Hammerwood Park is a late-18th century neo-classical house set in a well-wooded valley. The estate was bought by John Sperling, an Essex landowner, in 1792. He commissioned the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe to build his new house in the Greek revival style. Latrobe, who had worked for the architect Samuel Cockerell, was talented and original but he built only one other house in England.
In 1795 Latrobe emigrated to the United States where he became one of their foremost architects, rebuilding the White House and Capitol in Washington DC after they were destroyed in 1812.
In 1795, not long after Hammerwood Park was completed, John Sperling's mother died and he returned to Essex to care for his father.
The property was sold to Magen Dorrien Magens, a banker and thereafter it passed through several hands.
Following World War II the house was divided into eleven apartments but as these became vacant the building gradually fell into disrepair.
Although Hammerwood was owned by Led Zepplin in the 1970s the decline continued and by the early 1980s the house was on the verge of collapse.
Hammerwood was rescued in 1982 by David Pinnegar who, with his family, began a painstaking restoration of the house.
The rather severe house is built dark yellow stone.
The square central block is five bays wide and three storeys high. The entrance front is asymmetrical with a large Doric porch. The main front, facing the garden and the direction of the original drive, has closely spaced Doric pilasters. Set back on either side are two wings with Doric temple fronts at their outer ends.
Guided tours of the house are led by members of the Pinnegar family who tell the story of the long and careful process of restoration.
The tour leads through a small Drawing Room into the central block.
The cornice and mirror-covered pilasters in the Drawing Room are original but the strapwork design on the ceiling dates from the latter half of the 19th century. This room now serves as the dining room.
A smaller drawing room known as the Fleur-dy-Lys Room is named after its 19th century plasterwork on the ceiling. The stairs in the large Staircase Hall also appear to be mid-Victorian. The 'trompe l'oeil' decoration on the walls was commissioned by Mr Pinnegar to mark Hammerwood Park's bicentenary.
Climbing to the first floor the visitor can view several bedrooms. These include rooms furnished in French 'Louis' style and Victorian style and one with a splendid carved Italian bed.
In the west wing the Library fills the whole ground floor. This has the original joinery and bookcases. The 'Elgin Room' has the full set of casts of the Parthenon frieze. Teas are served in the Organ Room.