A history of the Victorian Goldhanger Rectory

The New Rectory was built by the Revd. C B Leigh in 1851 on land at the top end of Church Street that was previously part of Pumhouse Farm. This location is the highest point in the Parish and commands an impressive view across the Blackwater Estuary. The farmhouse was then converted a coach house and stables. After the Rectory was built the design won an award and in 1868 an article about it was published in... Villa and Cottage Architecture which is now out of copyright and available on at least two websites: archive.org and https://books.google.co.uk and prints are frequently available on www.ebay.co.uk. Extracts from the book and some of the architectural drawings are shown here...




OLDHANGER is a village to the east of Maldon, in the fiat marshy part of Essex north of the estuary of the Blackwater. The Rectory, illustrated in our plates, was erected in the years 1851-52. The building must be considered remarkable for the amount of accommodation provided as compared with the cost. Its decorative character corresponds almost exactly with that of the true Tudor domestic Gothic style.

A Rectory, being intended to last for generations, and the law of ecclesiastical dilapidations, which requires an incumbent to keep his house in proper repair, being very stringent, it becomes important that parsonages houses be built in a plain and substantial manner. In this house, therefore, care has been taken to provide materials and workmanship the best of their several kinds, and to avoid all ornamental features which would involve costly or frequent expenditure for their preservation.

The house contains a drawing-room, a dining-room, a study, a housekeeper's room, a storeroom, a butler's pantry, and a kitchen, in the principal block, to which is attached a conservatory ; whilst there is a one-story addition containing a large scullery, brewhouse and bakery, and places for coals and wood: the main block also contains cellars; and there are nine bed-rooms of various sizes, and two dressing-rooms, two of the bed-rooms being in the roof. The aspects of the drawing-room are south-west and south-east; and those of the dining-room and study are a little south of east, the modification by the bow-windows not being taken into account in this statement. There is no prospect that required to be considered. The ground-floor in the main block of the house is raised about 4 feet 6 inches above the highest part of the site, so as to avoid sinking the basement floor deeper than might be absolutely needful; and terraces with grass slopes are formed on the south and east sides, and on part of the west side.

Ground Floor - The entrance is placed on the west side of the building, within an open porch. The landing in front of the door is reached by steps, which are under and within the archway of the porch. The door itself is hung in a glazed screen. The hall is separated from the principal staircase by an open arcade of two arches, as shown in the cross-section (Plate XLIV.) The drawing-room door is on the right-hand side of the hall, and the dining- room door faces the spectator on entering, - the two rooms being planned at right angles to one another. Each of these rooms is lighted by a bay-window at its end, and a three-light window at the side. In the angle formed by the external walls of the two rooms, the conservatory is placed, with south and east aspects, the flue for the heating-apparatus being carried up in the re-entering angle of the walls. The drawing-room, conservatory, and dining-room may be thrown open as a suite, the access to the conservatory being the side-windows of these rooms, which open to the floor. There is also an external door to the conservatory on its east side.

Entering from the principal staircase there is a corridor containing the service-door of the dining-room and the doors of a W.C. and of the study. Shut off from the principal part of the house, by a door placed immediately beyond the study, there are the butler's pantry, the service-window of the kitchen, and the back-stairs. Under a portion of the back-stairs, and close to the way down to the cellars, a small space is divided off, by a glazed partition, as a storeroom; and close by this is the housekeeper's room. From the space where the backstairs are, there is a short passage in which is the kitchen- door. This passage leads, down four steps, into the one-story portion of the house. At the bottom of the steps is the place which serves the several purposes of a scullery, brewhouse, and bakehouse; whence is a door into the yard. This door has, close to it, a trapway to the cellars; and it is placed under a pent-roof that affords cover to an access to the wood- and coal-shed, to the place for ashes, and the servants' W.C, and to the external yard entrance. The pump is in the wood-shed. Another W.C. is placed so as to be accessible from the grounds of the house, but having its doorway properly screened off. Communicating with the passage of the offices, already mentioned, is one adjoining the scullery, affording access from the principal front of the building to the offices.

Attached to the kitchen is a cook's pantry lighted from the yard. The floor-level in that portion of the building which contains the kitchen, house- keeper's room, and back-stairs, is two steps lower than the floor of the principal part of the house. This arrangement, with diminished height in the several stories, allows of additional rooms, which there are, as attics. The ground-floor rooms in the principal part of the house are 11 ft. in the clear height: the kitchen, housekeeper's room, and the storeroom are 10 ft. 6 in.; and the scullery and out-buildings are 8 ft. 6 in. to the top of the walls, but have additional height within their roofs.

Basement - Considerable space had necessarily to be left below the ground- floor; but only a portion of the area occupied by the principal block of the house was required for cellarage. This portion is carried down somewhat deeper than the rest, and provides the storage for ale, beer, wine, and potatoes; and space for a larder and a dairy, as well as for the hot-water apparatus required for the conservatory. There are two ways of access to this basement, as already mentioned. The height of the cellarage, in the clear, is 7 feet.

Chamber Floor - The two chief bed-rooms are over the dining-room and drawing-room, and have each a dressing-room attached. One of the bed-room suites could be conveniently separated, by its passage, from the rest of the house. Each dressing-room has a fire-place. On this floor are a housemaid's closet, and a W.C. The clear heights in this story range from 12 feet, in the principal rooms, to 9 feet in the room over the housekeeper's sitting-room.

Attics - These are over the kitchen and the housekeeper's room. There are two bed-rooms, which are separated by a place for lumber. One bed-room is lighted by a small window in one of the gables, and the other by a dormer, which appears in the east elevation. The lumber-room, in which is one of the cisterns, is well lighted from the valley space between the back and front roofs. The window not only affords access to the gutter, but to a trap in the roof, through which access is obtained to the cistern that serves the W.C.s in the main block of the house. The height of the principal attic bed-room is 8 feet in the clear.

The general facing of the external walls is of red brick, the heads of openings, the window mullions and sills, and the arches and jambs, in the west front, are of dressed Caen stone; whilst in the other fronts, the heads and sills only are of stone. The gables have Caen-stone copings; and the plinth is of Yorkshire stone. The roof is covered with plain red tiles, with courses of ornamental tiles at intervals. The ridges are covered with ridge tiles; and the valleys (exclusive of the valley gutter in the middle) are laid with valley tiles. The bricks and tiles were procured in the neighbourhood. The valley-gutter, between the front and back roofs, is laid with lead, the water from it being conducted into the cistern over the W.C.s. The water from the eaves descends by pipes, outside the walls, and is stored in a tank which is not shown in our plans. The water for drinking is obtained from a well, where the pump is shown, it is pumped up to cisterns in the attics and roof; and from them it is laid-on, by lead pipes, to the different taps and sinks of the house. The house is well drained.

The timber employed for carpenter's work was Baltic fir, and for sills of window-frames, English oak; whilst Baltic deals and battens were used for joinery in general. Timber-partitions, where occurring, are framed and braced in the usual manner. The floors are all of single joisting, and laid with 1 inch yellow battens. The walls above bay-windows are carried by bressummers, 12 inches square, with solid abutment-pieces for the relieving-arches, spiked on the ends of them. The attic-windows have solid wood-frames, and wrought-iron opening casements. The windows of the principal chamber-floor also have solid frames; but they have 2 inch wood casements. On the ground-floor, the window-frames of the dining and drawing rooms are solid, and have casements of 2 inches thickness, those above the transoms being hung on centres. The other windows are like those of the floor above. The windows of the attics, the back-staircase, and the offices are glazed with diamond quarry-glass in lead lights; those of the principal staircase and the room over the porch with the best glass, in ornamental lead-lights. The dining- and drawing-room windows are glazed with British plate-glass, and the remainder have best thick crown-glass. The conservatory is glazed with horticultural glass.

The contract for the house, complete, amounted to ₤1900; but the total cost, including extras, came to a little over ₤2000. Whilst, however, this statement could not be taken as conclusive respecting the cost of a similar building now (all prices having risen materially since 1852), we should mention that the contractor always alleged that he had under-estimated the cost of this Rectory by ₤200.


The Leigh family certainly made the most of their spacious new rectory. The 1861 Census identifies the occupants at that time as...

The Rector, his wife, three children, one governess, two nurses, four domestic servants

When in 1893 the Revd Leigh retired as Rector, the Goldhanger and Lt. Totham benefice including the rectory, was purchased by the Revd. F T Gardner and his family. During the Revd. Gardner's 43 year tenure the rectory gardens were used for many social events such as this fete held in 1934 and reported in a local newspaper...

Although the Gardner family had purchased the rectory so was a private property, many postcards where produced during their time that showed scenes of the house and gardens, which further indicated that they were happy to see the house and gardens as more of a church and public facility...



The two oil paintings now in St Peters Church were hung in the rectory for many years during the Revd. Gardner's period in office. One of paintings hung in the Drawing room over fireplace and the other hung over the Dining room fireplace. The paintings were donated to the Church by the family after the Revd. Gardner's death in 1936.


In 1939 the Rectory was put up for sale...

A condition of the sale was that it could no longer be called The Rectory and as there was already an Old Rectory in the village another name was needed and it re-named Goldhanger House reflecting the grandeur of the building.

The house was occupied by the army during WW-2 at a time when the field behind it was use as a searchlight base. After the war in 1948 a new and much more modest rectory was built on a small piece of land in Church Street next to the Victorian rectory, and this was occupied by several rectors until 2001.

One of the early owners of Goldhanger House after the war was Sir Gilmour Jenkins who lived there in the 1950s and 60s. He was a senior civil servant who reached the level of Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport.

The house was later owned by the Richards family who used the coach house as an office and workshop for their Pan Signs business. In 1965 while working in the coach house Rivelin Richards invented and patented dry transfer lettering that became the commercially successful and well known Letraset. The coach house was later converted to a residential property and was sold separately from the main house.



Finally, there can be no doubt that the "New Rectory" had one the most impressive local views of the estuary, and it can no coincidence that it, St.Peters Church, and the Old Rectory remain the most notable village features when viewed from the Creek and the Estuary...

Did you know about...


Pumhouse Farm