Manors of Kent
A comment on the origins and significance of the manors of Kent
(From Sarah Lonsdale's article in Telegraph Property)
The manors are in and around the village of Ash near Canterbury. The remaining 6 houses of the original group of 16 are all now listed and although they have all been chopped about, added to and altered it is possible to see their original hall house construction in hidden roof beams, surviving fireplaces and the occasional exposed lathe and plaster walls.
The manor houses of Ash were unusual at the time of their construction during the late 14 and early 15 century in that although they were grand houses they were fairly close together and all in the same parish, in fact at the time the houses went up the presence of about 16 manor houses inhabited by knights, wealthty merchants and the odd inter married euro trash endowed the parish of Ash a grandeur it has not known since.
"Ash probably reached its social peak around then and has been going downhill ever since" says local historian David Downes, author of Ash - an East Kent Village. The houses' unique nature, says Mr Downes, is due to both their proximity to Sandwich, and the way the land, originally owned by the church, was divided into little sub-manors."At that time, Sandwich was the premier port of England, through which virtually the country's entire wool exports were shipped and, likewise, continental goods were imported.
"But the port of Sandwich itself was dirty, crowded and disease ridden so the wealthy merchants and knightly families who grew rich from Sandwich's trade set up home in the fresh healthy air of Ash."
All the land around Ash was originally part of the huge Manor of Wingham owned by the archbishops of Canterbury since before the Battle of Hastings. At their discretion, subsequent archbishops gave smaller sub-manors to family and well connected friends in exchange for various establishment duties, including keeping a watch out for possible French invasions along the Sandwich coast.
There were 12 of these sub manors in and around Ash, most with just one manor house, some with two, on their land. They still survive in the names of roads and farms as well as the remaining houses: Weddington, Molland, Chequer, Wingham Barton, Goshall, Fleet, Hills Court, Twitham Hills, Levericks, Overland, Chilton, Uphousden, Knell, Hoaden, Paramour and Goldstone.
Historian Edward Hasted in his The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, published in 1778 writes of the Ash manor houses "which being inhabited by families of reputation and good rank in life made this parish of much greater account than it has been for many years past."