Greys Hall, Possibly Inspired Disney in 101 ways

The Story

The elegant three storey house has a wealth of period appeal both inside and out, as well as connections to one of the best known British children’s storybooks

Strolling up the tree-lined driveway towards exquisite Greys Hall, visitors sometimes have a sense of having seen it before. The Grade II* Listed house has a fascinating history, which includes having possibly been the inspiration for a notable building in One Hundred and One Dalmatians. It was built by the vicar of Sible Hedingham between 1690 and 1714 and would have originally been a Queen Anne house, said the current owner, who has lived there for more than nine years. More recently, the writer Dodie Smith lived nearby and it is said that this house could have been the inspiration for Cruella de Vil’s home – certainly an illustration in the first edition of the book looks very like it. Local folklore has it that a team from Disney came out to look at the house while working on the original 1960s’ cartoon film. Certainly, said the owner, there are scenes in the movie that remind him of his home. But, he added: It is the extreme beauty of the building that we love – the high ceilings, the symmetry of the rooms and the splendour.


Indeed, it was the proliferation of original features that first drew them to impressive house. The original oak staircase is still here, for example, he said. There are also shutters and working fireplaces throughout, high ceilings and attractive windows. If you stand on the half landing, and look down through the enormous window, you can see out on to a beautiful view. The house has been built to make the most of its quiet, beautiful setting. On the top floor we have a terrace and from there, in particular, we have a fabulous view – it captures the whole panorama of the area, he added. The property borders on to a 14th century church that will never be built on, so it feels very quiet.


Inside, the owners have tried to maintain the elegance and period feel of the house, introducing antique furniture, as well as more modern pieces, which look traditional. I particularly like sitting in the library or the green room, which is the more formal drawing room. Here there is no television and you look out on to the church yard through doubles aspect windows, he said. Greys Hall has been magnificent for entertaining. It has made an outstanding setting for outdoor celebrations, including a 50th birthday party, with a marquee – and the dining room is set next to the kitchen for the ease of serving guests at dinner parties. We have a table that seats 12 in there but you could easily fit one in for up to 16 people, he said. And, he added: On Bonfire Night, the children love to go up to the roof to watch the fireworks going off everywhere.


From the office space, which could equally become a gym or games room, to the grand en suite bathroom, with its claw-foot, roll-top bath, complete with candle holder, Greys Hall has so many wonderful surprises. The grounds are formal yet simple and are ideal for summer entertaining and children playing. We have found this a very nice place indeed to live. It is quiet yet we are well-serviced by the A120 and M11 and can get to Chelmsford, Colchester and Cambridge easily. Stansted is just 25 minutes away and we can drive into London quickly, he said. We will miss its position when we go, as well as the calm, relaxing house itself, he said. It has been an absolute joy to live in – full of historic features and quirkiness.


Dorothy Gladys Dodie Smith was an English novelist and playwright. She is best known for her novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. Her other works include I Capture the Castle and The Starlight Barking. After school, she studied drama and went on to become an actress before turning to writing and seeing several of her plays staged. It was following the success of her play Call it a Day that she was able to purchase The Barretts, a cottage near the village of Finchingfield, close to Sible Hedingham.
























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