For your British country home, how about one of Tudor England’s most important properties, which lies about 60 miles northeast of Central London and spans 46 acres of land with a moat, a swimming pool, and a rare, Grade II-listed tithe barn? Yes, please. Now, shut up and take our money! Which, by the way, would amount to about $8.5 million. Tithe barns aren’t cheap, folks! The property is listed with Tim Phillips and Stephen White at Savills.
So what is a tithe barn? “Tithe” means “tenth” and, theoretically, Christians are supposed to give — or tithe — one-tenth of their income to their local church. Back in the Middle Ages, actual money, coins, wasn’t often used and instead, local farmers would offer some of their crops to the church. Tithe barns are usually associated with the local church or rectory, or sometimes a monastery, as these barns were used to store the crops farmers brought as a tithe to support the local priests and monks. There are only about 200 tithe barns left in England, and the one on this property is older and graded as even more important than the main house.
Known as Stanstead Hall, the house is also quite important, not to mention spacious. The exterior is a beautiful brick, with Dutch gables and Tudor-style chimneys, and within its well-maintained 10,900 square feet are 12 bedrooms and 11 bathrooms, two kitchens, two enormous dining rooms, several sitting and drawing rooms, a home theater, and various other rooms for this and that. Outbuildings offer a further 17,300 square feet and include several barns and garages, and a stabling block. A pavilion by the pool includes a bar and a pizza oven (Tudors would have loved pizza, right?)
Numerous structures have stood on this site since Roman times, and the importance of the land is due to it near 1,000-year history of noble and royal ownership. The name comes from the Saxon word “Stansteda,” which means “stony place.” A castle is known to have once stood here and it’s likely stones from the castle were used to build earlier versions of the house.
Around 1100, the manor (or lordship) came to be owned by the Mountfitchet family, and in 1215, Baron Richard de Mountfitchet, along with other barons who were annoyed with King John, forced John to meet with them at Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta. The king was not amused, and sent his army to destroy Baron Richard’s Stanstead in 1216.
The estate passed by marriage to Sir John Bouchier by 1340. Bouchier’s son, Robert, obtained a license in 1340 to make the house at Stanstead a castle. That’s when the moat was built. The manor eventually passed, by marriage, to Sir William Parr, brother of Catherine Parr, the last queen of Henry VIII. Sir William Parr was made Earl of Essex in 1551 and then Marquess of Northampton, but he lost his lands for supporting Lady Jane Grey in her bid to become queen after Henry’s death. Mary I, aka Bloody Mary, seized the manor but, after her death, Queen Elizabeth restored ownership of Stanstead Hall to Parr. He sold it three days later. Unhappy memories, William?
After that, the history of the manor is fairly straightforward; it was purchased about 1923 by Arthur Findlay, who willed the estate to the Spiritualists’ National Union in 1964. Since then, the union has run Stanstead Hall as a retreat for studying “Spiritualist philosophy and religious practice, Spiritualist healing and awareness, spiritual and psychic unfolding and kindred disciplines.”
Got a mind to unfold some good old fashioned paper money for all that history? Go for it! Just don’t anger any kings or queens because they’ve been known to exact serious revenge.