History

A place where the mysteries of the medieval era mingle with the spirit of modern times

Hales Hall & The Great Barn were built in 1478 by Sir James Hobart, the Attorney General to Henry VII. He acquired the estate from Sir Roger de Hales whose daughter married the Duke of Norfolk. Sir James created a unique triple-moated complex with defensive walls and a massive hall, barn, gatehouse and cottages.

The 178ft Great Barn is the largest surviving Tudor brick barn in Britain and features a superb example of a ‘queen-post’ roof. The timbers have been recently dated back to the 14th century. There are 180 loophole windows used for defending the estate.

Sir James also paid for the construction of nearby Loddon church, funded the repairs to the nave roof of Norwich Cathedral after a fire and helped compile the Statutes of Henry VII, the last book printed by William Caxton. His youngest son Myles founded the line that built the magnificent Blickling Hall also in Norfolk (one of the National Trust’s finest properties), while the eldest son, Walter, remained a staunch Catholic and faced huge fines as a recusant.  By 1647 the family’s great fortune had run out and Hales was acquired by Dionysia, Lady Williamson, a descendant of the de Hales family. 

The great historian and documenter of England’s finest buildings, Nicholas Pevsner, mentioned Hales Hall & The Great Barn when he visited in the 60s. The Hall and Great Barn had long since fallen into agricultural use when the Read family purchased it in 1971 and dedicated the next 30 years to restoring it. More recently the restoration was painstaking completed by an interior design duo who won an award for their work from the Protection for Royal England. In 2017 the Johnston family from Norfolk – who can trace their ancestors back to this corner of the country at the time that Hales Hall was built – acquired the property and continue the work to breath new life into this medieval masterpiece.

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