Hartley Court - Hartley-Kent: The Website for Hartley

Go to content

Hartley Court

Hartley Court

Probably since Anglo-Saxon times there would have  been a building here - the ancient manor house of Hartley.  Sometime before  the Norman conquest the lord of the manor gave the land for All Saints' Church  and endowed the glebe land for the minister.  The unnamed lady who owned  the manor in 1066 could well have lived here, if so she was the last owner to  do so for about 700 years.

In 1100 Henry I granted Hartley and other lands  to Payn Fitzjohn, whose descendants owned it until 1403.  But the succession  was convoluted.  Hartley passed through the hands of the de Monchelsea  family, the earls of Pembroke and finally in 1391 to Reginald de Grey.  He  was captured in Wales by Owen Glendower and had to sell Hartley to pay the ransom.   The eventual purchaser in 1405 was John Urban of Southfleet.  By  the 1540s the manor had some into the hands of Nicholas and Mary Ballard, who  after selling off Hartley Woods to Thomas Swan of Southfleet in 1541, they sold  the rest of the Hartley Court estate to Thomas's neighbour John Sedley in 1544.   His family owned it until 1770.

Of course none of these people lived at Hartley,  so a series of stewards and bailiffs lived at the manor house to collect the  rents and to manage the demesne estate.  We do not know their names, but  part of the gravestone belonging to a steward of around 1200 can be seen in  the Church.  We are also fortunate enough to have a description of the  house in 1392.  It was said to be a small thatched hall with an upper room  (solar) at one end for the bailiff.  Other buildings were a granary, cattle  shed and two granges.  The demesne land owned by the court in its own right  is clearly identifiable as the same owned in the c19th.  The estate consisted  of two large blocks in what were probably two open fields: Northfield (Springcroft/Gorse  Way etc) and the Rede (land between Ash Road and Church Road).  The court  also owned three other large fields: Court Croft (Manor Field and the land beyond),  Eyleye (land south of Grange Lane) and Bridon (Bridelands Wood and much of the  back gardens of the properties at the end of Church Road).  There is also  little reason to doubt that this was identical to the two carucates of land  owned at the time of the Domesday Book.

By the time the Cripps family came to live here  in the early c16th the house was already known as the Court.  As tenants  of Hartley's largest farm, they were naturally quite well to do.  Theirs  was the highest assessment in the c16th tax lists.  Thomas Cripps (d 1527)  was generous to the Church, leaving money to buy a new copper and gilt cross,  and a new pitch torch, as well as money for general repairs (which would be  needed if the Church Court records of the time are anything to go by!).  Later  in the century Thomas Cripps (d 1596) left an interest free loan of £500  "for as much as by the goodness of my landlady Mrs Anne Sedley I have enjoyed  the farm wherein I now dwell at an easy and reasonable rate of rent and that  I desire of her..... that my children may enjoy the same accordingly at the  same rate."

Unfortunately for the Cripps, they seem to have  attracted the criminal element.  In 1544 labourer Thomas Clyff was convicted  at the Dartford Assizes of stealing a black horse from James Cripps.  As  this was a capital offence, this might have been bad news for Mr Clyff, but  this was to reckon without the pious perjury the law was capable of.  Rather  improbably he claimed to be a clergyman, and all he had to do to "prove"  this was to be able to read Psalm 51 verse 1.  So instead of hanging he  would have got a branding on the thumb.  Half of convicts escaped hanging  by this method.  More sensational was the burglary on 9 June 1575, when  a gang of six from London were convicted at the Rochester Assizes of breaking  into the house of James Cripps and stealing £11 6s, and also stealing  2 silver rings, a black hat, a shirt and £13 6s 8d in cash from the house  of Thomas Cripps.  This raises the question of whether there was another  house nearby, or perhaps more likely that the members of the family had partitioned  the court between themselves.

By the time the house was rebuilt around 1650,  the Cripps were no longer the tenants.  From the lists of those paying  hearth tax 1662-73, it appears that a widow Mrs Reeve, was living here.  We know that from 1718 until his death in 1765, the  tenant was Thomas Underhill.  His father John Underhill of Fawkham Court bought the lease and stock for Thomas his younger son, just before he died in 1718.  In 1765 Thomas was paying an annual rent of £70 for the house and 190 acres of the farm (the remaining part of the farmland was let to John Collyer at a rent of £42 per annum).  His wife Elizabeth appears to have left when the lease expired in 1767.  She died in 1774 and like  him is buried in Hartley Churchyard by the south eastern corner of the chancel,  in view of their former home.  But the tenancy had passed before then to  one Thomas Edmeades.  In 1770 the Sedley family sold the freehold to William  Granville Evelyn, of St Cleres, Ightham.  1770 saw a new tenant - Thomas Edmeades, who paid £150 per annum on a 21 year lease from 1773, but with the full farm of 404 acres.

It was about this time that the house was rebuilt.  When it was put up for sale in 1791, it was described as "an elegant new built house".

William Bensted (d 1836) moved here in 1792, and  was succeeded by his son William (d 1857).  All of the family are buried  in the Churchyard, one is a large tomb surrounded by iron railings.  However  the most impressive family monument is that to William junior's daughter Mary  Beech by the pulpit in the Church, who died in 1851.  As a child visiting  All Saints' Church, I can always remember being fascinated by the scroll in  the marble hand.

Colonel Evelyn seems to have lived here for a while  in the 1870s.  He does not seem to have got on with his neighbour Captain  Laurie of Longfield Court.  In 1875 he sued the Captain for trespass made  by his cattle.  Col Evelyn said he was woken in the night to find 15 of  Capt. Laurie's cattle had got into his cabbage field and eaten their way through  270 cabbages.  He claimed his groom was too afraid to deliver a letter  of complaint to Captain Laurie, because he feared violence at his hands (Gravesend  Journal 30 October 1875).  This was settled out of court, but the rematch  was not long in coming. Three months later Stephen Mitchell and George Cloke,  groom and coachman to Col. Evelyn were summonsed for shooting rabbits on land  leased by Captain Laurie from Col. Evelyn.  The case was a complicated  one and Col Evelyn clearly thought his servants were in the right, but the bench  found that a "trifling" trespass had taken place (Gravesend Journal  22 January 1876).  About this time there was also case of alleged criminal  damage to his crops.

Late in the century Adam Tait (1836-96) lived here.   He was a director of the P&O Steamship Company.  He died and  was buried in Switzerland, but is remembered by the east window of the Church  and the plaque that his fellow directors set up in his memory.  The link  with the P&O company continues, for they most generously contributed to  the reordering of the same window in 1987.

The freehold was auctioned and bought by Smethwick              industrialist, Sir James  Chance in 1901.  Hartley Court was then described as having 6 bedrooms,  dressing room, bath room, entrance hall and verandah, drawing room, dining room,  kitchen, larders and cellars. There was also the tiled wellhouse with triple  pump worked by wind engine, with 2 reservoir tanks that people remember.  Mrs  Dora Prime recalls that by the time of the war, the tanks, no longer used for  their original purpose, were then used as air raid shelters.  Subsequently  Small Owners Limited bought the freehold and sold the house in 1926 to Brigadier  General Andrus.

Colonel Godfrey Hildebrand took out a lease of  the house and 26 acres for 21 years from 1904 at a rent of £110 pa.  The              Valuation Office valued the whole at £4,075 in 1910, which included £50  for the fruit trees growing there.  His son General Hildebrand lived there  for a while after his death.  According to the electoral registers Major  Brett lived at the Court in 1918 to about 1924, and then Mr A L Farrow until  General Andrus came to live here in 1926.  
Source Documents

Extent of the Manor of Hartley (1392)
Reference: TNA DL43/14/3

This is a survey, listing the monetary value of the manor of Hartley in 1392. It was made by a local jury of the more prominent tenants. See plan for an approximate indication of where the fields mentioned were. The manor house was where Hartley Court, Church Road is today.

Hertley in the county of Kent

Extent of the manor made there on 14 February in the said year (1392) by the oaths of John Faver, William Dalton [1], John Smyth, Laurence Smyth, Robert Crabbe, Walter Dalton and Geoffrey of ye Stable.

Who say on their oath that there is a small hall there with one solar [2] at each end for the bailiff; one ruinous thatched granary; one thatched cattle shed for horses and cattle; two thatched granges.

And that the lord of this manor shall have the fines for bread and ale, infangentheof [3] and outfangtheof [4] and all others pertaining to a view of frankpledge [5].

Arable Land
And there are 100 acres of arable land in a field there [6] called "Le Rede", worth 4d per acre. Value therefor - 33s 4d.

And there are 50 acres of arable land in "Le Northfeld", worth 4d per acre. Value therefor - 16s 8d.

And there are 16 acres of arable land in "Cutcroft", worth 6d per acre. Value therefor - 8s.

And there are 30 acres of arable land in a field called "Eyleye", worth 4d per acre. Value therefor - 10s.

And there are 10 acres of arable land in a croft called "Brydone", worth 4d per acre. Value therefor - 3s 4d.

Meadow for Mowing
And there are 5 acres of meadow in the demesne, worth 2s 6d per acre. Value therefor - 12s 6d.

And there is a certain pasture within the garden and woods next to the manor which is worth per annum - 20s.

Rents of Assise with rents for works and services [7]
And there is there for rents of assise [8] and the four usual terms - £8

And there is there for rents of chickens and eggs per annum - 2s ii[.....d]

And there is there for the rent of 18 acres of ploughing, per annum at 12d per [.....]

And there Is there for the rent of 16 acres of mowing at [....] per acre [......]

And there is there for 12 (Latin - vom' ?) of rent per annum for a piece [......]

Profits of the (Manor) Court
The profits of the court there are worth, after expenses - 18s

Advowson of the Church
The advowson [9] of the church there does not pertain to the lord of this manor

Big Timber
And there is there a wood called "Le Fryth" of old and big timber, containing 5 acres and is worth 53s 4d per acre. Value therefor - £13 6s 8d.

And there is there another wood called "Le Hok", containing 10 acres of young wood, worth 13s 4d per acre. Value therefor - £6 13s 4d.

And memorandum that all tenants there ought to common will all their animals except pigs, on all the lands of the demesne there, except the garden and woods, between the feast of St Martin and the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary [10].

Map showing approximate location of the named places


[1] The Dalton family lived at what is now called Hartley Manor, Manor Drive.
[2] Solars were upper floors for living accomodation at the ends of medieval houses
[3] The right of the lord of the manor to try thieves arrested in the manor.
[4] The right of the lord of the manor to arrest thieves outside the manor and try them in the manor.
[5] The right to hold criminal trials by the lord of the manor.
[6] The Latin terminology used here would suggest that The Rede and Northfield may still have been open fields at this time.
[7] These included actually services eg. ploughing and mowing, which had by then been commuted for cash.
[8] These are the rents freehold tenants paid to the manor.
[9] That is the right to choose the rector of the parish church on a vacancy.
[10] 11 November to 2 February. This was very advantageous to the lord of the manor for manuring his land.
Feet of Fine 1544
Reference: TNA CP25/2 23/145 (Trinity 36 Henry VIII, 1544)
This records the sale of Hartley Court by Nicholas Ballard and others to John Sedley.

Between John Sedley gentleman, plaintiff, and Nicholas Ballard and Mary his wife, and John Ballard, deforciants; of manor of Hartley with 180 acres of land, 10 acres of meadow, 40 acres of pasture, 90 acres of wood and 5 acres of marsh in Hartley, Staplehurst, Fawkham, Ash, Longfield, Northfleet, Southfleet, Swanscombe and Kingsdown. Consideration £333.
Theft of horse from James Cripps of Hartley Court, 1544
Reference: TNA KB9/560 (Michaelmas, 36 Henry VIII, 1544)

(29) Gaol delivery from Canterbury Castle to Dertford, on the Saturday next after the feast of the Translation of St Benedict, 36 Henry VIII.

Thomas Clyff, of Hartfeld (sic) in the said county, labourer, is indicted that he on the 5th day of March in the 35th year of the reign of Henry VIII, by the Grace of God king of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith, and Supreme Head of the English and Irish Church (1544), by force and arms, viz. clubs and knifes, broke into and entered the [closes] and houses of James Cryps at Hartley aforesaid in the said county.  And took, stole and carried away one horse of black colour, worth 20 shillings, found then and there. Against the peace of the said lord King etc.

And afterwards, on the said Saturday at Dertford, the said Thomas was lawfully convicted of the said felony.  And as a convicted clerk he was delivered to the Bishop's representative to be guarded safely and securely in the place of the ordinary (?)........
Will of Thomas Crippes of Hartley, yeoman (1587)
Reference: CKS DRb/Pwr/17.141

In the name of God Amen. The 27th day of August in the years of our Lord God 1586 and the 28th year of the reign of our Sovereign lady Elizabeth, by the grace of God, Queen of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the faith etc. I James Crippes of Hartley in the County of Kent, yeoman, being sick in body, but of good and perfect memory, thanks be given unto Almighty God for the same, so make and ordain this my last will and testament in writing in manner and form following, that is to say.

First I give and bequeath my soul into the hands of Almighty God, my maker and redeemer, and my body to be buried in the churchyard of Hartley aforesaid in the east side of the chancel there, near unto the bodies of my wife, my father and my mother. Item: I give and bequeath unto my sonJames Crippes, £200 of lawful money of England, to be paid unto him within 2 years next coming after my death.  Item: I give and bequeath unto James Crippes, the first (?) son of my said son James Crippes,  £13 6s 8d of like lawful money, and 19 ewe sheep to be paid and delivered unto him within 18 months next coming after my death.  Item: I give and bequeath unto Thomas Crippes, William Crippes, George Crippes, Alice Crippes and Elizabeth Crippes, the rest of the children of my said son James Crippes, to every one of them £10 to be paid to every of them at such time as they shall come to the several ages of 18.  And if it shall happen any of them to die before they shall come to the age of 18, then my will is that the money so to them bequeathed as aforesaid to be equally divided amonst the rest of them.  Item: I give and bequeath unto Thomas Crippes and James Crippes, sons of my son Thomas Crippes, to every of them, £20 to be likewise paid unot them at such time as they shall accomplish the several ages of 18 years.  Item: I give and bequeath unto Dorothy Crippes, Alice Crippes, and Ellenor Crippes duaghters of my said son Thomas Crippes, to each of them £10, to be paid unto every of them at such time as they shall accomplish their several ages of 18 years.  And if it shall happen any of them to die before they shall accomplish the several ages aforesaid, then my will also is that the said money so to them bequeathed as aforesaid shall be equally divided amongst the rest of them.  Item: I give and bequeath unot Joan Ifelde my servant, £6 13s 4d to be paid her within 2 years next following my death.  Item: I give and bequeath unot my good landlady Mrs Anne Sedley and husband Mr William Sedley esq, to each of them, for a remembrance, 2 angels.  The residue of my goods and chattels not given nor bequeathed, my funeral discharged and my debts and legacies paid, I give and bequeath unto my said son Thomas Crippes whom I also make and ordain my whole and sole executor of them my said last will and testament, and my said good master? Mr William Sedley overseer thereof.

In witness whereof I have herunto put my hand and seal, the date and year first above written.                   


Proved 17 January 1587

Will of Thomas Cripps of Hartley, yeoman (1596)
Dated 28th October 1592

He leaves his soul to Almighty God. His body to be buried at executor's discretion.

To Dorothy Cripps, his daughter: £200 (£10 of which was bequeathed by his father James) when she is 20 or on the day of her marriage, "so that in the meantime she keep her body chaste and be married with the goodwill and consent of William Sidley esq. and Robert Burrowes and Thomas Burrowes, my brethren in law".

To Alice and Ellen Cripps, his daughters: £500 each (£20 of this bequeathed by James), conditions as above.

To William Sedley esq: £5 p.a. at Christmas until his sons Thomas and James reach the age of 21 "for the affection I bear unto the said gentleman and that I am assured he will always stand a sure friend unto my children". In the event of his decease then money to be paid to William's brother John "so that my said sons or either of them shall continue and dwell in the now dwelling house of me the said Thomas Cripps, commonly called 'The Court Lodge' in Hartley aforesaid ..... paying for the same farm no more rent than I now pay".

To Alice Cripps, daughter of his brother James: £10 at full age of 15.

To Robert Burrowes, his godson: 6 ewes

To his godchildren, Thomas Cripps, son of his brother James: 5s; to Alice Carpenter: 2s; and to other godchildren: 12d each.

To William Sedley esq.: a debt of £50 owed him by Lady Brooke, lent by him to Sir Henry Cobham kt.

The residue of personal estate to Thomas and James, his sons equally.

Regarding his lands:
To Thomas Cripps, his eldest son: his lands in Seal, Shibborne and annuity due from lands of William Porter in Seal.
To James Cripps, his other lands and annuities out of lands of Thomas Scudder of Stansted, and lands of Robert Nynne of Milton next Sittingbourne. Reversion to James his brother (of testator).

To Dorothy, Alice and Ellen his daughters: his deceased wife's linen to be shared and 5 sheets and a featherbed each.

"I will that forasmuch as by the goodness of my landlady Mrs Anne Sedley, I have enjoyed the farm wherein I now dwell at an easy and reasonable rate of rent, and that I desire of her........ that my children may enjoy the same accordingly at the same rate". Therefore he gives Anne an interest free loan of £500 until his sons reach 21.

He appoints his sons Thomas and James Cripps as executors and Robert and Thomas Burrowes his brothers in law as overseers.

(S) Thomas Cripps
Witnesses: (X) Robert Burrowes; (X) Lawrence Porlers; (X) Robert Dodd ?; (X) Henry Brisiley; (X) Thomas Cripps
Proved on 3rd May 1596.
Will of John Underhill of Fawkham, yeoman (1718)
Reference: TNA PROB 11/563 sig 70

"In the name of God Amen.  I John Underhill of Faukham in the county of Kent, yeoman, being sick and weak in body, but of sound and disposing mind and memory (thanks and praise be given to Almighty God for the same), do make and ordain this my last will and testament in manner and form following, that is to say:

First and most prinicpally I do with all humility assign up my poor and immortal soul to the hands of Almighty God, my Creator, hoping through the merits and passion of my Redeemer Jesus Christ, to have and receive life in his kingdom of Glory, and body I commit to the earth to be decently buried at the discretion of my executor hereafter named.

And as for the disposition of all such worldly estate as it had pleased God of his benevolent goodness to bestow upon me, I give and dispose of the same as followeth:"

To "loving wife" Mary - Woodland called Claypitt Wood, Farningham Wood, High Wood, and Hawknest Wood, held on a lease granted by Sir Philip Boteler baronet by lease dated 20 January 1697 at a rent of £27.10.0.

To "loving son" John - House where he now lives called "Fawkham Court Lodge" and several arable lands, meadows. pastures and woods, held under lease dated 3 December 1701 by Sir Philip Boteler, for 24 years from 29 September 1701 at a yearly rent of £70.  Also all household stuff at his house, and grain "both in the straw and threshed either in the barns or elsewhere about my said farm in Faukeham", also all horses, mares, colts, cows, calves, hogs, pigs, sheep, lambs, seeds sown, wood and all materials of husbandry.  Provided he pay Mary £100 within 3 months.  He also appoints a room in his house "furnished with necessaries" for Mary.

"Item: whereas I have agreed to buy of John Welch, the stock and household goods, being in and upon a certain messuage and farm, called Hartley Court Lodge Farm, late in the possession of Edward Welch deceased, and to lay down the money for the same to and for the use of my son Thomas Underhill, which money the said Thomas Underhill was to have repaid again unto me.  And whereas I have now paid until the said John Welch the sum of £40 in part of the same money, and my said son Thomas is indebted unto me in the further sum of £20 [...].  Now I do hereby forgive, release and discharge my said son Thomas of and from the payment of the said sums of forty pounds and twenty pounds so due to me as aforesaid, and do now appoint and order that my executors hereafter named do [...] request costs and charges of my said son Thomas, sign, seal and duly execute a legal discharge or release for the sum [...] my said son Thomas, his executors or administrators as bear [...] and keep indemnified my said executors of and from the payment of any further sum or sums of money for the said goods and stock so bought of the said John Welch as aforesaid.  And upon further condition I do desire and appoint that my executors hereafter or either of them, will not pretend to have or claim any benefit, advantage of or by certain articles of agreement, made the eighth day of this instant February made between William Taylor and me, for a lease of the said farm called Hartley Court Lodge Farm, otherwise than for the interest of my said son Thomas, whom I assigned the same".

To sons John and Thomas - all his messuages and lands, as tenants in common.

To wife Mary and son John - residue of his estate.to be equally divided between them.  They to be joint executors.  Gifts to Mary to be void if she claims dower.

Dated 24 February 1717/8.
John Underhill (X)

Witnesses:Thomas Middleton (X); Francis Treadwell (X); John Tasker (S)

Proved at London 17 March 1717/8.

© Content P Mayer 2000-2018.  Created with WebSite X5
Back to content