Building record PLS 057 - Polstead Hall

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Polstead Hall, originally built in 16th century, extensively rebuilt in late 18th/19th century, interior has a 16th century core and wall paintings.


Grid reference Centred TL 9881 3815 (25m by 31m)
Map sheet TL93NE


Type and Period (2)

Full Description

Polstead Hall, partly dating from c. 16th century located in the centre of Polstead Park (PLS 019). Substantially rebuilt as a white brick mansion in late 18th century (S1). Two wings facing NW shown on OS 1958 map, gone on 1967 map (S2). Occupied by Wm Beale Brand Esq in 1783 (S3). In 1907, Barker includes a photograph of the Hall and its `Well Garden', which he describes as `a very excellent specimen of this old time arrangement, it is situated in a very deep hollow, and quite surrounded by trees, forming a secluded retreat'. He adds an earlier history of the tenants and ownership of Polstead Manor concluding with `in the 15th and 16th centuries it was held by the Waldegrave family, and afterwards by the Brands, and in 1814 it passed to the Cooke family; C B Cooke Esq, being now lord of the manor' (S4).

Grade II* listed building. A large white brick building with a balustraded parapet and a cornice. It stands in a former deer park close to the Church of St Mary. In the late C18 the original C16 house was extensively rebuilt or remodelled and improvements were made in 1818-19 by W Pilkington (Colvin). There are older buildings at the rear. The interior has a C16 core and there are C16 wall paintings. See S5 for further details (S5).

2007: The present building is largely the work of William Pilkington, who was engaged between 1816 and 1819, it contains an early-17th century timber-framed core and must occupy much the same site as the Saxon hall recorded in the Domesday Book. The 17th century building which lies in the south-eastern corner of the present house, still preserves one of the most important late-Elizabethan or Jacobean wall paintings in Britain, but was so heavily disguised by Pilkington that its original proportions cannot be established with certainty. The surviving structure appears to have contained only two rooms of identical size on each floor, and a long gallery in its roof that was lit by three large dormer windows. Given the high status of the site this building is too small to have formed a complete house, and must represent either the remaining wing of a larger building or possibly the hunting lodge of the surrounding deer park. The wall painting initially lay in a narrow passageway that divided the first-floor rooms, but soon after construction this passage was enlarged to form a new chamber and new wings were added to the rear - perhaps when the lodge was converted for domestic use. Whatever the appearance and purpose of the original building, Pilkington transformed the house into a substantial and highly fashionable Regency mansion by completely remodelling the fa├žade, adding an imposing new brick wing of some 100 feet in length to the north and a ballroom of comparable scale to the south. A long, narrow range of outbuildings to the north-west of the house included a gamekeeper's cottage, stabling and a greenhouse, but lay within massive earthworks that probably survived from a scheme of medieval defences. The hall operated as a school during the late-19th and early-20th centuries, famously attended by one of Rasputin's assassins, and a series of partitions were inserted in the Georgian attics during this period. Having served as an hotel between the wars the property succumbed to the economic slump of the 1960s and its outbuildings and ballroom were demolished while the northern wing was reduced by approximately half its length (S6).

Sources/Archives (6)

  • --- Unpublished document: Alston, L.. 2007. Historical Survey: Polstead Hall, Polstead.
  • <S1> Bibliographic reference: Goult. W. 1990. A Survey of Suffolk Parish History: W Suffolk,.
  • <S2> (No record type): OS, 1:10560 maps, TL 93 NE, 1958 & 1967.
  • <S3> Cartographic materials: Hodskinson, J.. 1783. The County of Suffolk surveyed.
  • <S4> Bibliographic reference: Barker, H. R.. 1907. West Suffolk Illustrated.
  • <S5> Digital archive: English Heritage. Listed Buildings Online.

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Record last edited

Oct 24 2022 3:01PM

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