Hayes (Kent) History

Hayes (Kent) History

From 1600 to 1933

A new double house was built by Robert Hall opposite Hayes Church in about 1600 on the site of Asshleys. It marked the origin of Hayes Place, which in the following centuries would see many changes and would become the most important building in Hayes.  

Robert’s heir in 1624 sold the property to two brothers Edmund and Stephen Scott who also bought land to the south from Robert Ketchill and to the north from Christopher Allanson. Sir Stephen Scott and his family lived in the house.

His brother Edmund died in 1639 and was buried in the chancel of Hayes Church.

Stephen Scott later moved to Cheshunt but the house remained in his family’s ownership until sold by his son Stephen in 1697 to John Harrison, a feltmaker.  

The house had a number of tenants including  Lynthwaite Farrant and Stephen Austen.  In 1751 it was leased for three years by Mrs Elizabeth Montagu, Queen of the Blue Stockings, and in 1754 by William Pitt the Elder who would later become Prime Minister. By 1756 he had bought the property.

He made major changes. Surrounding properties and more land were bought up.  One of the houses was soon pulled down and the other was joined by a covered way to act as a sort of nursery for his children.   By 1763  the new house was finished.  It was later described  ‘as square and has a high roof.  The windows are small, and in the centre is a portico, with its top railed round to form a sort of balcony.’  

There were still improvements to be made but when Pitt was bequeathed Burton Pynsent House in Somerset he decided to move and sold Hayes Place to Hon Thomas Walpole in 1766.  

Walpole probably employed the architect Robert Taylor to improve the building and when he was persuaded to sell the property back to William Pitt the negotiated price of £17,400 was substantially more than Walpole had originally paid for it.

In 1778 William Pitt was taken ill in Parliament and died later on 11 May, in the bedroom with both west and south-facing window on the first floor.

Pitt at Hayes Place

During Pitt’s time at Hayes Place, the house saw many important visitors including General Wolfe of Quebec, Benjamin Franklin, the Duke of Cumberland, Lord Albermarle and Lord Cavendish as well as members of the family of his wife, Hester Grenville.  It was also the place where his young son, also called William, was born in 1759 and he would become the youngest Prime Minister of England in 1783.

The sale of the household goods and other effects of the Earl of Chatham started in November 1778 and lasted for six days.  The catalogue detailed 23 bedrooms, a Drawing Room, Dining Room, 4 parlours, a Library, butler and housekeeper’s quarters as well as a Laundry & Washroom, A total of just over £1714 was raised.

In 1785  James Bond, High Sheriff of Kent 1788, bought the estate but sold some of the land. Four years later he put the property up for sale.

 ‘An elegant spacious villa with stabling for sixteen horses, standing for four carriages, interior and exterior offices of every description: walled garden, fully cropped and planted, with a selection of the choicest fruit trees, pinery, peachery etc, and about one hundred and eleven acres of rich pastureland, surrounding the house.

The house is a square pile of a brick building with stone dressings, seated on a spacious sloped Lawn The Principal Entrance a neat Stuccoed Hall, paved with Portland Stone, surrounded by an Eating Parlour 22′ by 31′, Drawing Room 20’6″ by 31, Music Room with Bow Window 23′ by 28′, Breakfast Parlour l8′ by 24′, Billiard Room 21′ by 30′, Ante Room, two Dressing Rooms, and circular Vestibule, the Ceilings 14′ high enriched Stucco Cornices, variegated Marble Chimney Pieces, the Walls uniformly hung with neat fashionable papers, clean deal floors and Mortice Locks to the Doors. An elegant geometrical stone staircase, light and easy ascent with Iron balustrades and mahogany handrail.

The house was sold to George Legge, Viscount Lewisham for £10,500 but he had some difficulties in financing his mortgage and it was resold in 1798.  He had excellent relations with the Rector Rev John Till who tutored his eldest son William. 

Hayes Place was bought by Philip Dehany who moved to Hayes with his wife Margaret and daughter Mary.  Sadly Mary’s fiancé, John Sinclair, 11th Earl of Caithness, committed suicide before they were married and she was allowed to adopt his niece Williamina Traill who was 14 years old when they arrived in Hayes.  In 1832 she inherited Hayes Place and lived there until her death in 1862.  Much care was lavished on the gardens and her greenhouses were used for growing various exotic plants.  It remained in her family until 1880 but in 1867 was leased by Edward Wilson, founder of the Colonial Institute, who had recently returned from Australia. He was keen to try out the newly invented  steam plough on his land and it was said that he introduced a number of exotic animals into the grounds. He died in 1878.

The new owner, Everard Hambro, a banker bought Hayes Place in 1880 and employed the well known architect George Devey (1820- 1866) to improve the house. He altered the dining room and terrace, making a new entrance hall on the west side, and decorated the rooms. In 1890 the house was further extended and the opportunity taken to install an electric lighting system.  In 1912 the mansion was described as built in two linked wings of stock brick and stone.

Sir Everard died in 1924 and by 1926 his son, Sir Eric Hambro, had decided to dispose of the Hayes Place estate for building. An agreement on layout, drainage and open spaces was signed in 1928.  By early 1931 the estate had been sold to a speculator, Mr Agg-Large and by April he had disposed of the majority of the estate to Henry Boot and Sons Ltd, with an option to purchase the remainder. In spite of protests, the house was demolished in 1933.