we can imagine a typical Tudor hall house with a hall and parlour.

Around 1603 Richard Wyatt, a London merchant, bought the property. Wyatt had been born in Slindon in Sussex in 1554. In 1572 he was apprenticed to Roger Sheers a freeman of the Carpenters Company of London, whose daughter Margaret he later married. Wyatt became a freeman of the company in 1578 and in 1604, 1605 and 1616 he was the Master of the company.

Richard Wyatt died in 1619 and Hall Place became the property of his son Henry Wyatt 1. Richard also bequeathed to Godalming the almshouses in Meadrow which still bear his name. He was succeeded by his son Henry and grandson, also Henry, until about 1743 when Edward Garthwaite acquired the estate. Garthwaite pulled down the old house and built a new one with balancing wings and a forecourt.

Garthwaite owned property in Lime Street in the City of London as well as a sugar plantation of 300 acres in Jamaica. He sold Hall Place in 1781, from which time it passed through several owners until Richard Summer sold the property, including some 90 acres of land, in 1797. The estate was then acquired by George, 6th Viscount Midleton who pulled down the main part of the house, leaving the kitchen wing and the outbuildings. Later the 18th century kitchen wing was made into a drinking area – the cider house – and a barn and open cow stall were built.

Sir Edgar Horne acquired the property in 1894 and had the present house built onto the kitchen wing, later moving the Cyder House up the road towards Peper Harow, where it is today. The architect was Henry Tanner Junior who was London based and designed the Regent Palace Hotel for Joseph Lyons & Co. in 1912. They employed a local firm of builders, William Jackson of Compton.

The interior of the present house (built between 1894 to 1896) is adorned with much antique woodwork, including a fine 18th century staircase, a Baroque style carved pine mantelpiece, and an oak wainscot, the two latter coming from the Cock Tavern in Fleet Street, London. Before the school library was made there was an open hall with a massive stone mullion window facing west.In the hall was a fine 18th century oak gallery rail with cast lead arabesque panels that came from the Banqueting Hall at Whitehall. The latter now happily adorns the chapel.

The present house was built for William Edgar Horne who was born in 1856 and was educated at Westminster. He was Chairman of the Prudential Assurance Company and was appointed 1st Baronet in 1929. He became MP for South West Surrey 1910-22.

The Hall Place Estate in 1939 consisted of most of the village, including Cross Farm, about 204 acres in all. The sale was completed in 1942.

On the field on the other side of the late Sir Edgar laid out his own cricket square and it is easy to imagine the quiet, genteel games of country house cricket taking place on lovely summer afternoons. One of Sir Edgar’s cricketing guests was J. M. Barrie, the author of “Peter Pan”.

Some of the interesting outbuildings next to the present house since 1940 have been imaginatively converted into classrooms and the squash court was used for gym and boxing. The most spectacular and oldest of the buildings is the octagonal cider press which we can trace back to the earliest house. This building, re-modelled and raised on arches with lancet windows and a golden cock weathervane, was formerly used as a dove house and cider press. Today it is used as a history centre with a model railway room above.

The Limes with its fine 18th century clock with cupola and lead dome was originally built as stables with an open arch leading to the stable yard. There was a coach house (now the Gate House) which stands in the former stable yard to the north of the Limes.

Russell Hall, which borders The Street and the brick passage, was formerly a dame school and derives its name from Russell & Co., plumbers of Berwick Street, London, who used this building at a workshop when they were fitting sanitary arrangements including a soft water supply to the Victorian house.

This building made an excellent classroom until it was converted into a dwelling house in the 1960s. Freddy Hill,who taught at the school, lived there until he retired.

Up the brick passage we come to the Brew House which formed part of the 18th century estate. This handsome building of Bargate stone with a Venetian window was, up to 1965, used as two classrooms for the junior forms.

To the north-west of the house stands the former estate workshop, which is now used as the science laboratory. The barn next door was successfully converted into the school chapel, which was consecrated in October 1949.

To the west and joined on to the barn was the open cow stall which was used as the garden potting shed until in 1969  it was turned into the school carpenter’s shop.

Written by Nick Swan, History Master at Aldro, 1998