Columbine Hall is over 600 years old. It is surrounded by a deep and wide moat, thought to be older still and built to resist Viking raids.
The manor was called Thorney Columbers after the Norman family of de Columbers, who were its feudal overlords. The resident lords of the manor, however, from 1242 and probably earlier were the Hotots, one of whom, Robert Hotot, was a justice in East Anglia. He is the probable builder of the present Columbine Hall- in about 1390. The timber-framed house, with its jettied upper storey, rises directly out of the water on the north and west. It was originally much larger, its great hall having long since disappeared. What exists now was the gatehouse range.
On the marriage, in about 1520, of the Hotot heiress to a son of Sir James Tyrrell of nearby Gipping Hall (the supposed murderer of the princes in the Tower), the estate came to the Tyrrells but they fell on hard times and lost it in 1559. The owner from 1599 was Sir Robert Carey, a favourite of Elizabeth I (and whose father was possibly an illegitimate son of Henry VIII). On the death of his queen in 1603 Carey rode hurriedly to Edinburgh to tell the King of Scotland that he had become James I of England.
In 1611 Carey sold Columbine Hall to Sir John Poley, a veteran of Elizabeth I’s Spanish wars. The main staircase dates from his ownership. In 1730 his relative, Major Richard Gipps, sold the estate to a rich iron merchant, John Crowley, whose daughter married the 2nd Earl of Ashburnham in 1756. For the next 150 years the Ashburnhams let the property to tenants, the most prominent of whom, Robert Boby, farmed at Columbine throughout Victoria’s reign. The brick wing dates from his time.
The 6th Earl sold the hall and its farm to the Potter family in 1914. It was used in World War II to train landgirls.
In 1993 the hall and 29 acres of the original manorial lands were sold to Hew and Leslie Stevenson.