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Our Story

Houchins' History

It is recorded that people have lived on the site of Houchins for at least 700 years. For most of that time it has been home to a succession of yeoman farmers, wool merchants and other trading families. As such its fortunes and general state of repair have ebbed and flowed in-line with rural economy for the past four hundred years.

Houchins wedding venue house in Essex

Its unusual design, especially considering its location in the flat lands of north-Essex, make it unique. Appearing like an upside down bee-hive the new part of the house was built between 1623-28 for a Flemish wool merchant who wanted to store his wool in the top two stories of the house. He chose to construct the wooden frame of the house from elm rather than the more typical oak that was so prevalent in Sixteenth century East Anglian houses.

By the time of the English Civil War in the 1640’s Houchins Farm was part of the Marks Hall Estate, then owned by the prominent Parliamentarian soldier, Sir Thomas Honywood. It is at this time that the farm has its first brush with history. It is alleged that in 1648, during the Siege of Colchester Houchins was a key staging post/HQ for Parliament troops plotting to defeat the King’s troops in Colchester. As such it has always been rumoured that Oliver Cromwell stayed here whilst fighting on the Parliamentary side – whilst hard to verify these long standing rumours seem plausible.

After the Civil War ownership remained with the Honywell family for the best part of three centuries. On the break-up of the Marks Hall estate in 1897 Houchins was let out to various short-term tenants. It was during this period of the house’s history that it had its closest brush with early modern day celebrity. For a short time during the late 1920’s the house was rented by Tallulah Bankhead, the infamous bi-sexual actress and later Hollywood star. She chose to retire to Houchins when her reputation for various shenanigans in London grew so hot she thought it sensible to ‘retreat to the Essex countryside’. Shortly afterwards she returned to America where she had a long and distinguished show business career. One can only speculate about what might have gone on at Houchins during the roaring Twenties!

In 1954, Houchins was acquired by my grandfather. My father successfully combined working the farming with a successful career in politics. I was brought up here with my sister, and my parents moved out of the house in 1992. For the next eighteen years it had a succession of tenants. In 2010 I decided to fully refurbish the farmhouse and then in 2014 we converted the old grain store into the purpose built wedding venue.

Adam Dixon-Smith, November 2023.

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