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                                        Fullers House - (Part 2)
                          The Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century

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Fuller House - 1867
 

Drawn by E.G.D. from a photograph dated 10August 1867.               


1718 - 1751
In 1718 and 1719, Madam Ecklyn, from London, is shown as paying rates for Fullers House and it is believed that she had bought the property although she did not live in the house. The first tenant shown is Edward Castreate, who in 1720, is assessed on 3 properties: Fullers House, Iden and Wallers. He retains them for only 2 years and Samuel Filmer Esquire is the tenant in 1722.
Little is yet know about Samuel Filmer. He was married to Margaret and they had 2 children baptised in Staplehurst, Samuel and Robert, both of whom would have been born at Fullers House. Samuel died in 1732 and the property was taken over by Robert Wooden and again included Iden and Wallers. Robert Wooden retains a lease on the 3 properties until 1748.
Bryant Fossett, the son of Madam Ecklyn, is shown as the owner of the house from 1748.
Like his mother, he did not live at Fuller House and was classed as a Foreigner. Based on the Poor Rates, the house may have laid vacant for 3 years as no tenant is shown until 1751 when Gomery and Simmons take on the lease of the property. Thomas Simmons and his family go on to be major players in the history of Fullers House and the village of Staplehurst.
Edward Hasted wrote the History and Topographical Survey of Kent, which was published in 1793 (2nd edition). Under Staplehurst, there is a paragraph, which I quote. ‘At a small distance from the south end of the village of Staplehurst is Iden green, on which stood, till within these few years, the mansion of the Manor of Iden. This manor was formerly the property of Chiffinch, from one of which name it passed to Brian Faussett, esq. of Heppington, whose son the Rev. Mr. Bryan Faussett sold it, about twenty years ago, to Mr. Thomas Simmons, gent. the present owner of it.
There was a court held for this manor about seventy years ago, on Iden Green, under an oak, and some years afterwards in the mansion; but the oak being felled, and the house taken down, none has been held since, nor probably will be again.’
This broadly supports the information we have identified.

The Simmons Family
There has been Simmons in Staplehurst since the Parish Records began in 1538 and probably long before. (The name is sometimes spelt as Symons, Simmonds or other variations but for simplicity, I retain the later variation of Simmons.) They are related to families found in Cranbrook, Marden, Frittenden and Benenden.
But the family branch we are looking at begin with Edward Simmons and his wife Ann Bridgland who arrived in Staplehurst in 1716 from Frittenden.
Edward and Ann were married in Frittenden, Kent in 1714. Their first son, Thomas, was baptised in Frittenden in 1715, but by 1716 when their second son, Edward, was born they were living in Staplehurst. They had two further children, John who was baptised at All Saints Church in Staplehurst in 1722 and Mary who was baptised 1 Jan 1719/20. There is a monumental inscription at the All Saints Parish Church in Staplehurst that tells us that Edward died on the 5 November 1735 at 52 years of age. Ann died 29 July 1768 aged 75 years and they left issue of 3 sons : Thomas, Edward and John.
I believe, that after the Samuel Fuller the younger left Staplehurst that the Hoare family bought the property then called Fullers Farm (opposite to Fuller House) and that Edward Simmons was the tenant. After his death in 1735, his wife Ann carried on managing the farm with the help of her sons and in particular Thomas. The Simmons family managed this farm until the middle of the 19th century.
The first Land Tax records found for Staplehurst are for 1756 and 1759 and then a large gap until 1780.  In both 1756 and 1759, Ann, who was by then a widow, is recorded as a tenant of Mr. Hoare. Annual rent is £60 per year, which implies it was a large farm.
The Poor Rate Assessments show Edward in 1720 as assessed with a land value of £40 which is then shown as £30 in 1725 and two parcels of land in 1730 are assessed as £30 and £5. By 1755, the assessment was £42.
As no will has been found for Edward, it can only be assumed his estate and leases were left to his wife in her lifetime and then are likely to have been passed to his sons. This is supported when we find Thomas as the tenant in the same property in 1780.
Edward Simmons male line continued in Staplehurst from 1716 to sometime between 1891 and 1901.
Thomas Simmons, the son of Edward and Ann Simmons, was born in Frittenden, Kent and baptised 11 April 1715.
We first see Thomas when he, in partnership with Thomas Gomery, becomes a tenant of Bryant Fossett and together they manage Fullers House Farm along with Iden and Waller. In 1776, Thomas purchases the 3 properties from Mr. Fossett and Fullers House becomes his main dwelling house.
Shortly afterwards, in 1778, Thomas Simmons marries Elizabeth Usborne in 1778. This was a late marriage, he was 63 years old and Elizabeth was 34. From the marriage license, we know it was the first marriage for both of them. There is no record of any children being born to the couple and Thomas’s will confirms this. Elizabeth was the daughter of William Usborne. The Usborne family were  ‘well to do’ and leading members of the village at that time. While it is easy to consider that Thomas, a mere yeoman, married above himself, I think that is underestimating the man. By the time of his marriage, he had purchased the Fullers House Farm, Iden and Waller as well as leasing Chittenden Farm and Fullers Farm (later Iden Manor) from the Hoare Family. He was in fact managing one of the largest estates in Staplehurst.
The Kent Poll Book for 1754  shows a  list of freeholders in Staplehurst which does not include any Simmons but by 1790 is shown Thomas as a freeholder in Staplehurst with a house and land.
In the Land Tax Records of 1756 and 1759, Thomas’s widowed mother is the tenant of a large farm where the freeholder was Mr. Hoare. As previously mentioned, it is thought that this property is Fullers Farm, later called Iden Manor Farm. It is assumed that Thomas lived with his widowed mother and ran the farm on her behalf. Thomas is also shown as the joint tenant of another property owned by Mr. Bryant Fausett which we know is Fullers House, Iden and Waller.
The next tax records in 1780, show Thomas is also now the tenant of Fullers Farm, owned by Mr. Hoare, his mother having died in 1768. Also Thomas is now shown as the owner and occupier of Fullers House Farm (including Iden and Waller). On top of this, Thomas is also the tenant farmer of Chittenden Farm which lies just south of Fullers House Farm. He is now farming a huge tract of land in the village of Staplehurst and we could be forgiven for assuming he is a wealthy farmer.
In 1789, Thomas adds to his holdings with a smaller farm leased from Mr. John Beard which he buys the freehold of in 1793. In 1790 he acquires the freehold of another property (which his will states to be 30 acres) which he rents to George Waters. One further addition is shown in the tax records of 1793 which looks like a further small farm leased from Mr. Philcox which appears to be next to Mr. Beard’s property. I’m not sure where these are.
As was expected of the ‘gentlemen’ of the parish, Thomas and his brother Edward, performer duties as overseers of the poor in 1754.
 Thomas died on the 2nd August 1793 and we do know that by this time he was well established and left an extensive estate. His monumental inscription describes him as a ‘Gent of the Parish, universally esteemed and regretted’.
From his will, we can establish further information about Thomas. We know Thomas had two brothers, one sister and many nephews and nieces although no children of his own. He was a farmer and a gentleman and his wife was from a well to do family.
Thomas's will dated 16 July 1791, clearly defines his request and is very good for verifying the family tree. He left several major bequests, most with charges against them to ensure all his nieces and nephews benefited.
To Elizabeth, his wife he left all his goods and chattels etc in his dwelling house Fullers House in Staplehurst. She was to have the chaise and horse, the best cow and £500 in stocks, which had been left to her by her late uncle Edward Usborne.
She was also to benefit from the interest and profit from a £1000 investment Thomas had made around 1791 in Tolls on the Turnpike Road from Maidstone to Tubstake. Tubstake is not on the modern road map but found on an old map to be on what is the A229 today just south of Cranbrook but north of Hawkhurst. 
During her lifetime, she was to have Fullers House Farm and the three associated cottages is what is now known as ‘The Quarter’.
When Elizabeth died, the £1000 investment on the Tolls was to go to his nephew John Simmons, son of his brother John. However, there were charges against this equating to £500 which was left to his other nieces and nephews.
Fullers House Farm in Staplehurst was also left to his nephew John Simmons, son of his brother John with the provision that Elizabeth should have use of the property until her death. The property was left to Edward Simmons (son of his brother Edward) and his heirs in the event that John did not survive Elizabeth, which is what happened. Elizabeth survived until November 1822 while John was buried in June 1819 and Edward died a few months before Elizabeth in February 1822.
To his nephew Edward Simmons, son of his brother Edward, Thomas left a house and land of 32 acres referred to as the ‘Cott’ in Shirley Moor, Woodchurch, Kent. There were also charges against this bequest equating to roughly £1000.
Two estates were left as tenants in common to his nephews John Simmons and William Spong (husband of Ann Simmons, daughter of his brother John). The one estate was Iden and Waller in Staplehurst. It is now noted as 64 acres. The other was known as the ‘Isle of Dogs’ in Beddenden and Benenden. Charges against the two estates equated to £400 plus an annuity of £10 per year for his brother John.
To his nephews Peter Tuff and Thomas Tuff, sons of his sister Mary, he left an estate of 30 acres (unnamed) in Staplehurst as tenants in common. George Waters occupied the estate. No charges were made against this.
Also noted was a request that his great nephew, Thomas Simmons, son of his nephew Edward Simmons, should have the lease of the farm belonging to Henry Hoare called Chittenden.
There were numerous other small requests to various nieces and nephews but the residue of his estate was passed to his nephews John Simmons and William Spong to be shared equally.
Thomas provided well for his relatives, made provision for the poor of Staplehurst, and ensured his tenants and his servants were well rewarded.
Thomas’s wife, Elizabeth Usborne, outlived Thomas by 29 years. She was buried along side Thomas in All Saints Church Staplehurst on the 02 December 1822. She also left a detailed will benefiting many of her relatives but also many named poor of Staplehurst. For instance, she left 12 pounds and 12 shillings per year to May Waller daughter of Thomas Waller, a labourer in Staplehurst to 'keep her out of the Parish Workhouse'. After the many small bequests to friends, relatives, servants and the poor, the bulk of her estate went to her nephew Thomas Simmons.
From the complex will of Thomas Simmons, the Fullers House remained in the ownership of his wife Elizabeth until her death in 1822 when it would have passed to his nephew John. But John died in 1819 before he could inherit the property and the house then was legally passed to Thomas’s nephew Edward, son of his brother Edward and his heirs.
Edward, was in fact a wealthy yeoman in his own right. He had married Mary Beslee in 1771 and they had 8 children, the oldest being Thomas Simmons born in 1771. Edward lived to be 81 years of age and was buried in Staplehurst in February 1822, several months before he would have inherited Fullers House. But as the property was specified to go to his heirs, it fell within the terms of Edwards will.
Edward left all his property, including Fullers House, to his wife in her lifetime with instructions that after her death the entire estate would be divided between his four sons.
His wife Mary survived him by 19 years and lived to reach 91 years of age. She was buried in Staplehurst in 1841.
After the death of Mary, Fullers House was sold to Henry Hoare.
Therefore, after the death of Thomas Simmons in 1793, Fullers House was actually owned first by his widow Elizabeth until 1822 and then by the widow of his nephew Edward Simmons, the former Mary Beeslee until 1841. However, the widows did not live in the house. In 1794 and 1795, Thomas’s nephew John lived in Fullers House but in 1796, William Spong was the tenant of Fullers House Farm plus a great deal of other property in the south of the village. William was the husband of Ann Simmons, niece of Thomas Simmons, daughter of his brother John. After William Spong’s death in 1808, his wife, the former Ann Simmons, remained as tenant until the death of Elizabeth Simmons in 1822.  The property then passed to the widow of Edward Simmons, the former Mary Beslee. Again she never lived in the house and her eldest son Thomas Simmons was the tenant of the property until her death in 1841.
During this period, the widow Mary first lived in a house owned by the Simmons family that was on the opposite side of the road of Fullers House but later moved into The Quarter in what is now 17 The Quarter.
There is a much more detailed account of the Simmons family available for anyone interested.

The Staplehurst Tithe Assessment 1841
Three copies of Staplehurst Tithe map exist today: one is help in Maidstone at the Centre for Kentish Studies. It can be viewed on microfilm but the film quality is poor.
The Tithe records (published in July 1842) record Mary Simmons as the owner of Fullers House and associated land. The occupier is given as Thomas Simmons senior, Mary’s son. The 1841 census confirms Thomas and his wife Sarah (known as Sally) were living in Fullers House. The widow, Mary Simmons, is living in one of the houses in The Quarter, which today is 15 – 17 The Quarter. These houses were the only other property existing in The Quarter, west side, at that date. Mary died aged 91 on 30 July 1841 and the tithe map must be referring to the estate of Mary Simmons but does not state so.
The land associated with Fuller House and listed in the Tithe records and shown on the map is as follows:

Numbers
Referring                                                           State of                    Quantities

To Plan           Name and Description          of Cultivation        Acres Roods Perches
 

1668              Four Acres                                        Arable               5        0          20

  1669              Hog Pound Field                                Arable               3        2          36

  1670              Hog Pound Field                                Arable               1        1          38

    943              Robin's field                                        Arable               4        3          21

    944              Shaw, (Meaning a strip of                   Wood                0        1          16
                         woodland wider than a hedge).

    945              Hop Garden                                        Hops                  3        3          33

    946              Webb meadow                                    Meadow            3        3          18

    947              Gooseberry Wood Field                      Arable               7        3          14

    948              Barn meadow                                      Meadow            3        3          7

    949              Fuller House Homestead                                               0        3          12

    950              Barn Platt                                           Meadow             0        3          22

    953              Near Little Meadow                           Meadow             2        0          13

    954              Pond                                                                             0        0          21

    955              Further Little Meadow                       Meadow             2        0          21

    956              Long Four Acres                                 Arable               4        1          18

    957              Pinnock Field                                      Meadow            2        1          27

    715              Garden                                                                         0        2          10

 

                                                Total Land                                         48        1          27
                                                Rent Charge Payable to                   £10 10s
                                                   The Rector
                                                                  .

 Fuller House - 1842 Tithe Map

The above diagram shows the land associated with Fuller House in 1842.


The Hoare Family
The Hoare Family deserve a book for themselves and this is not the place to try and complete it. Our interest is in their relationship to Fullers House.
The Hoare family had owned property in Staplehurst since 1714 when they acquire the Fuller Farm on the opposite side of the road to Fullers House. The Hoare family bought the property from Samuel Fuller or his heirs. Also purchased in 1714 was Chittenden Farm, which had been owned by William Caffinch, along with Fullers House, Iden and Waller which would have been a continuous stretch of land. Thomas Chittenden was the tenant farmer of Chittenden Farm from 1715 to 1750. Thomas Simmons then took on the lease of Chittenden Farm and the Simmons family continued to run this property until 1865.
From 1714, the Hoare family continued to acquire property in Staplehurst and by 1850 they owned large sections of the village and surrounding country side. It was after the death of Mary Simmons in 1841, the Henry Hoare bought Fullers House including all the land in the Quarter on the west side of the road. Until then, the house had been a family home. Henry divided the house into 4 homes and these were let to local families, probably most of whom worked directly for Henry Hoare’s estate.
There is little doubt that during the next 60 years the house degenerated. The census details from 1841 to 1901 show a steady stream of changes.
In 1851, the widow Sally Simmons and her servant Jane Simmons lived in one of the 4 cottages within Fuller House. Jane is from Tenterden and probably a relative. Visiting the Simmons was 22-year-old Annie Hope from Frittenden. Annie was Sally’s granddaughter and is related to the Hope family who live at Cherry Tree Farm in Frittenden today.
There is a picture of Fullers House dating from 1867 which shows the house with what looks like sash windows which probably replaced the earlier lead windows in the period when the Simmons family owned the house.
In 1879, the Hoare family were having financial difficulties and much of the property held in Staplehurst was put on the market including Fullers house. There is a copy of the map, dated 1880, showing the different properties that were to be sold by auction. The sale was not successful.
In 1881, the Brooker family were running a laundry business at Fuller House. Whether this was done in the old wash house, which is attached to the back of the house and at one time extended to the boundary, or whether it was carried out in the barn is not known. What is interesting is that the existing barn is undated and, unlike what you would expect to find in a barn, it is fully lined with timber planks and there is evidence that it once had a stove inside. It does not appear to have ever been used as a stables or for animals and must have been built for another purpose. This may well have been for the laundry business although there are wide doors which may come from a later period when it would have been used as a garage.
Also in 1881, George Hope and his family are living in part of the house. George is related to the Hope family living in Frittenden today and related to Simmons family by marriage.
In 1891, there appear to only be 3 families living in the house, The Hope family has grown to include 7 children and the Brooker family is still running the laundry.
By 1901, the Hope family had moved to Frittenden but the Brooker’s still have the laundry business and there are now 4 households.
In 1904, the Hoare family again put the estate, including Iden Manor, up for auction. A copy of the map is included. Fuller House was this time sold. Who bought the house is not known and there is a gap in the history until 1920.
There was a large amount of renovation work done, probably before the sale. We know the now distinct windows with the Gothic flavour were installed around this time. Most of the interior doors and woodwork in the house today date from this period and it is thought that a major renovation was completed either prior to or after the sale in 1904. What is certain is the house would have deteriorated since 1841 and would have required major work to restore it to good health.