Hall Place
Hall Place is a former stately home, today a Grade I listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument, beside the River Cray on the outskirts of Crayford, west of Bexleyheath and north-east of Old Bexley. It is in the London Borough of Bexley in south-east London. It is situated just off the A223, Bourne Road, south of Watling Street (A207) and north of the 'Black Prince' interchange of the A2 Rochester Way with the A220.

History

Early history
The house dates back to around 1540 when wealthy merchant Sir John Champneys, Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1534, used stone recycled from a nearby former monastery, Lesnes Abbey, to build himself a country house on a site where a manor house was recorded some 300 years earlier in 1241. Alterations to Champneys' house were made in 1560. In 1649, the house was sold to another wealthy City merchant, Sir Robert Austen (1587”“1666), who added a second wing built of red bricks, doubling the size of the house but without trying to harmonise the two halves built in highly contrasting architectural styles. He was created 1st Baronet Austen, of Hall Place in Bexley, on 10 July 1660 and briefly held the office of High Sheriff of Kent.

Dashwood tenants
The house remained in the Austen family until the mid 18th century when Robert Austen (1697”“1743), the 4th baronet (Sheriff of Kent in 1724 and MP for New Romney from April 1728 to 1734), died and the estate was eventually purchased (c. 1772) by his brother-in-law Sir Francis Dashwood, a member of the notorious Hellfire Club. It remained in the Dashwood family until 1926, but was used as a boarding school for much of the 19th century. In about 1870, Maitland Dashwood returned to Hall Place, restored the building and leased it to various tenants. These included, in the early 20th century, Lord Churston and his wife music hall singer and actress Denise Orme, and, from 1917, the Countess of Limerick. A major figure in early 20th century social society, Lady Limerick's social gatherings included the future King George VI.

Council ownership
Although the Municipal Borough of Bexley took ownership of the Hall Place house and grounds in 1935, Lady Limerick remained a tenant until her death in 1943, making alterations and beginning the house’s topiary garden of traditional heraldic figures, the Queen's Beasts " later completed and made open to the public by the Council to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. The house was used as an American army communications centre in World War II (intercepting German signals for later decoding at Bletchley Park). Post-war, after again being used as an annex to the local technical school for girls, the building was restored in 1968 to became the headquarters of Bexley’s Libraries and Museums service, until 1995.

Today
The building still houses a museum of local artefacts, and a history and tourist information centre. The estate's Jacobean Barn is now used as a public house and restaurant with bars in the Mill House. Set within 63 hectares of parkland and Grade II* gardens, the estate is now managed by Bexley Heritage Trust, a non-profit-making charity established to develop the house and grounds (the Trust is also responsible for Danson House, west of Bexleyheath). In the gardens, there is a topiary lawn, herb garden, tropical garden and long herbaceous cottage garden styled borders, overspilling with colour in the summer months. The former walled gardens has a plant nursery with a tropical plant house where you can see tropical plants such as bananas growing and a large vegetable garden.There are also model gardens , inspiring and showing visitors how to make use of space in tiny urban gardens situations. The gardens are looked after by a team of seven full-time gardeners and a team of dedicated volunteers Hall Place also has three galleries inside the house ,presenting art exhibitions and museum displays. Hall Place House has recently undergone interior restoration and construction of a new riverside cafe and visitor/education centre adjacent to the stable block by the river. The £2 million restoration was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Hall Place playing fields are home of Old St Marys F.C.