History of BWT Land before 2003

Many thanks to Kate Kersey and Arlene Broadhurst for allowing us to use their research on this page!

The BWT land originally belonged to the manor of Mote, Mott or Moat Hall in Bearsted (not to be confused with Mote Park in Maidstone), which was a medieval fortified moated manor house (Monument No. 417970). Finds from excavations of the site include Mesolithic scrapers. According to the Maidstone Borough Council Plan for the Bearsted Conservation Area (in PDF form on the council website) moated manors were popular from the late 12th century until the 14th century, and the foundation of Holy Cross Church, like many other village churches, was probably closely associated with the manor of Mote. Edward Hasted, writing in 1800, claimed that the mansion on this manor was called "Stonehouse" because it was built of stone.

Fifteenth century

In the reign of Queen Mary I, George Stonehouse from Milgate, Clerk of the Green Cloth, was granted a lease on a large parcel of land which included the manor of Mote.


Mote Hall was shown on estate maps dated 1707 and 1746 near Holy Cross Church, but neither the owners or the occupiers at that time have yet been discovered.


Edward Hasted's 1800 History of Kent has the following entry;

"Mote Hall is a manor in [Bearsted] parish, the mansion of which, from the materials with which it was built, was called Stonehouse. It antiently belonged to the neighbouring priory of Leeds, as appears by several old boundaries and papers, and was most probably part of those demesnes given to it at its first foundation, by Robert de Crevequer, in the reign of King Henry I. These demesnes appear by a rental of the time of king Henry VII to have been held of the manor of Leeds, though they have been long since accounted parcel of this manor of Mote Hall. On the dissolution of the priory in the reign of king Henry VIII this manor, among the rest of the possessions of it, was surrendered into the king's hands, who afterwards ... in [1542] ... settled this manor ... on his new founded dean and chapter of Rochester, with whom it remains at this time. The present lessee of it [1800] under the dean and chapter, is Mr. William Usborne. There is a court baron held for this manor."

Leases dated 1808-1845 survive referring to the Wise, Savage and Kipping families and "all that Manor and Manor place of Motehall" Before the Vicarage on the north of the church was built in the 1820s, it is possible that Mote Hall was used as the vicarage, but there is also thought to have been an old vicarage in Sutton Street.

Before 1814 the mainway to Ashford from Maidstone was via Ware Street. In 1814 the Maidstone Ashford turnpike trust made a new road from a place called New England, in the Parish of Hollingborne ... to East Lane, in the Town of Maidstone. That road was the A20 as we know it today.


The 1841 Census was vague about exactly where houses were, and neither Mote Hall or Church Farm are named, although Church Lane residents included a number of agricultural workers, som eof which were probably living at Church Farm. But the newspaper cutting below shows that John E Beeching was farming in Bearsted, and the Tithe Apportionment a year later proves that he was leasing Church Farm from the Dean and Chapter of Rochester.   

The reason that Beeching wasn't listed as living at Church Farm was that he was at Shepway Court, where he grew hops.

And here is the 1839 Maidstone Directory.

1842 The Bearsted Tithe Schedule

Bearsted Tithe schedule can be seen on the Kent Archeological Society website.  It shows the present BWT land between the church landway and the Lilk stream, 16 acres. 

1851 Census

Widower George Kipping (31) farmer of 118 acres lived at "Church House" with two servants. In 1841 George had been living on his father's farm at Hadlow. He married some time in the 1840s, but his first wife had died leaving him with no children. On July 20 1853 George married his second wife Elizabeth Maud of Croydon at St John's Church in Hackney. They had three children, William in 1854, Frances in 1856 and Ellen in 1858, then Elizabeth died very soon after Ellen's birth.

 1861 Census

Widower George Kipping (41) farmer of 160 acres employing 10 men and 4 boys, was living at Mote Hall with his three children William (6) Frances (5) and Ellen (3) and three servants.


The 1870 Ordnance Survey map (http://maps.nls.uk) below shows BWT boundaries marked roughly in green. Note the name Daddy Drake's Well near Major's lakes!

1871 Census

George Kipping appears to have moved to Bethnal Green, where he was described as a Fruiterer. Frederick Kipping (38) "Landowner," George's youngest brother, was living at Mote Hall with his wife Patience (nee Edwards) and baby Douglas. Charlotte Tree, Nursemaid, lived with them and John Cornwell, Gardener lived in the outbuildings. Farm Bailiff John Tree (53) lived on the Ashford Road, with his wife and four children, including John (19) an Under Gardener and Edward (17) a Farm Labourer. 

1881 Census

George Wakefield (43) Farmer of 235 acres, employing 17 men, a groom, 4 gardeners and 3 boys was living at Mote Hall with his wife and 7 children.


In 1885 the Dean and Chapter of Rochester sold Church Farm to Herbert Sankey who owned it for 5 years. In 1890 it comprised 93 acres, and numerous buildings, a brickyard at Roundwell, and an oast with 8 kilns which still stands near Bearsted Green today. 

1891 Census

George Wakefield (53) Farmer and Tallow Melter, his wife and 5 of their children, his wife's mother and sister, and a servant, were listed in Bearsted, presumably at Church Farm.

Henry Joseph Knowles was a local builder (a house painter in 1881) born in Bearsted in 1851. The 1891 Census lists him, in the village, with his wife and five children.  By 1900 Knowles was licensee at the White Horse. 


Walter Fremlin (1843-1925) of the famous Maidstone brewing family, bought Church Farm in 1892, and it is believed that he renamed it "Mote Hall".  Ten years later he bought Milgate Park, thus becoming a large landowner in the parish.  Walter was regularly observed driving around in his carriage (with immaculate black horses) laden with small hessian sacks containing sapling trees and a spade with which to plant them. He liked to plant them in clusters, three, five, and sometimes seven grouped together., and many of them survive today.   Gore Cottage was on the Milgate estate.


Majors Lakes were constructed in 1894 as a duck shoot, but over the next 100 years gradually silted up until in 1996 when there was only 2 feet of water in the deepest part. The 1898 Ordnance Survey shows Majors Wood and the public footpaths which remain today.  Not that it also shows a footpath from the bridge over the Lilk stream below Gore Cottage to Daddy Drake's Well.

1901 Census

In 1901 Hubert Hamilton (66) retired local "Sheriff Advocate Substitute", his wife, 2 daughters, a cook and a groom were living at Mote Hall.

In 1901 and 1911 Thomas and Amelia Baker and their thirteen children shared Gore Cottage, which was on the Milgate Estate, with Sophia Woollett, a widow, and her son, James. Thomas was Wood Reeve at Milgate; and the boys also worked on the estate. Amelia ran a private laundry, assisted her two elder daughters, May and Lily, doing regular washing for the Fremlins
at Milgate, the Featherstones at Cobham Farm, and perhaps other families in the village. This photo is almost certainly Amelia at the gate of Gore Cottage, and her drying line looks very adequate! 

Photo of Amelia here

Another old photograph taken around that time (maybe even on the same day) is reproduced by permission of Kent Archaeological Society. The children, who lived at Gore Cottage, were taking clean laundry across the Lilk bridge to the village for their mother. 


By the twentieth century apple, pear and cherry orchards were everywhere in Kent and Bearsted was no exception. The trees were taller than they are in modern orchards, so long ladders were essential for picking!   Elm trees grew along the footpath from Sutton Street to the Ashford Road The 1909 six inch Ordnance Survey map (http://maps.nls.uk/view/102343561) also shows orchards between Mote Hall and the Ashford Road which were not there in 1870. BWT boundaries are roughly marked in green on the detail below.


The editor has just come across a childhood memories ot Bearsted written in 1997 by Mr John Blamire Brown (1915-2008) son of the Vicar, Frederick John Blamire-Brown MA and his wife Beatrice, who was born in Bearsted and lived here until 1928. He remembered the private road leading from Mote House to the Ashford Road [made of] cinders, and there were a lot of shirt buttons in the surface - reputed to come from the paper mill at Turkey Mill.


Mr Blamire Brown also remembered that Major Philip Hanbury of the brewing family was at Mote House. He had a Daimler car which was a replica of King George V's.  Mrs Hanbury advertised for a cook in 1922.


In 1930, Sir Gordon Craig became the next owner of Mote Hall. He  was involved in the film industry.  His family enjoyed Bearsted, but before long, probably in 1932, they sold to Lieutenant Commander Richard Jessel and his wife Winnie who changed the name again to "Mote House." 

When the Jessels bought the Church Farm estate the sale included a 14 acre orchard and cottage occupied by Mr Frank Terry.  Frank Terry and his wife Ellen had moved out from Maidstone to grow fruit a few years earlier. In those days this area was full of fruit farms; apples, pears and cherries everywhere, in Vinters Park, Grove Green, Weavering, Bearsted and Hollingbourne! And the most famous fruit research station was at East Malling.

At the beginning of the second world war the 1939 Census lists the Terry family at  Church Farm House, on the Ashford Road at the southern end of the Church Landway. Frank Terry (senior) was born in Union Street in Maidstone in 1888.  In 1911 aged 22 he was living at 34 Union Street and working as a Greengrocer.  

During the war Frank (junior) served in the Gordon Highlanders, and Douglas was in the Royal Artillery.  It was Douglas who carried on the fruit farm when his parents retired.


In 1946 Douglas Terry married Irene Shoebridge.  Pauline Moore remembered Doug and Rene Terry´s "lovely market garden" on the east of the Church Landway.   The apple packing sheds were where the roller bench is now, and at the bend in the path  further in the Terrys had a nice brick-built stable with a lean to wooden shed where they kept their Wolseley car. 

The Jessels were still at Mote House in 1947;


In 1952 when the Jessels sold Mote House, after Lord Mountbatten appointed Commander Jessell as an adviser to the Indian Navy,  it seems that Frank Terry (senior) was able to buy the land they had been renting. Kelly's trade directories between 1956 and 1973 list him at 159 Ashford Road and running  a fruit farm. 

The 1959 Ordnance Survey map below shows orchards on both sides of the Church Landway (coloured beige, with BWT boundaries in green). The Terry orchards were on the eastern side only.

Mr and Mrs Ireland-Blackburne live at Mote Hall in the 1950s and 60s. He was a Stockbroker and she kept her horse in the paddock which is now called Church Meadow, riding and playing tennis with Pauline Moore.  


Doug Terry spraying strawberries in what is now Main Field.


In 1970 Mrs Ellen Terry (wife of Frank Terry, the fruit farner, not her namesake the actress!) died. 

Even before 1973 when the UK became a member of the EEC,  English growers were having to compete with higher yielding varieties of apple grown in a warmer climate, so many orchards were taken out of production. Claire Brown remembers that the path from Mote House to the Ashford Road  (Church Landway) was cinders, and Bearsted people used to scrump apples and pick blackberries in the old orchard on the western side (now Scouts, Guides, bowls and tennis) although the Terry's side wasn't being cultivated then. 

In 1976 and 1977 Kent History Federation Journals reported the investigation of the suspected moated manor house site of "Mott" Hall, Bearsted. 

In 1977 Bearsted Parish Council bought the strip of disused orchard northeast of the Church Landway (now Scouts, Guides, Bowls Club and Tennis Club) which included a public footpath, although vehicular access along the landway was restricted to the Terry family and the owners of Mote Hall.  It was noted at the time that some of the neighbouring land was neglected, almost semi-derelict orchard and market garden.

In 1979 Bearsted and Thurnham Lawn Tennis Club was officially opened on land leased from Bearsted Parish Council on the north east of the Church Landway.


In the 1980s the owner of the BWT main field area was Mr Douglas Terry, then in his 60s, who lived on the Ashford Road. He was growing Bramley cooking apples, raspberries, runner beans and strawberries for the London market, with a packing shed near the BWT main entrance, and other buildings further in. The life expectancy for a Bramley apple tree could be 100 years, if the tree is properly looked after and not neglected, so some of those trees might have been the original ones, very tall (not grown on dwarfing stock) and therefore planted 30 feet apart.

Read more about the Terry family below in our newsletter Woodlander No.31.

In 1982 Bearsted and Thurnham Bowls Club began leasing land from Bearsted parish Council opposite the BWT main entrance. Their green was opened in 1983 and the pavilion was built in 1987.

In 1984 Miss Elizabeth Harvie donated a field east of the churchyard accessed from Trapfield Close to the village, to be used for the benefit of young people.

In 1984 Frank Terry (senior) fruit farmer of Church Farm, died, but his son Douglas carried on the fruit business. 

The storm in October 1987 did a fair amount of damage to the derelict orchards, and one local resident remembers hundreds of apples stuck fast in the tennis Club netting on the morning afterwards. Another recalls

"the orchard was fenced off from the Church Landway with a poor wire fencing arrangement. The trees in the orchard were uncared for but still alive, and the grass was not mown."

In 1988 Bearsted Scouts began leasing land from the Parish Council and the Guides followed them in 1993.


In 1993 Douglas Terry decided to sell his land (still designated as agricultural) to Kent property developers Ward Homes. In those days property developers often held "land banks" which had not yet been granted residential planning permission, for future development, therefore Wards asked Maidstone Borough Council to re-designate the land for housing in the Local Plan.

Bearsted Parish Council agreed to support Wards if they included six low-cost homes, a football pitch, pavilion and car park.

At a public meeting villagers strongly disagreed with Parish Council.

A second public meeting was held followed by the formation of an Action Group to fight the development. 

Third public meeting on green voted against the development was carried by 487 votes to 45.  

A public enquiry in Maidstone  confirmed that the site was "an area of landscape importance" and refused permission for the building line to be moved to allow housing there.

Meanwhile, the change of use of the land from agricultural to residential involved the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, because land that might contain plant diseases dormant in the soil was subject to sale restrictions.  Top soil might be stripped off and sold elsewehere, carrying spores with it.  A particular concern was a strawberry disease called Red Core Disease which could lie dormant in soil for ever. An investigation of the red core disease of cultivated strawberries begun at Westerham Hill, Kent, in 1938, showed that since its first occurrence in that district in 1935, the disease had spread to 50 fields. Therefore in November 1993 Mr Odysseus Hadjiphanis, then a Plant Health and Seed Inspector for MAFF, who still lives in Bearsted (now retired) visited Mr Terry at Church Farm to discuss the government requirements about soil use, and also visited Wards at Grove Green, afterwards writing to both parties explaining the legal position.

In 1994 the Action Group asked Maidstone Borough Council to grant change of use from "agricultural land" to "public open space and nature conservation area."

In 1995 the Kent Trust for Nature Conservation agreed that the site had potential as a Nature Reserve in the Len Valley Corridor.  

In 1997 Wards made a modified application for 27 homes with sports facilities and a public car park.  

In 1997 Bearsted Amenity Society was formed to fight the development on land which had been unused for 10 years.  

In 1998 Ron and Shirley King, who had lived for 24 years on the Ashford Road on the West side of the Lilk stream, decided to buy and improve neighbouring Major's Lake, as a retirement project for Ron.  Their home was retirement home of record-breaking Kent bowler Percy "Tich" Freeman, who called it "Dunbowling.  In 1996 Major's Lake was a derelict five acres site full of silt and rotten trees, so in 1996 when five acres including the lake came up for sale they  First fallen, rotten  trees, brambles and rubbish were removed and then over 1,000 tons of silt were dredged, making two lakes. Afterwards new trees were planted and the lake was re-stocked with fish.  Sadly, 2,000 crocus bulbs given by Dr Vaux of Bearsted surgery were all eaten by squirrels.  For over 10 years, Ron maintained the lake surroundings and tended the fish first for for Boxley Angling Club, then for Major's Lakes Syndicate. 


If you know more about the history of our BWT land before 2003 which isn't here, please email us.