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ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Walnut Tree House
Leyton's oldest surviving house, over 350 years old.
Location: 500 High Street, Leyton
Description: Essex Hall, formerly Walnut Tree House, is thought to be the oldest surviving building in Leyton today.
It is a structurally timber-framed building of two storeys, probably dating from the 16th century. Later alterations have obscured most of its ancient features but the first-floor jetties have survived at the front, along one side, and at a gable-end at the rear. The house appears to have been remodelled c. 1700 and again in the early 19th century, giving the long front facing Jesse Road and the two sides a largely Georgian appearance. Most of the sash windows and the wide central porch with Doric columns date from the early 19th century.
Also in the 19th century sheets of slate were screwed to the framing to give a flush surface externally. The house contains a late-16th-century stone fire-place with a frieze carved with arabesques and an early-18th-century staircase with twisted and turned balusters. A sundial in the garden formerly bore the date 1666.
In 1804, when Richard Oliver leased the house to Robert Smith, it was called Walnut Tree House, and in 1813 when J. T. Daubuz leased it to Joseph Cotton, previously an elder brother of Trinity House and father of William Cotton, preservation of the large walnut tree in the garden was stipulated. The 1804 lease provided that the house should not be used for a school, tavern, or factory, but it did indeed become a school about 1870. Since 1890 it has been let to the Leyton Constitutional (now Conservative) Club, and known as Essex Hall.
Benjamin Disraeli attended Dr Cogan's Academy here when it was a 'School for the Sons of Gentlemen', however he was expelled for fighting. By 1828 the school has closed following Dr Cogan's retirement.