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The Past Life of Cressing Temple

The Loss of the Greate House - Stuarts 1603 - 1714.

That the mansion at Cressing temple was a large and impressive building there can be no doubt. But as to what happened to it and when is a mystery. Strangely enough for such a large development belonging to so many important figures there is little documentary evidence available. Normally one would expect a portrait of the Greate House but there is none known. It may be that until 1540 it belonged to the Hospitallers who would have had little use for such a record of their property.

After the dissolution of the Hospitallers the ownership changed hands and Cressing Temple became the property of Sir William Huse and was leased by Sir John Smyth who died two years later leaving a 12 year lease to his son, Thomas. From then on by a complex series of marriages the site became the property of the Nevill / Smyths.

In 1644 Henry Nevill was taken prisoner by the Parliamentarians during the Civil War and was ransomed for £6000. In 1657 he sold the site to Winstanley, Sedgewick and Tuke who were to pay off the mortgage, sell the estate and share the profits or losses.

In 1659 John Evelyn visited his cousin George Tuke who was living at Cressing Temple and noted that there was no Christmas service in the chapel as the priest had died. In 1673 the house was assessed as having twenty hearths so it was still a very large building even then.

The house then passed to the Davies family and Thomas, the eldest son of Sir Thomas Davies ' unfortunately shot himself' at Cressing Temple in 1703. The site was then sold to Herman Olmius. After this the farm is lived in by a long series of tenants right up until 1913 when Frank Cullen bought the site and moved in.

The first estate plan of 1794.

We believe the Greate House was put up in the 1620's and it had definitely disappeared by 1794 when the first estate map was made by Baroness Waltham. Archaeological excavations have shown that the building was systematically dismantled and robbed out. Even the cellars floors were ripped up and the drains dug out and the cappings removed before forcibly being backfilled with clay.

Terrace foundation wall.

The Walled Garden probably showed the sites rise and decline most clearly. A spectacular walled enclosure with raised terrace and planting beds was entirely paved about its perimeter. As the bricks were damaged by frost and plant action at first they were replaced. Then they were covered with a thick layer of gravel. Finally all pretensions to grandeur were abandoned and the terrace was removed and earth spread out over all the pavements. Slots were cut through to plant garden produce and orchards and berry bushes allowed to ramble. It was not until Victorian times that the garden was reformalised with new paths and garden features.

The garden as seen in 1876.

Frank Cullen buys Cressing Temple.





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