Hethel Hall
Linked to famous names but now demolished

The 'ancient' Hethel Hall - under Branthwaytes & Beevors 

It is not known for how long Hethel had a Hall, or who built the oldest known Hall. An 18th Century estate map in the Norfolk Records Office (NRO RQG 127, 488 X 5) shows a large house with formal gardens and a lake (possibly once a moat) in a deer park surrounded by a fence. On the western boundary is Hethel Wood - an area of ancient semi-natural woodland with a series of rides. The whole estate seems to have occupied 1730 acres (700 hectares).

By the time this estate existed, the land was owned by the Branthwaytes who may well have had the house built and the garden and estate aid out. In 1750, Elizabeth, daughter of Miles Branthwayte, married Sir Thomas Beevor and despite her father's opposition to the marriage they did inherit the Hall. On Sir Thomas's death in 1814, the estate passed to his son, also Thomas, and then on his death in 1820 to his son, Thomas Branthwayte Beevor, Bt. Kelly's Directories state that the old Hall was pulled down in 1825, but this seems too early because according to the particulars of its sale in 1828, Sir Thomas had 'expended a very considerable sum in altering and improving it'. [NRO HET 62, 169 X 2]. It is described as 'in every way fit for the accommodation of a family of the first respectability'.

Interestingly, I am told that the lane that runs from Ketteringham to East Carleton known now as St Thomas's Lane was originally Sir Thomas's Lane from the Beevor residents of Hethel Hall!

The Victorian Hethel Hall - under Guerney Calvert and Boileau

In 1828 the estate was sold to Hudson Gurney of Keswick Hall, who was more interested in the land than the Hall. This was sold again, with a much smaller area of parkland, in the 1830s to Samuel Calvert. He is the owner who seems to have demolished much or all of the old Hall and built a new (and smaller) one, though we are unsure exactly when. In 1835 he leased Hethel Hall (presumably the newly-built one) to Rev William Wyatt Andrew, Rector of Ketteringham, and his wife Ellen. Ketteringham was a neighbouring parish that did not have its own Rectory. In 1840 Hethel Hall was described as 'recently erected with white brick upon the site of the Ancient Hall' and came with 199 acres of land of which 61 acres was parkland'. [NRO SPE 98, 315 X 5 + tithe map NRO DN/TA 597].

Hethel Hall on an Ordnance Survey large-scale map c.1890

Hethel Hall was then bought by Sir John Boileau (1794-1869) who had acquired Ketteringham Hall in 1836 - with the Rector still in residence. But the Squire and the Clergyman were at loggerheads, as recounted in Owen Chadwick's 'A Victorian Miniature' (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1960; reprinted by CUP, Cambridge, 1991). Although Rev Andrew offered to buy the house for £3,300 in 1841 [NRO SPE 113, 315 X S], Sir John did not want him on his doorstep, so the Rector had to move out. Almost immediately, Rev Frederick Bickmore, tutor to the Boileau children, moved in with his wife who had been the children's governess. He is listed as the occupier in White's 1845 Directory of Norfolk, and was still living there in 1856 (Craven's Commercial Directory of Norfolk). For a while he ran a small prep school for the younger sons of Sir John Boileau and other gentry and was successful in getting many of his students into Eton. After they left, the Hall was occupied by members of the Boileau family or staff or rented out to tenants and suffered periods when it was left empty.  (Photo below dated 1879)

Later Occupants from Directories:

1869 Kelly's Post Office Directory of Norfolk & Suffolk - occupant of Hethel Hall is Col. G W Boileau, JP.

1877 Harrod's Directory of Norfolk & Lowestoft - occupied by Mrs Louisa Pratt

1883 White's Historical Directory has an entry for Hethel but no mention of the Hall

1892 Kelly's Directory of Norfolk - unoccupied; owned by Sir Francis George Manningham Boileau, bart

1896 Kelly's Directory of Norfolk - occupied by Robert Stuart esq.

1904 & 1908 Kelly's Directory, Norfolk - occupied by Major-General Edward Draper Elliott, RA (also Naval & Military Club, London, SW); the Hall is the property of Sir M C Boileau, bart

1912 Kelly's Directory of Norfolk - occupied by Capt. Frederic Godfrey Bird RN (also United Services Club) - who had retired from a distinguished career in the Navy, was recalled to serve in World War 1 and is commemorated on the Hethel War Memorial.

1922 Kelly's Directory - occupied by Walter C Stanton Esq, the Hall being the property of Sir Maurice Boileau, bart., DL, JP.

Mr Stanton seems to have lived there throughout the 1920s and an Inventory of 1929 describes the house.... [NRO MC 791/1, 795 X 7].

The Beginning of the End

Much of the estate was incorporated into the USAAAF airfield from 1943 to 1945, but the HQ was at the larger Ketteringham Hall rather than Hethel Hall, which was either deemed too small, too dilapidated or too near the base to be secure. Although 'off limits' for the Americans and later air force units, and for the civilian housing that took over the site after the war, the Hall seems to have fallen into ruin and was finally demolished around 1952. All that remains now is part of the lake / moat and some low mounds in a field.

[Information from various sources, including 'Lost Country Houses of Norfolk: History, Archaeology & Myth' - Tom Williamson, Ivan Ringwood & Sarah Spooner (the Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2015) Thanks to Mary Parker for photos from the Boileau archive]