A Piece of Essex Religious History

PUBLISHED: 16:32 24 April 2010 | UPDATED: 07:37 30 May 2010

ONE of the area s most prominent homes is on the market for the first time in 25 years. Great Chalks, in the centre of Hatfield Broad Oak, dates back to 1838.

ONE of the area's most prominent homes is on the market for the first time in 25 years.

Great Chalks, in the centre of Hatfield Broad Oak, dates back to 1838 although it is believed there have been religious settlements on the site for more than a thousand years. In medieval times the village was one of the largest parishes in the whole of Essex and was a prosperous area with its own priory.

The priory was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII and he gave all the land to his newly created Trinity College, Cambridge. This gave the college responsibility for the funding and management of the local church and it built Great Chalks as the rectory for the priest.

The current owners, Peter and Diana Crook, said: "It's thought that as part of the connection with Trinity College the priest taught some students here at the house. Over the years the rectory became too small to accommodate them all and the extra floor was added in the 1870s to house even more.

"The arrival of the extra students coincides with the building of a tennis court, swimming pool and ha-ha here at the property.

"These were major building projects, particularly on the tennis court, as the land here is quite sloping so it's thought the students were used to provide the extra labour needed."

The tennis court now forms Great Chalks' croquet lawn and the old swimming pool is now a pond. Over the years the house has continued to be of great significance to the village and part of its land was given by a previous owner to build the local school. The house has also opened its Gertrude Jeckyll style garden as part of the participated in the National Gardens Scheme.

The house has a total of nine bedrooms over the three floors and more than three acres of grounds. It's on the market at £1.6m.

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