Aylesford, Kent, England
Location: On north side of the A20, 0.3 miles W of
its intersection with the M20 (14 miles N of Goudhurst).
As of 2004, it housed the offices of the Strategic Health
Authority in Kent.
National Grid Coordinates:
TQ 728 581
The Culpepers of Preston
Apparently the first Culpeper to
own Preston Hall was Sir Thomas Culpeper3 of Bayhall
in Pembury, who was Sheriff of Kent during the reign of Edward I
(1272-1307). From Bayhall, over the succeeding generations, the Culpeper family separated into different branches throughout
the counties of Kent and Sussex. The Culpepers of Preston Hall, Bedgebury, Lossenham,
Wakehurst, Hollingbourne, Wigsell, and Feckenham all came from
Bay Hall. The Culpepers developed their estate at Preston Hall
as a farming concern.
Walter4a, the second
son of Sir Thomas inherited Preston Hall upon his father's death
about 1309. In 1321, Walter and his three brothers, Sir Thomas,
John and Nicholas, were all at the Battle of Boroughbridge, a
rebellion of nobles against Edward II. That same year Walter
refused to admit Edward's wife, Queen Isabel, to Leed's Castle.
For this indignity, the King beseiged the castle and eventually
took it. He then took Captain Culpeper and "hoong him
Walter's second son, Sir Geoffrey5a,
inherited Preston as a child when Walter died from the
hanging in 1321.
Sir Geoffrey, Sheriff of Kent in 1366 and 1374,
left a son William6a, who inherited the estate in
1390. His son, Sir John7a, was a
justice of the Common Pleas in 1406-9. Sir John died in 1414 and
by his wife Katherine he
left a son, Sir William8a, who was Sheriff of Kent in
1427. Sir William died in 1457 (date of death disputed and
ranges from 1417 to 1457) and was interred in West Peckham
Sir William8a had three sons, Sir Richard,
William and Geoffrey. Sir Richard9a
inherited the estate. He had three daughters. The second, Joyce,
married Lord Edmund Howard (died 1539) and became the mother of
Queen Catherine (1520-42), the fifth wife of Henry VIII
In 1484, the estate passed to Sir
Richard's younger brother William9a, whose son and
heir in 1502 was Edward10a. Edward was interred in 1533 in
the chancel at Aylesford near to his mother Margaret.
Edward's son and heir was John11a,
who had a son Thomas12a (1517-87). On the accession
of Queen Mary in July 1553, Thomas joined the rebellion with Sir
Thomas Wyatt the Younger (1521-54). Consequently, the estate of
Preston was presented to Mr. Cartwright, the Deputy Sheriff. Thomas Culpeper12a was
confined in the Tower of London. He had a fellow prisoner in
Thomas Vane, who had married Thomas's cousin Elizabeth Culpeper.
They appeared to have been Protestant martyrs, as suggested by
their inscription on the stonewall of their cell:
'Be thou faithful to the end
and I will give you a crown of eternal life – 1554, T Fane,
T. Culpeper, of Ailsford, Kent.' (from Revelation 2:10.)
They were pardoned and Fane lived
to become Sir Thomas Fane of Mereworth Castle. The estate of
Preston was restored to Thomas Culpeper12a, who later became a
Revenue Commissioner. In 1561 he was Purveyor of Rochester
Thomas's daughter Anna married
Henry Crisp, the fourth son of Sir Henry Crisp. An inscribed
brass was inserted in the floor between the central piers of the
chancel of the parish church at Aylesford:
Here lyeth the bodee of Henry Crispe, the fourth sonne of Sir Henry Crisp, Knight. He had to
wife, Anne ye daughter of Thomas Culpeper of Aylesford,
Esquire. They had issue five sonnes and one daughter. He died
the second of December 1594.'
This brass plate, measuring 15 in
x 4.75 in, was screwed into the wood of a 19th-20th-century
parquet floor, suggesting that it may have been removed from its
second son was also named Thomas13a. He married
Marie, Thomas Pinner's daughter, and in 1604
purchased from James I (1603-25) the royal manor (?) of
Aylesford. He became Sir Thomas and inherited the estate of
Culpeper's Monument at St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Aylesford.
On the death of Sir Thomas of
Preston Hall in 1604, the estate passed to the eldest son
William14a. He was created a Baronet in 1627 by
Charles I (1625-49) and became Sheriff of Kent in 1637. He had
three daughters, Alicia, Frances and Helen.
Sir William's son, Sir Richard
Culpeper15a, Baronet, of Preston Hall, had several
children by his wife Dame Margaret. Two survived their parents.
One was Sir Thomas16a, born c. 1657 who
succeeded to the title and the estate,
and the other was a daughter Alicia16a who was born c.
Sir Thomas Culpeper16a
became Sheriff of Kent in 1704. His wife was Dame Elizabeth. She
was interred in the parish church at Aylesford on 5 Feb 1708.
Sir Thomas, the last Baronet of the line, died childless. He was
interred on 24 May 1723 in the family vault beneath the south
chancel of the parish church at Aylesford.
His sister Alicia16a
was the last of the line of Aylesford Culpepers. She inherited
the estate of Preston Hall.
About 1675, Alicia Culpeper
married Herbert Stapeley Esquire, the son and heir apparent of
Sir John Stapeley, Baronet, of Patcharn in Sussex. Herbert was
MP for Seaford in 1679. They were blessed with several children,
all of whom died young. Herbert, the fourth son, died in 1687
aged three and was interred in the chancel of Folkington Church,
Sussex. Alicia's husband, Herbert, died c. 1690.
The widowed Alicia Stapeley
remarried. Her second husband was Sir Thomas Taylor, Baronet,
(1657-96) of Park House, Maidstone. The ceremony took place at
St Peter's Church, Ditton. The parish register recorded:
1692 Oct 6 Sir Thomas Taylor of
Maidstone, Baronet, and Madame Alicia Stapeley of Aylesford were
Sir Thomas died in 1696. Their
son Thomas (1693-1720) succeeded to the baronetcy at the age of
Lady Alicia Taylor, being left a
widow for the second time, was again wooed. She married her cousin, Thomas
Culpeper13h, a barrister, the second son of
Sir Thomas Culpeper12h of Hollingbourne. Lady Alicia continued to
reside in Park House, Maidstone, where she brought up and
educated her son, Sir Thomas Taylor. Her third husband died
young. Their son, Sir Thomas, died in 1720 at age twenty-seven.
The baronetcy became extinct.
Lady Alicia's brother, Sir Thomas
Culpeper of Preston Hall, died in 1723 without issue. His
baronetcy became extinct. She therefore inherited the estate.
In need of a partner to share in
the management of the estates, and someone to comfort her in old
age, she remarried. Her fourth husband was Dr John Milner, M.D.
of Pudsey, Yorkshire. The marriage ceremony was solemnized at St
Peter's Church, Ditton. The parish register recorded: '1723 Oct
16 Dr. Millner of Maidstone and the Lady Taylor of Aylesford
were married. Lady Taylor, the last of the Culpepers, had no
Lady Alicia settled all her
estates, including Preston Hall, on Dr. Milner and his heirs,
reserving only her life interest. John Milner devised the
inheritance of the estate of Preston Hall to his brother Dr.
Charles Milner, M.D.
Following the pattern established
by her previous husbands, John Milner did not survive the union
with Lady Alicia. He died in February 1724.
In her lonely, childless
widowhood, Lady Alicia lived on at Preston Hall. When she died
in April 1734, she must have been nearly eighty. The entry for
her interment was entered twice in Aylesford's parish register.
She was interred in the north chancel of the parish church.
James H. Sephton, Preston Hall, Aylesford,
E. Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of
the County of Kent, Vol. 4, 1798
Warren H. "Dick" Culpepper, unpublished
The Old Preston Hall
of Aylesford village, between the M20 and the A20, ranging over some 220
acres towards the northwest of Maidstone, is the estate of Preston
Domesday Book mentions Preston Manor near Malling, suggesting that a
dwelling stood here in the 11th century. The termination of the name in
'ton' suggests Saxon origins. Henry I (1100-35) gave the manor to the
monks of the church of St Andrew at Rochester. On Symonson's map of Kent,
dated 1596, it was named Preston.
Culpeper family developed the estate as a farming concern as early as the
14th century. By marriage, possession passed into the Milner family.
Towards the close of the 18th century there was an avenue
extending in a direct line from Aylesford's 14th-century bridge south
through parkland to Barming. Flanking this avenue were beautiful
established specimens of the cedars deodora, libane and excelsa…
To the north and below the later mansion, and close to
Home Farm Cottage, was the site of the former Elizabethan manor. It was
located on the west of the cedar-flanked avenue.
This early structure was a plain white stucco square
building of an elegant appearance. On the east was a portico over the
entrance. Tall chimneystacks may have been in brick.
This manor was demolished on 19 August 1848, when the
estate was in the possession of E. L. Betts. A clock was salvaged and
presented by him to Aylesford parish church, where it was installed on the
tower's south face.
Salvaged from the demolition was a bronze bell 15 inches
high, 17.5 inches diameter across the rim, and 9 inches diameter across
the top. It was originally mounted on a wooden beam. The bell bore the
Dame Hellen Culpeper16a of Alsford in Kent 1662.
Together with another bell it was preserved during the
late 1970s in an iron safe in a locked chamber accessed from the tunnel
beneath the later mansion.
Of the original Elizabethan manor, only a large barn
retained its former character at the close of the 19th century. The north
gable was constructed in ragstone to a height of about 6 feet, 9 inches.
This height decreased along adjacent sides. Above the ragstone courses of
the north gable, the wall was built in brick. Carved in the stonework of a
window frame in this gable were the initials 'T.C.' and the date '1102'…
Close to this barn was formerly an elegantly styled oast
house built entirely of brick, with stone quoins. This building has long
since been demolished. On the left-hand stone portal of the doorpost
giving entrance were incised the date '1102' and the initials 'T.C.'
carved twice, once with the shield which bore the arms of Culpeper only
and again with a shield on which the heraldic device was quartered with
the arms of Hardreshall. A similar date and initials were carved on a
chimneypiece. The Hardreshall arms, argent, a chevron sable between six
martlets gules, were carved in several places on the cloister roof of
The initials 'T.C.' were presumably those of a Thomas
Culpeper. The quartering of armorial bearings
did not occur before c. 1326. The Arabic numeral figures of the date 1102
were not in common use before the 13th century. Historians have therefore
disputed the authenticity of the carved date 1102.
Sir John Culpeper5bh married (c.
1344) Elizabeth, daughter
and heir of Sir John Hardreshall. This Sir John Culpeper was therefore
the first Culpeper in his line who could use the arms of Hardreshall quartered with his own. He
succeeded his father in the manor of Bayhall in Pembury. His son was Sir
Thomas Culpeper6bh of Bayhall, Hardreshull and Exton
(1345-1428). The initials 'T.C.' and the date '1102' probably
represented the efforts of young Thomas Culpeper6bh in '1362'.
Thomas, who would have been about 17 years old in 1362, was the
first cousin, once removed of the then owner of Preston Hall:
Sir Geoffrey Culpeper5a. (Conclusion drawn by Warren Culpepper and differs with the authors who was confused about
the lineage of the Bay Hall Culpepers)
During the late 1970s an allegorical representation in
oils of the original Elizabethan manor hung on the east wall of the
reception area, which was the former atrium of the later mansion.
A line engraving entitled Preston Hall in Aylesford,
the Seat of Sir Thomas Colepeper Bart, dated 1719, from E. Hasted's
The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Vol. 4,
1798, depicted the former estate around the Elizabethan manor. There were
several copies of this engraving. One was in the mansion's reception area,
which was the former atrium. One, presented to Dr. A. P. Bentley M.B.E.,
M.B., B.S. on retirement from the National Health Service in 1986, was in
the manager's office of the RBLL A third was displayed in the Hengist
Restaurant, 7-9 High Street, Aylesford. This engraving was published as a
rear plate by the RBLI in 1975 and 1977, in two of their brochures
celebrating The Legion's 50th anniversary.
After E. L.
Betts purchased Preston manor in 1848 and demolished the old home, he created a sumptuous
Victorian country mansion among elegant gardens. The Brassey family, who
were generous benefactors to the church and village, then purchased it.
the close of the 19th century, graceful deer grazed over the timbered
parkland, which extended north to the river. Originally flat meadow formed
of alluvial silt, the land sustained elms, chestnuts, ash, larch, oaks and
cedars. Many such trees were felled in recent years.
of the need for the treatment of wounded troops in 1914, the property
became a hospital complex. Together with a small adjacent village, the
British Legion acquired it. This expanded into a cradle for the support,
training and rehabilitation of tuberculous and disabled ex-Servicemen.
the close of the 20th century, Preston Manor remains in service as a
hospital, and the magnificence of the old manor is still well represented
James H. Sephton, Preston Hall, Aylesford,
Summary of Dates, Ownership and Monarch
?-1309: Sir Thomas
Culpeper3, Ancestor of the modern-day
1309-1321: Walter Culpeper4p
(Edward I and II)
1321-1390: Sir Geoffrey Culpeper5p
(Edward II and III)
1390-1402: William Culpeper6p
1402-1414: Sir John Culpeper7p
(Richard II, Henry IV)
1414-1457: Sir William Culpeper8p
(Henry V and VI)
1457-1484: Richard Culpeper9p
(Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III)
1484-1502: William Culpeper9p
(Richard III, Henry VII)
1502-1533: Edward Culpeper, Esq.10p
(Henry VII, Henry VIII)
1533-1550: John Culpeper, Esq.11p
(Henry VIII, Edward VI)
1550-1587: Thomas Culpeper, Esq.12p
(Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth)
1587-1604: Sir Thomas Culpeper13p
(Elizabeth, James I)
1604-1651: Sir William
(James I, Charles I, Commonwealth)
1651-1660: Sir Richard
1660-1693: Dame Margaret Culpeper, widow
of Sir Richard
(Charles II, James II, William III and Mary II)
1693-1723: Sir Thomas
( William III and Mary II, William III,
1723-1734: Alicia Culpeper16p,
whose 4th husband was Dr. John Milner
1734+: Milner Family
19 May 2004