Definitions

copped

Copped Hall

Copped Hall aka Copthall is a ruined country house close to Epping in Essex, England, parts of which date from the 16th century.

History

King Richard I bestowed the lands on Richard Fitz Aucher to hold them in fee, and hereditarily of the Abbey. During the reign of Edward I Copthall continued in the possession of the Fitz Aucher family till it came into the hands of the Abbot until the dissolution.

Sir Thomas Heneage received the reversion of the estate of Copthall on 13 August 1564 from Queen Elizabeth I, where he subsequently built an elaborate mansion from the designs of John Thorpe. The Queen was a frequent visitor to Essex and she is recorded as having visited Heneage at Copthall in 1575. His daughter, afterwards Countess of Winchelsea, sold it to the Earl of Middlesex in the reign of James I. From him it passed to Charles, Earl of Dorset, who sold it in 1701 to Sir Thomas Webster.

Edward Conyers purchased it in 1739, but he only enjoyed the house for three years before dying in 1742. Conyers son John, (d.1818) inherited the property and considered repairing the original Hall as it had become dilapidated, however he rebuilt it between 1751-58 after demolishing the old one c.1748. The next member of the family to inherit Copped Hall was his son Henry John Conyers (1782-1853) who was said to be so obsessed with hunting that he neglected the house badly. Survived by three daughters, the house was finally sold by the family in 1869.

Fire

The main house was gutted in an accidental fire one Sunday morning in 1917 after the owners had allowed the Army to use Copped Hall as a hospital during World War I. Members of the hospital staff were on the roof to view the destruction of a German Zeppelin over Grays in Essex, and the fire is thought to have started there due to a carelessly discarded cigarette.

The Wythes family, who were the then occupiers, moved in to Wood House on the estate to await Copped Hall's rebuilding. This never happened and Ernest Wythes died in 1949. His wife died in 1951. In 1952 the estate was sold, after which followed a period of total neglect. The main 18th century house was first stripped of its more desirable building materials then left to deteriorate. The Italianate conservatory was blown up using dynamite to demolish it, though some of the statues and stonework were removed to other large estate houses. The stone gazebo from the garden was set up in the grounds of St Paul's Waldenbury, a neighbouring estate. Some of the statues in the gardens were removed to Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire.

The estate is now owned by the City of London Corporation. The Copped Hall Trust acquired the freehold of the main house, stables, house gardens and other houses on the estate, and the house is being slowly rebuilt by the Trust.

Copped Hall is visible from the M25 motorway between junctions 26 and 27. It is an imposing structure set in a beautiful yet stylised estate parkland. It was described at one time as 'the Premier house of Essex'. The estate is landscaped to conform to the English ideas of the 18th century - the taming of nature and the inclusion of uplifting vistas. The main house had a ha-ha ditch which allowed animals to approach the house yet prevent them from entering. It was a good example of the '18th century house in landscape'. The mansion was placed overlooking two valleys with a third valley to the north and the building was well proportioned, with the chimneys built in a tight geometric arrangement.

The English publication Country Life ran a full article on the charms of Copped Hall with many photographs published before the devastating fire. This perhaps remains as the only record of the house in its heyday.

On the 27th of April 2004 Charles, Prince of Wales, accompanied by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex - Lord Petre, visited Copped Hall and inspected the restoration work of the Copped Hall Trust. The Prince opened an exhibition of 18th century botanical water-colours in the new temporary gallery. These water-colours were painted by Matilda Conyers, a descendant of John Conyers.

The house has a semi-restored Racquets Court.

References

External links

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