The Danbury Society - Danbury Palace Page

Danbury Palace
Danbury Palace - photograph taken in 2004.

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The History of Danbury Palace.

In 1419 William Parr sold St Clere's to Sir Walter Mildmay.

The Mildmays built a house in the Deer Park between 1560 and 1589 and called it Danbury Place.   During the Civil War the house was still owned by the Mildmays but in 1750 Thomas Ffytch, Grandson of Mrs John Mildmay took it over.

Danbury Palace
Danbury Place in 1756.   Well Lane still has the kink in it, but to a lesser degree - 1970.

A map of 1756 of Essex shows Danbury Place well marked and on the outskirts of Danbury itself.

A Yorkshire man, William Hillary married Essex-born heiress Frances Elizabeth Disney Ffytche (or Fytche) on 21 February 1800.   She was the only Daughter and heir of William Ffytche, esq, Governor of Bengal and heir to her Uncle, Thomas Ffytche.   In the same year, their twins were born, a Son, Augustus William Hillary (later Sir) (died 30 December 1854)] and a Daughter, Elizabeth Mary (died 19 November 1853).  
In 1801, Mr Disney Ffytche's sold his life interest in Danbury Place to William Hillary.

Williams Hillary's Quaker religious background did not meet with the approval of his wife's father, but he managed to spent his wife’s inheritance (some £20,000 in 1805!) on creating England’s largest private army, put at the service of King George III against Napoleon’s threatened invasion, 1803 to 1805.
During this time his men dug the Napelonic Redoubts in Woodhill Road, Danbury and on Galleywood Common.

Danbury Palace Danbury Palace
National Trust sign (left) and the actual earthworks of the Redoubt.

It was for raising the private Army that he received his Baronetcy in 1805 from Charles III.
The potential invasion of England receeded with the Battle of Trafalgar, 21st October 1805.

Previous to his marriage to Frances he had spent two years as an Equerry to Prince Augustus Frederick, the young Son of George III.   His duties included sailing with the Prince in the Mediterranean, where William Hillary learned his basic seamanship and navigation skills.

Sir William Hillary moved to the Isle of Man in 1808, leaving his Wife Frances at Danbury Place to stave off his creditors.   It appears that in 1813 he bigamously married a local Manx woman, Emma Tobin and had one Son.

With his sea training he realized that lives could be saved at sea if a “life boat” could be employed – he personally saved many hundreds and on the 4th March 1824 created the “National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck” – 30 years later to be renamed the RNLI.
He died in the IOM on 5 January 1847.   A Thanksgiving Service is held in Douglas in January every year in his honour and a statute of him has been erected at Douglas Head.

The house began to fall into decay and soon after his first Wife's death on 2 August 1828 it was bought by Mr John Round, MP for Maldon.   John Round commissioned the Architect Thomas Hopper to build the new Danbury Place a couple of hundred feet from the old building, the foundations can just be seen in the grass.

Susan, his Wife had a fear of dying in a fire so a stone staircase was built into the centre of the house.   She did die in a fire while retrieving a valuable bracelet from the Raggetts Hotel, Dover Street, London.   It was estimated the jewellery lost was valued at some £3,000 – a lot of money in those days.
Her grave stone in Danbury Churchyards reads:-
"Sacred to the Memory of Susan Constantin Round, beloved wife of John Round Esq., of Danbury Park who perished in the awful conflagration at Raggetts Hotel, Dover Street, London on the morning of 27th May, 1845 in the 56th year of her age. Sincerely and affectionately regretted".

Soon after, in 1845 John Round sold the house to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners as a home for Dr Murray, the Bishop of Rochester when it then became known as Danbury Palace.

Danbury Palace
Danbury Palace in 1860.

When St Albans Church became a Cathedral in 1877, the Palace was transferred to the Bishop of St Albans who built the Chapel.  It was occupied by Thomas Legh Claughton (1808-1892) who was the Bishop of St Albans from 1877 - 1890.

Danbury Palace

On the death of Bishop Claughton in 1892 the Palace was sold to Seth Taylor of Putney when it was described in a sales catalogue as "charming and picture with 3 separate staircases, 26 bedrooms and central heating!"
Seth sold it on in 1899 to Hugh Hoare who cut down 492 Oak Trees and sold it then to the Hon Alwyn Greville in 1903.

Danbury Palace
The Village Fete - 1909.

In 1919 it was bought by General & Mrs Wigan when it was also called Danbury Park as it contained what is now referred to as "The Lakes".   In 1922 the Chapel was in a poor state and to enable the restoration work to be undertaken it was partially stripped of its fittings & furniture.   A number of items were given to Danbury Church including the second of two 17th Century Flemish Oak chairs (the first also being presented by Mrs Claughton), which are now in the Chancellery.

During the War the Palace was used as a Maternity Hospital.

The Wigans sold it in 1946 for possibly £38,000 to Essex County Council and it was used as a Civil Defence Training Centre.
The Wigans then moved to Bolney in Sussex where the General died in 1953.   Mrs Wigan died in 1973.

Danbury Palace
The Front Door - Crest.

The Coat of Arms above the door is inscribed with

FURTH, FORTUNE AND FILL THE FETTERS which translate to 'Go onward with fortune and fill the shackles' (leg irons) or putting it another way Go forth against your enemies .

It comes from Scotland and the 16th Century Murray families.

In 1969 Mid Essex Technical College took over.

In 1989 Danbury Park Conference Centre was formed and it was opened for Weddings Receptions etc. Many Danbury functions were held there - the standard was high.

More recently it was renamed and run by Anglian University but in 2004 they now have their purpose built accommodation in the centre of Chelmsford - making The Palace redundant.

Proposal for Reuse

Danbury Palace is Listed and is waiting for development for it to be turned into Apartments.   It is hoped the wood Panelling will be kept and the house remain as it is on the outside.   It is also hoped that The Palace grounds will be open to the public from time to time & that its history will not be forgotten.

Danbury Park & The Lakes are run by Essex County Council.

John Bowen.

History screen

History screen at the exhibition.

After almost ten years of planning proposals, abandonment and dereliction, the saga of Danbury Palace moved forward at last on 8th May 2014 when the City Council approved application 13/00816/FUL.   By this time the Palace and grounds were owned by Wilson Properties, a Hertfordshire company.   Wilson had submitted their plans in June 2013 but the local Council took 11 months to deliberate on the proposals.   The authorities wanted an Architectural Assessment, a Transport Assessment, a Habitat Survey, an Herpetofauna Survey, Bat Survey, Winter Bat Survey, Tree Survey, Bird Survey, Heritage Statement, Arboricultutal Impact Assessment and an Ecological Assessment.

This is what the application is for.
"Conversion of Grade II listed Palace into 12no. two bedroom apartments and 1no. one bedroom apartment.
Single storey side extension to Palace.
Demolition of 1970's Coach House wing.
Conversion and extension of Coach House to form 3no. three bedroom houses and 3no. two bedroom houses.
Demolition of Conference Centre.
Erection of 25no. four bedroom terraced and semi-detached houses and 1no. four bedroom detached house.
Restoration of listed garden and grounds.
Associated car parking, cycle and bin storage, and landscaping.

All that at Danbury Palace, Main Road, Danbury, Chelmsford, CM3 4AT.

Because there are no Affordable Homes in the plans, the developers must make payments called 'Section 106 requirements'.
In the case of Danbury Palace Wilson must pay in instalments: £425,000 in lieu of affordable housing, £71,000 as education contribution, £28,000 for open space purposes (most of that earmarked for Dawson Field), an unspecified bond for Highways Dept work (bus shelters, pedestrian crossing and mods to the entrance), £2,000 monitoring and compliance fee, an amount for a permissive footpath suitable for disabled to use, 'sustainable travel information' packs for every new resident and hiring of a landscape management co-ordinator.

The new homes are ready for occupation in 2016.

September 2016

View as you approach the Palace from the A414, September 2016.
Photographs by John Bowen and kind permission of Chase New Homes.

September 2016

The view as you approach the Palace.

September 2016

A view of Chelmsford from the front door of the Palace.   The foundations of the old Danbury Place can just be seen in the grass due to the dry weather.

September 2016

Moving to to the left one can see the nice pointing which has been carried out to the entire building.   This gives access to the rear.

September 2016

Rear with the Chapel in the centre of the picture.   The two tall Leylandii trees have gone.

September 2016

Nice tidy garden behind the Palace.

September 2016

Rear of the Palace.

September 2016

Close-up of the right hand end of the Palace.

September 2016

The Chapel apartment.   The two tall Leylandii trees have gone.

September 2016

New build which replaced the University Student accommodation building.

September 2016

Looking to the left from the photograph above.

September 2016

More houses going towards The Lakes.

September 2016

The Coach-house and the 3 new Mews houses to the right.

September 2016

Front right looking at the rear of the Chapel.

It was nice to view Danbury Palace and to see the care that had been taken to repair the damage which had been inflicted on it during the period from when the University left it in 2004.

It is felt the vehicular access from and onto the A414 needs attention before there is a dreadful crash due to the general excessive speed and lack of visibility to the entrance.

Thanks to Mathew of Chase New Homes for arranging access to the gated Palace.

The Danbury Society feels that The Palace Gardens should be "open" to the public at least once per year.

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©Copyright Danbury Society, 2016
Last revised:- 7th September 2016