Kirby Hall is one of England's greatest Elizabethan houses. Built of the local Weldon stone, work began in 1570 by Sir Humphrey Stafford who died before completion. The house was bought by and completed in 1575 by Sir Christopher Hatton, Queen Elizabeth's Lord Chancellor. During the 200 years of the Hatton ownership, the house and gardens were modified and extended until, during the 18th century, financial hardship caught up with the descendants. It remained in the family until 1764, when it passed to Edward Finch-Hatton.
The high cost of maintenance and improvements became unbearable and Kirby Hall's importance began to decline. By the middle of the 19th century this imposing property was deserted, neglected and torn apart in order to pay off a substantial gambling debt. The Finch-Hattons have retained this ancestral family seat and is still the home of the Earl of Winchilsea. The Office of Works became guardian of the property in 1930, and English Heritage have been the custodians since 1984. They halted the decay and restored much of the existing original decor.
Although partly roofless, most of its walls survive to their full impressive height: as does the three-tier inner porch. Sir Christopher Hatton the Fourth added the cutwork ornamental gardens (described as 'ye finest garden in England') in the late 17th century.
The west front and the great
Elizabethan bay windows from the garden