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The Culpeper Conundrum

Edward Hasted published his renowned ‘History of Kent’ in the period from 1778 to 1799. This work has an extensive entry for Badsell Manor and is the source of a significant part of the early history of the house. Although Hasted has a good reputation for accuracy he did not record his sources and therefore it is not possible to verify much of his history of the house from source documents. His history covers the ownership of the Manor by the de Badsells, the Stidulphs and the Fanes but there is no mention of the famous Culpepper family. However there are a series of wills that directly associate the Culpeppers with Badsell Manor over a period of nearly 170 years from 1381 to 1549. This is the very period when there is other information showing that the de Badsells, Stidulphs and Fanes occupied the house. 

The first piece of information that we have, linking Badsell Manor to the Culpeppers is a deed dated the 25th January 1381. In this deed Sir Thomas Colepeper passes the manor of Badeselle to his Mother for ‘as long as she is unmarried’ (his Father was already deceased) in exchange for her dower rights. Mention is made of a watermill existing at the Manor. This is the earliest mention of a mill at the site. Rather curiously, in several places the deed refers to ‘The manor of Badeselle called Fobeles.’ This is one of just three historical references that have been found referring to the name ‘Fobeles’. Another local property, Capel Grange was previously known as Fobles Farm and in the estate sale of 1917 there was an area known as Fobles Wood let with Badsell Mains . The Manor would have at this time encompassed this area and much more. 

When Thomas died, in 1428, he left the ‘Manor of Badeselle’ to his son Walter, in his will. The last reference linking Badsell and the Culpeppers is an entry in the close Rolls, in 1549, where a Richard Culpeper sells his one third part of the manor of Badsell, alias Fobylls, to a John Culpeper, for £30. The entry goes on to state ‘… now in the occupation of John Culpeper, the elder of Wakehurst.’ 

How can Badsell Manor be in the ownership of two families at the same time? It has to be borne in mind that all of the written histories of the Manor draw heavily on Hasted. One possibility is that Hasted’s history is completely wrong but this seems unlikely, especially with the amount of circumstantial evidence, such as the references to the Stidulphs and Fanes ‘of Badsell’. There is not a clear answer to this but perhaps the most obvious solution is that one family owned it and the other occupied it as a fee simple. Bearing in mind that the Culpeppers were a wealthy and influential family owning many other manors, it is likely that they owned the property, but that the de Badsells, Stidulphs and Fanes were tenants. The principal Manor of Sir Thomas Colepeper was at Bayhall south of the local village of Pembury. Did Sir Thomas acquire the Badsell Manor estate from the de Clare family, together with the de Badsell tenants? It is likely, although this does not tie in with the 1549 entry that says the manor was in the occupation of John Culpeper. In modern day money £30 for a one third interest in the property would perhaps equate to £20,000, for the whole. In practise inflation is not a uniform matter, with certain things rising in price far more than others. Over the years land prices have risen far more than other items, nonetheless £20,000 does seem a very small amount for a Manor and presumably it’s surrounding estate. This does point to the value reflecting just the manorial rights. 

Shortly after this date Thomas Fane, who lived at Badsell married an Elizabeth Colepeper. Could this have led the Fanes as tenants become absolute owners of Badsell Manor? 


xxi. Empty Calendar of Close Rolls Richard II vol 1 1377-1381; 1381 Jan 25 Westminster 

xxii. Sale Catalogue a copy of which is held at Plymouth and West Devon Record Office ref 1096/122 

xxiii. Will of Thomas Colpeper dated 26 October 1427 

xxiv. Close Rolls, 3 Edward VI, pt 1 1549 

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