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The Royal Liberty School Havering


The Royal Liberty School, formerly Hare Hall, is on part of an old estate previously known as Goodwins. Hare Hall was built in 1768/69 for John Arnold Wallenger, who then began landscaping the grounds, possibly with advice from Richard Wood, its bridged lakes and winding shrubbery walks much favoured by him. It would seem that Humphry Repton later improved the gardens. In the C19th the estate was used for farming, then purchased for the railway, but later part was back in private hands. After WWI it was mostly developed for housing with a small part of the land and the Hall itself purchased by the Romford UDC in 1921 to house the new Royal Liberty School for Boys. Hare Hall with C19th additions survives surrounded by ancillary buildings and playing fields to the north, but the extent of the estate grounds is greatly diminished. The form of the serpentine lake remains, now almost dry and overgrown, together with vestiges of a raised terrace and fragment of the stone bridge, with fine trees between the house and lake, and around its banks.

Basic Details

Previous / Other name:
Hare Hall (Estate); Goodwins

Site location:
Upper Brentwood Road, Gidea Park, Romford

RM2 6HJ ( Google Map)

Type of site:
Institutional Grounds

c1768; 1921

Richard Woods; Humphry Repton

Listed structures:
LBII*: Hare Hall


Site ownership:
Royal Liberty School for Boys

Site management:
Royal Liberty School for Boys

Open to public?

Opening times:
Has opened for London Open House

Special conditions:



Public transport:
Rail: Gidea Park. Bus: 496, , 674, 751, 752

The information shown above was correct at the time of the last update 01/02/2005
Please check with the site owner or manager for latest news.

Further Information

Grid ref:

Size in hectares:

Green Flag:

On EH National Register :

EH grade:

Site on EH Heritage at Risk list:

Registered common or village green on Commons Registration Act 1965:

Protected under London Squares Preservation Act 1931:

Local Authority Data

The information below is taken from the relevant Local Authority's planning legislation, which was correct at the time of research but may have been amended in the interim. Please check with the Local Authority for latest planning information.

On Local List:

In Conservation Area:

Tree Preservation Order:
Not known

Nature Conservation Area:

Green Belt:

Metropolitan Open Land:

Special Policy Area:

Other LA designation:

Fuller information

The Royal Liberty School opened here in 1921 in the former Hare Hall and is on part of an estate previously known as Goodwins or Goodwin's Farm in the manor of Gidea Hall, for which recorded ownership goes back to 1590. The farm was owned by the Wallenger family from at least 1744, and it was John Wallenger who gave the name Hare Hall to the property, derived from the nearby hamlet of Hare Street. In 1763, while still in his ownership, the estate is listed as having ‘2 messuages, 3 cottages, 3 gardens, 90 acres of land, 30 acres of meadow and 20 acres of pasture’. In 1767 he bequeathed the land to his nephew John Arnold, who was a timber and stone merchant, on condition that he take the name Wallenger, which he duly did, becoming John Arnold Wallenger. In 1768/69 he commissioned the well-known architect James Paine to design Hare Hall, Paine’s only major commission in the country apart from Thorndon Hall near Brentwood for Lord Petre. Once the house was completed, Wallenger commenced landscaping the grounds and appears to have commissioned Richard Wood, although there are no surviving designs. However, a sale catalogue of 1895 shows ‘a typical Wood layout’ and he is known to have undertaken work for various estates in Essex, Suffolk, Hertfordshire and Berkshire in the period 1765-1800. Wood, a predecessor of Humphry Repton, was greatly influenced by Capability Brown and had a predilection for bridged lakes and winding shrubbery walks, both of which featured at Hare Hall. John Arnold Wallenger’s business success accrued from trade in both cork and stone, and two features in his gardens testify to this: a (then rare) cork oak tree and a petrified tree.

Chapman and Andre's map of 1777 shows a serpentine canal and tree-lined walk to the north-east of the house. In 1787 the gardens were described thus: 'The piece of Water has the appearance of a winding River, over which is a Stone Bridge at one of its Terminations and at the other end are some remarkable fine weeping Willows. On the opposite side of this Canal is the Elysian Walk, raised with the Earth which was taken up to form the Piece of Water, which has considerably added to the Beauty of the grounds by giving a pleasing Elevation to the opposite Bank; and from thence is a Communication at the Back of the high Elms to a serpentine Terrace, near to a Mile in Length, whose Sides are planted with a Variety of flowering Shrubs and Forest Trees, and extends to the Lodge by the Side of the Great Road.’ It would seem that Humphry Repton, who also lived in Hare Street, later improved the gardens since a view after Repton of 'Hare Hall, Essex, the seat of I.A.Wallinger Esq.’ was published in Peacock's Polite Repository in June 1790.

On John Arnold Wallenger’s death in 1792 his eldest son, who called himself John Wallenger Arnold Wallenger, saw the estate as a means of raising money and Hare Hall was continually subject to mortgage agreements. After his death in 1805 the estate was finally disposed of in 1814 when it was purchased and farmed by Benjamin Severn, who reputedly had a fine herd of cattle. However, he was unable to make the estate profitable and sold it in 1827, by which time it included land in Squirrels Heath, the Hall then owned by a J. Western. In the 1830s Eastern Counties Railway Company bought part of the land when they were extending the London to Yarmouth line from Romford to Brentwood, a route that ran through the southern tip of the estate. Then in 1836 they bought the whole estate, which at that time was listed in the will of an Elizabeth King. In 1840 the lands were divided into 6 lots and put up for sale. However only the outlying fields were bought and the rest remained unproductive in the hands of the railway until 1852 when a Robert Pemberton paid £5,000 for the land. Pemberton died in 1895 leaving no heirs and in 1897 Edward and Lucy Castellan bought 71 acres for £12,000 and had the dilapidated house enlarged by the architect Howard Seth-Smith, who also built Hare Lodge for one of the their sons, Charles, for his wife and family. Edward died in 1901, and after Lucy's death in 1912, their eldest son Victor lived at Hare Hall. It was requisitioned for military purposes in World War I and officers of the Artists’ Rifles and later the 2nd Sportsmen’s Battalion were billeted there. After the war, the Castellan family developed most of the estate for housing with Edward Close and a small part of the land and the Hall itself was bought in 1921 by the local Council to house the new Royal Liberty School for Boys.

Hare Hall with its C19th additions survives as the school building surrounded by ancillary buildings and playing fields to the north, but the extent of the estate grounds is greatly diminished. The form of the serpentine lake remains, now almost dry and overgrown with vegetation, together with vestiges of the raised terrace on the eastern side and a fragment of the stone bridge of knapped flint, partially reconstructed. There are also some notable cedars, mature horse chestnut, holly and elm trees between the house and lake and around its banks, which also has sapling willow. The arrival route has been re-orientated so the mansion is now visible. The school is designated as a Specialist Science College.

Sources consulted:

G Carter et al 'Humphry Repton Landscape Gardener 1752-1818', Catalogue UEA Norwich, 1982; Fiona Cowell 'Richard Wood (?1716-93): A Preliminary Account' in Garden History vol 15, 1987; A Searle & C Brazier 'A History of Hare Hall' undated pamphlet; Victoria County History of Essex vol v & vii;, p62; Brief History on Royal Liberty School website

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