The story of Barton Hall is closely intertwined with the history of Barton Bendish itself and the two prominent families that dominate that history – The Lovells and Berneys.
While both families played a prominent role in the Barton Hall you see today, the story of this historic building starts far earlier than either family’s arrival from Normandy.
The foundation for today’s Barton Hall was laid (figuratively) in the Stone Age, when the early Saxon settlement of “Ber-tun Ben-dych” was founded near the Fen Causeway, one of the earliest Roman roads on the British continent. Bertun Bendych (meaning outlying town beside the dyke) was strategically located near the Devil’s Dyke earthwork, built by the Saxons as a defense against marauding Danes.
The earliest recorded landowner was a Saxon Thane named Thorketel, who ceded his landholdings to William Hermer de Ferrers sometime in the 11th century. The descendants of Hermer de Ferrers later adopted the surname “De Bendishe” which evolved into the Bendish name we recognise today.
Upon returning from the Crusades, Knight Thomas Lovell married a daughter of John De Bendishe and inherited the lands we today recognise as Barton Bendish. Sir Thomas is credited with building the first manor house, complete with moat, in the early 1200s. This original manor was built just south of the current Barton Hall.
The Lovell family went on to construct nine additional “manors” (one of which became Barton Hall) over the ensuing three centuries. But manors were not the only enduring legacy to remain from the Lovell era. In the early 1500s, Anne Lovell – wife of Francis, a squire to Henry VIII – sat for an oil painting by German artist Hans Holbein the Younger. “A Lady with a Squirrel and a Starling” went on to become one of Holbein’s most famous works, and currently hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.
Shortly after Anne Lovell sat for her famous portrait, the fortunes of the Lovell-Bendish families changed. In the late 1500s, circumstances forced the Lovell descendants to sell most of their land holdings, including Barton Hall. In the mid-1600s, Sir Richard Berney acquired Barton Hall, which stayed in the Berney family until finally being sold at the start of the 21st century.