Little Swarling is situated in a lush green valley below Chatham Downs and retains a number of original historic features. Little Swarling, for sale through Chesterton Humberts, could happily be described as a ‘picture postcard’ house, but it has also been the location of a number of momentous historic events. Swarling is believed to be the location for one of the first battles between the Britons and the invading Romans, as well as being the site of a 12th century chapel for pilgrims travelling to Canterbury.
Swerdling Downs is believed to have been the site of the first battle between the retreating Britons and Caesar with his formidable Roman army, in around 54 BC. This was one of the first occasions that Caesar attempted an invasion, but it was many years before the Romans established permanent rule over the Britons.
Swerdling was later referenced in the 9th century, but by the time of the Norman invasion, Swerdling Manor was part of the lands belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lanfranc. It later transferred to the Valoigns family, who were Knights of the shire and Waretius de Valoigns took part in the third crusade with Richard the Lionheart.
Little Swarling house is also believed to be on the site of a former chapel built for pilgrims travelling to Canterbury. It is believed there was a chapel here as early as 1190, only 20 years after the murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket when pilgrims began flocking to Canterbury Cathedral.
The manor of Swarling has been traced through the medieval period, from the 14th century when it was in the hands of Sir Nicholas Haut, through the Haut family to the time of Henry VII in the 16th century. By the 17th century the manor had passed to Edward Hadde and Little Swarling was first constructed and known simply as Swarling Farm.
Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries Swarling Manor, including Little Swarling house, was owned by the Hammond family. It was during this period that Swarling became a highly successful hop farm. Hop farming was in fact the biggest industry in Kent during the 19th century.
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Looking through census records from the 1840s, it appears that Little Swarling was home to agricultural labourer, William Stockbridge, along with his wife Hannah and their five children. The Stockbridge family continued in Little Swarling for many years, with the 1861 census showing William and Hannah, both 71 years old, still living in the house, while all their children had moved away from home.
At the turn of the 20th century, Little Swarling was still home to farm labourers, but the manor had passed from the Hammond family to Thomas Blake and Miss Emily Blake. It was also during this period that agriculture and farming drastically changed with improvements in mechanised farming, and the affluent years of the 19th century were no longer guaranteed. However, Swarling manor continued as an entire estate until the 1960s, at which time Little Swarling was sold as a separate home to Mr. James Croft.
Today, Little Swarling is Grade II listed and features exposed timber beams, original stone and brick work, as well as weatherboarding on the north front. The house has also been sympathetically extended to create a comfortable 21st century home, while maintaining exceptional period character.
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* Read the full history of the house by visiting my blog – The House Historian