Severn Avenue, RM2

Place Name

Benjamin Severn was the owner of Hare Hall between 1813 and 1829 who is said to have combined an extravagant lifestyle with cattle farming. Ged Martin, who has carried out extensive local historical research, said he bought the place as part of a syndicate with his business partner Frederick King. Severn and King ran a successful grocery business off of London’s Cheapside. By 1794, the business was doing so well they expanded into sugar refining in Whitechapel. With the money coming in they were content to let others take over the day to day running of their enterprise. The sugar refinery purchased Hare Hall, where as an 1819 guidebook explained: “Mr Severn indulges in taste for the management of a very large stock of cattle.” Like everything he touched Severn proved more than able and the cattle were much-admired, allowing him to buy more land for grazing. In 1822, he became a trustee of Roger Reede’s Almshouses, Havering’s oldest charity. But by then his downfall was already on the horizon, in 1819 the refinery factory burnt down, despite being heavily insured the underwriters refused to pay-out claiming that they had not been informed of a new refining process that had been introduced. Facing a £70,000 loss the syndicate sued but lost their case. With no compensation, they struggled to finance a new, seven-storey, fireproof factory and by 1827, Hare Hall was heavily mortgaged. Bankruptcy followed in 1829. In May the following year, the contents of Hare Hall went under the hammer lasting four days but nobody wanted the mansion itself. According to Martin the Severn-King bankruptcy “case dragged on for an astonishing 43 years. It was eventually wound up in 1872, creditors receiving a final dividend of twopence and thirty-one thirty-seconds of a penny in the pound – about one percent.” This is one of a cluster of roads named after former owners of Hare Hall.

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