Posted by: madkentdragon | April 10, 2011

An Abbey, Research Station and a Cricket Ground, Quirky Kent 11

Bradbourne House


Welcome to the Mallings (pronounced Morling); there are two: East Malling and West (or Town) Malling and at an earlier age East Malling was the larger although that situation is now reversed.

We’ll start with East Malling, full of housing estates and now partnered with Larkfield in its parish councils, it was once a large community. The manor of East Malling belonged originally to the nunnery at West Malling and was also the site of a gallows, of which it seemed the Abbess was extremely proud!

After the dissolution the manor was given by Henry VIII to Thomas Cranmer, statesman and the then archbishop of Canterbury who was allowed it for the rent only and did not have to supply knights to the Kings army, after Cromwell annoyed the king and subsequently lost his life, it was overseen by the crown until Elizabeth granted it to Sir Henry Brook and it passed through several hands until it came in to the hands of the Twisden family, who incorporated the separate manor of Bradbourne into the manor of East Malling. Sir Thomas Twisden was a Serjeant at Arms at the trial of Charles I. The name Twisden was an alteration of the original Twysden to separate the two branches of this
Kentish family.

The church of St James the Great was built by King Egbert from 827 and after the Norman Conquest William Rufus passed it to the hands of
the Abbess at West Malling. It was partly destroyed in the 1500s, it was rebuilt using local Kentish Ragstone, one point of interest is that a Matthew Tomlinson is buried in the church; he was a guard of Charles I during his last few days. One quirky fact is that the vicar of East Malling was entitled to preach a lecture” once a fortnight in the West Malling Church on a Saturday which was market day, for which he was paid 10 shillings per sermon – a lot of money in the 17th Century!

Back to the Twisdens, they lived in a Bradbourne House as previously stated and continued through to the 20th Century when it was bought and added to a horticulture research station the research was started before 1914 and has developed many new varieties of fruit approximately
80% of all apples grown world-wide started from here. The 30 acres of land of Bradbourne Park has now been restored to the original and is now conserved with new woodland all from native trees.

The Research Station and House are now owned and administered by the East Malling Trust, whose offices are in the house and it is a completely independent research facility for horticulture, the house has much of the original Twisden furniture and paintings.

An original 16th Century Pub remains in the narrow roads and Tudor housing; it is now known as the King and Queen but was originally known as the Three Cups. There were three mills running off the Bradbourne Stream, one was for grain, one was for writing paper and the third
supplied paper for Indian Bank notes, only one remains but is no longer working.

Now on to West Malling, it has been known as Town Malling and in Saxon and Norman times as Parvas Meallingas, denoting that it was smaller than East Malling, but is now the larger of the two. It has the almost perfect layout of a medieval town and there is a restored 12th
Century Merchant’s house.

The manor was given to Burhic the Bishop of Rochester by King Edmund in 946 then it was captured by the Viking invaders but was regained
under the Norman Conquest in 1076.

After the Norman Conquest, the town was given to Gundulph, Archbishop of Rochester who built the St Mary’s Abbey there – he also built the
White Tower later incorporated in to the Tower of London and Rochester Cathedral. In fact he was more of an engineer than a holy man and served as “King’s Engineer” under three kings. He is also considered the father of the Corps of Royal Engineers.

The Abbey was founded in 1090 for Benedictine nuns and Gundulph appointed the first Abbess just before his death in 1108 and had given them the manor of Malling. With the added gift by Archbishop Anselm of East Malling and a charter to hold weekly markets and annual fairs, the Abbey prospered and with it the town of Malling. There was a large fire in 1190 which destroyed much of the Abbey and town, but they recovered from this only to be struck down by the Black Death in 1349 and by the time of the dissolution in 1538 there were only four nuns and four novices.

During the next centuries, the Abbey and town were in the hands of absentee landlords and were much neglected, the abbey falling in to ruins until the mid 1700s when Frazer Honeywood, a London Banker built a neo-Gothic mansion on the site and repaired what was left of the abbey. This was sold by his descendants to Charlotte Boyd who created a trust to restore ruined church buildings to their former use and she invited a small Anglican Benedictine Community to settle at the Abbey, however in 1911 they converted to Roman Catholicism and left the abbey to move to Chester. A new community of Anglican Benedictine nuns settled there in 1916 and remain there to this day; the abbey church was restored and is used by them.

West Malling

Prior House in King Street is a medieval hall house that was once used as a leper’s hospital and Malling House on Town Hill has been home to
several admirals of the fleet.

The disputed title of the fist cricket ground in Kent is claimed by the Town Malling Cricket Club and is pictured as the ground in Pickwick Papers. It is recorded that in 1705 a match between “The rest of Kent” and Chatham was played here.

West Malling has an interesting history and a selection of fine houses from all eras, but I won’t bore you and tell you about the air field and Kings Hill and St Leonards Tower until next time.


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