KENNARDS – UPPER KENNARDS – OLD KENNARDS – PARSONAGE FARM
Kennards land was also known as Parsonage Farm: it consisted of what is today Old Kennards, Upper Kennards and Kennards and the Forestall and stretched along the south east of the Hildenborough Road as far as a boundary roughly where the by-pass now runs. (The 8 acres of land where The Woods (formerly known as Leigh Cottage) was located was surrounded by Parsonage Farm). The vicarage and its land was separate from Parsonage Farm/Kennards.
Thus Kennards Farm was situated to the east of the village, some of which at one point formed part of the copyhold property of the Manor of Leigh Hollanden and is referred to as ‘Collins’ – two parcels of land of 3 acres in the Court Rolls of the Manor of Leigh Hollenden: some was part of the Penshurst Estate (Sir William Sydney was granted by Edward VI – as well as the Penshurst Estate – part of the Parish of Leigh which included what was called Parsonage Farm). The acreage known as “Collins” was eventually aliened to the Revd Thomas May as tenant.
Between 1747 and 1808 the Waites family were tenant farmers of Kennards. Also we know that John London (owner of Mills in Leigh, and later Watts Cross Mill) lived there in 1811 as a tenant of the Rev. N. May (Rev. Thomas May’s father).
In 1770 Parsonage Farm (Kennards) was sold to Richard Allnutt* of South Park in Penshurst. Richard Allnutt would later sell the land to Nathaniel May, Vicar of Leigh (1811-1830) in 1819.
Thomas May inherited Parsonage Farm/Kennards (including Old Kennards) from his father, the Rev. Nathaniel May in 1825. He built two further houses on the land – the first in 1842 for his sister Jane May, which he called Kennards Cottage (but which is now called Kennards) and the other being Upper Kennards. Thomas May at some point decided that the Vicarage itself was unhealthy and moved to Upper Kennards. This had been a farmhouse and he no doubt extended it. After Rev. Thomas May retired he continued to live at Upper Kennards and whilst a new vicarage was being built, his successor, Rev. Hugh Collum, temporarily resided at The Woods (owned by the Rev. May via his late wife, Emily Catherine Saint).
In fact, the Rev. Thomas May by virtue of his marriage to Emily Catherine Saint in 1825 (the daughter of William and Mary Saint who lived at The Woods and niece of Sarah Harbroe who had married Richard Burgess of the Hall Place Estate – see FAMILY TREE) became one of the largest landowners in Leigh.**
Thomas May died at Upper Kennards on 19 Feb 1888. Kennards Land and other properties inherited via his wife (i.e. Lower Street Farm, Little Lucy’s Farm, The Woods) remained in the Harbroe and May family trust until sold to Lord Hollenden in 1915***.
Hall Place properties were gradually re-sold into private ownership during the 20th century, which meant also the Kennards properties bought in 1915.
A Conveyance of 21 April 1952 states “Hon. Geoffrey Hope Baron Hollenden now Rt Hon. Geoffrey Hope Baron Hollenden; the named Trustees; and Archibald Manwaring Robertson and Cecil Dudley King-Farlow (purchasers) all that piece of land in Leigh together with messuage etc known as “Old Kennards” plus right of way in common with others etc in fee simple. (Epitome of Title)
A Conveyance of 28 May 1956 states “Rt Hon Geoffrey Hope Baron Hollenden; Claude Hope Hope Morley; Lawrence Austin Biddle and Anita Edith van Praagh piece of land with boundaries and dwelling house known as Upper Kennards a total of 3.297 acres. (Epitome of Title)
But much of the Kennards acreage still remained in the ownership of Hall Place Estates. However, from Alfred Houghton notes dated 1982 we can see that on 6 April 1979 Kennards Fields of 5.6 acres were sold to Mr and Mrs Gerald Williams.
At Leigh, therefore, there are three houses with the KENNARDS name in their title, all on former Parsonage Farm land.
This is the oldest property and pre-dates 1841 where it appears on the 1841 Tithe Map. We do not have details of when it was built. We know that John London lived there in 1811 as a tenant of the Rev. N. May (Rev. Thomas May’s father).
From 1936-1956 it was lived in by Sir Arthur Page QC, Chief Justice of Burma and Dick Wood remembers that Lady Page held a lunch party at Old Kennards for all the helpers in Festival of Britain week. During World War 2 a German plane came down in a haystack between Old Kennards and the The Old Vicarage. Everyone tried to get the pilot’s body out, but they only managed to get half of it which was buried in the churchyard and later repatriated.
Old Kennards is famous for the yew tree house and Monica Gray, an evacuee during the war, remembered playing in it while she lived at Oak Cottage in Leigh.
Originally known as Kennards Cottage was built by Rev Thomas May for his sister Jane May in 1842.It is opposite Park House. The “M” in the brickwork on the south front refers to MAY and not to Morley who never owned this house.
Was built by Rev. Thomas May (date not known) but before 1870. The Rev May retired there in 1876 but may have moved there earlier after the death from consumption of his wife in 1874. The 1870 map shows no driveway to the main road as the original access was along a track (private road) which ran from the Green past the Old Vicarage, then on the north side of Old Kennards, and up the hill to the east side of Upper Kennards and it then formed the main track serving Kennards Farm as shown on the 1870 map). A photograph taken at the time shows a tennis court at Upper Kennards, on the site of the present drive. After the death of the Rev. Thomas May, Upper Kennards was let by his trustees to Mr Hedges of Hedges and Butler. A drive was made to the road and the garden extended also and the name changed to “The Grange”.
*The inheritance of the Penshurst Estate was complicated in the 1700s by the lack of a male heir. It was divided into three parts in 1743 and Mary and Elizabeth Sydney daughters of Thomas Sydney, were entitled to two parts and the third part, described as the undivided part was their joint property. When Mary died in 1758 she left her part of the Penshurst estate, plus her share of the undivided part, to ANNE LADY YONGE for her life and on death to Sir George Yonge, her son. It was Anne Lady Yonge and her son who sold Clements Farm (now Orchard House) and Parsonage Farm (Kennards) to Richard Allnutt.
** Rev. Thomas May held lands by right of marriage to Emily Catherine Saint (niece of Sarah Harbroe – formerly Burgess, formerly Farrant). In the Will of James Harbroe who died 1820, Hollanden Farm in Riding Lane was given absolutely to Emily Catherine Saint if she attained age of 25 – by then of course she was married Thomas May, who now became entitled to Hollanden Farm by right of his wife. Emily Catherine May also held life tenancies of Little Lucy’s Farm, Lower Street Farm, and The Wood under Mrs Harbroe’s Will, thus making the Rev. May a very wealthy man by right of marriage as well as owning Parsonage Farm inherited from father.
*** Samuel Hope Morley when he extended the Hall Place estate purchased Leigh Park Farm and Prices Farm from Lord de Lisle 1911; and purchased Lower Street Farm, Little Lucy’s, The Woods, and Kennards from the Harbroe and May Trustees in 1915.
Joyce Field (August 2015)
Lawrence Biddle: Leigh in Kent 1550-1900
Epitome of Title document
Alfred Houghton notes dated 10 June 1982