Peter Hills, Dane Court, St. Peter's-in-Thanet: a Kentish manor and its families
Gabriel Neve II sold 'the manor of Dane Court' to Richard Sackett of East Northdown on 17–18 August 1759. This was the largest of a series of land purchases made by Sackett, and the history of Dane Court became inseparably linked with that of the new owner's estate as a whole. Almost two centuries were to pass before the next sale of Dane Court in 1947.
FROM SACKETT TO TOMLIN, AND THE TENANCY OF THE CRAMPS
Richard Sackett derived from a yeomanry family settled in the Isle of Thanet for several centuries. The names of William and John Saket are mentioned in the subsidy roll of 1327. Andrew and Edmund Sakett appear with early representatives of another Dane Court line, the Norwoods, in the composition made in 1441 between St. Augustine's abbey, Canterbury, and its tenants in Thanet. John Sakett, by a will made on St. Thomas's day, bequeathed £5 to St. Peter's church, to purchase three coverings for the altars there of St. James the Apostle, St. Mary of Pity and St. Margaret. A link with another earlier Dane Court family is provided by the fact that the £5 was in the hands of Nicholas Underdown at the time Sakett made his bequest. On a pillar in the south arcade of St. Peter's church a brass inscription commemorates John Sackett, a yeoman, who died 24 February 1624. Sackett's Hill, situated in the north-west of St. Peter's parish, derived its name from being an ancient possession of this family.
Sackett's Hill Farm was included in the lands of Richard Sackett, purchaser of Dane Court, at his death in 1789. He was born in 1717, the son of Richard and Martha Sackett, who were married at St. John's on 17 October 1708. His mother, born in 1681, was the daughter of Walter Tomlin (1640–1727), who was in turn grandson to Stephen Tomlin (died 1605) by Mary, daughter of John Sackett of Sackett's Hill. The Sacketts and Tomlins were thus closely interconnected historically before the marriage that was to bring Richard Sackett's inheritance, including Dane Court, into the hands of the Tomlins: this was when Sarah Cramp, Richard's grand-daughter, wed Robert Tomlin, great-grandson of Richard's uncle, Francis Tomlin (1676–1732). A theme running through the story of Dane Court is the inextricable interweaving of local families, estates and history, the consequence until the nineteenth century of the circumscribed area from which Thanet gentry and yeomanry drew their wives and husbands. Richard Sackett, the father, died on 10 November 1730, being buried in the the south aisle of St. John's; his stone proudly bears the inscription 'Yeoman of Northdown.' Susanna 'his only daughter' and Martha his widow were subsequently interred with him, in 1741 and 1747 respectively.
Richard Sackett, owner of Dane Court, married Hannah Tritton, the daughter of Samuel Tritton of Willesborough, Kent. The impaled arms of Sackett and Tritton carved upon the Sackett–Tomlin memorial in St. Peter's churchyard testify to this union. These arms also most probably imply that Richard established this memorial; one would expect later members of the family, descended from Tomlin on the paternal side, to have used in this instance a shield which at least included the Tomlin arms. Expressed in heraldic colours, which the memorial does not display, the Sacketts bore for their arms sable, three bendlets argent; those of Tritton were argent, on a bend gules, a helmet in the dexter point or, the bever close. The Tritton crest, a trotting horse, has been said, somewhat questionably, to derive from the one-time spelling of the name as 'Trotton'.
Hannah bore Richard only two children: a son, Tritton, followed by a daughter, Susanna, doubtless named after her father's only sister. Susanna and her mother, who both died in 1773, are the earliest members of the family commemorated on the Sackett–Tomlin memorial, which tends to confirm it was set up by Richard the father. Tritton Sackett died unmarried at the age of thirty in 1776. An upstairs window pane at East Northdown House bears a unique and moving memorial to him: twelve eyars earlier, he had inscribed upon it, initialled and dated six lines from the fourth book of Virgil's Georgics, a work which appropriately reflects the eighteenth-century interest in the countryside and agriculture. Tritton's sister, Susanna, provided the heiress to their father's estate by her marriage to the tenant at Dane Court, Peter Cramp.
ROBERT SACKETT TOMLIN OF DANE COURT AND HIS FAMILY
The only son of Robert and Sarah Tomlin of Northdown, Robert Sackett, married Elizabeth Anne, the daughter of John Bankes of Otley, Yorkshire, and Clapham Common. The wedding took place on 5 May 1817; immediately afterwards they set out on a tour with the bridegroom's sister, Harriet, two stopping-places being the fashionable spas of Bath and Cheltenham. Upon return the newly-married couple were to take up residence at Dane Court. While they were away, Robert Sackett's youngest sister, Ann, informed them 'We have had several house maids to offer for service there'. The house itself, an old one, had been undergoing extension and modernisation, which were now almost complete, Ann remarking that it 'looks nicely'. The style that henceforth remained dominant, especially in the north-west front, was that of the Regency period. Long regarded as a farmstead and not occupied by an owner since the seventeenth century, Dane Court once again became the seat of a gentleman, being described in 1838 as 'a handsome ancient mansion, in a low situation, well sheltered by loft timber, and surrounded with highly ornamented grounds'.
Four years later, as recorded in the St. Peter's tiyhe apportionment and map, Robert Sackett Tomlin owned 33 acres in the parish. Though these were for the most part adjacent to, or neighbouring Dane Court, he did not occupy them himself; the only property he occupied at that time was just over four acres, the premises of Dane Court with their garden and orchard. His father, Robert Tomlin, was listed as owner of 375 acres in St. Peter's, of which he occupied 37½; he rented an additional 49 acres. Dane Court and Sackett's Hill thus accounted for most of this total. Robert Tomlin enjoyed the rents and profits from these two properties, which amounted to approximately half the total acreage of the estate bequeathed to Sarah his wife by her grandfather, Richard Sackett. Following her death, the whole Sackett inheritance was divided between her and Robert's five children; the five divisions created by the final deed of partition, dated 26 June 1847, were almost equal in value, though their acreages varied considerably. The first share, Dane Court, approximately 91½ acres in St. Peter's, went to Robert Sackett Tomlin. The most valuable lands appear to have been included in this share, because the acreage required to make up the value of rather more than £9,000 was much less than that of the other four shares.
To Robert Sackett and Elizabeth Anne Tomlin were born six children, five of whom survived infancy. These were a daughter, Mary, born 20 February 1819, and four sons; Robert, born 4 April 1822; Bankes, born 23 November 1823; Thomas Belsey, born 28 May 1825; and Latham, 17 April 1827. The christenings of these children were family occasions; for Robert's baptism his grandfather and grandmother from Northdown acted as godfather and godmother, and, on subsequent occasions, all of Robert Sackett's sisters and brothers-in-law took their turn as godparents.
As soon as Robert Sackett took up residence in St. Peter's, he began to attend the meetings of the vestry, the minutes recording his presence there for the first time on 22 September 1817. These meetings were held in the church at the east end of the north chancel, the area being partitioned off by a wooden screen. The vestry was responsible not only for specifically chaurch matters, but for parish affairs as a whole, including maintenance of the roads and, until 1834, the relief of the poor: 'one could scarcely believe that in this small room the greater part of the parish business was done'. To carry out these duties, churchwardens, surveyors of the highways and overseers of the poor were chosen annually. At his first meeting Tomlin was nominated, together with nine others, as a surveyor of the highways, for the magistrates to appoint three. As it happened, they did not include him; and, though similarly nominated in 1821, 1822 and 1828, he did not have to serve. He was, however, made a member of the committee, set up on 16 August 1820, to consider the best way of altering the road from St. Peter's to Broadstairs, the plan being agreed at a subsequent meeting on 18 October. Churchwardens were chosen at the meeting held on Easter Monday in each year. At that in 1818 it was agreed that Robert Sackett Tomlin and John Philpot should be churchwardens for the ensuing year; but, according to the minutes, the former was not present, not at any meetings until 1 April 1819, when he signed as churchwarden. The Easter Monday meeting was held on 12 April in 1819, when he was again present and re-appointed churchwarden, on this occasion with John Crofts. Three meetings for 1819–20 are recorded in the vestry minutes, at only one of which—the Easter Monday meeting 1820—was Tomlin present, signing in the capacity of churchwarden. Tomlin does not, therefore, appear to have regarded his tenure of the office of churchwarden as necessitating regular attendance in the vestry. Nevertheless, he was made an overseer of the poor in 1820 and 1830.
Parish business was not always conducted equably, one parishioner remarking later in the century 'Thanks to the march of intellect, no such scenes occur now as were allowed to take place under the roof of that sacred edifice'. It was during the years 1823 and 1824 that differences resulted in a bitter cleavage. On one side John Mockett, author of Mockett's Journal, was the leading protaganist, defending what he claimed to be the traditional rights of the parishioners and long-standing ways of carrying on their affairs, though, in doing so, he was in the first instance upholding his own right to be churchwarden. A key figure among his opponents was Robert Sackett Tomlin, who, as a newcomer, might be cast as the promoter of innovation, attempting to assert a position he felt should be his. The issue coming to a head over the election of churchwardens, his appointment was at stake too, though his lack of activity in the office when he had held it hardly seems to fit him for the role suggested. Perhaps an anti-Mockett faction considered Tomlin's a suitable candidacy to promote for their own purposes. The truth may lie in some combination of both these explanations; but the way the dispute began certainly tends to indicate a manoeuvre directed against Mockett's election as churchwarden.
Mockett records that, on 31 March 1823, 'a great division took place in our vestry on Easter Monday, as to the right of voting', one side holding that, by an act of 1813, it should be by property, whereas Mockett 'and many others, thought that it did not apply to our parish, because there is a clause which states, "that nothing in this act shall alter any ancient usage or custom"; and as we had met in the vestry, agreeably to the notice given, as from time immemorial, we fully expected to vote as hitherto, by numbers and not by value'. Their opponents strongly argued that it had now become the law that the number of votes an individual had was based on the value of his property, though why they had suddenly discovered this after ten years is not explained. Mockett's side, now on the defensive, contended that, as the 1813 act required ten days' notice, no such having been given, the vestry could not act under it. In his Journal Mockett adds that, when the election for churchwardens took place that night, 'at a late hour myself and friend were duly elected by numbers, according to usual and ancient custom'. In the vestry minutes, however, the totals of votes recorded are: Robert Sackett Tomlin 34; Robert Crofts 29; John Mockett 31; William Payton 24; this represents voting by value, Robert Sackett with six votes having the most, all of which he cast for himself. The 'friend' Mockett refers to was Payton, Crofts being paired with Tomlin, as is apparent from the voting. It was decided that the votes cast should be scrutinised, as a result of which 'there was an equality of votes for the choice of the second churchwarden' between Crofts and Mockett.
This necessitated calling another vestry, at which it was resolved that, some persons having registered fewer votes at the previous meeting than the number to which they were entitled and two others being disqualified for non-payment of poor rate, the total votes were now: Tomlin 39; Crofts 34; Mockett 32; Payton 25. Tomlin and Crofts were therefore declared to be churchwardens. It is clear that voting was again by value, as the amount of rate is noted against each voter's name. To Mockett, of course, this result was totally unacceptable, as he recorded in a memorandum in the vestry minutes. 'The scrutiny and alterations was considered partial, as being done without the knowledge of either Mr. Mockett or Mr. Payton, and, if it had been requisite, it should have been done at the ecclesiastical court, and not at a magisterial one.' Voting by number (all members of the vestry having one vote each), the totals were, he calculated: Mockett 26; Payton 22; Tomlin 20; Crofts 16. Something of a comedy resulted at the Canterbury visitation on 31 July following; Crofts and Tomlin were presented as his successors by Henry Strevens, the former churchwarden, and Mockett and Payton 'as being duly nominated and elected according to usual and ancient custom from time immemorial' by Hale, the vestry clerk at the second meeting. The archdeacon, to whom both pairs were presented, avoided committing himself by administering the oath to all four. He told them 'that only two could serve the office' with the assurance, doubtless comforting to himself, that 'whatever arrangements might be made by the parties, the oath would be only binding to those who where [sic] duly elected'.
Back at St. Peter's, Mockett and Payton, 'feeling perfectly satisfied they were duly elected … took immediate possession of the church'. Tomlin retaliated by taking away the church keys, at which Mockett and Payton, with other parishioners assembled in the vestry, directed the vestry clerk to demand their return, 'the same being illegally taken away by you on Sunday last'. Tomlin seems to have complied, for Mockett and Payton successfully upheld their right to serve, though in September Payton, 'who had repeatedly express'd his wish to decline, in order to reconcile the existing difference', stepped down in favour of Crofts. Counsel's opinion, however, given in July 1824, was that Mockett and Payton had been legally appointed.
Meanwhile, a repetition of the previous year's events had been avoided. A meeting was summoned for 19 April 1824 'to re-elect on of the churchwardens, and also to nominate and elect one other … according to ancient custom'. A poll took place, voting being by head; Mockett was re-elected with forty votes, and James read, senior, received the same number. Robert Sackett Tomlin, who, it should be noted, did not vote for either of these, was significantly appointed one of three scrutineers. The following day these met, endorsed the election and dissolved their meeting 'in hopes all differences will cease'. The parishioners assembled in vestry then confirmed that Mockett and Read should serve.
VI. SACKETT, TOMLIN AND BELSEY MEMORIALS
1. To John Sackett, died 1623/24.
St. Peter's, on a pillar, south arcade.
Brass inscription (approx. 1' 6" x 5¼); though now mural, apparently once on a tombstone in view of 'Here lyeth interred the corps of John Sackett'. He 'yelded his spirit into his Saviour's hands' 24 February 1623, aged 59.
Son of John Sackett of Sackett's Hill; brother of Mary, who married Stephen Tomlin (died 1605).
4. To Richard Sackett, died 1730, his daughter Susanna, died 1740/41, and his wife Martha, died 1747.
St. John's, south aisle.
A plain marble slab.
Richard Sackett, 'Teoman of Northdown in this parish', died 10 November 1730, aged 62. Susanna 'his only daughter' died 3 January 1740, aged 25. Martha his wife died 17[?] December 1747, aged 6.
DIVISION OF THE SACKETT ESTATE, 1847
A. Comparison of a preliminary agreement for the division with the final deed of partition. Both of these documents are in K.A.O. [Kent Archives Office], U1196 T1. The first is a rough 'summary of the 5 divisions agreed to' on 3 March 1847, and apparently relates to a map no longer surviving among the collection; it contains details of the values of the proposed divisions, which the final deed does not. The second document is the legal deed of partition, dated 26 June 1847, complete with a fully referenced map.
[There follows a detailed table of the areas of land, annual values, and realisable values, of each portion of the lands subject to partition. The total annual value of the estate was £1,583 14s 7d, the total realisable value £45,107 16s 8d, and total area 651 A, 2 R, 26 P (acre, rood, perch). The first division (3 March) produced minor deficiencies and 'overpluses' in the shares; the areas were adjusted slightly such that the final division (26 June) produced five shares each with a value of £9,021 12s 4d.]
[The final division was:
Northdown, recipient Ann Friend, 137 acres, 2 roods, 5 perch
Dane Court, recipient Robert Sackett Tomlin, 94 acres, 0 roods, 36 perch
Sackett's Hill, recipient Sarah Tomlin, 127 acres, 2 roods, 24 perch
Omer Farm, recipient Jane Tomlin, 142 acres, 2 roods, 10 perch
Tomlin Farm, recipient Harriet Tomlin, 144 acres, 2 roods, 36 perch
Roads, 4 acres, 3 roods, 35 perch]
Peter John Hills, Dane Court, St. Peter's-in-Thanet: a Kentish manor and its families, privately published limited edition (1972). (Extracts transcribed by Chris Sackett).