We made our first visit to Copped Hall today – and it’s going to be the first of many!
As you whizz westwards/anti-clockwise on the M25 with the M11 behind you, and pop out of the Bell Common tunnel, you will see in the distance on your right an historic building. It’s Copped Hall, and having been saved from developers and given listed building status in the 1980s, heroic work by a dedicated team has seen the freehold of the hall and extensive gardens purchased, and restoration work is underway. If you like watching Sarah Beeny, Grand Designs, Restoration Man and the like, and you live in Essex, why not give up some of your time and volunteer to turn the building and gardens from neglected, vandalized wrecks into the places of beauty they were once??
Today we, and many hundreds of others, turned up for their Apple Day. 2012 hasn’t been a great day for apples, but their supply just about lasted the day!
You approach the Hall by driving south through Epping High Street (B1393) and taking the Upshire turning to the right (the Hall is signposted). Having just driven over the M25, there’s a wonderful single-track bridge back over the M25 that takes you to the hall.
The initial view, getting out of your car in the cark park, is of structures in the garden and the main house itself, all of whom have seen better days.
The immediate garden area behind the house gives you your first view of the house itself.
But, leaving the house for later, at the bottom of the two sunken terraces, there’s a glorious view over the countryside. And on the lawns there were a large number of stalls for the Apple Day, featuring arts and crafts, food stalls, plant stalls, one of the original cars owned by the owners in the 1920s. There was an apple juice stall (of course), a chance to test and buy apples, help with identifying apples, Morris Dancers, and more.
To the far side there are the extensive gardens. There are the formal lawns, a rock garden, ruins garden, rose garden and pleached lime walk, the Bohty, the Western Shrubbery and more. One of the most atmospheric is King Henry’s Walk, the oldest feature of the garden, predating the 1567 Elizabethan mansion that stood there once. Legend has it that Henry VIII paced up and down whilst waiting to hear the cannon firing in London that announced the execution of Ann Boleyn.
The Kitchen Gardens are huge, and build on a downwards slope (unless you are at the bottom of the gardens, then they are build on an upward slope!) The borders along one long side, and the main entrance to the gardens, are beautifully planted.
The Kitchen Gardens have a large pond in the middle, and a range of greenhouses in one corner, in various stages of repair.
It was a beautiful autumn day, bright and sunny, but crisp, and you could have spent ages exploring the four corners of the gardens. But there was also the house to see!
It was fascinating to see such a historic house at this early stage of restoration. The infrastructure has been addressed first of course, so there are steel girders and strong wooden beams keeping everything together, but with one or two exceptions the walls are bare, and very little remains of the interior decoration. There are a few beautiful stone steps at the bottom of a big central stairwell – we’ll keep an eye on these in the years to come as they climb higher!
There were plenty of guides, volunteers and re-enactors in the house – huge praise must go to them for giving up their time to make the day such a successful one.
And what the house was lacking in furnishing, plasterwork and the like was more than made up for by several informative displays on various aspects of the history and restoration of the house, and the inventive way in which several rooms had been dressed to give a feeling of what they would be like once fully returned to their glory.
You’ll find lots about the history of the Hall and Gardens on their website. Keep an eye open for their various Open Days and make sure you get to one!