Construction of the manor house

When was the manor first built? We simply do not know the answer to that question. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that there must have been a significant dwelling on the present site by 1259 when the moat was first recorded. Other than churches, nearly all English buildings at that time were constructed from wood and there are no remains of anything pre-dating the present structure. It may well be that Badsell is an ancient settled site that gradually grew in importance until eventually it was grand enough to deserve the construction of a moat to embellish the house.

The present day house has medieval origins with the roof structure suggesting that the rear of the property is the oldest and that the front was added in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. Of the exterior walls the attractive easterly side of the building is the oldest, with the brickwork, in English bond, dating from the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. Because of the prohibitive cost, brickwork was not the dominant building material until after 1700, indicating the importance of Badsell Manor during Tudor times.

badsell manor

The Manor as it is today showing the early brickwork


Bricks were first used in English buildings for their fireproof properties, in the construction of chimneys. The stacks at each end of the house probably slightly predate the building of the eastern wall. The quadruple chimneys at the south easterly corner are a good example of a design that was particularly fashionable in the reign of Henry VIII and are decorated with a diaper pattern using burnt header bricks.

In the 1860’s it was proposed that an update to Hasted’s famous history of Kent be prepared. At that time a drawing of the chimneys was made from a photograph. It is not known what has become of the photograph, and it probably no longer exists, but the original drawing is in the Kent Archives collection. One hundred and fifty years on, the chimneys are identical to those shown in the old engraving and are, in all probability, no different to when they were build nearly five hundred years ago.

badsell manor tudor chimneys

The chimneys now

badsell manor history chimneys

... and in 1867


The interior of the house has a profusion of old oak beams but from the mortise holes it is apparent that many of them have been moved from different locations, over the years. The fireplaces at each end of the house are Tudor and presumably contemporary with the chimneys.

badsel manor fireplace dining room

badsell manor fireplace bedroom

badsel manor fireplace library

Tudor fireplaces at Badsell Manor


The staircase is also very old and merits a special mention in the listing particulars, where it is described as a ‘Good mid/late C17 stair with closed string, square-section newel posts, moulded flat handrail and turned vase–like oak balusters.’

staircase at badsell manor

Tudor staircase


It is intriguing to think of the many people, rich and poor, old and young, landed gentry, farmers and servants, who have over the centuries run their hands over the ancient handrail, on their way up and down the stairs.

The remnants of the Tudor house with the chimneys and the brickwork on the eastern and part of the southern faces of the house remain but what was the rest of the house like, when the Fanes lived there? It does seem unlikely that one side of the house would have been built out of prestigious brick, whilst the front of the building was of a lesser material. In all probability the front of the building would originally have been constructed in brick, similar to that used on the east side. At some point during the nineteenth century the property appears to have been substantially remodelled. It is quite likely that the original Tudor bricks were replaced with the Victorian bricks and tiles at around this time.
Various accounts of the house refer to it originally being much larger, based on the supposition that the house covered the whole of the moat platform, however this is less probable. The platform covers an area slightly over half an acre and whilst the Fanes were undoubtedly a very wealthy and important family, a property of such large dimensions might better be described as a palace. The chimney on the western side of the house is contemporary with the Fane’s period of occupation and has clearly always been a chimney built on an external wall. What is far more likely is that there was a myriad of out-buildings on the platform. It may be that much of the area was used for livestock.
Sadly one bit of detailing that survived well into the twentieth century is now missing. On the wall abutting the main road, there used to be a Fane family crest and the date 1581. It is believed that Albert Burton, a previous owner, sold it sometime before 1959.
Much of the outside brickwork dates from the early nineteenth century. There is an interesting reference to the house in Lord Falmouth’s tenants register dated 1810, which give a description of the Manor: ‘A large farm house of 12 main rooms, brick and tiled, with a moat round it, wood hovel, stable, hay barn and shed boarded and thatched, an oast house and wagon shed with two barns also boarded and thatched, 5 cart sheds and pigcots.’ Apparently the roof of the farm house needed repairing and ‘one of the chimneys should be immediately attended to, otherwise it will fall down. The outbuildings are in pretty good repair.’

The size of the bricks at the front of the house would indicate that they were made after 1803. The use of Flemish bond, making use of the pattern effect of the headers, together with the utilisation of tiles to clad the first floor, are further points that indicate a remodelling of the house in the nineteenth century. At some stage, one side of the moat was in-filled to make access to the house easier. It is quite likely that this was done when the other major works were undertaken. The infilling of the fourth side of the moat wasn’t undertaken until after 1836, as evidenced by a copy of a drawing of the house, at this time. This is the only known picture of the house with the moat on all four sides.

moat at badsell manor

Badsell Manor around 1836 with the moat on the fourth side


The estate, by this time was large, stretching to Tudeley in the west and incorporating Badsell Park Farm and Ciderhill Wood to the South.