Treasures of the Essex Record Office: Ingatestone Hall

PUBLISHED: 13:27 11 April 2016 | UPDATED: 13:27 11 April 2016

Country dancing competition at Ingatestone Hall, 1919

Country dancing competition at Ingatestone Hall, 1919


Hannah Salisbury from the Essex Record Office tells the story of Ingatestone and the Petre family which still owns the estate to this day

Ingatestone Hall, Roman Catholic Chapel interior. The Petre family remained Roman Catholic despite all the dangers this entailed at various timesIngatestone Hall, Roman Catholic Chapel interior. The Petre family remained Roman Catholic despite all the dangers this entailed at various times

The Tudor mansion of Ingatestone Hall, which sits in the south of the county between Chelmsford and Brentwood, is today a popular place to visit, as well as still being a family home.

It was built by William Petre (c1502-1572), who served as a Secretary of State to Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I and Elizabeth I. Petre purchased the estate in 1539; before then, it had belonged to Barking Abbey, who during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under Henry VIII had surrendered their property to the Crown.

Drawing of Ingatestone Hall by F CoverdaleDrawing of Ingatestone Hall by F Coverdale

Petre originated in Devon, but had studied Law at Oxford and, with the building of Ingatestone Hall, made Essex his home. After purchasing the estate, Petre busied himself with building a modern, redbrick mansion. It was designed around a courtyard and much of the original house survives today. The house was one of the first to include the very modern innovation of a piped water supply and flushing drains fed by springs.

We are lucky to have a description of the house just a couple of decades after it was completed by Thomas Larke, Petre’s surveyor. Larke described the house as, ‘fayr lardge & stately made of brick and imbateled’. It included a large hall, an armoury, a kitchen, pantry, larder, buttery and pastry, as well as other ‘fayr chambers and lodginges’.

Plan of Ingatestone Hall, 1566, showing buildings, artificial watercourses and adjacent fieldsPlan of Ingatestone Hall, 1566, showing buildings, artificial watercourses and adjacent fields

In 1561 Elizabeth I visited Ingatestone Hall and stayed for three days. Feeding the monarch – and her courtiers and servants – was a major undertaking. Petre’s accounts give us an insight into how much food and drink was purchased for the visit and from how far away some of it was sourced. Provisions included five dozen chickens, 27 geese, 12 herons brought from London, 18 herons brought from Kent, fish such as sole, flounder, plaice, gurnet, conger and sturgeon, six cygnets, and a further four cygnets from Cambridge, a dozen gulls, two dozen egrets, 14 dishes of butter, five gallons of cream, a barrel of samphire, a barrel of olives, 200 oranges, plus sugar, cloves, mace, pepper and other spices.

The house has been altered over the years, with some parts demolished and others added. One of the biggest changes was the demolition of the west wing in the early 19th century, breaking up the original square design of the house and transforming it into the U-shape we see today.

Northwest view of Ingatestone Hall, c1895Northwest view of Ingatestone Hall, c1895

William Petre’s son, John, bought Thorndon Hall, which became the family’s principal seat for the next 300 years. Ingatestone Hall was used during this time by other family members and for holidays.

Thorndon Hall was gutted by fire in 1878 and never fully restored by the family. After the death of the 16th Lord Petre in World War I, his widow, Lady Catherine Rasch, and their young son moved back to Ingatestone Hall in 1919. Lady Rasch embarked upon an ambitious programme at Ingatestone Hall to restore the Tudor look and feel to the house.

During World War II, the house was used by Wanstead School to evacuate some of their pupils and from the 1950s to the 1970s the north wing was let to Essex Record Office for exhibitions and educational visits.

The house is still owned by the Petre family today, and is open to the public at certain times of year. For details of how to visit, see

For more details about the archives at the Essex Record Office or the events taking place there this year, visit


Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Essex Life visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Essex Life staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Essex Life account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

Tue, 16:32

We’ve put together 15 questions that will push your knowledge of Essex to the limit - let us know how you’ve done on social media!

Read more
Tue, 14:17

From James Bond to Batman, Essex has been known to bask in a little Hollywood glitz. Here are 19 that have used our county’s incredible locations on the big screen

Read more
Friday, October 26, 2018

Spend Halloween hunting down ghouls and ghosts in the county’s most haunted places and spaces. We pick 10 absolutely terrifying locations to visit this October.

Read more
Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Chelmsford is on the rise, blossoming from its city status. One iconic landmark which has been part of the landscape for 300 years, and is also enjoying a renaissance, is Hylands House. Petra Hornsby reveals more

Read more
Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Laurie Page of the Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council shares with us this beautiful six-mile walk around Bradwell’s stunning coastal delights

Read more
Friday, October 5, 2018

With one of the warmest and driest summers on record, this year has been a difficult one for gardeners. Susie Bulman from The Beth Chatto Gardens at Elmstead Market shares some top tips for plant survival, even in these conditions

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Our county’s remaining windmills stand the test of time as a tribute to a bygone era. Mica Bale highlights some of the best examples in Essex

Read more
Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Whether you’re looking for a memorable day trip or an impromptu weekend getaway, Essex is a perfect patchwork of all the little things we love about Britain. Proudly showcasing the charm of the county, we pick 13 towns you must visit when planning a trip to Essex

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

This walk from the town of Bures on the Essex and Suffolk border leads you through the Essex countryside to the little villages of Alphamstone and Lamarsh | Words and photos: Laurie Page Public Rights of Way Team at Essex County Council

Read more
Tuesday, September 25, 2018

A popular Southend escape game venue has launched a new room inspired by the town’s seafaring past

Read more

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Follow us on Twitter

Like us on Facebook

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Local Business Directory

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search