History of King's Hill (HT)
King’s Hill is dated to roughly 1300AD, possibly earlier, making it contemporary with the Old House in South Street. It is interesting that the two oldest buildings in Rochford are both No. 17 in their respective streets.
Apart from limited amounts of mudstone found on beaches and glacial or fluvial gravel, there is no naturally occurring stone in Essex that can be quarried. Brick started to be used in the 14th century, but its use was very limited and it was expensive. By the 15th its quality had improved, but it was still very expensive and was only used in higher status houses until the 19th Century when its use became much more widespread due to mass production being introduced. Indeed two local brickworks were set up, one of which made Essex Reds, whose use was widespread.
However there was a large amount of timber readily available for construction and so in the past, the vast majority of buildings were timber framed. In earlier times the frames were filled in with wattle and daub panels. King’s Hill is such an example and is built on a timber frame with wattle and daub panels which have been rough rendered. It would have been a high status building when it was constructed.
The building is T shaped and has additional ranges to the north side of the building. Whilst dating from the 14thcentury, it has been altered and modified quite substantially over the years. The central red brick panelled chimney stack in the east range and the exterior stack to the south of the west range were probably added in the 16thor 17thcentury. Note the plaster rose high up on the eastern gable. There is a splayed scarf with undersquinted abutments on the north wall top plate and inside is a back to back inglenook fireplace.
In 1967 the Rochford Historical Society was formed and one of its first acts was to try and save King’s Hill which was under threat of demolition at the time. In 1969, Rochford Rural District Council bought it, placed a preservation order on it and listed it. The council then decided it had no historical or archaeological interest and withdrew the order. It was to be pulled down and replaced with a block of flats. Essex County Council were approached to see if it could be turned into a library or museum, but said it was unsuitable.
A campaign to save it was mounted and it was boarded up and remained empty until 1972. It was then sold to a private buyer. It has remained in private hands ever since. In 2016 it came up for sale and needed extensive renovations. It was bought and the new owners are lovingly doing the work, so hopefully this very special building will continue to survive.