Moyns Park takes its name from Le Moigne, a family who owned great swathes of lands in the 13th century. Robert de Fitzwilliam de Moigne built a house on the site in the early 14th century. The earliest surviving part of the building is the South West wing dating back to the 15th century. Next up was William Gent who inherited the house through marriage. His son Thomas became MP for Maldon in 1571 and was a confidant of Sir Francis Walsingham and one of Queen Elizabeth I barons of the Exchequer. Walsingham is remembered principally as Elizabeth I’s ‘spymaster’. Unsurprisingly, as confidant to the Queen’s confidant, Thomas Gent sat in on the Babington Trial, a plot that was foiled that intended to oust Elizabeth I and replace her with Mary Queen of Scots. This plot never saw the light of day. But what did come to pass was that the northwest entrance facade of Moyns Park was built off the back of Thomas Gent’s successes. Thomas Gent died in 1593 but his son Henry Gent oversaw the build. Before his death Thomas Gent tried, unsuccessfully, to persuade 30 odd Dutch families to move from Colchester back to Halstead to resume the cloth trade. A member of the Gent family would have been able to appoint the headmaster of Steeple Bumpstead school. This was a right of the occupier of Moyns Park that ceased in 1835.

There are additions from the 18th, 19th and 20th century to the house and the house itself is partly moated, though it is said that this moat was once larger. There is an area of water called the inner moat that sits behind the house. Behind the house is a courtyard area followed by the inner moat. There is an early photograph of a lady skating on the inner moat in a bygone era that is available to view on A Birdbrook Website. The lady behind her is sitting on a chair on the frozen moat alongside a comment suggesting that winters were much colder a hundred and fifty odd years ago and as such people were able to ice skate on the inner moat. Moyns Park also featured in several Hammer Horror movies which speaks volumes about its imposing architecture. There are further claims to fame - the paths planted around the yew topiary of the 200 acre Moyns Park estate are said to have been the brainchild of Lord Bacon, including a bowling green. The chimneys are twenty metres high according to the local chimney sweep who had the extraordinary task of sweeping them. He said he approached the front door over a footbridge that went over the moat that spans no less than 40 feet in width.

Great British Life: Taking in the views surrounding Moyn ParkTaking in the views surrounding Moyn Park (Image: Nicky Allen)

In 1879 Moyns Park was sold to Major-General Cecil Robert St. John Ives. Before or around the time the house and land were apparently also used as a residential riding school in 1949. What an incredible picturesque backdrop to riding lessons Moyns Park would have been. Major-General left Moyns Park to his grandson, Ivar Bryce who was a close friend of the author Ian Fleming of James Bond fame. It is said that whilst staying at Moyns Park that Fleming made some changes to his novel From Russia With Love during the summer of 1956. Ivar’s real name was John Felix Charles Bryce and it is said that Ian Fleming named James Bond’s best friend Felix after Ivar.

Ivar Bryce’s wife, Josephine Hartford who was an A&P heiress and sister of Huntingdon Hartford left Moyns Park to the Mountbatten family on her death in 1992. Her brother Huntingdon Hartford is described in the Telegraph as “heir to a grocery fortune who blew his inheritance on women and dreams.” There was a family connection - it wasn’t a purely whimsical choice: Ivar Bryce’s cousin, Janet Mercedes Bryce had been married to David Mountbatten and they shared two children together; Ivar and George. Ivar Bryce is described in The New York Social Diary as dashing, childless and very close to his cousin’s children. The New York Social Diary website seems to be of the opinion that the house was reacquired and updated by Josephine Hartford for her new and beloved husband Ivar Bryce.

Great British Life: Exploring the sights of the beautiful parkland of the Moyns Park EstateExploring the sights of the beautiful parkland of the Moyns Park Estate (Image: Nicky Allen)

Ivar Mountbatten, who inherited the house from his parents Janet and David Mountbatten ended up living at Moyns Park for around five years with his wife Penelope and their young family before they moved to Bridwell Park in Devon around the time their second daughter was born. The Mountbattens sold Moyns Park in 1997, hence their tenure at the Essex country house was fairly short-lived. Ivar and Penelope Mountbatten later divorced amicably in 2011 and she later gave him away on the occasion of his second marriage to James Coyle.

Moyns Park was then sold to Baron Steven Bentick who was nephew of the late Swiss steel tycoon and art collector Heini Thyssen. Baron Bentick was married to Lisa Hogan and they had three children together. Lisa Hogan is the current partner of Jeremy Clarkson of Diddly Squat Farm fame. Around 2002 Moyns Park was sold to John and Pascal Gardiner. John Gardiner is a barrister and KC. The Gardiners run a stud farm close by and still own the house. Moyns Park has now been in the same hands for over twenty years. The house is not open to the public but there are footpaths close to the house that afford good views of it.