BADSELL is a Saxon name, ‘sell’ being an abbreviation for gisell, which was a shack or shed. The ‘bad’ comes from the medieval ‘badde,’ meaning ‘bad, worthless or miserable.’ Even today the land, being low lying, is inclined to be wet and easily becomes waterlogged. Although there is no way of knowing exactly what sort of dwelling was there in olden times, it is easy to imagine that in the days before land drainage, there would have been a small hovel sitting in the marshland, a hut that would unknowingly give its name to an illustrious manor house that was to be the home of more than one influential and titled gentleman.
The first recorded owner of Badsell was Queen Eddiva, the wife of Edward the Confessor. Although the Queen owned Tudeley andtherefore the land that encompassed Badsell, it was only part of the huge areas of land owned by her and her powerful family. If she ever passed through what was to become the Badsell Estate, it is unlikely that she deigned to stop at the farmer’s hut. Then on 14th October 1066 everything changed. Having landed on English shores on the 28th September, the forces of Duke William of Normandy met King Harold’s army at the Battle of Hastings. After a difficult and bloody fight, which at one time seemed to go in favour of the English King, Harold was killed, legend says as a result of being shot in the eye by an arrow, and the English defence collapsed. For two weeks after the battle the Norman conqueror rested his army near Hastings, waiting for the Anglo-Saxon lords to come and submit to him. When at last he realised he was waiting in vain he decided to march on London and take it by force. While Badsell lies along the direct line between Hastings and London, fortunately William took his forces to the east before circling around the capital city and passed nowhere near Badsell during his march, thus sparing the settlement the destruction that he caused in his wake.
Although Queen Eddiva survived the conquest her lands, in common with most of the rest of the subjugated people, were confiscated and passed to supporters of the King, and in particular those who had crossed the channel with him during the invasion.
William introduced a type of feudalism to England whereby all land was owned by the King who then enfeoffed it to his earls and barons in return for military aid. These ‘tenants-in-chief’ would then sub-enfeud parcels of land to sub-tenants. This process would continue down to single manors. After the Norman Conquest, in 1066, much of Kent was given to Odo Bishop of Bayeux. Odo was William the Conqueror’s half brother and was created Earl of Kent in 1067. His extensive land holdings included Badsell. Bishop Odo’s land holdings were huge, second in size only to King William’s. He was a very powerful man and acted as William’s deputy in England from 1067 until 1083, when he was arrested, supposedly for plotting to usurp the Pope. Badsell would have been only a tiny part of his land holdings and he may not have even visited it.