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Bedgebury; a Brief History .

  • THE LARGE country house, Bedgebury on the outskirts of Goudhurst, resembles a French chateau of the revolutionary period, but the estate once had a much older moated house – mentioned by Coenwolf the King of Mercia in AD 814 – which now lies under the 22-acre lake.
  • Bedgebury Park was once a massive estate of some several thousand acres, some of which is now owned by the Forestry Commission and houses Bedgebury Pinetum’s world-famous collection of conifers.
  • The Culpepper family lived at Bedgebury for more than 250 years and a John Culpepper was recorded as having “taken five archers in the field” at the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.
  • In 1573, Alexander Culpepper and his wife Ann lived at Bedgebury and during that time Queen Elizabeth 1 visited and knighted him. Elizabeth wrote, "Friday, August 7th, went to Mr Culpeper at Bedgebury to supper, stayed the night, dined the following day, knighted Mr Culpeper at Rye on Wednesday 11th."  Sir Alexander presented Queen Elizabeth with "an elegant silver cup with cover, on the lip of which was a tuft of flowers." Sir Alexander encouraged iron foundries on his estate and cast guns for the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada
  • Bedgebury passed from Sir Alexander Culpeper (1581-1639) to his brother, William, a Royalist, "greatly impoverished by the war." William's son, Thomas succeeded to Bedgebury, sold the estate to Sir Thomas Hayes in 1660, and ended his life on 19 Feb 1675 in Fleet, the London debtor's prison.
  • The ancient moated house was swept away and its site covered by one of the four lakes. The present mansion was built towards the close of the 17th century by Sir James Hayes. It is a square pile of red brick, faced with sandstone, and increased in size and imposing adornment by successive owners. Wings were added by Field-Marshall Lord Beresford, who purchased the estate in 1836; and his Lordship's heir, the Rt. Hon A. J. B. Beresford-Hope, recast it in the French taste of the Louis XIV period, with a Mansard roof and a lofty clock tower. The interior was rich in ornamented ceiling, paintings, carvings and other objects of exquisite art.
  • At the end of the 19th century, the house was sold to a City financier, Isaac Lewis, whose modernisation included installing electricity before selling the estate to the government for forestry purposes.
  • There was an acute shortage of timber during and after the First World War but, as the government had no need for the house, it was sold together with 200 acres. The Church Education Corporation established a school for girls which opened in January 1920 as Bedgebury School. It ran successfully for many years but after hitting financial problems it closed in 2006.
  • It was bought by the Bell Education Trust the following year and became the Bell Bedgebury International School, part of a charity which promotes international understanding through education.
  • In 2010 it was announced the school was closing the following year but the Bell Bedgebury Language Centre, and the Bell Young Learners, would continue.
  • In 1425, Walter Culpeper7 of Goudhurst married Agnes Roper, the young and childless widow of John Bedgebury. (John is recorded as being at the battle of Agincourt where he "took five archers into the field") Through the marriage, the estate of Bedgebury came into the Culpeper family where it remained for about 250 years.
  • Alexander11 entertained Queen Elizabeth at Bedgebury in 1573 and was knighted. Elizabeth wrote, "Friday, August 7th, went to Mr Culpeper at Bedgebury to supper, stayed the night, dined the following day, knighted Mr Culpeper at Rye on Wednesday 11th."  Sir Alexander presented Queen Elizabeth with "an elegant silver cup with cover, on the lip of which was a tuft of flowers." Sir Alexander encouraged iron foundries ("Furnaces and Forge Farms") on his estate and cast guns for the fleet which defeated the Spanish Armada
  • Bedgebury passed from Sir Alexander Culpeper13 (1581-1639) to his brother, William13, a Royalist, "greatly impoverished by the war." William's son, Thomas14 succeeded to Bedgebury, sold the estate to Sir Thomas Hayes in 1660, and ended his life on 19 Feb 1675 in Fleet, a debtor's prison.
  • The ancient moated house was swept away and its site covered by one of the four lakes now present. The present mansion was built towards the close of the seventeenth century by Sir James Hayes. It is a square pile of red brick, faced with sandstone, and increased in size and imposing adornment by successive owners. Wings were added by Field-Marshall Lord Beresford, who purchased the estate in 1836; and his Lordship's heir, the Rt. Hon A. J. B. Beresford-Hope, recast it in the French taste of the Louis XIV period, with a Mansard roof and a lofty clock tower. The interior was rich in ornamented ceiling, paintings, carvings and other objects of exquisite art. (Source: W. T. Simmons' Cranbrook Almanac, 1910)
  • Today Bedgebury Manor is used for the facilities of Bell Bedgebury International School, a boarding school for international students, and the vast lands have been reduced to 220 acres surrounding the school. It is about a mile and a half deeper into the weald to the south of Goudhurst and may be seen from the high St. Mary’s Church yard or the upper rear windows of the Star & Eagle hotel which is by the church.

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The ‘Walk Through Time’ walking guides have been produced by Cranbrook In Bloom in partnership with the Kent High Weald Partnership.

Photography courtesy of: Frank Page, Trisha Fermor, Peter Dear, Andrew Chandler and Ian Johnstone. Images are under copyright and cannot be re-produced without owner’s permission. Website designed by Howard Cox