Occupying the corner plot of the junction of Church Road and Hartley Hill, Hartley Hill Cottage was probably the most pictured house in the village before the current hedge was planted. On the eight acres that went with the house, the houses of Ship Cottage, The Willows and Applegarth, Church Road now stand; as well as Hillside and Longview in Hartley Hill.
It is a timber and brick built cottage, described in 1910 as having 3 bedrooms upstairs and 3 rooms downstairs. Then as now, the garden was a noted feature of the house. The English Heritage lister (it has grade II listing) estimated that it was 17th century or earlier, and this is consistent with the documentary evidence.
It is probable that the land making up Hartley Hill Cottage was owned by John le Clerk in 1288, one of the defendants sued by John Eylnoth to recover a 45 acre farm that had belonged to his uncle Walter Blodiner. However the defendants successfully proved that they had bought the land.
We next hear of the land in 1547 when it was left by Christopher Humphrey of Horton Kirby in his will to his brother and joint owner John Humphrey. Their descendant, Thomas Humphrey, sold the 8 acres to Nicholas Ellis in 1604.
When Nicholas Ellis bought the land, there was no house, but there was one there when he wrote his will in 1615. So the building of the house can therefore be dated to between 1604 and 1614, more likely near the earlier date as the Ellis family was living there.
Nicholas left a life interest in the house to his wife Katherine (d 1627), and then it was to go to his daughter Anne Ellis and son Nicholas Ellis.
By 1662 Hartley Hill Cottage had a new owner, Henry Piggott (1614-1678). How he came to be the owner is not clear, whether it was by inheritance, marriage or purchase. He was the son of Thomas Piggott, the vicar of Meopham, so may have moved here when he got married. He was succeeded by his son Nicholas Piggott (d 1687). After him a dispute arose between Hannah Piggott, the widow of his son Nicholas, and Thomas Piggott his surviving son. This may be the reason that Nicholas Pigott and Jane his wife, sold the cottage to William Knight, together with some land at Stansted in 1693. The eight acres that went with it were then devoted to arable and orchards.
In the 18th century the freehold of the house passed to the Crowhurst family, who owned land in Longfield. Thomas Crowhurst lived here himself from 1748 to 1751. It was then owned by the Taylor family, before being bought by William Bensted of Hartley Court in the early 19th century. Tenants included Richard and Mary Johnson (1751-57); Richard and Susannah Wingate (1757-66); and newlyweds William and Mary Johnson (1766-84), who had been married at Hartley Church.
For almost a century, the Pettmans or Packmans were the tenants of Hartley Hill Cottage, beginning with Henry and Mary Pitman in 1790. They were followed (1828) by Robert Pettman and his wife Jane, Robert is presumably Henry's son, but does not appear on the baptism register for Hartley. Robert was a shepherd at Hartley Court, but one of their nine children, William (b 1841) rose to become a farm bailiff. For a while two of their daughters kept a school at the house, one of them, Amy Russell of Ash, was still living in 1927 when Rev Bancks wrote 'Hartley Through the Ages'. Robert died in 1864, but it was not until 1901 that Jane, now aged 96 and living at New House Farm cottages was reunited with him in Hartley Churchyard.
When the Valuation Office visited in 1911 the tenant was one Alfred Marsh, who paid the princely sum of 4 shillings (20p) per week, and the house was valued at £105. Smallowners Ltd purchased the freehold in 1913, but by 1918 the owners were Mr Frederick Robertson and Miss Eveline Robertson, who lived here until 1960. Mr Robertson was well known as a beekeeper and the adverts in the Parish Magazine with some justification called it 'finest Kentish honey', for he had won prizes at shows in Cambridge, Bromley and Rochester. And the Dartford Chronicle of 5 September 1924 had the headline 'Local Successes at National Show' with details of the prizes he had won at the Crystal Palace National Show. Locals at the time used to call Hartley Hill Cottage, “the Honey House”. The paper also noted the gift of a plaque to be attached to the War Memorial by Miss Robertson in 1939. Mr Robertson was also a keen photographer, and it is thanks to him that a fine set of photographs showing the working of Hartley Bottom Farm in the 1930s before mechanisation, still survives.
Hartley Hill Cottage Source Documents
Will of Christopher Homfrey (Humfrey) of Horton (Kirby), 1547
In the name of God, Amen. I Christopher Homfrey, being sick in body, whole and perfect in mind and memory. In the year of our Lord God 1546 (1547), in the first year of the King of England, Edward the Sixth, do make my last will and testament in manner and form following.
First I bequeath my soul to the hands of Almighty God, and my body to be buried in the churchyard of Horton. Also I give to my brother John Homfrey £3 of goods and lawful money of England, now being in hands of John Taylour of Horton, my brother in law, to be paid to the said John Homfrey, his heirs, executors or assigns at 2 several days, that is I say at the feast of St Michael the Archangel next coming after the date hereof – 30s. And at the feat of Easter next following after – 30s.
Item: I give to the said John Homfrey my brother, all my land which he and I do or did occupy together, lying in the parish of Hartley to him and to his heirs forever.
Item: I give to John Tyler my brother in law – 40s.
Item: I give to Richard my brother in law – 13s 4d.
Item: I give to Robert Childe and to John Childe, sons of Nicholas Childe – 6s 8d to be divided equally betwixt them, with 6s 8d remaineth in the hands of their father Nicholas Childe.
Item: I will that there be given out of hand – 2 quarters of malt to poor people, and all the residue of my malt to be ordered? And given at the discretion of John Teyler my brother in law.
Item: I give to Katherine Hughe, one ewe and a lamb.
Also I constitute and make my brother in law John Teylor, my full and lawful executor of this my last will and testament. And my well beloved uncle Thomas Homfray mine overseer.
These bearing witness the day and year above may ???? John Shalcrosse, curate there, Richard Maynard, John Reve with others.
Feet of Fine 1604
These are fictitious court cases to record the existence of a conveyance. Still no house mentioned. A bit confusing because the 1633 conveyance of Gossy Croft said the neighbouring land was “late of the heirs of Thomas Humphrey”.
TNA CP25/2 307 (Michaelmas 2 James I, 1604)
Between Nicholas Ellys, plaintiff, and Thomas Umfry, deforciant, concerning 8 acres of land with the appurtenances in Hartley. Consideration £40.
Will of Nicholas Ellis 1615
This is the first mention of the house, so it must have been built since 1604, probably soon after he bought it. Katherine his wife was still living in Hartley when she died in 1627. She does not mention Ann and Nicholas in her will, presumably because they were provided for in Nicholas senior’s will.
Dated 6 March 1614/5
He bequeaths soul to Almighty God and Jesus his redeemer. To be buried in Hartley Churchyard.
To Katharine his wife he leaves his house and land in Hartley during her life and then half to his daughter Anne and half to his son Nicholas (with reversion to Anne).
To Anne, his daughter: £5 on her marriage; to William, his son: £5 to be paid on his 30th birthday; to Nicholas, his son: £60 to be paid on his 30th birthday - if Katharine dies or remarries, then money to be paid by William Kipps and Richard Kettlewell.
To Richard Kittlewell: 20s
To Katharine his wife: all other goods.
Katharine appointed sole executrix. William Kipps and Richard Kittlewell to be overseers (to be paid 5s each for their pains).
Will of Nicholas Piggott of Meopham 1687 (Lambeth Palace Library)
He leaves his soul to God and body to be buried in linen at his executor’s discretion.
“I give and devise to my son Thomas, my house and outhouses and all my lands lying and being in the parishes of Hartley and Ash, now in the occupation of James Lance.”
To son Thomas, £150 out of his lands at Meopham and Ridley, £50 to be paid 1 year after his decease and the remainder 2 years after his decease. Also a gold seal ring marked “TP”.
To cousin Ester Darby, £5.
To cousins John and Jane Piggott, 20 shillings each.
To any household servant at the time of his death, half a crown each.
He orders his executor to pay his cousin Susan Stephens, £5 “that I had with her by the gift of her great uncle Richard Stephens.”
He makes his other son Nicholas his executor.
Dated 3 September 1687
(S) Nicholas Piggott
Witnesses: (X) Dorothy Godden, (X) Dorothy Taylour, (S) Christopher Copland
Proved 6 October 1687.
Case of Hannah Piggott v Nicholas Piggott 1691
TNA C7 596/89
To the right honourable the lords commissioners for the custody of the great seal of England
Humbly complaining unto your lordships, your orator Hannah Piggott also Pickett, widow, the relict and administratrix of Thomas Piggott also Pickett, late of Sevenoaks?? in the county of Kent, baker. That Nicholas Pigott, late of Meopham in the said county of Kent, yeoman, father of your oratrix’s husband, being of sound mind and memory on or about the 3rd day of September which was in the year of our Lord God 1687 did make and declare his last will and testament in writing and executed the same in the presence of three credible witnesses who subscribed their names in the testator’s presence, by which will he gave unto his son Thomas and the then heir apparent of the said Nicholas, who was the husband of your oratrix Hannah. All his house outhouses and lands in the parishes of Hartley and Ash, which after his death came to your oratrix’s said husband, not only by the said will but, as your oratrix is advised, by descent there being no devise in reversion or remainder, and bequeathed likewise to your oratrix’s said husband the sum of £150 to be raised out of his lands in Meopham and Ridley, £50 thereof to be paid within 1 year after the said testator’s decease and £100 residue thereof within two years after his said decease. And of his said will nominated his second son Nicholas Pigott of Meopham aforesaid, yeoman, his sole executor, as in and by the said bill remaining (as your oratrix is informed) in the Peculiars or Register Court of Canterbury, may more fully appear, which said will after the death of the testator, which happened some small time after the making thereof, he the said Nicholas the son proved in common form and took upon him the burthen and execution thereof, and entered upon the said lands in Meopham and Ridley and received the rents and profits thereof, and ought to have paid to the said Thomas the husband of your oratrix, the said legacy of £150 in manner devised by the said will, and permitted your oratrix after the death of her said husband to have entered upon the one moiety or hand part of the said devised or descended house, outhouses, lands as her dower, because the same are of the tenure and nature of gavelkind, and according to the custom in the said county of Kent, her said husband being seized in fee thereof in his lifetime […………………………………] or should have paid one moiety or half part of the rent thereof to your oratrix according to equity.
But now so it is, may it please your lordships that the Nicholas Pigott the son and executor, being minded to deceive the said Thomas Pigott your oratrix’s said husband in his lifetime of the said legacy, and your oratrix since his death which happened about the 20th day of January which was in the year of our lord God 1689, your oratrix being his administratrix as by letters of administration in the form of law granted under the seal of the said Peculiars Court of Canterbury, may appear and which your oratrix is ready to produce, as this honourable court think fit, he the said Nicholas the son and executor doeth refuse to give possession to your oratrix of her said dower, or to pay the said legacy or what remaineth unpaid thereof, pretending he is heir at law to the said lands, and that your oratrix’s said husband was never seized, and that he hath a right in all or most part of the said legacy in respect to his distributing part of the personal estate of the said Thomas, the said late husband of your oratrix, he dying intestate. Although he the said Nicholas, the son and executor well knoweth that his brother the said Thomas died more in debt than his personal estate would discharge, and your oratrix is daily sued for such debts and hath no assets, other than the said legacy to discharge the intestate’s aid debts and is in a necessitous condition for want of the said moiety or half part of her husband’s estate, which she ought in equity to enjoy as her dower.
In tender consideration whereof and fore that your oratrix hath not remedy at law to recover the said legacy or her husband’s title to gain his said lands of which he was seized, nor can make out the same for want of sufficient evidence and of the defect [………………] of the said will, so the end therefore that the said Nicholas may answer the premises and show cause (if he can) why your oratrix should not be paid the said legacy of £150 or the remainder thereof, and receive her dower and arrears of dower out of the lands in the possession of the said Nicholas, which were the lands of the said Thomas, and your oratrix relieved according to equity.
May it please your lordships, the premises considered, to grant unto your said oratrix, their majesties’ most gracious writ of subpoena to be directed to the said Nicholas Piggott, the son, thereby commanding hima at a certain day and under a certain pain therein to be limited, personally to be and appear before your lordships in their majesty’s most High and Honourable Court of Chancery, then and there upon his corporal oath to make a true and perfect answer to all and singular the premises and further to stand to and abide such order and direction herein, as to your lordships shall be thought meet and agreeable to equity and good conscience. And your oratrix, as in duty bound shall daily pray etc.
TNA C7 262/18
Sworn the 11th day of February 1690 (=1691) before me Richard Meek?
The answer of Nicholas Piggot, defendant, to the bill of complaint of Hannah Piggott complainant
The said defendant, saving to himself now and at all times hereafter all and all manner of advantages of exception to the insufficiency and imperfection in the said bill of complaint contained. For answer unto so much as he is advised is material for him to make answer unto, saith as followeth. That true it is Nicholas Piggott, father of him this defendant did make his last will and testament in writing and duly executed as he take it to the same effect as the said complainant hath alleged, to which he this defendant referreth himself. And this defendant further saith that he being a sole executor of the said will as by the said bill is set forth. True it is he this defendant in a short time after his father’s death did possess himself of his father’s personal estate which he could come by, being sufficient as he taketh it to pay and discharge all his debts and legacies, and he this defendant did in due course of law make probate of the said last will and testament of his said father, as it was just for him to do. But this defendant saith the lands in thes aid bill mentioned to be in Hartley and Ash are, as he doubteth not to prove, of the nature and tenure of gavelkind, according to the custom of Kent, and dividable between all brothers alike, and as he is informed, there was only an estate for life given to his son Thomas by the said recited will, neither doth the said bill of complaint pretend any further devise to him than for life, so as he the said Thomas was never entitled, as he this defendant is informed by his counsel, by the said will then to an estate for life in the whole. And there being no devise of the reversion thereof the same did upon the death of the defendant’s father, by the said custom of Kent descend as to one moiety thereof to him, this defendant, and to his heirs as well as the other moiety thereof, notwithstanding the said will did descend to the said Thomas this defendant’s brother and his heirs, he the said Nicholas the father leaving only him the said Thomas and him this defendant. So that, as this defendant is informed, the said complainant could by the custom of Kent and the said will or either of them claim no title of dower to more than a moiety of a moiety so long as she liveth sole and chaste, for that is the custom of gavelkind lands in Kent, as this defendant doubteth not to prove at law. And this defendant further saith as to the legacy of £150 given by the said will of this defendant’s father, he doth admit his said father left assets sufficient which have come to this defendant’s hands to pay and discharge the same, and accordingly this defendant did pay the sum of £100, part of the said legacy of £150 long since, as by acquittances for the same under the hand of his said brother ready to be produced doth and may appear. And he this defendant was ever ready to have paid the remaining £50 unto his said brother in case he had desired the same. But he this defendant saith his said brother did sojourn with him this defendant after his father’s death for about three-quarters of a year, which he this defendant is to out set out of the said £50. He this defendant never had any other satisfaction for or towards the same. And true it is he this defendant hath forborne to pay the remainder of the said £50, being about £40 as he this defendant taketh it and no more, the said debt being to him this defendant satisfied for the boarding of his said brother by the said complainant in regard he this defendant hath good cause to believe that his said brother died possessed of a considerable personal estate, besides the £40 owing by this defendant, which the said complaint hath had and received, so that upon a fair account this defendant’s part of his said brother’s personal estate vested in him this defendant by the statutes for settling intestate’s estates will amount to more than the said £40 as this defendant believes? However true it be this defendant saith he is willing to come to a just account with the said complainant for what is still unpaid of the said legacy of £150 given to the said complainant’s late husband as aforesaid, so as the said complainant will come to a just account with this defendant for the personal estate of her said husband, the said defendant’s brother, which this defendant hopeth will seem just to this honourable court in regard he this defendant is informed and hopeth to prove the said complaint doth wait and imperil her said husband’s estate; and this defendant further saith he hath reason to believe the said complainant is married, in regard he is informed, and is with child and this defendant’s brother hath been dead about 13 months and by the custom of Kent the said complainant is entitled to a moiety only of her husband’s land as long as she liveth chaste and unmarried. So that this defendant is advised if the defendant hath any legal title to recover dower of the lands in Hartley and Ash, or of any part thereof, given to her said husband by the said will or descended unto him as coheir in gavelkind of the same ought to be recovered at the common law and not in a court of equity where a title to such dower is not determinable, as he this defendant is informed and this defendant saith he doth admit the said complainant to be administratrix of the goods and chattels of her late husband, this defendant’s brother, and he doth deny he ever pretended his said brother was not entitled to the lands in question as aforesaid, but he saith he neither knew nor doth believe his said brother left not assets sufficient to pay all his debts besides the legacy In question as is untruly suggested by the said complainant. Without that any other matter, cause or thing whatsoever in the said bill of complaint mentioned material to charge this defendant with all and not hereby sufficiently answered unto, confessed or avoided, traversed or denied, is true in such sort, manner, and form as is before expressed. All which this defendant doth and will be ready to aver, maintain and prove as this honourable court shall award and humbly prays he be hence dismissed with his reasonable costs and charges in this behalf wrongfully sustained.
(signed George Gifford)
Feet of Fine 1693
PRO CP25/2 841 (Michaelmas 5 William & Mary, 1693)
Between William Knight and William Skudder, plaintiffs, and Nicholas Pigott and Jane his wife and Oliver Skudder, deforciants, concerning 1 messuage, 1 cottage, 2 barns, 2 gardens, 2 orchards and 10 acres of land with the appurtenances in Hartley and Stansted. Consideration £60.