Brenchley Manor, Brenchley 528

Tunbridge Wells, England, Kent, Tunbridge Wells

Brief Description

The site features formal garden compartments set in lawns with mature trees laid out from the early-20th century around a 16th-century timber-framed house (with 20th-century alterations). Garden enclosures adjoin the house on the south and east fronts and are mainly laid out as lawns, many with mature trees including an ancient oak (known as the ‘Domesday' oak) that stands some 15m north-east of the house. The garden also includes an Oast house.

History

Maps from 1769 depict the building on the site of the present Brenchley Manor as a parsonage and the Tithe Map records the property called Parsonage Farm as owned by George Campion Courthope. The Parsonage was sold to a Mr. C. H. Allfrey, who ‘stripped the plaster off the house, revealing the timbers', added a wing to its south end and laid out a new garden. The property had several further owners before it was offered for sale as The Old Parsonage in 1931. It was bought by the Payne family who renamed it Brenchley Manor. The present owners bought Brenchley Manor in 1989 and have continued to maintain and develop the gardens and grounds. The property remains in single, private ownership.

Detailed Description

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Tunbridge Wells Borough:

Formal garden compartments set in lawns with mature trees laid out from the early C20 around a C16 timber-framed house (with C20 alterations).

SITE DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Brenchley Manor occupies southward-sloping ground with fine views south and west to the surrounding lanes, farms and orchards of the High Weald's undulating topography. It lies immediately to the north of Brenchley with Paddock Wood 2.5km to its north and Royal Tunbridge Wells some 8km to its south-west. The c.2ha site is bordered to the south-east by Brenchley Road, to the north and north-west by the open landscape of Kent National Golf and Country Club and to the west and south-west by orchards.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

Brenchley Manor is approached from the west side of Brenchley Road through a pair of wrought iron gates (installed 2005) flanked by a clipped yew hedge and a pair of stone lions. A consolidated gravel drive, lined by an avenue of mature chestnut, beech and oak trees, ascends for c.100m in a north-westerly direction between lawns and rhododendron shrubberies with views south to an adjoining orchard and distant wooded hills. From this point, the drive begins a gentle descent to the house whose east side can be glimpsed between the trees. It then turns sharply northwards and passes through an entrance marked by 1.5m high, stone piers with stone cappings from which curved brick walls of similar height and set on a stone base extend east and west to enclose the gardens on the south front. The drive continues on northwards beyond the entrance, offering views over the main ornamental gardens lying on its east side. It then turns north-westwards, skirting a further garden area of lawn with trees on the house's north front to arrive at the main entrance to Brenchley Manor which is at its north-west end and reached through a wrought iron gate leading into a small, brick-paved courtyard.

Beyond the main entrance, the drive continues for c.50m in a south-westerly direction to serve a pair of estate cottages (C19 Cork Cottage and C20 Colt Cottage) which stand some 100m south-west of the house. It then turns south-east to run 70m around the south front of the house to rejoin the main drive at the entrance to the gardens on the east front.

The present approach to the house survives from that shown on the 1st edn OS map. However, in 1897 the 2nd edn OS map shows a forecourt enclosed on its west end along the north front. This layout is shown on maps until 1938 and was probably implemented during the Payne's ownership (4th edn and revd edn OS maps).

Forty metres north-west of the house is a two-storey, C19 oast house (listed grade II) which was converted to residential use in the late C20. At the same time a swimming pool and a pool house was built in a courtyard adjoining its west front.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Brenchley Manor (listed grade II*), built in the C16, is a two-storey timber-framed house with a peg-tile roof and brick stacks. It has an asymmetrical three-window north front with the roof half-hipped at each end (listed building description); the first floor is jettied with a moulded fascia. The house was ‘thoroughly restored' in 1912-14 when the ‘close-studded framing was exposed' and most of the studs were renewed and a north-west wing was added in a style to match the main house. In 1994, a small conservatory was built on the south-west corner of the house.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

Garden enclosures adjoin the house on the south and east fronts and are mainly laid out as lawns, many with mature trees including an ancient oak (known as the ‘Domesday' oak) that stands some 15m north-east of the house.

The south front opens onto a raised, random-stone-paved, east-west terrace enclosed on its south by a 1m high, stone block wall. To its south is a c.30m x 50m fully walled enclosure now (2009) laid to lawn with perimeter beds, but until the early 1990s a rose garden (personal communication). It is reached by flights of six stone steps at the terrace's east and west ends while a third, central flight descends from a 1m high, wrought iron gate set in the stone block wall. From a second, 1.5m high, wrought iron gate set in its eastern wall a gravel path runs diagonally in a north-westerly direction across the enclosure to the east end of the terrace. It continues westwards below the terrace, on the south side of the stone block wall, to reach a C21 patio (c.30m x 20m) and wooden pergola laid out around the small conservatory on the south-west corner of the house.

The east front opens onto a walled garden laid to lawn with box-edged perimeter beds and a C21 central knot feature. Set in the east wall, at a 30 degree angle to the front door, a C16 Renaissance archway (listed grade II*) hung with C20, wrought iron gates frames a vista westwards across the drive to the main ornamental gardens. The round-headed, pedimented, archway is constructed of rustic sandstone and was described as ‘Serlian classicism' by Pevsner (listed building description). It has a date stone of 1577 and was probably installed by Elizabeth Vane. It is shown in a series of black-and-white photographs taken by the local Brenchley photographer, William Hodges, between 1850 and 1870.

The main ornamental gardens lie on the east side of the house, east of the walled enclosure and drive, and are laid out either side of a 100m long grass path which runs axially eastwards from the Renaissance archway. The gardens are in two sections separated by a 3m high, 70m long, yew hedge planted on a stone retaining wall that forms a north-east to south-west cross axis. The hedge was planted from 1912 by Mr Allfrey to enclose a new garden on the side of C18 outbuildings (Oswald). The quadrilateral-shaped section on the west side is laid out on south-sloping ground with 60m long mixed borders each side of the axial grass path framed by lawns studded with trees.

The eastern section of the garden, above the retaining wall, is reached by ten stone steps that ascend from the axial grass path. It is also quadrilateral in shape, brick walled on its north and east sides and yew-hedged on its south. A range of C20 glass houses, cold frames and a fruit cage is built against the north wall. The area was formerly an early C20, kitchen garden, possibly laid out on the site of an C18 orchard (2nd edn OS map; Oswald)).

From the top of the stone steps the length of the axial path to the garden's boundary is designed as a rose walk, a wrought-iron arched pergola running above its easternmost half and terminating in a yew arch. The rose walk forms the east-west axis of a cruciform layout of paths with perimeter paths and borders that divides the garden into four areas. North-east of the rose walk is a rose garden laid out in quarters enclosed by 0.3m high box hedges with two box balls at their corners. To its north-west and south-east are lawns, the latter containing fruit trees surviving from the putative earlier C18 orchard. The largest, south-west, area is also laid to grass, this surrounding a wire-enclosed tennis court and a ‘secret' yew-hedged enclosure in the far south-west corner.

REFERENCES

Books and articles

Hasted, Edward, ‘Parishes: Brenchley', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5 (1798), pp. 280-94.

Pigot's Directory 1839.‘Kentish Panelling', The Times (1931)

‘Gardens open to the public', The Times (1938)

A. Oswald, ‘Brenchley, Kent 2: The Old Parsonage', County Life (7 June 1946).

E. F. West, ‘The Tudor village of Brenchley', Kent Life (October 1962), pp. 20-21

Leslie Elgar Pike, Brenchley and Matfield, Kent. The official guide (1966)

Sales advertisement. John D. Wood. The Times (1968)

Michael Hanson, ‘More Control of Farm Buildings', Country Life (26 September 1968), p. 264.

John Newman, West Kent and the Weald (Pevsner's Buildings of England series, 1969), p. 181.

Denise Barr, ‘The Shaping of our Parish', Brenchley and Matfield Revisited (Brenchley and Matfield Local History Society, 2008).

Maps

J. Andrews, W. Dury and W. Herbert, A Topographical Map of the County of Kent ...1769.

Edward Hasted map 1778.

William Mudge, A New and Accurate Survey of Kent 1801.

Charles Greenwood, Map of the County of Kent 1821.

Tithe map (Brenchely Parish) and apportionment 1842-44. CKS ref CTR4SA+B

OS maps 1st edn 6"OS map 1862

1st edn 6" OS map 1881

2nd edn 6" OS map 1897

3rd edn 6" OS map 1907

4th edn 6" OS map 1929

OS maps 1st edn 25" OS map 1870 Sheet 61/7

2nd edn 25" OS map 1897 Sheet 61/7

3rd edn 25" OS map 1908 Sheet 61/7

Revd edn 25" OS map 1938 Sheet 61/7

Modern Mastermap 1:2,500 2007

Map showing listed buildings within Brenchley Manor boundaries

Illustrations

1786 watercolour (private collection).

William Hodges, 4 black-and-white photographs of ‘The Old Parsonage' (1850s-70s). Reproduced in A Victorian pictorial record of Brenchley and Matfield (Local History Society, 1980s). Plates at CKS.

7 colour photographs 1981/82 (a) kitchen garden and glasshouses (b) 100 yr old oak (c) medieval gatepost (d) sculptured yew hedge (e) secret garden (f) herbaceous borders (g) house front

2 aerial photograph of Brenchley Manor 1987/88 (private collection)

Aerial photograph of Brenchley Manor 2003

Archival items

Census data 1841-1901

Electoral registers 1910-85

Kent Compendium notes 1981.

Sales particulars. Strutt and Parker September 1984.

Sales particulars. Hampton and Son. Oct 1987.

English Heritage Listed Buildings entries: undated.

Research by Judith Pursell

Description written by Barbara Simms

Edited by Virginia Hinze

May 2009

Features
  • Garden Terrace
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Tree Feature
  • Description: A 'Doomsday' Oak
  • Steps
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Gate
  • Description: A medieval stone gateway
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Brenchley
History

Detailed History

The following text is taken from the Kent Compendium of Historic Parks and Gardens for Tunbridge Wells Borough:

CHRONOLOGY OF THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

Until the late C12, Brenchley (at that time known variously as Braencesli, Braencheslie, Brancheslega, Branchesle and Btaencesle) was within the parish of Eldyrige (later known as Yalding) and probably originated as a clearing in the ancient Wealden oak forest (Barr). It then became an independent parish with its own rectory but was forfeited to the crown in 1526, after which it became the property of Cardinal Wolsey. In 1539, after Wolsey's downfall, Henry VIII gave it to Paul Sydnor for his services as agent to the Court of Spain (Hasted) and he may have built the first house on the site of present Brenchley Manor.

In 1563 the rectory of Brenchley became the property of William Waller of Groombridge. His widow, Elizabeth, inherited it on his death, although did not live in it until her second husband, George Vane, died in 1571. She lived there until 1596, dispensing a ‘memorable hospitalitie [which] made her famous and renowned', during which time she refurbished the house internally and added a Renaissance gateway (Oswald). Elizabeth's son by her first marriage inherited the property and it remained in the Waller family until the mid C17 when it was sold to John Courthope of Whiligh whose family retained it until the beginning of the C20.

Maps from 1769 depict the building on the site of the present Brenchley Manor as a parsonage (Andrews, Dury and Herbert; Hasted; Mudge; Greenwood) and the Tithe Map records the property called Parsonage Farm as owned by George Campion Courthope (of the Courthopes of Sprivers). It was occupied by an Edward Monkton, a cattle dealer, who was in residence in 1839 (Pigot). At that time, the 12ha site comprised a parsonage and garden, an oast house, barn and lodge, an orchard and hop garden, a larch plantation and a number of fields. Monckton, and later his family, were still at Parsonage Farm (variously Parsonage, The Parsonage and Parsonage House) in 1861, when his holding had expanded to some 56ha. The 1st edn OS map shows paths laid out in a garden close to the house and the remaining land occupied by farm buildings and orchards.

Until 1912 the Parsonage remained tenanted, first by Charles Storr, a curate, and then George Levett, a farmer (Census data), during which time a conservatory and two greenhouses were built and changes were made to the garden layout (2nd and 3rd OS maps). The Courthopes then sold the Parsonage to a Mr. C. H. Allfrey, who ‘stripped the plaster off the house, revealing the timbers', added a wing to its south end and laid out a new garden. The property had several further owners before it was offered for sale as The Old Parsonage in 1931 with some 10ha of land. It was bought by the Payne family who renamed it Brenchley Manor (Times advertisement). They continued the development of the gardens before selling in 1968 with just 3ha of gardens, these including a swimming pool, a cottage, orchards, and ‘a gigantic oak' (Hanson; Sales Particulars).

The owners in 1972 were a Richard and Isobel Gardiner-Hill who inherited and maintained Mr Allfrey's framework of garden walks and clipped hedges, herbaceous borders, orchard and kitchen garden, with guidance from the garden designer Rosemary Alexander (Compendium notes). The present owners bought Brenchley Manor in 1989 and have continued to maintain and develop the gardens and grounds with advice from the designer Tim Rees. The property remains in single, private ownership.