The building at no. 1 High Street, now occupied by N Legal, has hardly changed in appearance for nearly three hundred years; however, just over three hundred years ago, in 1710, it would have looked very different, a large stone house with mullion windows. This stone house was not there in 1610, when a Tudor timber-framed building stood on the site. This timber building was the White Hart Inn, which had been part of the estate of Simon Parratt, Warden of Sutton in 1580. Parratt mortgaged his estate in 1582, but got into financial difficulties and defaulted, so that the estate was on the market in the 1590s, and was purchased by Emmanuel College, Cambridge, in 1593.
The White Hart Inn burnt to the ground in 1621 when Edward Willoughby held the lease. The lease from Emmanuel College to Willoughby was renewed in 1623 for the low rent of eleven pounds a year, “in consideration that the said Edward Willoughbie hath…at his expenses and charges Re-edified and new built from the grownd one messuage or tenement of freestone” - the core of the present building, in effect. A 1659 lease, to Robert Pargiter, describes the building as “the White Hart Inn, newly built of stone”, and the 1677 lease, to Lucy Frost, widow, of the White Hart and other property, still specifies a rent of £11 per annum.
Mrs. Frost fell on hard times, and the property she rented from the College was said to be in poor condition. The next lease, in 1699, was to Charles Chadwick Esq. of Sutton Coldfield. The elder Charles Chadwick, brother-in-law of George Sacheverell of New Hall, came to live in Sutton in 1688, possibly at his mother-in-law’s house, 36 High Street; he died in 1697, succeeded by his son Charles who perhaps inherited 36 High Street, so it may have been the grandson Charles who took the lease on July 6th 1699 “for 21 years, annual rent £26 payable half-yearly, and two fat capons or 5s. at each audit. A lately built stone house called the White Hart and other houses on the site and pieces of land pertaining to the house”.
The 1699 lease is at a much higher rent, but this may be due to inflation or more property being included. The transformation of 1 High Street, encasing the stone frontage in brick, inserting the regular sash windows and pedimented doorway, and stabilising the structure with braces to counteract its tendency to lean outwards, was probably done a few years later. Emmanuel College records show a loan of £300 to the Sutton estate in 1722, and expenditure of £80 on building work in Sutton in 1734. Many of the other houses in High Street were given a makeover at this period with the Georgian brick facades still to be seen. 36 High Street, with its heavy sandstone pilasters and arched portico, was one of the earliest, possibly the work of Sir William Wilson, the architect of Moat House, who died in 1710. Later Georgian facades were plainer and less fussy, 1 High Street being a good example.
The building therefore took on its present appearance in 1722 or 1734; the next lease, dated 1743, is for a £70 rent, so the work had certainly been done by then.