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Wood Hall

Wood Hall was built by the edge of Wymondham Common, standing back from the turnpike, the present Norwich Road, opposite the end of the lane to Ketteringham.

A sketch by B. S. Norgate dated 1825, of "Mr. Burton's House", captures the building as it would have looked when first built at the beginning of the seventeenth century. It was a lengthy, two-storied house of four bays with a full-height porch which may at one stage have been thatched. The chimney bay has an axial stack carrying four linked hexagonal shafts. Additions in the mid-nineteenth century, doubling the size, included an impressive crosswing to the left and domestic extensions at the rear.

The house, one time called Red House, was built in its varying stages entirely of red brick. Most of the visible bond is Flemish although there are signs of earlier work in English bond on the porch returns and the east gable. Brickwork at the rear is colourwashed. Roofs are in plain tiles facing approaching visitors. Pantiles are used on back slopes. Wood modillions are at the eaves cornices.

The principal facade of the seventeenth-century build has stepped gables. Windows have been replaced over time and are mixed. Three tripartite sashes are right of the porch and oriel casements either side. The dormer casement has pintle hinges. A pointed brick arch on the ground floor of the porch has a later casement above. The nineteenth-century crosswing, built forward and taller than the earlier house has a crowstepped south gable. Ground and first floor windows are recessed sashes in chamfered brick openings under square hoodmoulds. The attic opening is in Gothic style. The east gable has a Gothic bay-window with embattled parapets. An earlier opening above, with its pediment removed, has been blocked.

When viewed from the west, it can be seen that the crosswing gives the owner the option to make this the front of the house. To the left is a forward gable in Dutch style carrying a bay-window over both floors. A Venetian window lights the attic room. All other windows match those in the south gable. Inside the hall of the earlier house is an arcade of three arches which follow the path of a previous partition. There is stained glass in an oriel window and a massive oak door and case leads to the room with the Gothic bay. All these features are Victorian and integrate well with the neo-classical style of the crosswing interior. The staircase, rather basic for a house of this status, is set in a wide three-storey turret built at the rear and gives access to the upper floors. Above the turret is a cupola housing a bell, with a windvane over. The roof reveals some of its seventeenth-century construction, with clasped purlins, collars and windbraces. Carpenters' assembly-marks on some rafters leave a confused picture of the modifications or rebuilding that has taken place.

At the time of the Enclosure it was owned by Mr Burton and in 1841 was leased to a Mr. William Thorold. However, the vicar of Ketteringham, Rev. William Waite Andrew, at the age of 36, was desperately seeking somewhere for himself and his family to live after being evicted from Hethel Hall by Sir John Boileau. This is graphically described in Victorian Miniature by Owen Chadwick (1960). The Rev Andrew bought the property for the sum of 3600, in 1841, and immediately started to enlarge it. He was to live in it for forty-five years. He added an impressive crosswing to the west of the house with domestic extensions at the rear. He attempted "to conserve or even emphasise the rustic pedigree of the building".

Although William W. Andrew was vicar at Ketteringham, he had a strong association with Hethersett. At some stage he had a Mission Hall built at the back of the house and held services there for the young folk of the area. Sankey's hymns were popular at those meetings. At the end of 1879, he organised "an illustrated lecture on the Holy Land" given by his son-in-law, the right Rev. Dr Barclay, Bishop of Jerusalem. The Barclay family returned to Hethersett in 1880 but sadly, Rev. Barclay died the following year and his wife Lucy, with their seven children, came back to Wood Hall. She was taken ill four months after her husband died, and did not recover. The Hethersett parish newsletter records the sympathy shown by the village.

Andrew left Hethersett in 1886 with his wife Ellen,to live at Sawbridgeworth, a sick man. He died in 1889 and was buried at Ketteringham.

Wood Hall was occupied by a Mrs. Julia Anne Bullard in 1891, with her mother, her son and daughter, a cook, serving maid and two housemaids. Kelly's Directory of 1904 records that Wood Hall was the property of William H. K. Andrew Esq., so it could have been that Mrs. Bullard was a tenant. She was deeply involved with the life of the village and the church and was Parochial Secretary for the Waifs and Strays Society, asking for volunteers to take in children under seven years of age who were waifs or strays, at five shillings a week. She opened the grounds of the house to the public for horticultural exhibitions, for the Coronation festivities of 1902 for church events including Sunday School treats for the children and meetings of various societies.

An owner of the house in the 1930's was Geoffrey Nicholas Holmes, a shoe manufacturer. Mrs Holmes was treasurer of the Nursing Benefit Club after Miss Raikes of the Priory, from 1941-54. There were two sons. Peter followed his father into the shoe firm and John became a farmer.

The Wood Hall estate of Mr. Burton in 1841 extended from the turnpike to Mill Road but much of that land has now been developed. The area remaining belongs to the University of East Anglia and includes the house, now the residence of the Vice-Chancellor.

Owen Chadwick described the Rev. Andrew as having no interests outside his parish and no hobbies but gardening. The estate he purchased had gardens, an excellent orchard and ornamental plantations, along with a cottage for the gardener or bailiff, barn, stables, other buildings and arable and pasture land in total 49 acres. Of this, three acres were in the copyhold of the Manor of Hethersett Cromwells and two acres in Woodhall, the remainder being freehold. 

Today the grounds of Wood Hall consist of ornamental gardens, a vegetable garden with a glasshouse, a small orchard, an area of woodland, a meadow with landscaped trees and a wilderness/wetland area dominated by willows. There is an area of woodland to the north east of the property bordering Priory Close and Firs Road, which is home to a colony of noisy rooks.