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The History Of Manston Court

During the prehistoric period Mammoths roamed the chalk plains around Manston Court, the remains of several have been found in what is now the garden, near the fresh water well.

In 786 ad the King and Queen of the Island of Thane, invited St Augustine to the island, but, fearing the rise of Christianity, St Augustine and his 40 or so Monks were kept on the island by troops stationed on the mainland.  They were eventually allowed onto the mainland to spread the message!  Whilst on the Island waiting, they built a church/chapel of flint in the village centre as well as roads in roman style, the remains of which are still present today.  The rest of the village was likely to have been of wooden construction as was the practice of the time.

In the reign of King John 1167-1216 who famously commissioned the Magna Carta, a family by the name of Manston lived at Manston Court, Manston, Kent.

Eventually a flint and stone medieval hall house was built on the site (circa 1190), now known as The Chapel.   Monks from Canterbury Cathedral were reputed to have used it as a monastic retreat.  Whilst being used as a hall house, animals would have been kept on the ground floor of The Chapel, and an external stair case would have led up to the first floor accommodation.  This accommodation would have consisted of a large room with a single fire place for heating.  The more senior the person, the closer to the fire place they would be able to sit.  The chimney itself is still intact at the rear of the old chapel.  A walled court yard would have surrounded the buildings, and would have been the centre of trade for the local area.

The house was visible from around the coast of Thanet and from as far afield as Canterbury, as it was built on the highest point of the chalk plains. It was historically a reference/navigation point for sailors and the site of a beacon. This unfortunately made it a point of interest for the Vikings who landed nearby.

Many years later a new grander house was built at Manston Court, which would have been a half- timbered and stone manor house, and the medieval hall house (The Chapel) became used as a barn. 

A 200 foot well remains at the front of Manston Court, where in 1289 Gausden Bolle, a good friend of King Edward 1 was found to be at the bottom.  He was brought out alive by John Bolle, but sadly died 3 days later.  King Edward ordered an inquisition and local people were tortured to find the circumstances of Bolle’s death.  The King suspected foul play by locals, however they insisted that he had ‘fallen down the well in his madness through drink’.

According to the official records from archiologica cantina, ‘On Christmas Eve 1365, persons entered the manor of William De Manston against the peace, and ravished Elizabeth the late wife of William, and beat the domestics and family and made off with cloth of linen and wool, silver vessels, rings, brooches of gold and silver and other goods.  In 1366, William Uncle and John Flete and others were indicted and sentenced to death for these crimes.  William Uncle was later pardoned by the King.

In 1381 during the reign of King Richard 11, a William De Mendenham resided at Manston Court as an Agent of the Manor.  He kept control of the Kings taxes and the rolls of the Office of Receiver of Green Wax for the County of Kent.

On the 13th June 1381, a group of 200 locals including Wat Tyler met at the church of St. John, Thanet, and proclaimed that they would go to Manston Court and behead William De Mendenham and burn down the house where tax records for the area were kept.  Fortunately for De Mendenham, he was not at home at the time.  However, the rebels burnt down the house and destroyed the tax records and made off with ‘goods and chattels to the value of twenty marks.’  This was the first recorded action of the peasants revolt that changed English history.

Henry V1 of England (1421-1471), succeeded the thrones of England and France before he was one year old.  In his fourteenth year, William Manston was the Sheriff of Kent, and resided and governed Kent from Manston Court.  William had one daughter Julian, who married St. Thomas Nicholas who died in 1474 and was entombed in the Chapel of Thorn at Minster.

In 1429, Henry V1 ordered that the Manor of Gosehall near Plucks Gutter Thanet be handed over to William Manston, and that it be inherited by the children of William Manston and Joan Loveryke.

In 1434 Roger Manston of the Manor of Manston Court was made a commissioner to receive Oaths for the Isle of Thanet.

In 1446 William Manston ‘quitclaim (he no longer claimed ownership) of the Manor of Seynntycolas (St. Nicholas) to the benefit of the nuns at Aldgate.’

In 1451 William and Roger Manston were charged by the King to bring to arms all men of Thanet, and lead them to the coast to repel the French.

During the 17th Century, a hay wane/corn store on straddle stones was built opposite the hall house which has Grade 2 listing status in its own right.

During the 18th Century the current main house was built.  Evidence in the basement suggests that timbers, (some of them signed), from a half timber building were reclaimed and used in its construction.  Around the garden are the remains of flint walls from the original Manston Court.

The front of the house was rebuilt with brick, the new and expensive material of the time.

With the attached land the area became a farm, and the medieval hall house was then used as the barn or storage area.  Tied cottages, a bakery, well house and associated farm buildings became established around the new house, and by the 20th Century it became known as Manston Court Farm.

In 1836 the local census shows that Ernest Philpot, a tenant farmer, resided at Manston Court Farm.

In 1900 when Land Registry was introduced, the land was owned on license by The Company for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England.  They owned and farmed the land and used the profits to further their cause of building boats to transport Christians to the United States.

In 1948 the farm was sold by the Charities Commission on behalf of the New England Gospel Company to Norman Austen, a farmer for £8,500.  Documentation of that time shows the farm land extending to the North and South of the farm buildings, as well as a large field on the opposite side of Manston Court Road.

During WW11 the medieval hall house was used by the Home Guard as a base and a lookout post, as it was the highest building in Thanet at that time.  The village used caves under Manston Court as an air raid shelter.  These caves are said to reach Cliffsend and were used for smuggling originally.  The caves were sealed after the war.

During the 1960’s and 1970’s parts of Manston Court Farm were sold off, and by 1979 Mr Austen had sold off the 6 cottages to the right of Manston Court as well as the fields opposite and to the right.  In 1968 the property was listed as a Grade 2 listed building.

On the death of Mr Austen in 1989, the remaining farm land and its buildings were divided amongst his children.  The farm land at the rear of Manston Court was converted into caravan parks, and the farm buildings to the side were used as storage by Manston Caravan and Camping Park, until their sale in 2005 by the Austen family.  They were subsequently converted into separate dwellings, when the use of the land changed from a farm to residential property.  The 6 separate dwellings are now known as The Courtyard.

In 1990 Manston Court underwent much needed restoration.  The medieval hall house and remaining part of the original chapel/oratory, were converted into accommodation and attached to the main house.  Reclaimed stairs from a church were placed inside the building, and rooms were formed including a billiard room and large en suite master bedroom.  The bakery was converted into accommodation for a butler or servants of the main house, and was named Annie’s Cottage, believed to be after the cook who lived there.

The 200 foot deep well in the well house was capped, and the pump room and storage area converted into a gymnasium, sauna and shower room.

In 1999 when the property changed hands for £422,000, the new owners converted the well house into accommodation called Well House.

Although legally the site has always been Manston Court, it had become known as Manston Court Farm.  Then in 2000, the site reverted to being registered and once again called Manston Court.  In 2002 the property was purchased by its current owners.

In 2005 the boundaries of Manston Court were changed to their present state, to allow for the development of The Courtyard, which was the collective name given to the converted barn buildings next to Manston Court.

Then, in 2005, the current owners began to let Annie’s Cottage as self-catering holiday accommodation, and then did the same with Well House, which is now known as Well Cottage in 2006.   In 2009 The Chapel was converted into a large 3 bedroom house, and that too is now let out as self-catering holiday accommodation full time.

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