Tudor treasure restored with £5.5 million

PUBLISHED: 11:30 09 April 2009 | UPDATED: 16:30 25 August 2010

A TUDOR house has re-opened after a £5.5 million make-over.

A TUDOR house has re-opened after a £5.5 million make-over.

Grade I listed Hall Place in Bexley was re-opened last Friday after restoration and development work began in October 2007.

The grounds now boast a new visitor centre, contemporary art gallery, a riverside café, education space and a shop.

The boiler room, toilets and staff offices have been moved from the house to the stable block, meaning more of the historic house is open to the public.

The Tudor parlour, panelling and plaster ceilings have been lovingly restored while an introductory gallery tells the story of the house's history.

It was built in 1537 by wealthy leather merchant Sir John Champneys who was Lord Mayor of London in 1934.

The Stuart addition was added by Sir Robert Austen a century later. He was appointed by Charles II as the High Sheriff of Kent, who made him a Baronet in 1660.

The two halves of the house are very different - one a flint and rubble masonry hall house for communal living and the other a brick built courtyard house with rooms and corridors for more private quarters.

Until work began the vast majority of Bexley's museum collection of more than 50,000 objects was in storage, much of it in the house's attics. It is now displayed in new airy exhibition galleries on the first floor.

Three permanent galleries highlight the treasures from the earliest times, the Victorian era and WWII.

A new chequered courtyard to the north of the house will host open air performances and receptions, while the central courtyard of the Stuart addition has been opened.

The external building has been restored and repaired under English Heritage's watchful eye.

Furniture bought by the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich from the house's last private owner has been transferred by museum bosses back to Hall Place.

Other period pieces have been loaned by Sussex Past and the National Trust.

Chairman of Bexley Heritage Trust Bill Roots said: "This has long been our aim, and the trustees are thrilled to see their vision realised.

"We look forward to making the most of Hall Place as a venue for education for children and adults, exhibitions and events."

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