Scadbury Park is lucky to have such a varied and interesting history. ODAS (Orpington and District Archaeological Society) work hard to research, publish and preserve the rare history of Scadbury Park. Details of our history can be found on this page.
The Owners of Scadbury Manor
Scadbury Park preserves much of the original Scadbury Manor estate which archaeological investigation has shown was first settled around 1200. The remains of the early manor-house complex, surrounded by a moat can be still be seen in the Park. The estate has been held by a limited number of families over the years, which has definitely helped to preserve its integrity.
The de Scathebury Family
By the mid-13th century members of the de Scathebury family had become resident Lords of the Manor of Scadbury, and were named in legal documents. The de Scathebury Family prospered and by 1301 John de Scathebury was the richest man in the parish of Chislehurst with goods valued for tax purposes at £22 3s. The next wealthiest was Hornchurch Priory, their valuation being £6 10s 2d.
John de Scathebury’s son, also called John, married Christina de Hadresham (from a wealthy Surrey family), but died childless. Christina re-married, and in 1369 Scadbury Manor was sold to John de Hadresham (possibly her nephew) for 100 marks of silver. Nothing further is heard of Scadbury until 1424, when the manor was purchased by Thomas Walsingham and his wife Margaret.
The Walsingham Family
Thomas Walsingham’s family was well-established in London by the late 14th century. Thomas himself became a wealthy London merchant, being a member of the Vintners’ Company, importing wine and exporting wool. His wife Margaret was the daughter of Henry Bamme, a wealthy London goldsmith. They had two children, Philippa and Thomas. Thomas had close links with the royal household, served twice as Member of Parliament for Lyme Regis and Weymouth and held a number of important posts - including Gauger of Wine at the Cinque Ports and Collector of Tunnage & Poundage (customs dues) in the Port of London.
Thomas Walsingham owned property in the City and rented a house near the Tower of London in the precinct of St. Katherine’s Hospital. However he also spent time at Scadbury and expanded the estate by buying more land, including farmland in St Paul’s Cray and the manor of Tong (Town Court, near Petts Wood).
Thomas died in 1457and he and his wife, Margaret, were buried in the church of St Katherine’s by the Tower.
Scadbury Manor was inherited by Thomas’ son, Thomas Walsingham II (d.1467), and then by his son James (1462-1540) who was Sherriff of Kent in 1497. In 1520 James and his son Edmund accompanied King Henry VIII to France, to the conference known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold - where Henry and Francis I of France met to arrange an alliance against Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. It is likely that Thomas Walsingham II and/or James were responsible for redeveloping the manor complex at Scadbury using brick, and for funding the rebuilding of St Nicholas, Chislehurst’s parish church.
Sir Edmund Walsingham (c.1480-1550) fought at the Battle of Flodden in 1513, where he was knighted. He was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London by Henry VIII where his prisoners included Sir Thomas More and Anne Boleyn. He became Vice-Chamberlain to the household of Queen Catherine Parr after he had retired and was succeeded at Scadbury by his son SirThomas Walsingham III (1526-1584). The estate then passed briefly to Thomas’ elder son, who died unmarried in 1589, and then to a younger son, Sir Thomas Walsingham IV.
Sir Edmund Walsingham’s second son, William Walsingham, was a London lawyer who also owned nearby Footscray Manor; William’s son Francis must have known Scadbury, as it was the home of his grandparents and cousins. Sir Francis Walsingham went on to become Secretary of State to Queen Elizabeth I, and was knighted by her. He organised the gathering of intelligence from abroad and built up a network of contacts with several foreign courts. It is possible that both the young Thomas IV and the playwright Christopher Marlowe worked for Sir Francis in some capacity. Thomas appears to have become a patron of Marlowe, and it is likely Marlowe visited him at Scadbury.
Sir Thomas Walsingham IV was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I in 1597 (as depicted on the Chislehurst village sign on Royal Parade). The Queen leased him a sizeable estate including the manors of Dartford and Chislehurst; he later purchased the estate, but sold off most of the land, retaining only Chislehurst. He also had a house in London where he and his wife Audrey were active at the court of James I – Audrey in the household of James’ queen, Anne of Denmark. Following Thomas’ death in 1630, Scadbury passed to his son Sir Thomas Walsingham V, Vice-Admiral of Kent. During the Civil War he showed an ability to keep on the winning side. However, he faced financial difficulties and in 1660 he sold Scadbury Manor to Sir Richard Bettenson, a supporter of Charles II.
The Bettenson and Selwyn Families
Sir Richard Bettenson was succeeded by his grandson Sir Edward Bettenson (d.1733) – a gambler who heavily mortgaged the property. After his death, Sir Edward’s three sisters jointly owned the estates, one of whom Albinia, had married General William Selwyn. In 1736 their son, John Selwyn (d.1751), purchased the estates, discharged the mortgage and sold most of the estates on to his cousin Thomas Farrington, but retained Scadbury.
The Townshend Family and Sydney
John Selwyn’s daughter, also called Albinia, married the Hon. Thomas Townshend (1701-1780) and the Scadbury estate was settled on him. The old manor house on the island was demolished in 1738 possibly because it had become unsafe. Thomas’ wife had died young, leaving him with five children to bring up. He may have had plans to rebuild, but sadly the site remained a ruin. In 1749 Thomas purchased nearby Frognal House, where his descendants were to remain until the First World War. The family also had property in London and at Matson, Gloucester, where Thomas Townshend was buried in the parish church. The Townshends were a Whig family and strong supporters of the House of Hanover.
Thomas Townshend’s son Thomas (1733-1800) inherited Scadbury in 1780. In 1783 he was advanced to the peerage as Baron Sydney of Chislehurst by George III in 1783, and then in 1789 became Viscount Sydney. He served in various administrations and held the post of Home Secretary, which at that time also had responsibility for the Colonies. In 1787 the First Fleet of 11 ships and about 1350 people set sail for Botany Bay in Australia, finally landing in Sydney Cove which was named after the Home Secretary. In 1788 the settlement was proclaimed as the Colony of New South Wales. The Canadian city of Sydney on Cap Breton Island is also named after him.
The second Viscount Sydney (John Townshend, 1764-1831) succeeded in 1800 and his son John Robert Townshend (1805-1890) followed him in 1831 as the third Viscount Sydney. Queen Victoria visited John Robert in 1872, and was taken through Scadbury on her drive from Chislehurst Station to Frognal House. She conferred an earldom on him in 1874. Lord Sydney died childless in 1890; his estates, much enlarged by that time, were left to his nephew, the Hon. Robert Marsham, on condition that he added the name of Townshend.
Robert Marsham-Townshend, was a member of the Diplomatic Service and a fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. He was also a keen traveller and wrote detailed diaries of his journeys throughout the world. He lived at Frognal until 1914 and had two sons, Hugh and Ferdinand. After his first marriage, Hugh moved into the farm bailiff’s house at Scadbury and extended it to make a substantial country home. He was a keen antiquarian and carried out excavations and repairs on the moated manor site.
After Robert’s death Hugh Marsham-Townshend inherited the Frognal and Scadbury estates and attempted to sell them, but was unsuccessful. His younger brother had established an early car servicing station at the Western Motor Works in Perry Street (the buildings still survive), but he was killed in action in 1915. In 1917 Frognal House was taken over by the Government to become the core of Queen’s Hospital, known for its pioneering work in plastic surgery for World War I veterans. After the war, Queen’s Hospital became a general hospital – Queen Mary’s Hospital, Sidcup. Part of the Frognal estate was purchased by the Government for the construction of the A20 Sidcup by-pass.
Hugh Marsham-Townshend drew up plans to sell the Scadbury estate for housing, but planning permission was refused by Kent County Council (the local authority for Scadbury at that time) as the land was regarded as ‘Green Belt’. Hugh had remarried and remained at Scadbury with his second wife. They extended their country house further and turned the farmland over to commercial fruit-growing. During World War II a Home Guard platoon was based at Scadbury, and trenches and other features associated with war-time activity can still be found associated with the house and in the woods of the wider estate. On 28 March 1945, the last World War II VI flying bomb to cause damage in England fell on the Scadbury farmyard demolishing the medieval barn and damaging surrounding buildings. After the war, estate land in St Paul’s Cray was compulsorily purchased for housing.
Hugh Marsham-Townshend’s younger son was killed in action in Italy, leaving a wife and two young daughters. His elder son, John Marsham-Townshend, inherited Scadbury, but died unmarried and childless in 1975. His nieces inherited the Estate and put it on the market in 1982; the country house, left empty after John’s death, had burned down in 1976. The elder niece remains Lord of the Manor of Chislehurst.
London Borough of Bromley
LB Bromley bought the bulk of the Scadbury estate in 1983. A survey and documented research by ODAS had shown the importance of the moated manor site, which by then had become heavily overgrown, and the wider estate which was known to contain ancient woodland. The Council decided to designate Scadbury Park as a Local Nature Reserve with nature trails and footpaths and on 30th April it was officially opened to the Public. The Mayor of Bromley, Councillor R.D. Foister, the Chairman of the Greater London Council, Illtyd Harrington, and representatives of local voluntary groups, planted three trees to mark the occasion. The trees, a London plane, horse chestnut and English oak stand on the edge of the picnic area. In 2010 a birch tree was planted by the Mayor of Bromley, Mr George Taylor, to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Reserve’s public opening. The Estate also has a tenant farmer.
In 1986 ODAS were given a licence to carry out archaeological work in a defined area around the moated manor complex and continue to excavate there and to research the history of the whole estate. In 2005, the Friends of Scadbury were formed to support the maintenance and enjoyment of the public nature reserve.
In 2000, family and estate papers belonging to the Marsham-Townshend family came on the market and with the strong local significance were purchased by the LB Bromley. The Marsham-Townshend Archive is now held in Bromley Archives, in Bromley Central Library, details are in the on-line catalogue.
Hugh Marsham-Townshend’s younger son was killed in action in Italy, leaving a wife and two young daughters. His elder son, John Marsham-Townshend, inherited Scadbury, but died unmarried and childless in 1975. His nieces inherited the Estate and put it on the market in 1982; the country house, left empty after John’s death, had burned down in 1976. The Chislehurst Society purchased the commons in June 2017 and more information can be found here.
THE MOATED MANOR COMPLEX
Scadbury Park retains the bulk of the original Scadbury Manor estate. Within the park are the remains of the manor complex which consists of the manor-house itself, the moat, two medieval fishponds and associated outbuildings. The original manor-house would have been timber-framed. The de Scathebury family almost certainly constructed the moat and fish-ponds. ODAS has found pottery and other evidence from the late 12th/early 13th century which helps to build up a picture of life at that time.
The Walsingham family renovated the original house and its outbuildings using brick which was a new, fashionable building material. The foundations of a brick detached kitchen, with the bases of two ovens, can still be seen, along with the remains of cellars and an undercroft which would have been used for storage. A brick wall was built alongside the moat to make an impressive entrance and the stone corbels of a bridge across the moat are still visible. The manor complex had a number of outbuildings, including stables, barns and a dove-cote. A gate-house stood a short distance away from the island, and a walled garden provided vegetables, fruit and herbs for the kitchen. At some time, a deer-park was established on the estate; deer were certainly present at Scadbury in the 17th century.
After the demolition of the house on the island in 1738, the gatehouse off the island was occupied by a farm bailiff and the island itself was neglected. When Hugh Marsham-Townshend moved to Scadbury in the early 20th century, he uncovered the brickwork foundations and carried out his own excavations. He reconstructed his idea of a Tudor manor-house on the original foundations, using timbers from a medieval manor-house, Manor Farm in St Mary Cray, which had been demolished to make way for the Morphy Richards factory (now the site of the Nugent shopping centre). He added new brick-and-concrete fireplace and pillars together with a concrete staircase and floor. The timber-framing was removed in 1987 following vandalism and is now stored at the Weald and Downland Museum, but the other features can still be seen. He also built an apple store on the island, for packing and storing fruit grown commercially on the estate. While Hugh’s work may have preserved some features, his use of cement mortar (instead of lime mortar) has damaged the early brick-work.
In 2013, the manor site (including the island, the moat, the fishponds and the area around it) was scheduled as an Ancient Monument in recognition of its national importance which gives it statutory protection. The site was placed on English Heritage’s ‘At Risk’ register in 2014 and consideration is now being given to how best to conserve the early brick foundations of the Walsingham manor-house.
A detailed chronology of the Estate is available on the Orpington and District Archaeological Society (ODAS) website. More information about the estate’s history and archaeology can be obtained from ODAS’ publications or at their Open Weekends here...
ODAS’ role at Scadbury
ODAS – the Orpington and District Archaeological Society – began researching Scadbury in 1982, and began excavating in 1986 under a licence from Bromley Council. ODAS is an independent charity; its members are all volunteers. Their excavations and associated documentary research have uncovered much information about how the successive families lived and farmed at Scadbury, and how the estate has evolved. More information about ODAS, their work and their publications about Scadbury can be found here...
ODAS excavate and maintain the site regularly , and welcome new members with an interest in Scadbury’s heritage - see their website for details. The site of the manor-house itself is not normally open to visitors. It can be seen from the public footpath and ODAS hold an Open Weekend there each year, with exhibitions about the estate’s history.
The Chislehurst Society undertakes research into the heritage of Chislehurst, including Scadbury.
Webb's 'History of Chislehurst'contains more about the Lords of the Manor and their families.
Please contact the Society if you are interested in learning more...
ODAS undertakes excavations and other research into the site of the moated house and other areas in Scadbury Park. Contact ODAS if you are interested, here...
Geology of Scadbury
Scadbury is situated on rocks dating from the Lower Eocene period, about 50-60 million years ago, when much of north Kent and southern Essex was submerged under a shallow sea or lagoon.
The higher parts of Scadbury towards Chislehurst Common lie on the Blackheath Beds which consist of sand and pebbles. This is a poor soil and tends to be left as woodland.
The Blackheath Beds give way to the silts and clays of the Woolwich Beds. A number of springs rise along the juncture of the Blackheath and Woolwich Beds.
This is the source of the water supply in the wells which provided water for the moated manor house.
The more open areas, now used for grazing and hay, are on soils derived from the Thanet Sands. This is a better soil for agriculture and a large part of Scadbury was covered with commercial fruit orchards for much of the 20th century.