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Picturesque old houses; being the impressions of a wanderer off the beaten track online

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fine work of art, and most interesting from the



Picturesque Old Houses 17

grotesque costumes. The recumbent effigies of the
stately parents are above, surmounted by a canopy
worthy of their dignity. There is much to be seen
in the church besides the monuments, not forget-
ting an elaborate brass candelabrum of Charles II. 's

time, and one of those early helmets with peaked
vizors which the " Kernoozers' " Club are wont to
rave about.

Northwards from Linsted, in the direction of
Teynham (of which I shall speak presently), there is
a group of old houses one with a deep thatch


1 8 Picturesque Old Houses

roof, all angles and corners ; another, a typical
Jacobean house, with the date 1643 over the entrance
porch of " herring-bone " brickwork and oak beams.
To make the picture complete, there is the great
tithe barn close by, and a ball-surmounted entrance
gate with the usual " upping-stock " or mounting-
block accompaniment.

A few hundred yards farther (in the direction
of Teynham) stands another most charming old
farmstead, with some of those curved black beams
which harmonise so well with the perpendicular and
horizontal lines of a timber building. But the old
houses hereabouts are too numerous to particularise
without becoming tedious. Suffice it to say Ludgate
Farm to the south, and a half-timber house a little
to the north of the Sittingbourne road, should not
pass unnoticed.

Returning to Doddington, we now continue our
journey towards Hollingbourne through a densely
wooded and sparsely inhabited country. Save here
and there an isolated habitation, there are no signs
'of life beyond the continual warble of birds and
the scamper of rabbits. To see this country at its
best is to see it in the spring, when the ground is
literally carpeted with violets and primroses. What



Picturesque Old Houses 19

a feast for the youngsters from the slums of London
to be brought here for a week or so at this season
of the year ! Later, however, except in the nutting
and blackberry time, there are not so many attrac-
tions for children as other parts of the county could
provide. Water, for instance, is conspicuous by its
absence that most essential of elements to complete
the joys of a rural existence, from a juvenile point
of view as well as that of an adult, whether sportsman
or not.

I have seen youngsters sent down from London
to this part of the country for a summer holiday,
wandering about aimlessly along the dusty roads,
instead of occupying their time, as one would
imagine they would, in the woods and meadows.
Perhaps the monotony of the country palls upon
them, as it did upon that town-bred little girl who,
returning to the great metropolis after such an
uneventful holiday, and exhilarated by being a
witness to a fight, a fire, and a cab accident, was
heard to soliloquise, " Gimme London ! " For the
moment I forget who tells the story, but it is true,
however morally sad it may be.

Wending our way upwards, we presently pass
the ruinous lodge of Torry Hill (once the seat of

20 Picturesque Old Houses

the dormant peerage of Kingsdown), which looks
forlorn in its dishevelled environment of nettles and
broken fencing. Here the road dips again, then
rises steadily as it winds between the high hedgerows.
At length we come into a wide cross-road, and,
bearing to the left, approach the summit of Hol-
lingbourne Hill, where a gorgeous panorama of the
Weald of Kent opens out before us.

The first part of the descent into the village is
precipitous, with hanging woods on either side. A
notice-board warns cyclists of impending danger ;
still, there have been numerous accidents, owing,
doubtless, to the fact that when the steep part of the
descent is over, a rider thinks that the danger is past,
whereas it really still looms in the distance in the
form of a sudden twist in the road, with which a
reckless rider running at a good pace would be
unable to cope, the result being that he would run
like a battering ram into the side wall of the
village forge. I wonder whether it has ever occurred
to the Cyclists' Touring Club that certain hills
ought to have a second danger signal-post placed
in positions such as the above, where the road has
become comparatively level after a steep dip, showing
that there are still " breakers ahead."

lollinjiourne M"<uior House


Picturesque Old Houses 21

" Mine host " at the inn opposite the forge
informed me that it is no very uncommon occurrence
for him to carry in the I won't say mangled
remains but inanimate body of some hapless wheel-
man. This, however, was before the more powerful
brakes now in use had been universally adopted ; so
let us hope that similar catastrophes may in the
future be few and far between.

The entrance into Hollingbourne is picturesque
in the extreme. The forge I have just mentioned
is an old building with a carved barge-board in its
little dormer gable. The inn opposite is also of
very respectable antiquity, and next to it is a fine
old Tudor timber house, with a good corner-post
and the original dull green glass in its window

Farther down the hill, and the Manor House,
with its ponderous deep-red stone-faced gables, comes
in view, towering above the smaller tenements as if
self-conscious of its own importance. It has been
restored of recent years, and to a certain extent
spoiled by the insertion of plate-glass windows. I
remember it many years ago when it was practically
untouched, and had a particularly ghostly air about
its tapestried chambers.

22 Picturesque Old Houses

Still descending, we come to another quaint group
of old cottages. One of them has just undergone
a process of cleaning, scraping, and varnishing, but
altogether it has come out very well, and, weather-
beaten for a few years, it may again prove a tempting
morsel for the artist's brush. Doubtless the cottage
to its left will follow suit, if not found too dilapidated.
The old sign of the "Bell" still creaks on its rusty
hinges to delude the thirsty traveller, for should he
succeed after sundry knocks in obtaining admittance,
he will discover that it has long since ceased to be
an inn.

Close by is the church of All Saints (of the
Perpendicular period in particular), containing some
fine monuments of the Culpeppers, who built the
Manor House, the lady representatives of which family
worked the embroidered velvet coverlets of the pulpit
and communion table in honour of the Restoration.
One of the tombs has a beautifully sculptured effigy
of a lady. Those who examine the graceful modelling
of the hands will observe the old custom of having
the wedding-ring attached to the wrist by a silken

How delightful it is to saunter leisurely in an
old village church, reading the queer inscriptions and



Picturesque Old Houses 23

dreaming of the flesh and blood realities of those
silent stone impersonations lying in state ! But the
enjoyment is greatly enhanced when the harmonies
of the organ a good organ, moreover, played by a
good organist come to aid the imagination. Such
was my good fortune here. The performer, all
unconscious of the pleasure he was giving, was
certainly a musician of no ordinary merit ; well, at
least that was my impression.

The next house of importance to the Manor
House is Godfrey House, a remarkable pile of oak
beams and yellow plaster, with overhanging stories
and countless diamond window-panes. The porch
bears the date 1587. Those who have leisure to
roam about will find many other things of interest,
not forgetting the old pilgrims' way to Canterbury,
which passes through here and Lenham.

A few words may be said of Hucking and
Bearsted, both equi-distant from Hollingbourne
about two miles as the crow flies (what a misleading
bird, by the way, when one comes to measure out
his feats by the pedometer !). Between the latter
village and the main road there are some extra-
ordinary old cottages, leaning in all sorts and
conditions of angles. Bearsted Green is as cheerful

24 Picturesque Old Houses

a little place as one could wish to see, evidently
much given to local cricket matches. To reach
Hucking we must again ascend to the high ground
to the north-east, but a climb amid such pretty
country as here surrounds us on all sides can never
be wearying. Once more on the u backbone of

Hook and HitcM:.

Kent," should the " inner man " demand attention,
we could not do better than partake of bread and
cheese in the cosy little parlour of the " Hook and
Hatchet," a tiny isolated inn, where one would
imagine business could scarcely ever be brisk. The
old-fashioned little apartment reminds one of the
" Maypole " of Dickens on a miniature scale a huge

Picturesque Old Houses 25

chimney, with corner seats and a high-backed settle,
where one could plant one's back on a winter's night
and defy the most penetrating of north-easterly gales.
Given but some blazing faggots in the ample grate,
and who could differ with Dr. Johnson as to the
comforts that are to be found away from one's own
fireside ?


BEFORE exploring the country to the south of
Hollingbourne, I propose to introduce the
reader to some of the old-world places to the north-
west, and to reach these it will be the best plan to
strike into the main road to Sittingbourne, and go
thence back to Faversham, thus completing a triangle.

Beyond one or two good Tudor-built cottages,
there is nothing particularly interesting to arrest our
attention till we approach Bredgar a sleepy-looking
place, with a fine grey old church, standing as if
placidly contemplating the surrounding tombstones.
Within may be seen one of those obsolete pre-
Victorian barrel organs, out of which they used to
grind the hymns with a handle, and in the tower
there are instructions (put up at the Commonwealth)
that the bell-ringers must not perform their duties
with their hats on, and if they should swear, the
fine will be a penny.

There are some old houses worth notice, but

Picturesque Old Houses 27

one of particular interest and charm calls us about
a mile away in a secluded nook, where it hides itself
as if it were not desirous of courting observation.

Bexon Manor House is a perfect picture of a
compact little Elizabethan farmhouse. There are no
incongruous additions to mar the complete harmony
of this peaceful old homestead. To see it in the
twilight with the warm glow of the western sky
reflected in its myriad diamond-paned windows, with
the tits darting in and out from beneath the deep
projections of its eaves, is to see it at its best.

I visited Bexon on one of those glorious summer
evenings when the whole of nature seems to rejoice
in the warm bath of golden light. At such a time
as this it seems impossible to conceive aught but
universal harmony, or to associate humanity with
any of its harsher traits. In the same way, it would
be difficult to imagine that the reminiscences of
which this old house could speak could be other
than happy ones. Possibly if one came across Bexon
on a dreary November day, it might be otherwise,
and one might associate it with its recollections of
sadder days. Perhaps it was the mellow light causing
this general impression of cheerfulness or hospitality
which prompted me with courage. I cannot say ; but

28 Picturesque Old Houses

I advanced towards the curious oak-carved porch to
ask admittance.

It must be one of the penalties of living in
a dwelling which has attractions for the antiquary
to be thus intruded upon. One is quite aware
indeed, guiltily conscious of the violation of that
privacy which every Englishman is entitled to. Yet
one does not scruple to ignore the promptings of
etiquette. After repeated knocks it became pretty
evident the house was empty, but, thinking that it
would be as well to make a final onslaught at the
back of the premises before abandoning all hope of
viewing the interior, I wandered round by some old
barns, where I succeeded in finding a caretaker, who
willingly escorted me through the rambling corridors
and dark panelled rooms. In the hall stood a
splendid inlaid oak " shovel-board " table, coeval with
the house. It was rescued not long ago from one
of the farm buildings, where the labourers used to
congregate for their mid-day meal.

Far from being one of those dismal crones whom
one so often finds haunting an old house like an
owl in a ruin, the caretaker of Bexon carried out
my original impression as far as the house was
concerned, and was the embodiment of cheerfulness



Picturesque Old Houses 29

and hospitality, and a bit of a wit into the
bargain ; so altogether I had no cause to regret my

From Bexon let us now steer our way to
Tunstall, a couple of miles or so away to the
north. It is a very pretty village, with some good
old houses. One charming red-brick Jacobean house
stands back from the road, the gables and clock
tower peeping over a high wall and imposing entrance
gate. Grove End Farm, not far off, probably dates
from the reign of Henry VII., or perhaps earlier.
Inside may be seen an old kitchen, with hooded
chimney and open roof to the rafters, black with
age and soot a primitive apartment, very much in
the same condition (save its blackness) as when it
was built. In this building formerly lived the
Hales, an old Royalist Kentish family, the last repre-
sentative of which an aged maiden lady died quite
recently. There are some good monuments to the
Hales in the church ; one, particularly fine, was
rescued by the present vicar, who discovered it lying
in fragments in a stonemason's yard.

To the north-west of Tunstall is Borden, where
the famous antiquary and naturalist, Dr. Plot, lies
buried. In the church are preserved a curious pair

30 Picturesque Old Houses

of seventeenth-century collection trays with handles.
The inscriptions upon them read very much after the
style of that upon the stone which was discovered
by Mr. Pickwick. They run : " Give willin gly
give chirev Hie." Sutton Barn and Heart's De-
light, in this vicinity, are both picturesque old

Heart's flight.

farmhouses. The peculiarity of the latter name led
me to inquire of a yokel its significance. " Sure,
I don't know," said he ; " but it's a very old place,
and ought to be pulled down ! "

The immediate surroundings of Sittingbourne are
not attractive. Brickmaking and other industries
prevent the country from looking inviting. We will



Picturesque Old Houses 31

avoid the town, notwithstanding the fact that that
great king, Henry V., was once entertained at the
" Rose Inn." Keeping to the lanes and bearing to
the left, a very ancient cottage near Rodmersham
is worth seeing for its Early Gothic entrance porch.

Old farm near ftodmgrsham.

Near Green Street also are some good old farms.
One in particular, down by the railway, is quite a
unique example of early sixteenth-century lath-and-
plaster work, not unlike some of the old " magpie "
houses of Lancashire and Cheshire.

The churches of Tonge and Teynham, to the
north-east and north-west of Green Street, are both

32 Picturesque Old Houses

interesting. At the latter place the first cherry
orchards are said to have been planted by one
Richard Harris, fruiterer to King Henry VIII.
Following the main road back to Faversham, there
is not much to detain us. Round about Norton
and Rushett, however, are some old inns and farms,
which will repay one the trouble of going in search
of them.

I now propose to explore the road which runs
between Maidstone and Ashford, and to pick out
the plums (as far as picturesque " bits " are con-
cerned) which are to be found lying between that
road and the level piece of railway which extends
to the south of it the " bee-line " that is said to have
been passed by Parliament as it lay wet on the
map fresh from the pen and ruler. Taking Lenham
as a centre, we will follow the main road first in
the direction of Maidstone, and then towards Ash-
ford ; after which we will work our way to the
south, south-east, south-west, and west.

Lenham is certainly an old-world place, every inch
of it. If one approaches it from the north, via
Doddington (where the road branches off from that
to Hollingbourne), there is a steady climb for
some miles, until the welcome dip comes. The



Picturesque Old Houses 33

first thing that greets one at the foot of the
chalk hills is a grim stone lock-up, which, judging
by appearances, would afford far from comfortable
accommodation, I should imagine. We now emerge
upon a queer old square, which opens out to view
by a curious old timber house at the corner. At
another part of the square the churchyard is
entered through a ponderous lych-gate. The Early
English church of St. Mary has a good interior,
including a fine roof, some interesting tombs, and
a very uncommon stone sedille, or confessional chair,
with projecting elbows. There is also a range of
wooden stalls and a richly carved Jacobean pulpit
bearing the date 1622.

An inscription on a tomb at Lenham records
that a proud mother died with the satisfaction of
knowing she left behind 367 children " lawfully
descended " from her ! Startling, certainly ; but we
read afterwards these included four generations. This
may have been a great comfort in days when the
census report had not reached its present gigantic
proportions, but nowadays surely the knowledge of
such a fact would be enough to make the poor
woman turn in her grave.

If we continue our way through the square


34 Picturesque Old Houses

westwards for a couple of hundred yards or so, we
shall find a wonderfully perfect little timber house
with carved brackets and a massive, though squat,
chimney-stack in the centre. It is called " The
Charity House," and well deserves all the admiration
that is lavished upon it by passers-by.

My first introduction to Lenham, by the way,
was marked by an incident quite unique as far as
my experience goes. I had just crossed the little
river Len (which rises in this parish and flows into
the Medway) when a very " heavy "-looking swell
(whom at first I took to be an American millionaire
who resides at Pluckley, a few miles away), driving
a particularly smart turn-out, pulled up his high
stepper and with breathless anxiety inquired if I had
seen his wife ! For the moment I was staggered,
but, regaining my composure, I learned that the lady
in question had been instructed to follow the road
I had been traversing, while her husband went else-
where upon some mission which would occupy about
an hour ; and that when the gentleman returned, he
discovered to his alarm that his spouse had vanished.
She evidently had taken the wrong turning, and was
then heaven knows where. Moreover, she was
purseless and a stranger in the land. The couple



Picturesque Old Houses 35

hailed from miles away, and had to catch a return
train from somewhere, with scarcely a minute to spare
to catch that train !

What could one do in such a situation but offer
one's poor services ? It was hastily decided that each
should beat up the country in different directions,
and return to a particular signpost at the cross-roads.

I hunted for half an hour in vain, but at length
I espied the distinguishing "blue blouse " for which I
had been straining my eyes. It was centred in a
small group of school-children, who were undergoing
a cross-examination as to whether they had seen a
certain trap that way. I rushed to the rescue.
" Pardon me, madam," said I ; " have you lost your
husband ? " " Yes," she cried, with tears in her eyes ;
" where is he ? " " If you will confide yourself to
my care for a moment," I replied, " I will restore
him to you." Further details are superfluous. Suffice
it to say that the dilemma wound up like the con-
clusion to an old-fashioned novel.

Never did one receive such an ovation of gratitude !
I had it impressed upon me that if ever I visited
such and such a town I should be greeted with a
right royal reception. I doubt not that I should,
but I have never been.


T 7 EEPING to the main road from Lenham
I \ towards Maidstone, the next village is Har-
rietsham, whose fine church stands isolated at the
foot of a steep hill leading to the old seat of the
Stede family (a lonely looking Georgian mansion,
with barns and stables of a much earlier period).
The Perpendicular tower of Harrietsham Church
is lofty and peculiarly graceful. The interior, with
the exception of a beautiful screen, has been much
restored, and, to my mind, spoiled. Part of the
village that lying just off the high road is as
typical an old village street as one could wish to
see, and one old timber house in particular is in
a remarkable state of preservation. Still bearing
to the west, we presently get a glimpse, among the
dense foliage to the left, of the historical castle of
Leeds, which, though modernised, dates from the
reign of Edward I., with additions of Henry VIII.'s

time, suggestive, in parts, of Haddon. This stately




Picturesque Old Houses 37

looking mass of towers and turrets is reflected in
a wide moat as clear as crystal, across which
stretches an Edwardian bridge leading to the most
picturesque of old red-roofed gatehouses. Not a
few tragic events have happened within the walls of
this peaceful-looking feudal castle, for here it was
that the Queen of King Henry IV. was imprisoned
for a supposed conspiracy against the life of her
stepson ; and the wife of Humphrey Plantagenet,
Duke of Gloucester, tried for practising witchcraft.

At a part of the main road that skirts the
park, the scenery is most beautiful, especially by
a clump of graceful firs with a forest of feathery
bracken beneath the whole very suggestive of one
of the favourite subjects of that popular painter,
B. W. Leader, R.A.

A little to the left of the road, nearer to Holling-
bourne, is the village of Leeds, one of the prettiest
villages in Kent, and L exceptionally rich in old houses.
By a turn of the lane and beyond a little brook
is a large cottage of five gables, a good specimen
of a Jacobean brick and timber house, but one of
those tantalising subjects which so often defy the
efforts of the amateur photographer. It stands in
the shade of overhanging trees, and when the sun

38 Picturesque Old Houses

shines, with patches of light all over it beautiful to
the eye, but confusion when reproduced by the
camera. And how often does not one find, that a
particularly pleasing u bit " that one would give any-
thing to secure, is rendered impossible by a strong
light being immediately behind it ! Certainly, in many
instances, one may get between the object and the
eastern or western sky, which ever may be the case,
without trespassing ; but invariably it has been my
experience that, having gained that vantage ground,
the "bit" has lost all its attractiveness from a
picturesque or architectural point of view.

Passing an older house with stone Gothic windows,
we next come to the church of St. Nicholas, with
its very broad, squat, extinguisher-surmounted tower
that can boast of the finest peal of bells (so I was
informed) in the county. Farther on in the village
street, down in the hollow, is another old cottage
of timber with gracefully carved oak tracery in
the windows ; and at the back of it stands an
ancient mill, even more picturesque, with two great
overhanging gables looking into a stream-girt orchard
on the opposite side of the road. The most re-
markable old house, however, anywhere in this
district, is one at Langley, about two miles from



Picturesque Old Houses 39

Leeds. I took a photograph of this some years ago,
but upon a recent visit I searched for it in vain,
and at length came to the conclusion that fire or
house-breakers had wiped it off the face of the earth.
There were on all sides new roads, new walls, and
new lodge gates. The land adjoining the old house
certainly had been bought up and enclosed. Depart-
ing in sorrow and ruminating at the fate of my old
house, what was my delight when I caught a
glimpse of one of its quaint timber gables. Yes,

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