(4) Countess Alice at Haydon Hall, Eastcote

From a talk given by Mr L. E. Morris
at Eastcote Residents Association Meeting on 1/3/1955

I now turn to Haydon Hall. Until very recently its history was almost a complete blank, but a good deal of information has now come to light. The personal name Haydon appears in the fourteenth century court rolls of the manor, and in 1562 Francis, John and Lucy Haydon surrendered a messuage in "Ascott", and other property to William Nicholas. In 1614 William Nicholas of "Haydons" acquired land in Steanefield; thus the name of the earlier owners had attached itself to the property despite the change in ownership. There is no evidence that anything meriting the title of hall existed then. Hunting for further facts I found that much later in the century Haydon Hall belonged to Lord Chandos and then by mere chance I came upon a letter written in 1630 by Alice Countess of Derby, who lived at Harefield Place, in which she referred to "the house which I am building".

Knowing of the Chandos connexion with Haydon Hall and Lady Derby's connexion with that family I immediately began to wonder if the new house was Haydon Hall, and then I had a further stroke of luck. I came upon a licence issued by the Bishop of London to the Countess permitting her to build a box pew in the chancel of Ruislip parish church. The licence describes her as "of Haydon Hall." This is the first known reference to the property by that name. But that is by no means the most interesting part of the story. What did the Countess want with a residence in Eastcote when she already had a splendid mansion in the adjoining parish? The explanation is partly to be found in the letter I have just mentioned and partly in other records. The Countess had three daughters, one of whom, Anne, had married first Lord Chandos and then, on his death, an unsavoury character, Mervyn Touchet, Earl of Castlehaven. Lady Castlehaven was entitled to the reversion of Harefield Place, and her mother was determined that her wicked son-in-law should not get his hands on anything but an empty house.

Accordingly, she built Haydon Hall as a handy repository for her movable property. "Besides," she wrote, " I am sometimes from home at the house which I am building to set it forward, that if it should please God to call for me, I might have a place to lay my stuff in out of my Lord Castlehaven's fingering." People build houses for many reasons, but surely it is not often they build them as an insurance, as it were, against worthless sons-in-law. The irony of it is that Haydon Hall need never have been built, for only a year later Castlehaven was beheaded for his crimes. Nevertheless, Haydon Hall no doubt proved useful, possibly as a home for Lady Castlehaven, who resumed the name of Chandos, and her son, who eventually came into the property. In the Hearth Tax returns of 1662-63 William Lord Chandos heads the list, with 18 fire hearths, beating Ralph Hawtrey by three.

Chandos surrendered Haydon Hall in 1674 to his three daughters, who a year later sold it to George Sitwell, a merchant, who had married one of Ralph Hawtrey's daughters. Sitwell was either unfortunate or a bad business man, for his affairs went adrift increasingly; he had to mortgage Haydon Hall and later he became bankrupt. One of his creditors was Sir Thomas Franklin, Bart., of Pinner Hill, who had married another of Ralph Hawtrey's daughters. Sir Thomas bought the property from his fellow creditors in 1698. The Haydon Hall we see today is thought to be partly the work of Franklin. The two wings are Victorian, but the centre block is of early eighteenth century appearance and is presumably the surviving portion of the "new erected mansion house" which Sir Thomas mentions in his will dated 1720. Sir Thomas Franklin not only rebuilt the house, destroying so far as one can see, every trace of Lady Derby's building, but he also tried without success to change its name to Deane. . .

It has since passed through a good many hands, but has not been c lived in for some years. It could be quite a handsome building and there is some good panelling, but it is now a sorry wreck of a house and anyone interested would be well advised to look at it while there is yet time.

( Unfortunately no time is left, as it has been demolished, but the surrounding park is still there. Ruislip Library has a folder of photocopies from various sources .)

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