The National Trust has owned Rainham Hall, an 18th-century merchant’s house, since the 1940s. But later this year it will open to the public for the first time
Extensive conservation work has been undertaken by Julian Harrap Architects and building firm Bakers of Danbury, while Studio Weave is in the process of producing a new visitor experience.
The hall is a remarkably fine example of a Queen Anne house, built in 1729 by an enterprising merchant and ship’s captain, John Harle. Unlike many historic houses, Rainham Hall has not been owned by multiple generations of one or a few families, but has been home to a huge diversity of residents, from an 18th-century Methodist preacher to a swinging ’60s society photographer.
To reflect this wide-reaching history, Studio Weave has proposed a changing exhibition and programme defined by a series of ‘inhabitants’. Each season a new inhabitant will move into the hall, bringing with them furniture, exhibits and a programme of thematically linked events and activities.
The first ‘inhabitant’ will be John Harle, the sea merchant who built the hall. His period includes a reimagining of Lloyd’s Coffee House, an immersive film installation exploring the perils of life at sea and a game played with coins from the 1700s through a scientist’s glove box.
The project also includes the conversion of a stable block into a café and flexible community space.
Maria Smith, founding director, Studio Weave
Date commenced June 2013
Completion due Autumn 2015
Cost £2.5 million
Location The Broadway