House museum

House & Museum

Explore our permanent exhibition telling the story of Forty Hall & Estate through the families who lived here, from Master Haberdasher and Lord Mayor of London Sir Nicholas Rainton in 1629 to the Parker-Bowles family in the mid-20th century. As well as engaging text panels you’ll find history brought to life through audio, beautifully crafted period furniture, archaeological finds, architectural discoveries, hands on children’s activities and more!
Hall and Cedar at Dusk 2023 copy

Forty Hall Estate was a family home from 1629 when it was first built by Nicholas Rainton until it became a public museum in 1951 when it was purchased by the local authority. The Hall itself has been changed over the centuries by a number of owners who lived here, including the Raintons, Wolstenholmes, Brettons, Meyers and Parker Bowles who were the last family to own and live in Forty Hall Estate.

The Duchess of Devonshire, when visiting the Parker Bowles family, declared that in her opinion Forty Hall was one of the most perfectly proportioned and beautiful houses in all of England. Many architectural features of this magnificent building remain from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and along with audio and visual interpretation, paintings and antiques they reveal the Forty Hall story and its journey.

The Great Hall

The Great Hall with its original fireplace and screen were exquisitely hand painted with faithful recreations of Sir Nicholas’ decorative choices, that include surfaces painted to mimic walnut, marble and tortoiseshell, as was the fashion at the time. This elegant room still impresses visitors, just like it did, those visiting Sir Nicholas Rainton in the 17th Century.

Great Hall for H Museum
HM Kitchen

The kitchen

The main Forty Hall Kitchen has always been in its current location. The Kitchen dresser has been re-created using marks found in the plasterwork during the extensive restoration and refurbishments that Forty Hall underwent in 2012. The fireplace is original and would have been used to roast meats on the spit. The 17th century kitchen would have warmed Sir Nicholas Rainton’s bedchamber which is strategically located above it.

HM Stained Glass

The stained glass window

The beautiful stained-glass windows installed by the Bowles family in the late 19th Century, and feature the Bowles coat of arms and those of families linked to them. They can be seen up close from the Jacobean Grand Staircase, which was recreated by local craftsmen in 2012. One of the most controversial decisions was to replace the Victorian staircase installed in 1897, with a handcrafted Jacobean recreation in English oak, turned 180 degrees, allowing for the original circulation of the building to be restored.

5742 Forty Hall 1894

The story of Forty Hall

The Forty Hall story began with its first owner Sir Nicholas Rainton and is important to understanding the growth of the Capital City and the life and times of the merchant classes, who established London as a major centre for worldwide trade.The historic interest of the estate pre-dates Forty Hall as the site of Elsyng Palace, now a scheduled monument, is also within the multi layered landscape of the estate. Continuing research into this fascinating place includes annual excavations that have helped unravel its rich heritage and hidden stories from the past.

Come and see for yourself. 


In 2012 Forty Hall underwent substantial restoration and refurbishment providing us with an opportunity to lift floorboards, peek behind panelling and scrape through centuries of paintwork which helped determine decorative schemes as far back as the early 1900s. The architects uncovered many secrets including fragments of original wallpapers, tiles and paint. Like all homes, Forty Hall has changed and adapted over time and as you explore the house, keep a look out for once hidden chimney breasts and walls that are not where you would expect them to be!


For more than 300 years Forty Hall was a much loved family home. Discover who lived here in the past and learn how the Raintons, the Meyers and the Bowles made this unique country house their own. 

Sir Nicholas Rainton, 1629–1646

Sir Nicholas Rainton was the man responsible for building Forty Hall. A wealthy city merchant, he wanted a country estate away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Completed in 1632, the house was built to impress with the finest stonework and ornate plaster ceilings. Sir Nicholas was a leading member of the Haberdasher’s guild. He became Mayor of London in 1632 and was Knighted by King Charles I in 1633, and from 1634 until his death in 1646 he was president of St Bartholomew’s Hospital.

A staunch Puritan, Rainton supported the Parliamentary cause during the years leading up to the Civil War and his interest in London affairs continued after his retirement in 1642.

Nicholas Rainton's descendants, 1646–1799

When Sir Nicholas died, the Estate passed to his great-nephew and remained in the family until 1799.

Nicholas Wolstenholme was just twenty years old when he inherited Forty Hall. Keen to remodel and update the house he added a large extension, replaced the original bay windows and reconfigured some of the upstairs rooms. All this came at a huge cost and by 1708 he and his young wife were in serious debt.

Next to inherit was Nicholas’ niece Elizabeth. In 1740, she married Mr Eliab Breton and it was they who created the lawns, shrubberies and ponds which define the Estate today.

Following her husband’s death, Elizabeth was forced to sell Forty Hall, ‘due to the misconduct of her offspring*’. At first the Estate failed to make its reserve price, but as the 18th century drew to a close, new owners were found.

The Bretons were the last owners of Forty Hall with connections stretching back to the first Sir Nicholas. The estate was auctioned off in 25 lots to various owners between 1787 – 1799.

The Meyer Family, 1799–1894

The Meyer Family lived at Forty Hall for almost a century and throughout this period Enfield changed beyond all recognition. Keen to involve themselves in local life, the Meyers chaired committees and served as Justices of the Peace. Christian Paul Meyer was responsible for building Jesus Church, whilst his son James provided funds for the first village school.

Forty Hall is home to many of the Meyer family portraits, as well as photographs and sketches of the family and their servants.

The Bowles Family, 1894–1951

When James Meyer died in 1895, his neighbour Mr Carrington Bowles purchased Forty Hall for his eldest son Henry. Henry Ferryman Bowles and his wife Dolly had no sons, so when their only daughter married in 1913, the family name was changed to Parker Bowles.

Sir Henry’s grandson Derek Parker Bowles moved to Forty Hall in 1939 in order to help run the Estate. A visitor’s book from this time includes famous names such as Brendan Bracken, and Kathleen Kennedy, sister of the future American President.

Derek Parker Bowles and his family continued to live at Forty Hall until 1951. The estate was then sold to Enfield Urban District Council and the house converted into a local museum. Since then hundreds of families have visited Forty Hall, each one unique and each with their own story to tell.

London Borough of Enfield, 1951–present

Since 1951, Forty Hall Estate has been owned and managed by Enfield Council as a Heritage visitor attraction. It remains one of England’s finest historic houses set in its own Estate with rare examples of an intact 18th Century Landscape. With its fine architecture and stunning period rooms, Forty Hall offers us a glimpse into Enfield’s past. A family home for over 300 years, it has many exciting stories to tell and many secrets still to uncover.