The Mann-Cornwallis Estate

The Mann-Cornwallis Estate

One estate, that of Mann/Cornwallis, dominated the parish of Frittenden in the nineteenth century.  Sir Robert Mann, a London merchant, bought Capel Court on the outskirts of Maidstone in 1724.  Around 1730 he demolished Capel Court and built the first part of what is today Linton Place.  On more than one occasion the estate passed to a daughter in the absence of a surviving son (or indeed a brother, nephew or other male relative) to inherit.  However, under the terms of  Galfridus Mann’s Will of 1756, the husbands of  female heirs were required to change their name to Mann.  As the daughters to inherit married into the Cornwallis family, the estate is generally referred to as the Mann/Cornwallis Estate.

The families built up a major estate roughly centred on Linton, Egerton and Cranbrook (notably the Sissinghurst Estate).  Apart from a partial disposal in 1805 when that part of the estate not entailed was for sale [only partially successfully], the estate appears to have increased its Frittenden landholdings over the whole period, and particularly between 1841 and 1857, by way of land exchanges, notably with Frittenden’s Rector, Edward Moore.

Succession of James Mann in 1814

When James Mann, formerly Cornwallis, succeeded to the estate in 1814 he commissioned a Report and Valuation of the Estate in Kent.  This records that in Frittenden the estate had tenants on some 14 farms, of which nine were over 100 acres, a relatively large farm for the Weald at this time.  In addition, there were two smallholdings and four cottages.  The report outlined the condition of each farm house and its farm buildings and assessed the extent of repairs and improvements required. 

Another report, on the rental valuation of the estate, was commissioned in 1875 by Viscount Holmesdale, the Viscountess having inherited the estate.  The Sissinghurst Estate, which in the report included the Frittenden holdings, accounted for some 54% of the whole estate’s 13,548 acres, and this figure excluded Park Woods and the land ‘in hand’, i.e., run directly from Linton Place. By now, the Frittenden tenanted holdings comprised 21 farms, of which 13 were over 100 acres, together with 3 smallholdings.

The old tradition of labourers “living-in” with the farmer’s family had been gradually replaced by workers’ cottages as indicated by the following comment in the report:-

The Cottages which are generally in fair repair are – with the exception

of a few in the Village of Sissinghurst –  let with the farms and are of

great value to the Farmers enabling them to house their workmen near

their work and thus secure labour on more advantageous terms than they

otherwise could.

The description of the Sissinghurst land (which would have included that in Frittenden) is all too recognisable today:-

The greater part of the wet land has been under drained [i.e., land drained], but after heavy rains, the surface of the Weald lands becomes so puddled as to render it almost impervious thereby greatly retarding the downward percolation of the surface Water, and causing the land in wet seasons to be waterlogged to the great injury of Autumn cultivation andWinter crops.  In favourable Seasons the Soil is productive.

The over reliance on hops as a good cash crop to the farmers (but with the possibility of unwanted consequences for the landlord) can be seen from the observation that:-

Besides engrossing too much of the Farmer’s attention, the Hop plant requires very liberal manuring and this is generally done at the expense of the other crops, as the produce of the Hop adds very little to the manure made on the Farm. The use of Home Farm Yard manure for Hop cultivation should be morerestricted, and a greater quantity of extraneous artificial or other manure brought on to the Farm for the Hop ground.

In summary …

… the Linton Estate increased its holdings in Frittenden parish from just over 36% in 1814 (which may well have been unchanged from 1806) to just over 40% in 1869.  During this period, the total estate had increased to more than 13,000 acres and thus moved from what might be described as one of the ‘greater gentry’ to a ‘great estate’.  This was exceptional in Kent as, like other Home Counties, the creation of really great estates had been prevented by London’s purchasing power which led to a  demand for land that made it impossible, or at least undesirable, to build up or retain very large estates.