The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex
Bayham      Frant  
Bayham Abbey in 2008
Bayham Abbey in 2008
To the lover of picturesque antiquity the ruined Abbey of Bayham presents remains more interesting perhaps than those of any other monastic establishment in the county of Sussex. Of that county it is just within the limits, being situate in the parish of Frant, but so near to Kent as to have part of its domain in the adjoining parish of Lamberhurst. Surrounded by watery glades and scenery of the deepest repose, it well deserves its ancient name of "Begham," which has been interpreted to mean " an abode encircled with streams as with a garland," the Saxon " beag" or "beg" signifying a chaplet or crown. Begham was afterwards changed to Begeham, Beigham, and finally, Bayham. A footpath leads the visitor by the side of a rill which, being first headed back so as to form a narrow pretty piece of water edged with lofty trees, afterwards finds its way to the meadows below in a devious rapid course, here and there diversified by a tiny waterfall. This stream once turned the abbey mill, which stood near to the main edifice, but has long since entirely disappeared. Crossing what was formerly the mill-dam, you find yourself in the vicinity of the ruins, which stand in the pleasure-grounds belonging to the Marquis of Camden's modern mansion, and constitute, an antiquary may perhaps be excused for thinking, their most attractive ornament.
extract from Cooper's Bayham Abbey in 1857

Books and other documents
PublishedTitle, author and references
1766The History of Tunbridge Wells by Thomas Benge Burr ⇒ p. 244
1797The Tunbridge Wells Guide by J. Sprange ⇒ p. 269
1805Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening by H. Repton ⇒ p. 203
1810Tunbridge Wells and its Neighbourhood by Paul Amsinck and Letitia Byrnep. 30
1830Guide of Tunbridge Wells ⇒ p. 91
1832Descriptive Sketches of Tunbridge Wells and the Calverley Estate by John Britton, F.S.A. ⇒ p. 113
1835The History, Antiquities and Topography of the County of Sussex by Thomas Walker Horsfield, F.S.A.p. 407
1840New Guide for Tunbridge Wells by John Colbran and edited by James Phippen ⇒ p. 182
1857The Premonstratensian Abbey of Bayham - Its Origin and History by Rev. George Miles Cooper ⇒ p. 145
1859Notice of certain Plea Rolls of Edward II, relating to the Abbey of Bayham by Rev. George Miles Cooper ⇒ p. 121
1870A Compendious History of Sussex - Volume I. by Mark Antony Lower, M.A.p. 37
1874A History of The Weald of Kent with an outline of the History of the County to the present time, Volume II by Robert Furley, F.S.A.p. 6; p. 449; p. 463
1883Pelton's Illustrated Guide to Tunbridge Wells by J. Radford Thomson, M.A. ⇒ p. 175
1901The History of the Parish of Hailsham, The Abbey of Otham and the Priory of Michelham by L.F. Salzmann ⇒ p. 178
1909English Homes and Villages (Kent & Sussex)
also published as
Tunbridge Wells and its Neighbourhood by Lady Hope ⇒ p. 75
1947Frant - A Parish History by Henry S. Eeles ⇒ p. 117

Places in Bayham
Bayham Abbey House [a.k.a. Bayham Mansion]
Bayham Church
Bayham Cottages
Bayham Forge
Bayham Lodge
Bayham Old Abbey House [a.k.a. Dower House]
Carpenters House
Dimonds [a.k.a. Diamonds] Cottage
Little Bayham [a.k.a. Bayham Farm]
Stubbs Wood Cottage
Tinkers Gate
Tolls Lye
Windridge Lodge
Historical records

c 1200HistoryLady Ela de Marci [Sackville] [Dene]BayhamCooper's Bayham
It was about the year 1200, that Sir Robert de Turneham assigned his manor of Begham to be the seat of an abbey dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, when both he and Ela de Saukeville gave their formal sanction to the transfer to this place of the Premonstratensian canons, previously settled at Brockley and Otteham. At first the abbey was called Beaulieu, from the beauty of its situation; but this title was soon merged in the more familiar name of Begham, or Begeham.

1207 to 1250HistoryBayhamEeles' Frant
By two charters, the first in 1207 and the second in 1210, King John confirmed the endowments of the two foundations which had been brought together at Bayham and the work of erecting the Abbey proceeded slowly. That it was not completed by 1234 is indicated by a declaration by the Archbishop of Canterbury who in that year issued a dispensation "to all who have confessed their sins and are truly penitent and who out of the goods bestowed on them by God shall have contributed something from a feeling of piety towards the construction of the church of the Blessed Mary of Begeham … a relaxation of 40 days from the penance enjoyned upon them."
Thirty or forty years seems a long time for the building of an Abbey but it must be remembered that the work was carried out almost entirely by the Monks, or Canons as they were called, of whom there were frequently not more than a dozen in residence.
During the course of erection and indeed, throughout the entire existence of the Abbey, numerous endowments and benefactions were made, of which evidence is to be found in the ancient chartulary, now in the British Museum, and from certain charters in the Ashmolean. Museum' at Oxford.
In addition to its possessions already enumerated, John de la Borne presented lands in Lamberhurst called Sutham and Wynterscroft; Adam of Frant gave a number of meadows which lay alongside the road leading from the Abbey to Frant; in 1242 a twenty foot wide path was dedicated by Simon le Puer de Peperslonde which may have been that later known as the Priests' Path which ran from the Abbey to Pembury; in 1250 reference is made to lands called Rere in the possession of the Abbey, which name is still to be found in Rear Wood which lies only a short distance from that building; a little later Sibilla de Icclesham, a member of the Sackville family, gave lands in Withyham for the support of a canon who was to be responsible that prayers should be said for her forbears and herself.

1299 to 1322HistoryBayhamEeles' Frant
In the summer of 1299 Edward I during a tour of Kent and Sussex is known to have visited Lamberhurst, at which place "in oblation of the King in his Chapel at Lamberhurst, for the good news he had heard from France 7/-." It is considered more than likely that this Chapel was the Abbey of Bayham. As regards a later royal visit, there is no doubt that this was to Bayham, when Edward II broke his journey there on his way to Battle Abbey in August 1322.

May 1352HistoryBayhamEeles' Frant
In 1352, the Abbey received an extensive addition to its lands. This is set out in a Patent Roll dated May, 1352, and was a licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury for the alienation in Mortmain to the Abbey and Convent of Bayham of "Leueshethe in Horsmondenne and 300 acres of land, 100 acres of wood, 9 shillings of rent and a rent of a cock and 6 hens in the same town." This benefaction was made by the Rector of Horsmonden in order that the Canons should provide a Chaplain to celebrate divine service there and at the chapel at Leueshethe (Lewis Heath).

1524 to 1580HistoryBayhamEeles' Frant
In 1524 twenty-one monastries were abolished, including Bayham … the monks resisted the Cardinal's writ and there were riotous scenes before the Abbey and its lands finally came into the hands of the Cardinal [Wolsey] in 1526.
In spite of local support, the great Cardinal had his way, and presently had obtained the possessions which were to yield him an income which to-day would be in the neighbourhood of £4,500 for the use of his colleges, of which that at Oxford was at the outset called Cardinal's and later King's College. On 10th May, 1526, he was given a grant of the various rectories belonging to Bayham in addition to the lands granted two years earlier. What happened to Bayham itself is disclosed in a lease of 1530, whereby the Dean and Canons of Cardinal's College, Oxford, let to William Wybarne the mansion of the Manor of Bayham and lands belonging thereto. It was at much about this time that Wolsey fell from power and his College at Ipswich was not proceeded with. In consequence, a large slice of the Bayham lands reverted to the Crown, and whilst temporary grants were made out of their emoluments, it was not until the reign of Queen Elizabeth that they were presented to a private individual. This was Anthony Browne Viscount Montague, who, although a Roman Catholic, was a great favourite of the Queen. To him was granted the Manor of Bayham [in circa 1580], and it would therefore appear that Cardinal's College had been forced to hand this over to the Crown at the death of its patron.

20th Jan 1526HistoryBayhamHistory of Hailsham
On 20th of January, 1526, the lands of Bayham Abbey, including Otham, were granted to Cardinal Wolsey, but the chapel of Otham appears to have continued in use for anothrt 20 years or so and to have been regarded as a parish church.

1607 to 1665HistoryBayhamEeles' Frant
At the beginning of the next century, the Montagues parted with the manor to Stephen Barnham, as is evidenced by a Feet of Fine in 1607.
Stephen … left at his death a son and heir Martin, and a daughter Elizabeth. These two both married into the Dobell family, Martin's wife being Jane Dobell, whilst Elizabeth married her brother, Walter Dobell. At Martin's death without issue, Mrs. Walter Dobell succeeded to the Manor, and it remained in the hands of their descendants until 1665.

1665 to 1714HistoryBayhamEeles' Frant
During their ownership, the Dobells from time to time sold off part of their lands at Bayham and amongst the purchasers was Samuel Gott, a well known iron master of the day, who was closely connected with the famous Gloucester Furnace which lay just over a mile to the east of the Abbey, within the parish of Lamberhurst. Finally the Dobells disposed of their whole interest to a member of a very prominent ironmaster family named George Brown [of Buckland who had married Anne Dobell in1647], and it was Ambrose Brown who, in 1714, sold it to Sir John Pratt, in the hands of whose descendants it has remained ever since.

2nd Jun 1714HistoryBayhamCooper's Bayham
An Act of Parliament was passed in [2 June] 1714, enabling Ambrose Browne to sell the manor of Begeham, which then passed into the possession of John Pratt, Esq., of the Wilderness, in the county of Kent, sergeant-at-law, and afterwards Chief Justice of the King's Bench, whose son became the first Earl Camden and Lord High Chancellor of England. In this family the property has since remained, the present [1857] owner being grandson to the illustrious Chancellor.

24th Feb 1724/25Inheritanceon the death of his father Sir John PrattJohn Pratt, of the Wildernesse, Seal, KentBayham

27th Mar 1737North View of Begeham AbbeyNorth View of Begeham Abbey by Samuel & Nathaniel BuckLady Ela de Marci [Sackville] [Dene]Private collection
Ralph de Dene in the reign of King Henry II founded an Abbey of Praemonstratensian Canons at Ottcham [Offham] in Kent, and recommended it to the patronage of St. Laurence; But Ela de Saukevile [Sackville] daughter of the aforesaid Ralph de Dene translated those Canons to this place, such translation Geffry de Saukevile her son ratified, as did diverse other Persons, who were great Benefactors to the Abbey. King John confirmed to these monks the Benefactions bestowed on them, whose immediate Successor King Henry III in 1251 granted them a weekly market on Thursday at their manor of Rokeland & a Fair there to continue three days at Midsummer, which King Edward II confirmed in 1313. Through different hands it came to the present Proprietor John Pratt, Esquire

1770Inheritanceon the death of his father John PrattJohn Pratt, of Bayham AbbeyBayham

1773South Side of Bayham Abbey RuinsSouth Side of Bayham Abbey Ruins, pencil and ink on paper (11.6 x 26.6 cm) drawn by Samuel Hieronymus GrimmSamuel Hieronymus Grimm, topographical artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5671, Item number: f.13 (no. 22)

1773The Nave of Bayham AbbeyThe Nave of Bayham Abbey, watercolour (26.6 x 36.5 cm) painted by Samuel Hieronymus GrimmSamuel Hieronymus Grimm, topographical artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5671, Item number: f.14 (no. 24)

1773View of the Ruins of Bayham Abbey taken on the West Side of the Frant RoadView of the Ruins of Bayham Abbey taken on the West Side of the Frant Road, watercolour (11.8 x 26.6 cm) painted by Samuel Hieronymus GrimmSamuel Hieronymus Grimm, topographical artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5671, Item number: f.13 (no. 21)

1773Chapel in the South Aisle of Bayham AbbeyChapel in the South Aisle of Bayham Abbey, watercolour (18 x 26.8 cm) painted by Samuel Hieronymus GrimmSamuel Hieronymus Grimm, topographical artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5671, Item number: f.13 (no. 23)

1783East End of Bayham AbbeyEast End of Bayham Abbey, watercolour (36.4 x 26.2 cm) painted by Samuel Hieronymus GrimmSamuel Hieronymus Grimm, topographical artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5671, Item number: f.15 (no. 25)

1783South Transept of Bayham AbbeySouth Transept of Bayham Abbey, watercolour (37 x 26.7 cm) painted by Samuel Hieronymus GrimmSamuel Hieronymus Grimm, topographical artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5671, Item number: f.16 (no. 26)

1783View of the Cloisters at Bayham AbbeyView of the Cloisters at Bayham Abbey, watercolour (36.9 x 26.6 cm) painted by Samuel Hieronymus GrimmSamuel Hieronymus Grimm, topographical artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Additional MS 5671, Item number: f.17 (no. 27)

1783The seat of W<sup>m</sup> Pratt Esq<sup>r</sup> at Bayham Abby, Sussex, 1783The seat of Wm Pratt Esqr at Bayham Abby, Sussex, 1783, watercolour painted by unknown artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: Ktop XLII, Item number: 27-2

1797Inheritanceon the death of his uncle John PrattJohn Jefferys Pratt, 1st Marquess Camden, of Wildernesse, Kent; Bayham, Sussex and the Priory, BrecknockshireBayhamBurke's Dictionary of Peerage and Baronetage

1797Inheritanceon the death of his father John Jefferys PrattGeorge Charles Pratt, 2nd Marquess CamdenBayham

1797Bayham Abbey, the seat of John PrattBayham Abbey, the seat of John Pratt, FrantThe Tunbridge Wells Guide

1805HistoryBayhamRepton's Red Book

Humphrey Repton's proposals for a new house at Bayham:

"The purpose for which the house at BAYHAM is intended must decide its character: it is not to be considered as a small villa, liable to change its proprietor, as good or ill success prevails; but as the established mansion of an English nobleman's family. Its character, therefore, should be that of greatness and of durability. The park should be a forest, the estate a domain, the house a palace. Now, since magnificence and compactness are as diametrically opposite to each other as extension and contraction, so neither the extended scale of the country, nor the style, nor the character of the place, will admit of a compact house."

1808[North] Sussex[North] Sussex by G.Cole and engraved by J.RoperBayham AbbeyG. Cole
The British atlas; comprising a series of county maps…intended to illustrate and accompany 'The beauties of England and Wales' published 1808.

1809Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Frant by Paul Amsinck & engraved by Letitia ByrneLetitia ByrneAmsinck's Tunbridge Wells

1840[North] Sussex[North] Sussex by Joshua Archer, Pentonville, LondonBayham AbbeyDugdale
Dugdale's England and Wales Delineated

13th Jun 1850Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Frant by Rock & Co., LondonPrivate collection

1857The South Transept of Bayham AbbeyThe South Transept of Bayham AbbeyCooper's Bayham

6th Aug 1866Inheritance3rd Earl of Brecknock, 3rd Marquess Camden and 4th Viscount Bayham of Bayham AbbeyJohn Charles Pratt, 3rd Marquess CamdenBayham

c 1870Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Frant photographed by Francis Frith
The Francis Frith Web Site The Frith archive was founded by Francis Frith, the pioneer Victorian photographer, in 1860 and today contains over 365,000 photographs of some 7,000 towns and villages throughout Britain. Taken between 1860 and 1970 these form a topographical record of Britain without equal and is recognised as probably the only photographic collection of national importance in private hands in Britain today.

The importance of the Frith archive is as a topographical and social record. It provides an amazingly detailed visual record of over 7,000 towns and villages, as well as illustrating the enormous social and structural changes which have taken place in Britain since 1860. Whilst some of the photographs are undoubtedly artistically outstanding, the real value of the archive lies in its scale. There is no other archive which can illustrate this period of British history so extensively or to such a high quality.

16th Dec 1871Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Lamberhurst by The BuilderBayhamPrivate collection
The new mansion, shown by the accompanying illustrations, is erected on the estate of the Marquis Camden, near Tunbridge Wells, on the north side of the valley, at the bottom of which runs the stream called the Tun, having on its southern margin the remarkably interesting ruins of the abbey said to have been built by the Praemonstratensian canons, in the reign of Richard I.
The foundations for the new building were commenced in 1869, and the first stone of the plinth was laid by the Marchioness Camden, on the 13th day of January, 1870.
The materials used in its construction are as follow :- The walls are built of bricks made upon the estate, faced with Kentish ragstone from the Maidstone quarries, as a general facing, with Combs Down Bath stone quoins, window and door dressings, cornices, &c., and the roofs are covered with green slates from the quarries in North Wales. The ceilings of the principal suite of rooms are subdivided into panels, with moulded ribs, pendants, and enrichments, and the mantelpieces, designed in corresponding style, are composed of coloured marble, Derbyshire spars, and alabaster, executed by Mr. Earp, of Kennington-road.
The character of the architecture and general arrangement of the plan resemble the examples of manorial houses existing in this country, of the latter part of the sixteenth century and the beginning of the seventeenth century, but adapted to the convenience of modern requirements.

The present buildings have been executed from the designs of Mr. David Brandon, and carried out under his superintendence.
Full article

16th Dec 1871Bayham Abbey - Ground PlanBayham Abbey - Ground Plan, Lamberhurst by The BuilderBayhamPrivate collection

4th May 1872Inheritance4th Earl of Brecknock, 4th Marquess Camden and 5th Viscount Bayham of Bayham AbbeySir John Charles Pratt, 4th Marquess

1889Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Frant by Charles Reynolds & Co.Private collection

1896Bayham AbbeyBayham AbbeyPrivate collection

1896Bayham AbbeyBayham AbbeyPrivate collection

c 1900BayhamBayham, LamberhurstBayhamEnglish Homes and Villages

c 1900Ruins, Bayham AbbeyRuins, Bayham Abbey, Frant painted by Charles Essenhigh CorkeCharles Essenhigh Corke, artist and photographerEnglish Homes and Villages

c 1900Monks Bridge, Bayham AbbeyMonks Bridge, Bayham AbbeyPrivate collection

1903Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Frant photographed by Francis FrithBrian and Cynthia Bell's photographs

1906Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, LamberhurstBayhamPrivate collection

1911Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Frant photographed by Valentine's seriesPrivate collection

1912Bayham MansionBayham Mansion, LamberhurstBayhamPrivate collection

1915Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey photographed by G.Welch & Sons, PortsmouthPrivate collection

c 1915Monks Bridge, Bayham AbbeyMonks Bridge, Bayham Abbey, Frant photographed by Senior Service Cigarette CardPrivate collection

1919Bayham Abbey RoadBayham Abbey RoadPrivate collection

1923Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, Lamberhurst photographed by H.H. Camburn for E. and K. Looker, Post Office, Hook GreenBayhamPrivate collection

14th Dec 1943Inheritance5th Earl of Brecknock, 5th Marquess Camden and 6th Viscount Bayham of Bayham AbbeyJohn Charles Henry Pratt, 5th Marquess

1961Historyplaced in the guardianship of the StateJohn Charles Pratt, 3rd Marquess CamdenBayham

2008Bayham AbbeyBayham Abbey, FrantPrivate collection

2011Bayham Abbey HouseBayham Abbey HouseBayhamPrivate collection

2011Old and New Bayham AbbeyOld and New Bayham AbbeyBayhamPrivate collection

2011Bayham Church from Bayham AbbeyBayham Church from Bayham AbbeyPrivate collection

2011Dower House at Bayham AbbeyDower House at Bayham AbbeyPrivate collection

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