Throughout the medieval period the manor of Southchurch Hall belonged to Christ Church Canterbury, and many of its tenants were prominent in local and national politics. In 1922 Southchurch Hall was still operating as a farm but under serious threat of destruction from the rapid expansion of Southend. Fortunately, a group of prominent individuals linked by membership of the local antiquarian society and the Society of Antiquaries, actively sought to preserve the threatened building and its earthworks. The group attracted C.R. Peers to examine the standing structure and Mortimer Wheeler the surrounding earthworks. Southend Borough Council acquired the hall, which was extensively restored in the late 1920s and opened as a branch library in 1931, with the earthworks preserved as a public park.
By the early 1970s the hall was about to become a branch of Southend Museums. Excavations were begun to locate remains of the numerous manorial buildings known from documentary sources. In part the work was threat led but most of the areas examined were chosen specifically to address questions, some originally posed by Wheeler in the 1920s, regarding the development of the moat, mound and other structures and their relationship to the documentary resources.
The excavations revealed the remains of an early 13th-century manorial centre enclosed by a ditch and then a moat. Major 14th-century refurbishments included an imposing gatehouse and the rather more modest timber-framed hall which survives today. Large assemblages of artefacts were recovered, notably pottery, metal objects, leather work and glass. The material reflects widespread contacts facilitated both by the site’s geographical location on the Thames estuary, and by the social prominence of its occupants. A full survey of the timber-framed hall was carried out, and selective analysis of the extensive documentary sources relating to the site. These are used together with the excavated evidence to provide an integrated account of the site and its setting.
Nigel Brown, 2006. 'A Medieval Moated Manor by the Thames Estuary: Excavations at Southchurch Hall, Southend, Essex', East Anglian Archaeology 115