Badsell Manor around the time of the norman conquest

BADSELL is a Saxon name, ‘sell’ being an abbreviation for gisell, which was a shack or shed. The ‘bad’ comes from the medieval ‘badde,’ meaning ‘bad, worthless or miserable.’ Even today the land, being low lying, is inclined to be wet and easily becomes waterlogged. Although there is no way of knowing exactly what sort of dwelling was there in olden times, it is easy to imagine that in the days before land drainage, there would have been a small hovel sitting in the marshland, a hut that would unknowingly give its name to an illustrious manor house that was to be the home of more than one influential and titled gentleman.

The first recorded owner of Badsell was Queen Eddiva, the wife of Edward the Confessor. Although the Queen owned Tudeley andtherefore the land that encompassed Badsell, it was only part of the huge areas of land owned by her and her powerful family. If she ever passed through what was to become the Badsell Estate, it is unlikely that she deigned to stop at the farmer’s hut. Then on 14th October 1066 everything changed. Having landed on English shores on the 28th September, the forces of Duke William of Normandy met King Harold’s army at the Battle of Hastings. After a difficult and bloody fight, which at one time seemed to go in favour of the English King, Harold was killed, legend says as a result of being shot in the eye by an arrow, and the English defence collapsed. For two weeks after the battle the Norman conqueror rested his army near Hastings, waiting for the Anglo-Saxon lords to come and submit to him. When at last he realised he was waiting in vain he decided to march on London and take it by force. While Badsell lies along the direct line between Hastings and London, fortunately William took his forces to the east before circling around the capital city and passed nowhere near Badsell during his march, thus sparing the settlement the destruction that he caused in his wake.

Although Queen Eddiva survived the conquest her lands, in common with most of the rest of the subjugated people, were confiscated and passed to supporters of the King, and in particular those who had crossed the channel with him during the invasion.

William introduced a type of feudalism to England whereby all land was owned by the King who then enfeoffed it to his earls and barons in return for military aid. These ‘tenants-in-chief’ would then sub-enfeud parcels of land to sub-tenants. This process would continue down to single manors. After the Norman Conquest, in 1066, much of Kent was given to Odo Bishop of Bayeux. Odo was William the Conqueror’s half brother and was created Earl of Kent in 1067. His extensive land holdings included Badsell. Bishop Odo’s land holdings were huge, second in size only to King William’s. He was a very powerful man and acted as William’s deputy in England from 1067 until 1083, when he was arrested, supposedly for plotting to usurp the Pope. Badsell would have been only a tiny part of his land holdings and he may not have even visited it.

Bishop Odo on the Bayeux Tapestry

The Bishop sub-enfoeffed Tudeley to one of William’s other
supporters, a Richard de Bienfaite a relative of the new King William. Subsequently known as Richard de Clare and Richard de Tonbridge, his reward for joining the invasion included 176 lordships and large grants of land including the right to build a castle at Tonbridge.

Badesll Manor in the Doomsday Book

In 1086 King William ordered a survey of his realm, known as the Doomsday Book. Badsell is not separately mentioned but is covered by the entry for Tudeley, where it is spelt Tivedele. The entry reads:

‘In Wechylstone Hundred Richard of Tonbridge holds Tudeley of the bishop. It is assessed at 1 yoke. There is land for 1 plough and there is (1 plough) in demesne and a church and woodland for 2 pigs. It is and was always worth 15s.’ Eddeva held it of the king.'

The term plough means one carucate, a latin term that was based on what a plough team of eight could furrow in one season, roughly one hundred and twenty acres.

The next documentary evidence of Tudeley is an entry in the ‘Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum episcopum’, (The Book of the Church of Rochester through Bishop Ernulf). Complied in 1122 – 1123 the Textus Roffensis is a collection of documents Anglo-Saxon laws and Rochester Cathedral registers. Once again there is no specific mention of Badsell, suggesting that any settlement was small and unimportant.