Hurst House, Woodford, was built under the reign of Queen Anne in 1714 in the English Baroque Style imported from the Continent by Sir Christopher Wren. Commissioned by east London brewer, Mr Henry Raine, it is likely that Hurst House was designed by renowned architect Nicholas Hawskmoor.
Over its lifetime, the house has evolved through different uses and has consequently undergone a number of modifications to its original form, most significantly in response to a fire in 1936.
Unfortunately no evidence remains of the original front elevation. The above drawing by Rupert Munday, architect, which shows how he imagines the front elevation of Hurst House would have looked originally. While it is not known how the front of the side wings would have looked, the architect has taken reference from other buildings by Nicholas Hawksmoor and the 1723 engraving of the rear (shown at the bottom of this page).
The original house, built in 1723, is six bays wide with giant order fluted Corinthian pilasters which stretch from ground level right up to the parapet. Soon after its construction, the house was enlarged by adding wings on either side, to join up the stables and outbuildings.
Hurst House was used as a school called Woodford House. Following this, the house was divided into two separate residences; Woodford House and Hurst House. The latter retained the larger portion of the central staircase and hall. Externally, the façade remained generally in tact. More can be read about the different uses of Hurst House in the ‘History’ section of this website.
Corinthian pillars symbolise beauty in architectural terms and have capitals composed of scrolling acanthus leaves. Spaced along the top of the parapet are four vases nearly two metres high. These are ringed with masks to ward off evil spirits although they resemble spaniels more than the traditional lion dog. Each vase is topped with a ball with a dove perching on the top. Doves are symbolic of peace.
The entrance door forms the primary external feature of the house. Over the doorway is a large segmental pediment made of solid wood and carved in the style of Grinling Gibbons to depict hops and barley alluding to the brewing profession of its owner Henry Raine.
Hurst House was originally constructed of red brick (as shown in the rear view below). The front elevation was rendered over during the 18th century according to the fashion at the time.
The south wing (to the left) lost its top storey during the 1936 fire which broke out in a maid’s bedroom, which also destroyed the roof and top storey of the main house. The Victorian north wing (to the right) was rebuilt after Woodford House was demolished but is now smaller and lower than the original had been. The stables have gone altogether but the Doric columns which used to stand in front of them have been used in the garden buildings.
This 1723 engraving of the rear elevation shows the symmetrical three storey wings to either side of the main central section and the stable block and carriage house to the south and north.
Fore more images, please refer to the ‘Gallery’ section of this website.