The Golden era of Badsell Manor

Richard Fane, Agnes’s husband, was born in 1477 the son of Henry Fane, one time steward of Tonbridge Castle, a powerful man. Tonbridge had fallen out of the hands of the de Clare family and Henry was steward to the Duke of Buckingham. After his marriage, Richard made his home at Badsell Manor. When he died in 1541, just a year before his wife, he was buried in Tudeley Church where he had previously built a chapel.

Around 1510 an Alice Fane of Badsell was christened. She was presumably a daughter of Richard and Agnes. Two years later, in 1512 they had a son, George, who was later to marry Joanne, the daughter of William Waller (a name that became Walker) of Groombridge, the then Sheriff of Kent. In due course George was himself to become the Sheriff of Kent.

george fane tomb owner of badsel

The magnificent memorial to George Fane in Tudeley Church

George and Joanne’s eldest son, Thomas, was to become the most famous owner of the house that actually used the Manor as his main home. Born in around 1538 he was as a youth, involved in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion of 1554. Together with his cousin Henry Fane, from nearby Hadlow Place he joined the rebels as they marched to London.
Mary, Henry VIII’s eldest daughter, had been made Queen on her brother Edward VI’s death in 1553. Unlike Edward she was a staunch Roman Catholic. After the plot to have Lady Jane Grey crowned as monarch failed, Edward Courtenay the Earl of Devon amongst others, plotted to overthrow the Queen and replace her with Elizabeth. He was planning to arrange a marriage between Elizabeth and himself. The hot-
headed Thomas Wyatt was invited to join the conspiracy and eagerly lead the men of Kent as part of a countrywide rebellion. Raising 4000 men in Maidstone they marched on London, setting off on 25 January and entering the capital on 3 February 1554. Marching to Ludgate they found the City gates shut against them and they retreated to a tavern known as ‘La Belle Sauvage’ By this time most of Wyatt’s men had abandoned him and by the time he had retreated to Charing Cross his remaining force of just 60 were easily captured.

Thomas Fane was arrested either at Charing Cross, or during the rounding up of the rebels, and was then imprisoned in the White Tower in the Tower of London, alongside Sir Thomas Wyatt and the other nobles caught up in the Rebellion. A warrant was then issued for his execution.
Fortunately Queen Mary pitied him, apparently because of his youth. By way of a bill dated 18 March 1554, addressed to the Chancellor Stephen Gardener, he was pardoned. A week later he was released and free to return to Badsell Manor a very lucky man. To this day there is graffiti in the White Tower, in the Tower of London, left by Thomas:

‘BE FETHFUL UNTO THE DETH AN I WILL GIVE THE A CROWNE OF LIFE T.FANE 1554’

In 1557 Thomas married Elizabeth Colepyr the youngest daughter of Thomas Colepepper of Bedgbury. Elizabeth was coincidentally part of the same family that was earlier linked with Badsell Manor. In those days of limited mobility, marriages such as this would not be such a coincidence with unions between prominent local families a common event. The marriage to Elizabeth was not to last long as she died at a young age leaving behind no surviving children.

In 1572 Thomas was made Sheriff of Kent and on 26 August 1573, in the reign of the protestant Queen Elizabeth, he was knighted by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, in the presence of the Queen at Dover Castle. Now a successful man in his own right Thomas was able to arrange a very advantageous second marriage. This time his bride was the twenty year old Mary Neville the daughter of Henry Neville 6th Lord Abergavenny of Mereworth and Frances Manners. Mary was Henry Neville’s only surviving child, his sole heiress. The marriage agreement, which survives to this day, is a huge manuscript written in old English. This was an important arrangement that was to bring great fortune to the Fane family. Just two years after the nuptials Lord Abergavenny died and Mary, as his sole heir, brought considerable wealth to the Fanes. It is rather ironic that Mary’s father Lord Abegavenny was instrumental in defeating the Sir Thomas Wyatt rebellion.

Thomas’s fortunes continued to prosper and in November 1580 he was appointed deputy-commissioner within the county of Kent for the ‘increase and breed of horses and for the keeping of horses and geldings to service.’ By 1588 in anticipation of the Spanish Armada he is recorded as doing ‘good service in the disposing of forces along the coast of Kent.’

As a result of his marriage Sir Thomas Fane inherited the castle and manor of Mereworth but continued to live at Badsell Manor as well as at Mereworth. He also carried on styling himself ‘Sir Thomas Fane of Badsell’ until his death on 13 March 1589. Although originally buried at Tudeley Church his body was subsequently disinterred and moved to Mereworth Church.

francis fane tomb owner of badsel

Memorial to the Fane family in Mereworth Church

Thomas and Mary had a number of children, including their eldest Francis and another boy George, who was to become Sir George Fane of Burston. There is an interesting record of a letter from Sir George to a Sir George Manners, written in May 1616, in which he says, ‘I have endeavoured to accommodate you with the best deer Badsell Court affords.’


earl of westmoreland

Sir Francis Fane, 1st Earl of Westmoreland and his wife Mary

When Sir Thomas died his children were quite young and it may well have been at this time that Lady Fane decided to move to Mereworth, her childhood home. In 1604, fifteen years after her husband’s death, Lady Mary Fane was created Baroness le Despencer when the title, created back in 1295, was called out of abeyance. When she in turn died in 1626, her eldest son Francis, was created the Earl of Westmorland by King James I.

Francis became an illustrious man who consolidated his already important position by following his father, in marrying an heiress. His wife, Mary was the daughter of Sir Anthony Mildmay and through the marriage he inherited the Mildmay estates. In 1624 he was created the Earl of Westmorland by King James I and entertained the monarch at his mansion at Apethorpe.

johannes map featuring badsell

Badsell as shown on Johannes map of 1645


Francis Fane, the first Earl of Westmoreland, never used Badsell as his main residence. As an important landed member of the nobility he preferred his grander house at Mereworth and his other estates around the country. Although Badsell Manor was to remain in the ownership of the earl’s descendents for another three hundred years, it was never again a home to the family.

stidulph and fane of badsell family tree