Standing alone, used and almost frozen in time except for the growing foliage all around stands Grade II listed Sutton Manor. Built in 1681 of red brick and is surrounded by a red brick wall and gate. The interior has wooden panelling. An oak staircase with a dining room, servant quarters and around 9 bedrooms.
The land was owned by Daniel Finch (2nd Earl of Nottingham) but the house itself was most likely built by Francis Maidstone (a dealer in woollen textiles). He may have demolished a previous house standing on site. Maidstone declared bankruptcy in 1694 and the house passed to Robert Bristow. A weathervane remains today with the date of 1681 and the initials F.M.R (possibly Francis Maidstone, the R being his wife Rebecca).
It was home to the Knapping family for three generations, starting with John Knapping, a lawyer who took out the lease on Suttons. The lease would pass to his son Christopher and then to his son Dale, who was able to buy Suttons outright.
Dale Knapping was a man who made his fortune from the rapid growth in brickworks in the area during the mid 19th century. A self-made man, he knew what side his bread was buttered and would give back to society where he could, including funding the construction of the first school of the parish in 1863. When the school was too small for the number of children attending a new one was built and Knapping gave the building to the church – St Peters Church in Hinguar Street. Knapping would hold the title of Justice of the Peace.
The land along with the house was acquired by the Ministry of Defence in 1890 as part of the construction of a new firing range in the area. The house had a new role of being the range master’s office. Many of the outbuildings became gun sheds and stores. During WW2 and for a short time after the house was separated into flats for single officers in the army. It has remained empty for many years now and due to it being on MOD land it is difficult for new life to be brought to the house due to the restrictions.
Sutton Manor is on Historic England Heritage at RIsk register and is currently one of two on the list in the Southend area. The register identifies those sites that are most at risk of being lost as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development. Sutton is classed as category A where there is an immediate risk of further rapid deterioration or loss of fabric. Due to its location, future plans for the site are limited, however, in researching the manor it seems that the Temples Trust may be showing an interest in the site.
Yearsley, I (2016) Southend in 50 Buildings. Amberly Publishing; London
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