Ancient Manors

There have been three manors within the ancient parish: Chislehurst, Kemnal, and Scadbury.


Chislehurst is first mentioned in an Anglo Saxon footnote to a Latin Charter of AD 973 as being on the King’s boundary. This appears to be a reference to its known status as an appendage of the Royal Manor of Dartford. The charter itself is of interest, as it grants land in Bromley to the monks of St Andrew’s Priory in Rochester, which led to the founding of the Bishop’s Palace in Bromley. Apart from Chislehurst, other places mentioned around the boundary are Crofton, [West] Wickham, Beckenham, Bellingham and Mottingham. In 1611, Thomas Walsingham IV, Lord of the Manor of Scadbury, purchased Dartford Manor and promptly sold most of it, but retained Chislehurst, and thus became Lord of both Scadbury and Chislehurst Manors.

Apart from this ancient Manor of Chislehurst, there were two others that appear to have developed from it, Kemnal and Scadbury.

Kemnal Manor began as a land grant by Henry II to Monks at Havering in Essex about 1159; they gradually increased their holdings of land in the area and used the produce and income to support their priory at Hornchurch. In 1391 the Manor was purchased by William of Wykeham, and used to endow his New College at Oxford. There is no adequate explanation of the name, which it is thought may be of Celtic origin. Neither Kemnal nor Chislehurst ever had a resident Lord of the Manor; Kemnal was held by New College until the 1870s, and Chislehurst, until its purchase in 1611, was one of many ‘grace and favour’ manors bestowed by a grateful sovereign upon a deserving favourite, who ‘held’ it, with many others, at a distance. Neither manor ever had a true manor house as such; ‘The Manor House’ in Chislehurst is an example of Victorian prestige naming of a genuinely old timber framed house, and although there was a bailiff’s house at Kemnal, it was also not a true manor house; a late Victorian house built there was named ‘Kemnal Manor’ by its owner. This has gone, but Foxbury, built nearby for Henry Tiarks in 1875, remains as one of many splendid Victorian houses to be seen in Chislehurst.

Scadbury Manor is somewhat different. It is the one and only true home of the local Lord of the Manor. It lies on the eastern boundary of Chislehurst Parish, on the top of the slope overlooking the Cray Valley. Its name is also descriptive Anglo Saxon, and was first thought to indicate some kind of early fortification on a boundary. A theory about an Anglo Saxon thane was put forward. More reasonably, in the light of recent archaeology, it could equally be taken to mean a shady hill, which is how it would have been seen from the Cray Valley. The elements that make up the name, Scead and burgh, are both capable of several fine shades of meaning.

Archaeological evidence points towards settlement there sometime in the early to mid-thirteenth century, by which time there is plentiful evidence of considerable general settlement in the parish. The de Scathebury family were the first recorded settlers at Scadbury; their name simply suggests that they took it from the place where they settled. It is possible that they were granted an amount of land, perhaps by the King, or by the church and made additional acquisitions by purchase or leasehold from Kemnal Manor; much later documentary evidence indicates that Scadbury was ‘held of the Manor of Kemnal’ for a long time. They were either made, or became, resident Lords of the Manor, and appear to have been quite wealthy. A lay subsidy (a tax on goods and property) in 1301 indicates that John de Scathebury was by far the richest man in the Parish, his goods being valued at £22 3s. The owners of Kemnal were the next wealthiest, their valuation being £6 10s 2d.

The de Scathebury family faded away in the later fourteenth century, and the Walsingham family moved to Scadbury in 1424, expanding their property with further local purchases. The Walsingham family included:

  • Thomas Walsingham I, prosperous vintner of the City of London;
  • Sir Edmund Walsingham, Lieutenant of the Tower at time of Henry VIII, (look at his monument in St Nicholas Church);
  • his brother William Walsingham, who held Foots Cray manor for a time, father of
  • Francis Walsingham, Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth, who founded the Elizabethan secret service and may have been born at Scadbury or at Foots Cray circa 1530;
  • Thomas Walsingham IV, knighted by Queen Elizabeth at Scadbury in 1597 (pictured on the Village Sign on Royal Parade) and friend and patron of Christopher Marlowe, poet, playwright (and probably a spy or courier).

The Walsinghams were succeeded by the Bettenson family about 1657, the Selwyns in 1733, and the Townshends in 1751, by which time Scadbury moated manor had been demolished. There was a later building by the moat, erected within the space occupied by the original hall of the moated house, but this was destroyed by fire in 1976. This is pictured above from a photograph of c.1964.

FrognalFrognal, the estate on the northern boundary of Scadbury (shown right in an old print), became the home of successive Lords of the Manor. Thomas Townshend, 1st Viscount Sydney, was the first of the Townshends to live there, and his family remained there until the death in 1914 of Robert Marsham-Townshend, his great-grandson. Frognal then became a hospital for wounded servicemen, where ground-breaking work was performed on plastic surgery for casualties of the Great War. This was led by Harold Gillies; you can access the archives here… Later the hospital became the nucleus of Queen Mary’s Hospital.

After the Great War the Marsham-Townshend family moved back to Scadbury and lived in a Victorian house near the moated site. In the 1920s the building of the A20 Sidcup Bypass road cut the old parish into two unequal parts and created an increasingly effective barrier between them. The creation of Chislehurst & Sidcup Urban District Council in 1934 did little to reunite the area. In 1965 the A20 became the boundary between the new London Boroughs of Bexley and Bromley.

Following the death in 1975 of John Marsham-Townshend, the last resident Lord of the Manor, the estate was bought in 1983 by the London Borough of Bromley and became a public park, and is now also managed as a farm and nature conservation area. Since 1986 Orpington District Archaeological Society (ODAS) has been excavating the moated site, and the immediately surrounding ‘mainland’.