Creeksea Place – a forgotten Tudor Mansion

As wedding fair season approaches this month’s post is on Creeksea Place, a wedding venue in Essex. 


I visited Creeksea Place 11 miles south-east of Maldon back in the summer. Owned by the Bertorelli Family, it has been a wedding venue since 2000. It started life as a Tudor Mansion and over the centuries has been a residential home, farmhouse, school and military base.

It is believed the current house dates from around 1569 and likely to have been built for Sir Arthur Harris and his new wife Dorothy to live in. In the National Archives the record of the death of William Harris, father of Arthur, refers to ‘the New House’. The Harris (Herrys) family held various residences around Essex, including Southminster, Rochford (a tenement ‘Stebyns’) and the ‘Great House’ in Prittlewell, (believed to have located along Marine parade). Arthur’s grandfather and grandmother are buried at Prittlewell Church. William Harris is buried in all Saints, Maldon.

Like his father, Arthur was High Sheriff of Essex (1589), a Justice of the Peace and one of the commanders appointed to enquire into the piratical practices along the Essex coast in 1577. He and his second wife are buried at St Marys Church, Burnham on Crouch. During Arthur’s time at Creeksea Place, the layout consisted of three buildings which surrounded a courtyard as was the trend of the time. The ‘fine Tudor house,’ included 43 acres of land which had a woodland well stocked with deer.

On Arthurs death, Creeksea Place passed to his son, William, who was knighted by King James I in 1603 for his military service in the nine-year war in Ireland. He married Alice Smythe, and along with her brother, used their influence to secure money, men, equipment, supplies and ships for the colonisation efforts in America under the Virginia Company. He died in 1616 and is buried nearby in all Saints Church

Inheriting Creeksea in 1632, Cranmer Harris had been born at the house. He and his family would reside at Creeksea. He was knighted by King Charles I at Greenwich on June 21, 1629. On Crammer’s death, Creeksea passed to his daughter Martha and her husband Charles Mildmay, Esquire (son of Sir Henry Mildmay, one of the regicides of King Charles I.) Their main home was located at Woodham Mortimer.

Many properties were owned by the gentry but not nesccrialiy lived in there and were rented out. This was the case with Creeksea from 1740 where it was leased to the baker family, who lived there until 1877. In the Essex Records office documents relating to the baker’s tenancy include the will of William Baker a copy of their family tree [ERO D/DM T146, ERO D/ABW 117/2/72].

In 1848 we John smith and his wife Sarah were residing at Creeksea with the Bakers (White’s directory). The census records shed further light on the bakers:

“John and Sarah Smith were still living at Creeksea Place in 1851…, along with William Baker (aged 34), Edward Rush (aged 44), Jane Baker (aged 32) and Maria Brown (aged 15). Jane Baker was James Baker’s daughter and was born at Creeksea Place in June 1818. The 1861 census indicates that the unmarried Jane Baker, then aged 42, was farming 345 acres and classed as the head of the household with Sarah Cocksell (aged 61) acting as a servant and William Cocksell (aged 68) acting as stockman. Jane Baker died in 1865…”

Around 1740, before the Bakers tenancy, the whole south wing and a number of walls which enclosed the gardens were dismantled. Much of what survives today is the work of William Rome, who initially rented the house and then brought it transformed some of the grounds into ornamental gardens. The two remaining ‘Elizabethan’ wings would now be approached by two carriage ways and avenues of trees. Inside the house there was an entrance hall, bedrooms with dressing rooms, a central hall, dining room, servant bedrooms, drawing room, toilets, morning room, offices, and a billiard room – all one expects to find in a great Victorian house.

Some of the oldest surviving parts today include an original lead rainwater head with the year of 1569 moulded into it. Other surviving features include an oak door frame, two fireplaces on the first floor, windows and some beautiful octagonal chimney stacks. Part of the surviving kitchen wall may be one of the oldest of its kind to survive in Essex.



During WW2 the area of Burnham and Creeksea was used by the armed forces and was codenamed HMS Matthew. around 700 men from the Navy were based at Creeksea place and used the river crouch as training (in full kit in the river!) for a mission to capture general Rommel. The base was officially closed 7th December 1945.

After the war Creeksea was brought by Luigi Bertorelli, the family own it still. He planned to open Creeksea Place as a country club but the ravages of time and destruction from the soldiers meant there was a lot of work to do. Work was slowly undertaken to improve the site and the Bertorelli’s themselves would use the house as their summer holiday home. Some of the land was transformed into a residential caravan site to generate income for the upkeep of the house. In 2000 Creeksea Place and Gardens became a wedding venue to generate more income to maintain the house and gardens to keep it alive for future generations.

At various times of the year there are open garden events, which, if you can, I urge you to go. The gardens currently cover 36 acres and include an orchard, lakes and a walled garden. Each area has its own unique and magical appeal of which I personally have not felt at many other places. maybe it is due to Creeksea being an exclusive wedding venue and nothing else. I can say that this blogger may have found her future wedding venue should the event occur!

For more information on Creeksea as a venue head to https://www.creekseaplace.co.uk/ where one of the friendly events team will happily assist you.

Interior of Creeksea Place. (Laura Adkins)

Sources:

Kennedy, N (2012) A History of Creeksea Place. Blurb Printing

Anon (nd) World War Two in the Dengie Hundred. Available from: http://www.essex-family-history.co.uk/ [Accessed 02/02/21]

Anon (2021) History. Available from: https://www.creekseaplace.co.uk/history/ [Accessed 02/02/21]

Brice, S and Leach, M (nd) Creeksea Place (pdf) Available from: http://www.essexgardenstrust.org.uk/inventories [Accessed 23/1/21]

British History Online (1932) ‘Creeksea’, in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in Essex, Volume 4, Southeast (London, 1923), pp. 28-29. British History Online Available from: https://www.british-history.ac.uk/rchme/essex/vol4/pp28-29 [Accessed 02/02/21]

Harris, R. E. (1994) From Essex England to the Sunny Southern USA. Available from http://www.ncgenweb.us/ncwarren/harris-book [Accessed 02/02/21]

Morton Partnership (2019) Design and access statement for re-roofing to Creeksea Place, ferry road, burnham-on-crouch. Available from: https://cdp.maldon.gov.uk/civica/Resource/Civica/Handler.ashx/Doc/pagestream?cd=inline&pdf=true&docno=1656410 [Accessed 25/1/21]

Robertson, J (nd) Some aspects of local life. Available from: http://freepages.rootsweb.com/~harrisessex/genealogy/more_sources.html [accessed 02/02/21]

Thrush, A (2010) Herrys, Sir Arthur. Available from: http://www.historyofparliamentonline.org/volume/1604-1629/member/herrys-sir-arthur-1587-1632 [Accessed 02/02/21]

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