The Bourne (formerly Westmill Road)
Thunder Hall is thought to have been built at the end of the 17th century and extended in the 18th century. According to Gordon Moodey, (a local historian and architect who died in 1978), a similar place is mentioned in the 1760s but is not named, though he thought it could not have been anywhere else at the time.
It was heavily restored in the 1840s and there are three contenders for the makeover. It could have been Thomas Smith, a Hertford architect; George Godwin who worked on the Priory and St Mary’s Church or the Wyatt brothers, who specialised in gothic revival. A new gatehouse, cloisters and courtyard were added along with lots of carved heads (made from artificial stone known as Pulham stone or Pulhamite). James Pulham and Son were landscape gardeners and master builders who specialised in modelling and plasterwork in the gothic style. Obadiah Pulham was lodging in Crib Street in 1841 and gave his occupation as a plasterer so this could coincide with the remodelling.
The name probably derives from ‘Thundridge’ as it was in part of that manor and called “Ware Extra” until 1827. The Lord of the Manor was John Byde Esq of Ware Park.
There have been many tenants over the years. Names from the 1780s to 1820s include Joseph Burchell, James Green, John Usborne, Lucy Wright, Abraham Hudson, Daniel Gladwin, Thomas Hall, Mary Green, Ann Nicoll, Albert Haselar and Samuel Adams. The estate included pastures, outbuildings and orchards.
It was leased again in 1826 and at the time, the house was occupied by a Mr William Taylor who was described as ‘a most respectable tenant’ in an advert from the County Chronicle. The Pigot’s directory of 1828 lists him as running an academy for young gentlemen.
By 1830, the Misses Teed had taken up residence and were advertising ‘The Thunder Hall Establishment for Young Ladies’ which was previously based at Hertford Castle. In 1835, the Teeds left Ware and advertised the sale of household furniture from Thunder Hall. This included two piano fortes, a pair of globes and a planetarium, along with mahogany sofas and other effects.
Proctor family 1826 – 1880s
On the tithe map of 1835, the owner is listed as Leonard Proctor, a land owner living at Benington Lordship and the occupier is his brother, Frederick Ambrose Proctor. Leonard leased it to Ambrose, their brothers John and Henry and their unmarried sisters.
The 1851 census lists A.F Proctor, an “East India Captain” (Captain Ambrose Proctor) who was born in 1789 and died in 1858. The 1861 census lists John Proctor, a retired farmer and a servant.
In 1871, Susannah Proctor, aged 82, lives there with her nieces, Sarah, a retired governess, aged 62 and Elizabeth, aged 60; all were unmarried.
Sarah and Elizabeth were still there in 1881 and Elizabeth died at Thunder Hall two years later.
In 1883 it was leased to Thomas Hayes Esq for fourteen years at a cost of £60 per year. Hayes had to agree to maintain the property, inside and out. He was even instructed to change the wallpaper after seven years for one of ‘a suitable quality’.
The listed buildings information states that a room on the ground floor contains a mid c19 arched fireplace, with marble tablet inscribed `This marble from the room in which the Emperor Napoleon died was brought from St Helena by Capt. Amb. Fred. Proctor, AD 1833’. (It is still there).
The Pickerings 1890s – 1955
The house came to Pickerings when Leonard Proctor died in 1895. He left the estate to a relative, Arthur Proctor Pickering and Arthur’s son, Rowland.
The 1901 census lists Rowland Pickering, (full name Rowland Evans Hayes Umfreville Pickering, also a solicitor) born in Kensington, aged 38 and two servants. By 1911 he is with his wife, nephew and two servants; Elizabeth Ellen Bradford, 29 and Hilda Cook, 26. He stated on the form that there were twelve rooms in the house.
Rowland Pickering died in 1944. Thunder Hall became a listed building in 1950.
On the death of Mrs Pickering in 1955, the house was sold to Mr K B Pearce for £4,000. It was converted into flats in the 1970s and the houses of Thundercourt were built in the grounds.