As a pastoral district, the typical Weald unit of settlement was either the hamlet or the single farmstead, having little working association with its neighbours, except sometimes in the use of common grazing grounds. Unusually, at Frittenden, a large multi-occupied area appears to have survived from the 16th century through into the 19th century.
A popular walk in Frittenden starts at the village crossroads adjacent to the pub, the Bell & Jorrocks. Taking Mill Lane you pass Broad Oak Farmhouse (early 15c), Brook Farm (mid 15c), Cherry Tree Farm (early 16c), Cole Farm (c1380), Gould Farm (late 15c), Maplehurst Mill (mid 16c) and Broad Lake (late 15c). Continuing in a clockwise direction onto the Staplehurst Road you pass Little Manor (mid 17c), Heronden (mid 16c), Sinkhurst Farmhouse (late 15c), Lake House (mid 15c) and Sandhurst Bridge Farm (mid 16c), after which you turn right into the Headcorn Road and back up into the village past Charity Cottages (mid 15c). Most of these farmhouses are passed on your left, the houses facing the flat area which lays within the boundary of these roads and slopes gently up towards the village.
The siting of these buildings is of note in that the land within this circuit comprises two parts, namely The Brook (of which 87 acres are readily identifiable today, some 2.5% of the parish acreage) and Sinkhurst [sometimes Singsted or Cinquehurst] Green (139 acres or 4% of the parish acreage). These two areas are adjacent to and divided by the River Beult. A cursory view of these areas might suggest a medieval landscape. However, upon closer inspection the fields are perhaps too regular and are larger than might be expected.
A 1725 map of the Estate of William Gould Esquire ‘situate at Frittenden Brook in the Parishes of Frittenden & Staplehurst’, held at Kent History & Library Ref: U24/T220, noted that ‘Frittenden Brook was a Common Pasture belonging to the following persons, Mr Gould, Mr Merchant, Mr Tempest, Mr Dowell, Mr May and the Revd Mr Newton (in right of their lands which join thereon) and they have each equal right of stocking & enclosing it &c.’ A Green Lane, also marked on the map, ‘was the same as above and belonging to Mr Gould, Mr Brisleden and Mr Bridgland and each may cut what trees are nearest their own fence of which there are several in the last mentioned piece belonging to this Farm’.
The Rev’d Newton (Rector of Frittenden 1666 to 1725) would have resided at the Rectory which stood where Frittenden House is today. The Gould map indicates that his land, the Glebe, would have adjoined the Brook.
This picture shows cattle in a pasture adjacent to the Rectory and may suggest that the pastureland ran from the house down to the Brook. This possibility is reinforced by the fact that the ‘Green Lane’ from the Mill joined The Street, adjacent to where the gates of Frittenden House stand today.
Hasted, writing in the 1790s, records that ‘Near the present mill, not half a mile north-west from the village, is a green called Frittenden-brook, which the occupiers of the houses round it stock at their pleasure; and on the other side of the stream is another, called Singstedgreen’.
This would indicate that the area from Thomas Idenden’s Farmhouse (now known as Charity Cottages) in the east, to Maplehurst Mill to the west, and from Broad Oak and Brook Farms to the south, up to Sinksnorth Farm House, Lake House and Sandhurst Bridge Farm to the north, was open pasture divided by the river. This was a huge open area, at its largest in excess of 250 acres, relatively rare in Kent, and in particular the Weald.
The 1806 Tithe Survey was made as a result of litigation between the Rector of Frittenden, Henry Hodges, and the occupiers of the land in the parish. By the time of this survey, the occupiers of The Brook and Sinkhurst Green were:-
Broad Oak Mrs Cruthall
Broadlake Mr Barling
Brook Mr Matthews
Charity The Workhouse
Cherry Tree Mr Olliver
Cole Mr Taylor
Cook Barn Mr Beslee
The Glebe Revd Henry Hodges
Gould Mr Beslee
Mill Lane Mr Southon
Sandhurst Bridge Mr Burdon
Sinksnorth Mr Barten
The map associated with the Tithe Survey appears to indicate that Sinkhurst Green had already been enclosed by 1806, as had part of The Brook.
In a trespass case of 1862, Shem Levett, 70, a carpenter on the Cornwallis Estate, gave evidence that he had worked on Gould Farm and recalled that in 1811 six different people took in the The Brook and made the road to Frittenden from the Mill. This gives a date of 1811 for the final ‘enclosure’ of the Brook.
Enclosure at this period was usually associated with increasing arable productivity. However, in this case it is likely that it permitted the establishment of hop gardens and orchards. As a result, a 300 year old landscape was lost and a typical 19c Wealden landscape created. With the demise of fruit and hop growing in more recent times, this landscape has reverted to one of pasture, more akin to the medieval landscape that had been lost.
The final eradication of The Brook took place during the creation of Edward Moore’s estate centred on Frittenden House. Moore wished to move the access to the road to the Mill away from his garden and the entrance to his grounds. He undertook legal moves to relocate it to where it is today, Mill Lane, sometimes known as New Cut. The top 300 to 400 yards of Mill Lane were established in the 1840s and provided a physical barrier between The Brook and the Rectory. It also meant that the lane now ran along the backs of the existing cottages [Marsh Cottages] rather than the fronts.
The information on this page has been kindly provided by the Frittenden Historical Society.