Built between 1711 and 1714, this elegant brick villa was commissioned by east London brewer Henry Raine as a rural retreat from his brewery in Wapping.
The area around the Star Brewery at Wapping, where Raine lived and worked was dirty and overcrowded so it is perhaps no surprise that he wanted to build himself a house outside London.
Henry Raine chose to build his house in Woodford Row, Essex as it was an easy horse or carriage ride away from Wapping. The air was clean and the water from the Woodford Wells was safe to drink. Woodford Row was on the well-travelled road which lead from Aldgate in East London to the horse racing town of Newmarket in Suffolk. At the time Hurst House was built, the area was attracting bankers, merchants and a number of adventurous businessmen who raised money from investors and had ships built to travel to India and China. They formed the East India Company and traded goods such as cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt and tea around the world. One of the local East India Men, Robert Preston, owned two ships named ‘Woodford’.
A large number of substantial brick built villas and mansions was constructed along Woodford Row during the 18th century. Some of them are still standing today, most notably Highams, which is now Woodford County High School. Its garden was designed by Humphrey Repton and is now Highams Park.
We know from the advertisements of 1811 that Hurst House had a garden of three acres with a large pond for the breeding of fish. The boundary of the three acre garden can be seen in a county map of 1863.
Hurst House was subsequently divided into two dwellings and the large 19th century Woodford House was built adjoining the north side replacing the north wing and stables. A county map of 1939 shows how the garden of Hurst House reduced to one acre for the building of 18 houses on Wensley Avenue, Broomhill Walk and the north side of Forest approach.
An advertisement from 1811 in The Times describes the house as:
‘An elegant family residence with coach houses and capital stabling standing on three acres of ground with choice fruit trees, grapery, greenhouse and melon ground. It is situated in the rural village of Woodford, distant from London 8 miles. The house commands rich and delightful prospects of the surrounding country.’
Another advertisement from The Times in 1813 gives us the old name of the house and describes the house as being ‘situated in that highly respectable neighbourhood and admired spot, Woodford-row, known as The Naked Beauty’.
The name ‘The Naked Beauty’ probably originated from the fact that the land Henry Raine built on was originally part of the Naked Beauty Estate. The naturalist Richard Warner, who lived at nearby Harts House, also referred to the house as ‘The Naked Beauty’ in his 1771 publication of Plantae Woodfordiensis.
Henry Raine lived at Hurst House from 1714 until his death in 1738. Following this, Hurst House was lived in by wealthy city merchants until the late 19th century when it became Woodford House School. Before the First World War, the villa became a private residence again and later suffered a fire in 1936 which required the roof and upper stories to be rebuilt.
Hurst House is currently privately owned by the Munday family, and is listed by English Heritage as Grade II*.