Moreton Hall acquired academic connections long before it became a school. Its builder and first resident was no less than the Professor of Modem history and Languages of the University of Cambridge. John Symonds, born in 1730, was the eldest son of Dr. Symonds, the rector of Horningsheath, near Cambridge, and Mary Spring, the younger daughter and co-heiress of Sir Thomas Spring of Pakenham Hall. The Springs were a prominent Suffolk merchant family, who, with the Earl of Essex, were largely responsible for the building of Lavenham church. Sir Thomas Spring’s grandfather had married the daughter and co-heiress of Lord Jermyn of Rushbrook Hall. This house once stood on an eminence south of Bury and would have been clearly visible from St. Edmund’s Hill.
Design – Exterior
A painting of the first hot air balloon to take off from Bury St. Edmunds (1789) clearly shows the hall in the background, then a simple square, prominently located on the brow of a hill overlooking the town.
The house is a three-storey squarish building with a pyramidal roof, in itself an unusual Adam design, but Moreton Hall has probably the most notable pyramidal roof of all their properties. Each facade was given a pediment with three bays below. The drawings show a rectangular porch but an early (undated) sketch of the house shows a circular one. The original porch was later replaced by a rectangular one, but this has since been removed. The ground and first floor windows on the East and West were formed into bowed projections with balustraded parapets above; on the second floor, behind the balustrade, each of these facades was given a single Diocletian window.
There is no drawing for the North (entrance) facade. The current porch is deeper that the one shown on Adam’s plans. Above, there are four Spalatro order pilasters running through the first and second floors. When considering classical facades, it is useful to begin by recalling that the Adams said they sought principally to achieve ‘greater movement and variety on the outside composition.’ They noted that this was not always compatible with practical use, but even when they could not introduce great movement, they could still have a good variety of shapes. In the case of Moreton Hall, the house was given little movement on the front and back, but bowed projections on each side.