Originally known as Great Park, the estate was an enclosed medieval deer park, owned by the crown until 1550. It was ‘emparked’ with a paling fence in order to retain a herd of fallow deer to provide hunting and venison for the Lord ’s Table. This history lingers on with field names such as ‘Park field’ and ‘Hart’s Ley’ and fallow deer can still be seen. The manor house was Bardfield Hall and during the 14th century it was one of the residences of Elizabeth de Burgh, whose royal guests, including the Black Prince, would certainly have hunted here. The first building on this site was thought to be a keeper’s lodge, built in the field in front of the existing house. It may have been quite large, with accommodation for hunting parties and a viewing platform or tower. There is still evidence of a moat, which may date from this time.
Although most of Henry VIII’s wives are listed in turn as owning Great Park, it is suggested that Anne of Cleves lived in Bardfield Hall after her marriage was annulled and that the ‘Anne of Cleves’ barn was built during her ownership, to store hay for the deer. Not only do the scale and construction indicate a royal building, but it is also thought to be the work of continental craftsmen. The brick and tile building is Grade 1 listed as the width and construction of the roof is thought to be unique not only in Essex but also in England.
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