The House was first put up for auction at the Auction Mart, Bartholomew Lane in London on Tuesday 5th December 1854 and below are the sales details -
It is in the most perfect order, and elegantly decorated. It is most pleasantly situated on a slight eminence, commanding views of the finely timbered park, and of the ornamental plantation by which it is encircled.
ON THE ENTRANCE FLOOR – hall of noble proportions, paved with marble, and communicating with the reception rooms, which comprise drawing room; library, both opening into a saloon - adjoining are boudoir; billiard room; private dining room – adjoining is the banqueting hall.
THE DOMESTIC OFFICES are most conveniently arranged, and comprise – kitchen; housekeeper’s room; two still rooms; head butler’s apartments with fire-proof plate room, steward’s room, servants’ hall, French cook’s offices, scullery, game and meat larders, fitted with marble drying ground; wardrobe, lamp room and other minor offices, detached dairy, fitted with marble dressers, and having a washing room attached, with bake house and brewhouse.
THE STAIRCASE HALL with stone staircase, also several secondary staircases, lead to the FIRST FLOOR, on which are – two state bed rooms with dressing rooms, ladies boudoir, three bath rooms and water closet, seven other principal bed rooms, four dressing rooms, seven secondary bed rooms, three large store rooms, fitted as drying rooms, apartments for servants, store rooms and other conveniences.
ON THE UPPER STOREY – nine bed rooms and nurseries,
IN THE BASEMENT are ample cellars of excellent temperature for wine and beer, with a stove house from which the principal apartments are heated with hot air.
The premises possess an abundant supply of excellent water from a bored well, whence it is pumped to a large reservoir on a lofty tower, affording also a plentiful supply in the event of fire.
THE STABLES and carriage houses are screened from view of the Mansion and surround a court yard approached by a carriage drive; they include two four-stalled and two five-stalled stables; six carriage houses, harness and corn rooms with hay lofts, and two sheds. In the adjoining yard is the coachman’s house, with carpenter’s shop and offices.
THE PLEASURE GROUNDS adjoining the Mansion, include lawns, parterres, and choice shrubberies with conservatories, upwards of 250 feet in length, divided into an orangery, camellia house, stove house with two green houses, with sculpture gallery in continuation Also orchid house, propagating and hot houses, with cottages for head and under gardeners.
It was just over three years later, on 6th January 1858 Arthur Pryor bought the Hylands estate. The receipt said that Arthur Pryor, of Brick Lane, Spitalfields, was acknowledged ‘to have become the Purchaser by Private Contract of the Hylands Park Estate, including the Mansion and Park, with Pleasure Grounds, ornamental sheets of water, and Shaxton’s, Elms and Lodge Farms, with Residences and Homesteads; and several pieces of accommodation land’. Arthur Pryor put down a deposit of £4,500 which was 10% of the price of £45,000 - the equivalent of about £4,680,000 now.
Arthur wanted to move into the House as soon as possible, and he added a note to the receipt to say this as he wanted to make sure that there would be no more damage caused by the weather – the house had been empty for more than three years.
The Pryors quickly settled into their new home and began to make a name in the local community.
In January 1860 Arthur Pryor presented about 100 poor families of Chelmsford with warm winter blankets. The following was reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle of 13th January
‘The blankets, which were provided by six of the principal drapers of the town, and were of excellent quality, were distributed amongst the different recipients according to their necessities and the size of their families, some of them receiving a single blanket, whilst others, with larger families, received double or treble that number.’
The distribution was well organised - as people entered the Victorian school room, each recipient was given a card showing how many blankets they would be given; the card was then shown to one of the five people who were acting as distributors.
In June of that year, at the dinner of the Essex Yeomanry, it was announced that Arthur Pryor had once again offered his grounds so that the volunteer brigade could get together. It had been a great success the previous year. The Brigade Field Day took place in Hylands Park on Saturday 4th August at 2 o’clock, with the members of the West-Essex Yeomanry and Cavalry assembled at 1 o’clock ‘prepared to take any part in the proceedings which the Commanding Officer for that day may require of them.’
In July 1862, Widford church was re-opened. It had been rebuilt and this was paid for by Arthur Pryor. It was reported that, although the actual cost was not made public, it must have been from £4000 to £5000 [about £430,000 to £545,000 in 2017]. It is interesting to note that at the opening service, Mr. James Dace played the organ!
At the meeting of the Chelmsford and Essex Horticultural Society in December 1862 at the Corn Exchange, Arthur was thanked for the use of his grounds for the July show, and they resolved to ask Arthur to be the president for 1863.
In January 1863, most of the sporting gentlemen of this part of the county gathered at Hylands for the ‘meet’. At 11.00 a.m. about two hundred gentlemen gathered near the House. ‘The worthy squire with his usual generous hospitality, entertained the elite of the field to a sumptuous breakfast, and refreshments were also liberally dispensed to those remaining outside the mansion.’ However the sport was not as good as had been hoped for!
Later in 1863, Mrs. Pryor invited 94 children of the Union Workhouse schools, with their schoolmaster and schoolmistress to a treat at Hylands Park. The children played games and then walked through the pleasure grounds. Then Mrs. Pryor and the Misses Pryor [Lucy aged 19, Edith aged 15, and Emily aged 14] helped the children to strawberries, plum-cake and tea. ‘After several good hearty cheers for their kind benefactors, the party returned to their quarters highly gratified.’