Posted by: madkentdragon | March 24, 2011

Preston Hall to 1914 Aylesford Part 6


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We’ll get back in the car now and head up Hall Road and turn Right on to the A20, London Road and right again at the next set of traffic lights into Preston Hall, the long drive leads you down to Preston Hall “Mark 2” as it was remodelled in 1778 and rebuilt in 1848 when the original manor house was demolished. Some of the outbuildings however have remained.

Preston Manor is mentioned in the Domesday Book and there was probably some sort of dwelling here then – the “ton” is a Saxon addition
showing this. In the 12th Century it was given to the monks of the church of St Andrew in Rochester but by 1272 it had passed into the hands of
Sir Thomas Culpeper of Bayhall near Pembury who was Sheriff of Kent until 1307. The Culpeper family started in Bayhall but various branches spread throughout Kent and seemed to own at one time at least 50% of Kent! Preston Manor was developed as a farm.

Walter, the second son of Sir Thomas, inherited the manor but in1321 were part of the rebellion against Edward II – it seems these Culpepers
were a rebellious lot! Also to add insult to injury, Walter was also the keeper of Leeds Castle and refused admittance to Queen Isabel, so Edward II besieged the castle and, having seized it, hung Walter Culpeper.

Luckily the properties were not forfeited and the manor continued to pass down through inheritance and the second daughter of Sir Richard
Culpeper married Lord Edmund Howard and in 1520 gave birth to a daughter, Catherine, who would become the fifth wife of Henry VIII. Catherine was executed in 1542.

As he had no male heir, the manor was then passed on Sir Richard’s death to his brother Sir William Culpeper whose great grandson was Thomas Culpeper who led the rebellion against Queen Mary’s marriage to Phillip of Spain and the graffiti from his confinement and that of his cousin’s husband can still be seen in the Tower of London dated 1554.

This time the estate was forfeited for a while and given to Mr Cartwright, Deputy Sheriff of Kent, but the poor fellow lost it again when the
Elizabeth I restored it back to Thomas, who later became a revenue commissioner and Purveyor of Rochester Bridge.

Thomas’ second son, another Thomas, bought the Royal Manor of Aylesford from James I in 1604 and also inherited Preston Manor which passed through several more generations and produced more Sheriffs of Kent, until the estate of Preston was inherited by Alicia Stapely nee Culpeper, who having being widowed married Sir Thomas Taylor who lived in Maidstone. Having now been widowed twice, Lady Alicia re-married, but again lost her third husband! Seems to have been quite careless with them!

Unfortunately all her children predeceased her and as she was finding the management of the estate beyond her, she again remarried, this time to a Dr John Milner MD of Pudsey in Yorkshire in 1723. Lady Alicia settled all her estates, including Preston Hall on Dr Milner, just reserving the right to live at Preston Hall during the remainder of her life. As there would be no children of this business/marriage Dr Milner arranged in his will that Preston Hall would go to his brother Dr Charles Milner MD.

As with her previous husbands, Dr Milner died before Lady Alicia who survived him for another nine years which she lived alone in the Manor House. She died in 1734 and must have been nearly eighty which was an exceptional age for those times. Strangely, although most of the Culpepers who did not lose their heads are buried in Aylesford Church, Lady Alicia’s weddings took place in the Ditton church of St Peter, the Manor of Ditton also belonged to the Culpepers!

We’ve finally finished with the Culpepers, but the name still continues throughout the world! Preston Hall and its estate continued in the Milner family and in 1771 a Milner nephew by the name of the Reverend Joseph Butler inherited it and with the Crown’s permission changed his name to Milner so that he could use the Milner coat of arms. He remodelled a lot of the house and laid out the grounds in the style of the time.

However, E L Betts, who had made his fortune by building railways, he completely rebuilt the house, installing fountains and other gothic statues in the grounds (unfortunately many have been vandalised) but Mr Betts and his business partner overstretched their business and during the 1866 banking crisis, it failed; causing the estate to be sold. During his time at Preston Hall, he had been the High Sheriff of Kent.

Preston Hall was then bought by another railway builder, Thomas Brassey, who gave it to his son Henry as his home and as shown previously, Henry Brassey, did a lot of good works in Aylesford and his son, also Henry became Baron Brassey of Apethorpe who sold the Hall to Madame Sauber from Belgium and she let it for the use of Soldiers with lung problems in 1914.

Next time I’ll tell you how the Royal British Legion became involved

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