The val­ley that time for­got

Dream houses abound along the River Waveney’s bor­der be­tween Nor­folk and Suf­folk

Country Life Every Week - - Property Market -

THE River Waveney de­fines the bor­der be­tween Nor­folk and Suf­folk, al­though lo­cals who live along the dreamy Waveney Val­ley tend to see the river not as di­vid­ing the two coun­ties, but as bring­ing them to­gether. New­com­ers drawn to this quiet back­wa­ter for its time­less beauty and gen­tle pace of life will be agree­ably sur­prised at the choice of fine coun­try houses to be found in and around thriv­ing Waveney Val­ley towns such as Bec­cles, Bun­gay, Har­leston and Diss and will also be re­minded of the area’s his­toric im­por­tance as a cen­tre of power and in­flu­ence.

The launch onto the mar­ket of one of Nor­folk’s most re­mark­able houses, the Grade I-listed, 15th-cen­tury Hales Hall (Fig 1)—with its mag­nif­i­cent Tu­dor Great Barn (Fig 2)—at Lod­don, five miles from both Bec­cles and Bun­gay and 13 miles south-east of Nor­wich, high­lights the vi­sion and tow­er­ing am­bi­tion of the man who built it. That was Sir James Ho­bart, who hailed from Monks Eleigh in Suf­folk and, in 1478, bought Hales Hall, which then in­cor­po­rated the 13th-cen­tury hall of Sir Roger de Hales, al­though there has been a house on the site for more than 1,000 years.

Sir James was a bril­liant lawyer and judge who went on to be­come Henry VII’S At­tor­ney Gen­eral, a post he held for 21 years—a re­mark­able tale of sur­vival in a volatile era. Highly re­garded by his con­tem­po­raries, he funded the re­pairs for the nave roof of Nor­wich Cathedral after a fire and helped com­pile the Statutes of Henry VII, the last book printed by Wil­liam Cax­ton, in about 1490. His youngest son, Myles, founded the line that built Blick­ling Hall and his el­dest son, Walter, and his fam­ily re­mained staunch Catholics, fac­ing huge fines as re­cu­sants after the Re­for­ma­tion.

By 1647, their great for­tune had run out and Hales Hall was sold to a lo­cal prop­erty spec­u­la­tor. The es­tate later passed to var­i­ous landown­ers and, from the mid 19th cen­tury, to the Crisps of nearby Kirby Cane Hall. From the 1730s on­wards, the house was let to farm­ing tenants and was even­tu­ally pur­chased in a state of dis­re­pair by the pre­vi­ous own­ers in 1971.

Ac­cord­ing to its list­ing, all that re­mains of Sir James’s great Tu­dor house is the 8,422sq ft gate­house range, with its dis­tinc­tive, oc­tag­o­nal

Fig 1 top: One of the most re­mark­able houses in the Waveney Val­ley: Hales Hall, at Lod­don, Nor­folk. £2.85m. Fig 2 above : The mag­nif­i­cent Tu­dor Great Barn at Hales Hall

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