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Rudely but deeply they laboured, and their labour stand till now.
If we trace on ancient headlands the twist of their eight-ox plough.”

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Author Topic: The Manor of Westcourt  (Read 3935 times)

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Offline conan

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Re: The Manor of Westcourt
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2018, 00:06:20 »
To remain ignorant of what happened before you were born is to remain a child......Cicero

Offline Maid of Kent

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Re: The Manor of Westcourt
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2018, 12:07:04 »
Where can I see a copy of the Black Book you mentioned. Am looking for it as I came across it mentioned in an old notebook (1912) in the Drapers hall, London, that there`s a copy of it in Bradbourne Hall, Sevenoaks and it has a reference to Eastcourt in it. Don't think Bradbourne Hall is in existence now

Offline Leofwine

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    • Brompton History Research Group
The Manor of Westcourt
« Reply #1 on: February 01, 2011, 01:36:02 »
From time to time on the forum mention has been made of the Manor of Westcourt, and during my digging into Brompton history it has been almost impossible not to find out more about it (since Brompton was built on the Manor).  Various hints and snippets do appear in other threads, but I thought it might be good to give the area its own thread and sum up what we know about it.

The Doomsday Book records two villages in the area - Chatham and Gillingham. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the village of Chatham was situated around St. Mary’s Church, and the village of Gillingham was probably around the area of Gillingham Church (St Mary’s) and Gillingham Green, extending down towards the Strand. There was probably also a settlement located in the area now known as Grange. Domesday Book records two estates at Gillingham, so these may represent the two areas mentioned above.

It is the first entry that probably describes the Manor of Gillingham, which included Brompton. The second entry almost certainly refers to Grange. The first entry reads:

In Chatham Hundred
The same Archbishop [Lanfranc] holds Gillingham. It pays for 6 sulungs. There is land for 15 ploughs. In demesne there are 2 ploughs and 42 villeins and 16 bordars have 15 ploughs. There is a church and there are 3 slaves and there are 3 fisheries worth 42 shillings and 8 pence. There is a mill worth 15 shillings and 8 pence and there are 14 acres of meadow. There is woodland for 20 pigs. Of this manor a certain Frenchman holds land enough for one plough and there he has 2 bordars. Altogether the manor was in the time of King Edward £15 when the archbishop received it £12 and now £23. Nevertheless it pays £26 less 12 pence. What the Frenchman holds pays 40 shillings.

Baldwin (1998) suggests that the land described in the Domesday Book as being held by ‘a Frenchman’ was in fact held by Robert Brutin (whose familial name gave rise to Britton Farm and Britton Street in New Brompton), and that his lands were those that would later become the Manor of Westcourt. If he is correct it is possible that the medieval Manor of Westcourt may have taken over an earlier, Anglo-Saxon farmstead, a farmstead.

In 1202 Robert de Gillingham and his wife Margaret acquired the land around Brompton from Nicholas Fitz Joselin. Although this land is not named in the deed, when Hugh de Gillingham (Robert’s son) held it “in half a knight’s fee” from the Archbishop of Canterbury during the reign of Henry III (1216-72) it was known as Westcourt Manor. This manor seems to have included most of modern Brompton, the northern part of the Lines and Great lines and part of Gillingham near to the Docks and Gillingham Pier.

Adam de Gillingham then held Westcourt and in the rental of 1285 his heirs are shown holding 2 yokes of land (approximately 80 acres). Adam’s son, Thomas de Gillingham was a prominent Kentish figure, and was three times member of Parliament for Rochester (in 1278, 1322 and 1323), and held Westcourt along with land in eastern Gillingham. In 1322 John Brutin held land for a knights fee, the major part of which was Westcourt. One of Adam’s descendants, another Thomas, left his estates to be divided between his two daughters in 1447; Margaret and her husband, John Thorpe, inherited Westcourt whilst Isabella gave her share in eastern Gillingham the name of Eastcourt.

Hasted (1798) in his work on the History of Kent tells us:
A court baron is held for this manor, which extends over that part of this parish called Brompton, which is built on the demesne land of it. The tenants are all freeholders in free soccage tenure.

The above passage shows that Brompton was built on the demense lands of Westcourt Manor. Demense Land was all the land, not necessarily all contiguous to the manor house, that was retained by a lord for his own use - as distinguished from land "alienated" or granted to others as freehold tenants. In Brompton this land appears to have been primarily woodland, orchards and sheep-grazing land, with Westcourt Farm lying roughly in the middle of the United Services rugby ground on the Great Lines.

The location of the Manor House itself is uncertain; one location suggested by local tradition is the large red brick house at the northwest end of Wood Street known as Brompton House in the 19th century and shown on various 18th and 19th century maps and engravings. Ronald Baldwin (1998) suggests “by tradition it was an old red brick house on the south-west side of Middle Street ,in ruins by the 1920s.” However, this building does not show up in the maps and engravings, so it may just be he slightly misidentified the location of the previously mentioned building.   Studying 17th century maps shows no buildings in this location, so it seems likely this local tradition for the location of the Manor House is not entirely correct, arising from the grandeur of the later building. However, in 1709 Thomas Rogers, the owner of Westcourt Manor, does refer to building a house for himself, and this is probably the grand house that stood at the end of Wood Street, so it may have come to be regarded as the Manor House even though it was not at the original location of the Medieval Manor House.

Oh his map in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4, Hasted (1798) shows the Manor House closer to Gillingham, near the river, whilst other 18th century maps show it somewhere in the vicinity of the sports grounds between Brompton Road and Sally Port Gardens. The exact location of the Manor House thus remains unclear, but presuming the lands at Brompton were primarily woodland (probably coppice wood), chalk pits and sheep grazing pastures, both Hasted’s location and the location near the modern sports ground seem feasible. In light of the various maps surviving, the sports ground location seems the most likely, especially as it seems to have been on a fairly important crossroads. In this case Westcourt Farm was almost certainly also the Manor House too.

The first record of the name Brompton being used for the area seems to be in the 1447 Survey of Gillingham (known as “the Black Book of Gillingham”), where it is spelt ‘Brumpton’.

The double yoke of Westcourte begins at the common street leading from Spillghescrosse to the Manor of Upbury to the east, the land of the Prioress and convent of Sheppey to the south, at the land of the Lord of Chatham to the west, and at a lane called Brumpton Lane to the north.
And contains                      £80-0-0
Wm Thorpe                        £40-0-0
John Thorpe                       £40-0-0

The extension of the Dockyard in the about 1690, bringing it closer to the manor and woods, may have lessened its attraction as a residence for gentlefolk, but it greatly enhanced the value of the demense lands, which were sold out as building plots for the erection of dwellings for Dockyard officials and workers. By this time Westcourt Manor had changed hands many times, and was ripe for the land speculators. Hasted (1798) in his work on the History of Kent tells us:

WEST-COURT MANOR was sold by John Thorpe to Thomas Bradbury, who died possessed of it in the 2d year of king Henry VII. [1487] and one of his descendants passed it away to Nicholas Leveson, alias Lewson, of Whorne's-place, in Cookstone; from which name it passed by sale to Duling, of Rochester, whose daughter carried it in marriage to Mr. Stephen Alcock, and he alienated it to Cæsar, who dying without male issue, his five daughters, Alice, married to John Higgons, gent. Irene, Margaret, Mary, and Alice Cæsar, became his coheirs, and entitled to their respective shares in this manor. They in the 9th and 10th year of king William III. [1697/8] having procured an act of parliament for that purpose, alienated it to Thomas Rogers, gent. whose daughter Anna carried it in marriage to Christopher Searles, gent. of Hackslaple in Sutton-at-Hone; on whose death, in 1741, his widow became entitled to it for her life, and since her death, in 1774, their three surviving daughters, Anna wife of John Strover, of Rochester; Jane Arabella, married to George Weekley, gent. of Ware, in Hertfordshire, since deceased; and Elizabeth, wife of Joseph Poynton; are now become joint owners of this manor, and the lands belonging to it.

Anna Searle appears in many of the deeds of Brompton properties as lady of the manor, but by then her only remaining interests were the quit rents on the land which dated from the 1447 rental. The land had long since been sold by her father and property was being divided up for building plots.

In 1709, by an Act of Parliament, the Government compulsorily purchased the land in Westcourt which Richard Burlley had indicated in 1654, along with a part of Upberry Manor and some land in Chatham, for the building of the Dockyard defences. This sudden desire to fortify the Yard after over 50 years of inactivity seems to have been caused by the attempted landing of the Jacobite Old Pretender in Scotland in 1708, and the fear that the French might use the Jacobite cause as an excuse to invade. Thomas Rogers protested against the low price paid, claiming that he had purchased much land in the area in order to build houses for dockyard employees, considering how far away from the yard Chatham now lay. He explained that he had built housing for himself and let and sold land to other builders resulting in over 200 houses having been built in the previous 11 years (since 1698). Rogers also owned a brickfield in Brompton, probably the one on the site that later became the Sally Port and King’s Bastion, which supplied the builders and he sold them at 18s. 6d. Per thousand. In many ways it could be said that Thomas Rogers was the founder of modern Brompton. As mentioned earlier, it is probable that the grand house in Wood Street later known as Brompton House was the house Rogers built for himself.

As most of Westcourt Manor was sold off for the dockyard extension, defence works and housing, and it is only in the street names of Brompton that any signs of the original manor can be found; Wood Street, that ran along the edge of the woodland; Westcourt Street and Manor Street, named for the manor itself; Garden Street, named for the orchards and fruit gardens that once stood between it and Wood Street.

An Act of Parliament in 1803 finally closed the old Chatham-Gillingham road (Spray Lane and Sly Kate’s Hill) and it was probably at this time that the old Westcourt Farm (Manor), situated at the crossroads of Spray Lane and Brompton Road, was moved to its later location near the junction of Canterbury Street and Gillingham Road/Windmill Road, signalling the end of the vestiges of the medieval manor of Westcourt.
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