The farmers who occupied Badsell Manor as tenants

Although the Fanes didn’t live in the Manor, they continued to reap the benefits of the land and we know that in 1630 timber from Badsell was being sent down to the River Medway for the navy.
When in 1671 the then owner of Badsell, Sir Vere Fane (Later the 4th Earl of Westmorland) married Rachel Bence, the whole estate was let to Sir Alexander Bence of Dublin and his son John, Rachel’s father, at a peppercorn rent of just 5 shillings for a year. By this time the estate was let in many parcels to a variety of tenants, who probably wouldn’t have noticed the change in temporary landlord. At this time Badsell was owned by a Thomas Fane, so it is a mystery as to why the lease was from the family patriach, the 4th Earl.

There is a little cluster of records relating to the Badsell Estate dated from 1712 to 1716. Mr Goatleys, the estate manager, wrote regularly to the Earl of Westmoreland, who was presumably the guardian of the infant Mildmay Fane, with news about the Badsell Manor holdings. In 1712 the manor itself consisted of 101 acres of arable land, 100 acres of pasture, 31 acres of meadow and a further 50 acres of woodland, the whole commanded an annual rental of £102 equivalent to around £20,000 in today’s money. Just a year later the rent was just £80 for 190 acres.

There still exists an intriguing letter from Mr Goatley to the Earl.

badsell manor bailiff letter


In July of the following year Mr Goatley wrote again to the Earl of Westmorland, ‘I had your Lordships letter as to the stone – they will not make limestone but however they are a good help in underpinning the house and barns which would have cost your Honour 10 shillings per loade.’ He goes on to tell of the violent rains over the previous three weeks and the problems getting the harvest in as the hay is under water. Finally he concludes by complaining about the tenant at Tatlingbury who is not paying his rent.

A year later Thomas Goatley wrote to Mr Browning, a lawyer at Lincolns Inn giving him a breakdown of the land holdings at the Badsell estate. The meadow land was tenanted but the woods, amounting to 157 acres were retained by the Earl.

By 1771 the bailiff was Rob Brenchley. His record of the rents for that year covering the Badsell estate still exists . The whole estate, which included Ploggs Hall, Mote Farm and Tatlingbury Farm generated an annual rental of £674-19-00. The manor itself was let to a Jonathon Larking for an annual rent of £80-03-00. At the time of the record Larking was a year in arrears with his rent. There is a note showing that the lease was due to expire at Michaelmas 1782.
Sadly we know nothing more of the occupants of the Manor during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and it is not until 1810 that we have more information. At that time Lord Falmouth’s tenants’ register shows that the property was rented to a Miss Elizabeth Larkin for £152 per annum.

At some time between 1810 and 1841 an S Southon was shown as a tenant of the manor. A tithe map of the time shows that he rented 168 acres, a mixture of meadow and arable land with a small part being used to grow hops.

During the mid part of the nineteenth century the house was occupied by the Playfoot family. In 1841 Jeffrey, a 45 year old farmer, was the head of the house and lived there with his wife Ann and seven children. The younger children were all attending school, but the twenty year old eldest boy helped on the farm. Living in with them was a male servant. At this time the land that Jeffrey was farming was mainly arable with 7 acres of hops. Mead was being made and in that year it produced revenue of thirteen pounds twelve shillings.

Ten years later the whole family were still living at the manor, with all of Jeffrey’s sons working on the farm. Seemingly his offspring had an aversion to marriage. Jeffrey was the local census enumerator for the whole period that he occupied the Manor and proudly made an extra entry in the 1851 census describing himself as ‘Farmer 200 acres employing 13 labourers.’ At this time, as well as two servants living in the manor, there were some lodgers in the outbuildings including a broom merchant living with his wife and baby daughter. Another lodger was a thread and lace merchant who also had a wife and baby daughter living with him. The other occupant was a seventy nine year old traveller called Daniel Norris. Perhaps Jeffrey was kind enough to allow the old man to spend a few nights in a barn while he was passing through the area.

By 1871 Mr Playfoot had died but his widow Ann continued to farm the land. Living in the house with her were her two unmarried daughters, Mavis and Sarah and three male employees, a W Crayford, a G Wills and a W Hayton. These were all described as ‘Farm, Servant, Indoor’ but being men aged 16 to 28 it is likely that they were simply farm workers.

badsell manor with moat

Painting of Badsell Manor around 1907 showing a conservatory at the front


Ten years later and the remaining members of the family had left Badsell Manor for good. Indeed the 1881 census described the manor as Badsell House. At this time Badsell was occupied by Edward Adding and his family. Edward was a 55 year farm labourer who shared the property with his wife Hannah, his son William a railway platelayer and two daughters Ellen and Annie. The house now had a solitary domestic servant.

The next tenant after the Addings had left, was Edward Dolding, a farm bailiff, who lived in the house with his wife Hannah and a granddaughter Sarah Roots who worked as a domestic servant.
By 1901 the Manor, now known in the census as Badsell Farm, was tenanted to a Frederick Fitt a 57 year old farmer. He lived there with his wife Emily and their young children Edith, Charles and James. Also living in the house was the farm bailiff Thomas Longford and just one servant, the 24 year old Emily Orplir.

By 1911 Walter and Emily Burton had taken over the running of the farm and the census return for that year shows him living there with tree of his daughters, a son-in-law and a baby grandchild.



Burton family wedding at Badsell Manor - 1910
(Front row right - Walter & Emily Burton)
©Sarah Hamilton


The Burton / Wright family were to run Badsell as a farm for more than sevety years. Sometime before 1917 Walter's son, Albert, took over as farm bailiff at Badsell Manor and lived there with his wife Hannah.