Hayes (Kent) History

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Hayes (Kent) History

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Early history  

A manor house possibly existed when John de Bastane was recorded in a 1301 tax roll as owner of the most movable goods in Hayes. In 1499 the property was owned by wealthy Henry Heydon and a new hall was built probably lined with painted wood panels.  These showed portraits of Anglo-Saxon kings and are some of the earliest paintings in oil on wood that survive in the UK.  They were found lining a cupboard when the house was modernized in 1813 for James Randell of Queenhithe, who bought it in 1795.            

By this time the Tudor house had been dramatically altered by the addition of a new house for Mrs Elizabeth Lloyd in the late 17th century. She had inherited the house through her mother-in-law Elizabeth, whose father Cuthbert Burbage, better known for his association with William Shakespeare, had bought it in 1629 with 180 acres of land from Robert Wade of Grays Inn. Her house was described as a ‘part brick and part plaister and tiled house’.

Her husband continued to live there after her death but it then became owned by members of  Richard Wood’s family until sold in 1762 to John Luxford.

 From 1773 until his death in 1795 the property was leased by Gabriel Clarmont who lived there, according to the records made by Revd John Till, with Mrs Taylor, a young lady, a gardener, maid and a boy.  When the estate was put up for sale it was described as a ‘neat and desirable freehold villa situate on a delightful eminence on Hayes Common’.  It included both the old and new house, coach-house, stable, gardens, orchard etc. 

James Randell purchased it for £2000 and spent a great deal of money combining the two houses into one property .  In 1798 he lived there with two male and two female servants.. He married Ann Lucy and their seven children were baptised in Hayes Church between 1806 and 1819. At the time the house was known as Baston Court.

In 1823 he sold the house and lands to Samuel Nevil Ward who enlisted the services of the architect Decimus Burton, one of the fashionable architects of the late Georgian period, who under the supervision of Nash had designed Cornwall and Clarence Terraces in Regent’s Park. 

 The new and fashionable house containing 10 bedrooms, a large drawing room and dining room, was sold in 1851 to James Fry, Registrar of the Court of Chancery, who moved to Barston, as it was then called, with his wife and eight children aged between four and sixteen. More bedrooms were added and a schoolroom for his growing family. By 1871 he had retired and described himself as a gentleman farmer of 97 acres, employing four labourers and a boy.

The house and gardens provided an ideal setting for parties where his six daughters might meet suitable husbands. In 1863 Charles Darwin wrote to W.E.Darwin that ‘we went to the Frys and had a gorgeous party with about eighty people chiefly from London and dancing on the lawn and dinner in a grand tent, band, ices etc.’ By that time James Fry had already agreed to the marriage of two of his daughters, Mary in 1857 and Henrietta, who the following year married Julius Caesar, an import merchant from Camberwell. 

 When he died in 1872 the house was bought by John Lennard and leased by Captain Alfred Torrens who remained there until his death in 1903. He built greenhouses to pursue his botanical interests and was particularly renowned for chrysanthemums brought back from his travels to Japan.

In 1896 a burglar was caught at Baston Manor by his son Matt Torrens who was commended by the judge for his bravery in apprehending Charles Taylor, the last of a notorious gang. 

Alfred’s widow Ann remained at the Manor with her son Attwood and eight servants until she moved to Hayes Grove in 1916, shortly before Attwood was struck by a shell and killed in France.  By this time the house was described as ‘a large detached old fashioned house’.

Ground floor plan Baston Manor 1913

After the First World War Henry Legge moved to Baston Manor, once again alterations were made to the property and a squash court was added. His sons, Philip and Geoffrey, played for Hayes Cricket Club and Geoffrey captained Kent Cricket Club from 1928-30. He toured South Africa with MCC in 1927-8 and New Zealand in 1929-30. A photographic album survives showing both the interior of the property and the gardens at the time.

Baston Manor Hall 1929 (Legge Family Photos)
Drawing Room, Baston Manor 1929 (Legge Family Photos)
The Dutch Garden, Baston Manor 1929 (Legge Family Photos)
View from the terrace, Baston Manor (Legge Family Photos)

 In 1934 Arthur Collins took up residence. In the First World War, he was a captain in the Royal Engineers and gained the MC. He was a keen tennis player, and his son was a junior England tennis champion. Many fetes for the whole community were held at Baston Manor in the 1930s and groups of women from Miss Knowles’ mission in the East End of London were entertained.  During the Second World War, a 1,000kg bomb fell on the grounds of Baston Manor but failed to explode and two other bombs caused minor damage in 1940/41. A Canadian detachment of Artillery requisitioned part of Baston Manor for transport repairs. In 1944 a V1 flying bomb completely destroyed the Lodge but the Manor house survived. 

After the death of Arthur Collins the building was converted into flats between 1951 and 1953 by builder Messrs Barnard (Bromley) Ltd, whose architect was H G Payne. By 1955 the six flats were occupied and the house remains divided into flats today.