Love at First Sight | Roger & Jill Hadlee's Stewardship of Coggeshall Abbey

Love at First Sight | Roger & Jill Hadlee's Stewardship of Coggeshall Abbey

Sworders’ Fine Interiors department are fortunate to present a selection of lots from the collection of Roger and Jill Hadlee in our 12-13 December auction, photographed in-situ at their beautiful former home, Coggeshall Abbey, in Essex.

27 October 2023



Sitting on consecrated ground on the banks of the River Blackwater, surrounded by open countryside and just under a mile from the bustling medieval market town of Coggeshall, The Abbey was home to Roger and Jill and a principal pillar in both their family and community lives for twenty-five years. However, their love affair with the ex-monastery began years before actually moving in; after falling for the deeply ‘romantic’ atmosphere of the house and gardens whilst out buying asparagus, Jill and Roger furtively enquired as to its availability. The answer was not as they hoped, but when Roger happened to see it up for sale in Country Life years later, the Abbey’s immediate future was settled.


A kilim-upholstered Knole sofa by George Smith (£1,000-2,000)

A kilim-upholstered Knole sofa by George Smith (£1,000-2,000)


Prior to the Hadlees’ ownership, the Abbey had a long and intriguing story that appealed to the couple’s interest in historic buildings. Founded by King Stephen and his wife, Matilda de Boulogne, in the 1140s as a Savignac residence, by 1167, the majority of the Abbey and its Church was complete. At a time when very few bricks had being made in Britain since the Romans’ departure, the Abbey has been the focus of scholarly and local attention due to the use of Coggeshall bricks in its construction, and the survival of early architectural features such as these, coupled with the monachal burial grounds set within its idyllic gardens, contribute to a quiet and omnipresent sense of connection that the Abbey maintains with its past and previous inhabitants.

Despite the collapse of the Savignac Order in 1147, the Abbey continued in monastic use and prosperity until the Dissolution, at which point it began its chapter as a private domestic dwelling. Notably, Anne Paycocke - granddaughter of Thomas Paycocke, the famous wool merchant and original owner of Paycocke’s House - acquired the property in 1581 and is responsible for the extensive restorations that took place, much of which remain today. The house was then sold to the Guyon family, another benefactor of East Anglia’s thriving woollen and textile trade, and through marriage, the Abbey passed to the Bullock family until the 1880s.


A Victorian parcel-gilt chalice and paten (£500-700)

A Victorian parcel-gilt chalice and paten (£500-700)


Roger and Jill’s enthusiasm for The Abbey was undeniable, eagerly acquiring knowledge about its history and generously sharing it in the way of tours during their custodianship. Their collection of furniture and works of art also reflected the house’s long and interesting history, including items from the 17th to 19th centuries, with Gothic and ecclesiastical pieces that sat perfectly within the building’s gently time-worn medieval brickwork. Much of their collection had been purchased from auction houses across London and the neighbouring counties throughout their lives, including Sworders’ weekly Saturday morning sale.  The four-poster bed, however, had a slightly more unusual origin; purchased from the Mermaid Hotel in Rye, Sussex, during their honeymoon, it was closely held on to by Jill in their open Austin-Healey Sprite sports car all the way home to Folkestone.

After hanging up the keys to their marine art gallery in the city, The Royal Exchange Gallery, Coggeshall Abbey proved to be the perfect object in which to satisfy Roger and Jill’s insatiable curiosity, and provided a beautiful backdrop to a happy retirement together.


A 'Granville' oak chair designed by E W Pugin (£1,000-2,000)

A 'Granville' oak chair designed by E W Pugin (£1,000-2,000)



Tuesday 12 & Wednesday 13 December | 01279 817778




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