The National Trust is this year celebrating its 125th anniversary so we though we’d take a look at some of the lesser-known National Trust properties and gardens in London. First up, it’s Rainham Hall, one of the finest examples of an early 18th century merchant’s home in the UK.
Located at Rainham in the London Borough of Havering, the Queen Anne-style property was built in 1729 for sea merchant Captain John Harle. Harle came from a family South Shields that supplemented their farming income with shipping. He’d settled in London sometime after 1704 and in 1719 married a widow, Mary Tibbington (it’s speculated her name may have been the inspiration for his ship, the Mary).
Following his marriage, John went less to sea and handed command of the ship to a cousin while he managed the business in London becoming a frequent visitor to the Royal Exchange and coffee houses to gather information on shipping and make trading deals.
Harle moved to Rainham in 1728 and built the house the following year with a design more akin to a London townhouse than a country villa. After his wife died without any children in 1739, John remarried and his new wife, a widow named Sarah Gregory, gave birth to their only child – a son named John – in 1740.
Harle died in late 1742 and was buried in Rainham Church. Sarah died seven years later and their orphaned son John was cared for by family members – during this period the contents of the hall were auctioned and the building leased out.
The house remained in family ownership until 1895 when it was purchased by a clergyman and then, in 1917, by art historian and property developer Colonel Herbert Hall Mulliner who never resided at the property but conducted significant restoration works including in the garden.
During World War II, the property was requisitioned for use as a nursery for children so mothers could go out to work – it remained a nursery until 1954. It was during this period – in 1949 – that both the house and gardens, of which almost three acres remain – were given to the National Trust.
Now Grade II* listed, the property recently underwent a £2.5 million restoration project and opened to the public for the first time in 2015. Current displays includeThe Denney Edition: Celebrating an icon of 20th century style, which celebrates the life and work of Anthony Denney (1913-90), Vogue photographer, interior designer and all round style icon who lived at the hall between 1964 and 1969, during which he set about an extensive programme of interior refurbishment (only some of which still remains).
The property has appeared in films and TV productions including, most recently the 2019 BBC production of A Christmas Carol. A cafe now occupies the stables.
WHERE: Rainham Hall, The Broadway, Rainham, Havering (nearest train station is Rainham); WHEN: 10.30am-4.30pm, Wednesday to Sunday; COST: £9.50 adults; £4.75 children; £23.75 family (National Trust members and under fives free); WEBSITE: www.nationaltrust.org.uk/rainham-hall.