The Children family of Tonbridge: taken from Lawrence Biddle’s “Leigh in Kent 1550-1900”
Simon Children set up as a farmer at Lower Street Farm (which he then called ‘Childrens’) in the parish of Tonbridge in about 1379. The family was prolific and outside the parish of Leigh it acquired over the centuries by marriage or purchase Nizels, Nizels Hoath, Riverhill House, Philpots, Bourne Place, the Bank (now Oakhurst), Westwood and Mountains and, within the parish of Leigh, the 12 farms in the 1750 Churchwardens list (details in Leigh Parish Registers). By the end of the 18th century, George Children, the head of the family, was resident at Ferox Hall, Tonbridge and at Ramhurst in Leigh, while most of the other properties in Tonbridge and Leigh were let to tenant farmers.
In 1742 the Medway Navigation made the river navigable to Tonbridge – and this helped increase the importance of the town as a trade centre. In a prosperous town there was a demand for a bank and to meet this demand, George Children, Chairman of the Tonbridge Magistrates, William Francis Wpodgate of Somerhill and Mr Scoones, one of the sons of William Scoones, a Tonbridge solicitor, formed a partnership in 1792 and started the Tonbridge Bank.
By 1807 the bank was in difficulties. In 1809 a scheme was suggested under which George Children should sell all his Kentish property, release himself from every liability connected with the Bank and purchase a new estate in Devonshire. If he had done this, he would have had a substantial surplus, but no sale took place.
On 13 December 1813 the Bank closed its doors and a meeting of creditors was held. It was decided that the creditors should accept payment of their claims by four instalments at 6, 12, 18 and 24 months. Mr Children’s property in Tonbridge and Leigh were sold at auction on March 1813 in 12 lots, of 1400 acres – including the Manor of Dachurst or Hadlow Place, Great Barnetts and seven other farms. In 1815 George Children attempted to sell a new Mansion House called The Mount, 2 miles from Tonbridge, and six farms of 700 acres. The Mansion House was probably that known as Mountains, Hiildenborough.
It seems that the Bank must have failed to meet the six-monthly instalments agreed in 1813, for on 6 February 1816 a Commission of Bankruptcy was issued against Major William F. Woodgate and three Trustees were appointed to whom Major Woodgate’s estate was assigned on 27 Feb 1816.
At the same time, George Children sold Ferox Hall, together with the remaining Children property unsold in 1813 – he Mount, part of Great Barnetts, Ramhurst, Old Hop Garden Farm, Meopham Bank Farm – total 620 acres. There were several cottages and Bordyke House and other houses in Tonbridge. All were sold and after this date the Children family no longer owned any property in the parish of Leigh. In 1820 a dividend of 5/- in the pound was paid in George Children’s estate and later a further 2/- in the pound, but it is not known whether any further dividend was paid.
The Leigh Historical Society Archives has various information on the Children family and the various properties. More information will be added to the website in due course.
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