Franks Hall 1369

Dartford, England, Kent, Dartford

Brief Description

Franks Hall is a mid-Victorian garden and parkland of 30 hectares (74 acres). It was laid out in 1860, following previous Elizabethan and 17th-century schemes. The house was built in 1591.

History

The original Franks Hall was built in 1220, in the reign of Henry III. The existing Franks Hall was built in 1591 by Lancelot Bathurst. From the early-19th century, the property went into a slow decline. In 1860 however the estate was purchased by Robert Bradford who restored and enlarged the house and laid out the gardens and park again.

Terrain

The Hall stands at the foot of a valley, on the west bank of the River Darent which flows from north to south through the site, dividing the gardens from the park. The land rises to the west and east of the river.

Detailed Description

In 1870 there were reported to be 20 gardeners who meticulously maintained large areas of formal bedding in the grand Victorian style. Today all these beds have been lawned over, although the outline of many can be seen (from the ground) in the form of sunken geometric patterns in the grass.

The lawns include tennis courts (hard) and tree specimens and belts. The sheltered loop of water from the River Medway towards the house is reputed to have been constructed as a ‘pull-in' for barges in bygone days. One gazebo remains (possibly dating from Victorian times) in reasonable condition whilst only the foundations remain of a larger structure. The River Darent is an attractive feature of the garden.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

Mid-Victorian gardens and a small park laid out in the 1860s within the main lines of an Elizabethan and 17th-century scheme.

DESCRIPTION

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Franks Hall is located in the Darent valley, to the north-east of Farningham and to the south-west of Horton Kirby. The c 40ha site occupies a rural location, bounded to the north-east by Franks Lane, to the west by Dartford Road, to the south-east by Eglantine Lane, and to the south-west by farmland. The Hall stands at the foot of a valley, on the west bank of the River Darent which flows from north to south through the site, dividing the gardens from the park. The land rises to the west and east of the river.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES

The entrance to the site is at its northern tip, c 170m north-west of the Hall where a drive forks off Dartford Road, passing through iron gates (1940s) and a later C19 gateway (possibly by E W Roumieu, listed grade II) beside a lodge. From here the drive runs south-east, parallel to Franks Lane, to the stable block, then continues, curving round to the south, to the entrance front on the south-east side of the Hall.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING

Franks Hall (listed grade I) is a square, three-storey building constructed of brick on a knapped flint base, under a tile roof. It is a square building with a stone doorway flanked by Doric columns on tall bases in the centre of the south-east, entrance front, and a projecting octagonal turret in the centre of the south-west front. The Hall was built in 1591 by Lancelot Bathurst to replace an earlier mansion situated on the other side of the river.

The two-storey stable block (listed grade II) is arranged around a quadrangle with a carriage arch on the north-east front and is constructed of red brick with stone dressings under a tile roof. It stands c 40m to the north of the Hall and is linked to it via a tunnel under the north lawn. The stables were built in the late C19, probably to designs by E L Roumieu.

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS

The Victorian reworking of the gardens, for which there is a good photographic record (see guidebook), respected the lines of the earlier gardens, and the area to the north-west of the Hall still reflects the Elizabethan or C17 arrangement. A square lawn extends from the north-west front of the Hall, bounded on three sides by a slightly raised walk along which four brick gateways, which would have been set within walls but are now (2001) free-standing, survive from the C17. This lawn was the site of the Elizabethan forecourt. Steps from the hard-standing below the garden front mark the end of a straight walk which forms the south-east side of the lawn. The walk leads north-west to a stone and flint gazebo, adjacent to which stands one of the early gateways which bears the date 1689 (listed grade II). A pair of ornamental brick piers in the southern corner of the lawn marks the start of a lime avenue, planted in the C19. A picture gallery was built at the southern end of the avenue by Vavasour Earle (late C19/early C20). A flight of steps from the south-east front leads down a grass bank to another lawn which stretches down to the river.

A box-hedged knot garden on the south-west side of the Hall occupies the site of a large conservatory which was demolished in c 1915. Beyond this a broad walk leads down the east side of the lime avenue, between it and an area of lawn, to the site of a tea house (now, 2001, demolished) which formerly stood c 180m south-west of the Hall on the boundary of the site here registered. During the mid to late C19 the area adjacent to this walk was filled with extensive displays of bedding, these having been replaced by the late C20 by tennis courts.

To the west of the avenue is a large paddock planted with specimen trees and surrounded by a woodland walk behind an iron fence. The land here rises to the west and at the highest point stood a summerhouse (now demolished), rebuilt in flint and brick in 1910 by Lord Bathurst who had bought back the old family home. Near to its site is a small garden laid out with Italian cypresses; a statue, now removed, formerly stood in front of a stone niche (listed grade II) set into the brick wall, surrounded by a rockery of flint and slag.

PARK

The main area of parkland, divided into Pigeons' House Meadow and Eglantine Field, lies to the south-west of the river. The park extends over the valley side up to Eglantine Lane which runs along the east side of the site and is partly retained under grass. Several clumps of parkland trees survive.

KITCHEN GARDEN

The kitchen gardens lie beyond the lawn on the north-west front of the Hall and are within the area of the Elizabethan or C17 walled enclosures. The glass and potting sheds have been replaced by a caretaker's house. To the west of the kitchen garden, between it and a flint wall, is a hedged area planted as an orchard with apple trees trained to form over-arching walks.

REFERENCES

F O Morris, Series of picturesque views 1, (1866-80), p 47

Country Life, 1 (20 March 1897), pp 295-8; 34 (26 July 1913), pp 126-33

Franks Hall, guidebook, (1983) Inspector's Report: Franks Hall, (English Heritage 1988)

Maps

Estate map, 1860s (Centre for Kentish Studies, Maidstone)

Description rewritten: March 2001

Amended: November 2001

Edited: November 2003

Features
  • House (featured building)
  • Description: The house was built in 1591, then was turned into a Victorian country house by major structural alterations in 1861.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Flower Bed
  • Description: In 1870 there were large areas of formal bedding in the grand Victorian style. Today all these beds have been lawned over, although the outline of many can be seen (from the ground) in the form of sunken geometric patterns in the grass.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Gazebo
  • Description: One gazebo remains in reasonable condition.
  • River
  • Description: The River Darent is an attractive feature of the garden.
Access & Directions

Directions

The site is in the Darent Valley, north-east of Farningham and south-west of Horton Kirby. The entrance is off Franks Lane.
Authorities

Civil Parish

  • Sutton-at-Hone
History

Detailed History

The original Franks Hall was built in 1220, in the reign of Henry III, by a Yorkshire family named Frankish. It was located on the other side of the River Darent, opposite the present house, and its foundations are still visible from the air.

The existing Franks Hall was built in 1591 by Lancelot Bathurst, an alderman of the City of London. Bathurst was an ardent royalist and friend of Queen Elizabeth I and there is evidence to suggest that she stayed at Franks.

A Robert Bradford turned Franks Hall from a typical Elizabethan mansion into a Victorian country house by major structural alterations in 1861. In the last century Franks had numerous owners until acquired by the current owners, Findlay Publications Ltd. in 1980. They have carried out a major restoration of the house in the 1980s.

The following is from the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the The National Heritage List for England (NHLE):

www.historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

The original Franks Hall, which stood on the east bank of the River Darent, opposite the present Hall, was built in 1220 in the reign of Henry III by a Yorkshire family named Frankish. Lancelot Bathurst, a wealthy London merchant completed the building of the present house in 1591 but lived only three years to enjoy it. On his death in 1594 Lancelot Bathurst was succeeded by his eldest son, Randolph. His fourth son, George, founded a junior branch of the family and it was his grandson who was created the first Earl Bathurst in 1772. When Randolph died, Franks Hall passed to his son Sir Edward Bathurst. Sir Edward's son, Thomas, was a man of science who was knighted by Charles II in 1659 and died at Franks Hall in 1688. His only son, Francis was married four times but his two sons both died bachelors, leaving Sir Edward's daughter Bernice to inherit the Franks estate. Bernice married Joseph Fletcher and on her death in 1748 the estate passed to her son-in-law John Tasker who put it on the market. From the early 19th century, the property went into a slow decline. In 1860 however the estate was purchased by Robert Bradford who restored and enlarged the house and laid out the gardens and park again. In about 1880 the estate was again sold, and was purchased by Vavasour Earle who made various alterations to the gardens. In 1911 he put the property on the market and it was returned to the Bathurst family through its purchase by Earl Bathurst. During the 20th century Franks Hall has had numerous owners until it was acquired by Findlay Publications Ltd as their headquarters in 1980. During the 1980s a major restoration programme was undertaken on the Hall. The site remains (2001) in divided ownership.

Period

  • Victorian (1837-1901)
Contact
References

References