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Home page > Publications > Coopersale Vicarage

Coopersale Vicarage
near Epping, Essex

Please note: All photographs are copyright Phil Harding and should not be reproduced without his permission.

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Front entrance, Coopersale Vicarage, 1979.

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Coopersale Vicarage in the January snow, 1979.

"Some winters were so cold at Coopersale Vicarage, where the oil-fired heating system didn't include the bedrooms, that ice formed on the inside of my bedroom window in attractive leaf-like shapes and I could see my breath as if it was fog! However in hot summer heatwaves, and especially 1976, the vicarage maintained a pleasant constant temperature and our dogs liked to lie on the cold tiled floor of the hallway to cool down." - Phil Harding

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Front entrance, Coopersale Vicarage, 1979.

Coopersale Vicarage was home to the Harding family during Rolf Harding's tenure as vicar of Coopersale from 1961 until his retirement in 1991. Rolf Harding followed on from Rev W L Betts who was the previous vicar of Coopersale from 1952 until 1961.

Built in 1852 along with church of St Alban's at the bequest of Miss Archer-Houblon who lived in Coopersale House and who also provided the parish with a school, it was designed by the ecclesiastical architect William White. Coopersale Vicarage stands adjacent to St Alban's Church at the top of Houblon's Hill. The gabled roofs, patterned brickwork and detailing reflect William White's interest in rural craftsmanship.

Despite being called 'Coopersale Vicarage' from when it was built in 1852 until it was last used as a vicar's residence by Rolf and Elizabeth Harding in 1991, this substantial building with its gothic arched front door has since been (incorrectly) re-named as The Old Rectory, Coopersale Common.

Rolf Harding passed away in Bath, NE Somerset, on 15th February 2017 aged 94.

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The Hardings kept and bred horses at Coopersale Vicarage. This shows the fields on the south side of the property, August 1977.

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Early morning view towards London
from Coopersale Vicarage, 1978.

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View towards London from Coopersale Vicarage, 1979.

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View from Coopersale Vicarage south field, 1979.

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Evening view of Coopersale Vicarage, rear elevation, 1978.
This shows the many out-buildings & St Alban's Church.

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Coopersale Vicarage, side elevation, 1978.
This shows the large size of the Vicarage.

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Coopersale Vicarage and St Alban's Church from Houblons Hill, 1979.

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Looking down Houblons Hill, Coopersale, 1979.

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Lytch Gate, St Alban's Church, Coopersale, 1979.

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Rolf Harding, Choir Mistress & Organist Ann Fox
and St Alban's Church choir, August 1971.

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St Alban's Church interior, August 1978.

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St Alban's Church, Coopersale, 1979.

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The driveway at Coopersale Vicarage, 1979.

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St Alban's vestry doors viewed from
Coopersale Vicarage driveway, 1979.

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Living at Coopersale Vicarage

The large size of Coopersale Vicarage (20+ rooms) and the c.5 acres of land, stables and barn that came with the house enabled the Harding family to keep horses, chickens, ducks, and to keep dogs (wire hair fox terriers and Irish red setters).

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Coopersale Vicarage. Front hallway including the
Pilbrow-Ashton-Harding grandfather clock (1978).

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View from Coopersale Vicarage front door, 1978.

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Coopersale Vicarage front door, 1978.

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Harding family at Coopersale Vicarage, 1965.

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Rolf Harding on "Midnight" at Coopersale Vicarage, 1960s.

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In this 1975 photograph the horses are Satin, Sheba, and Karelia with Flicka the wire hair fox terrier. Ducks and chickens were also kept by the Hardings in the Vicarage orchard.

The 5-bar gate seen in this photograph was once carried round the field by the Irish Hunter "Midnight" - see photograph above - when he was tethered to the gate. He lifted it up and off its hinges when something startled him and he took flight.

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"Shanta", the Hardings' first Irish Red Setter, in the
'Sitting Room', Coopersale Vicarage, September 1974.

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"Shanta" on Vicarage lawn, Sept 1974.

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Elizabeth Harding with"Sasha", 1979.

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Rolf and Elizabeth's eldest daughter, Vicki, playing the piano at Coopersale Vicarage in 1974. Vicki became a physiotherapist.


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Rolf and Elizabeth's youngest daughter, Catherine, 1974. Catherine followed a career in nursing.


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Rolf and Elizabeth's son Phil, 1977. The Department of Energy HQ, Thames House South, SW1 where Phil worked when this photograph was taken, is in the background. That building subsequently became the HQ for MI5, an organisation that Phil received training from at one time during his career when the Provisional IRA was still active on the UK mainland.

Phil was a Civil Servant in Whitehall & then, from 1991, in the SW regional office in Bristol.


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Rolf Harding working in his study,
Coopersale Vicarage, 1978.

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Elizabeth Harding cooking in the kitchen
at Coopersale Vicarage, 1978.

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Rolf (58) & Elizabeth (51) Harding,
Coopersale Vicarage, 1981.

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Rolf (66) & Elizabeth (59) Harding
in Dorset, 1988.

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The Hardings and their Ford cars,
Coopersale Vicarage, 1989.

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Rolf Harding shortly before retirement, July 1991
(with Elizabeth, Phil, Pam, Sarah and James)

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Rolf and Elizabeth Harding celebrate their 40th Wedding Anniversary in September 1991 with their extended family at Coopersale Vicarage just before retirement. Their marriage lasted over 65 years until Rolf passed away in February 2017. Elizabeth passed away 6 months later in August 2017.



Rolf & Elizabeth Harding

You can download here the 2017 tributes by their son Phil for the funeral/celebration services for Rolf and Elizabeth Harding who both passed away in 2017:-

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Rolf Harding (pdf)

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Elizabeth Harding (pdf)

Elizabeth's funeral video
(new page)


Escaping the Holocaust

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For the unique story of how in 1939 Rolf Harding, then Rolf Heudenfeld, grew up in Nazi Germany, escaped on the Kindertransport and settled in England click here or on the photograph of Rolf Heudenfeld then age 20 and back in England from the Canadian PoW camp in 1942:





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