Preston Hall
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Preston Hall
Aylesford, Kent, England

Preston Hall, Aylesford, Kent, England, Oct 1999Preston Hall

  On north side of the A20, 0.3 miles W of its intersection with the M20 (14 miles N of Goudhurst).

As of 2004, it housed the offices of the Strategic Health Authority in Kent.

National Grid Coordinates:
TQ 728 581

The Culpepers of Preston Hall

Apparently the first Culpeper to own Preston Hall was Sir Thomas Culpeper3 of Bayhall in Pembury, who was Sheriff of Kent during the reign of Edward I (1272-1307). From Bayhall, over the succeeding generations, the Culpeper family separated into different branches throughout the counties of Kent and Sussex. The Culpepers of Preston Hall, Bedgebury, Lossenham, Wakehurst, Hollingbourne, Wigsell, and Feckenham all came from Bay Hall. The Culpepers developed their estate at Preston Hall as a farming concern.

Walter4a, the second son of Sir Thomas inherited Preston Hall upon his father's death about 1309. In 1321, Walter and his three brothers, Sir Thomas, John and Nicholas, were all at the Battle of Boroughbridge, a rebellion of nobles against Edward II. That same year Walter refused to admit Edward's wife, Queen Isabel, to Leed's Castle. For this indignity, the King beseiged the castle and eventually took it. He then took Captain Culpeper and "hoong him up".

Walter's second son, Sir Geoffrey5a, inherited  Preston as a child when Walter died from the hanging in 1321. Sir Geoffrey, Sheriff of Kent in 1366 and 1374, left a son William6a, who inherited the estate in 1390. His son, Sir John7a, was a justice of the Common Pleas in 1406-9. Sir John died in 1414 and by his wife Katherine he left a son, Sir William8a, who was Sheriff of Kent in 1427. Sir William died in 1457 (date of death disputed and ranges from 1417 to 1457) and was interred in West Peckham church.

Sir William8a had three sons, Sir Richard, William and Geoffrey. Sir Richard9a inherited the estate. He had three daughters. The second, Joyce, married Lord Edmund Howard (died 1539) and became the mother of Queen Catherine (1520-42), the fifth wife of Henry VIII (1509-47).

In 1484, the estate passed to Sir Richard's younger brother William9a, whose son and heir in 1502 was Edward10a. Edward was interred in 1533 in the chancel at Aylesford near to his mother Margaret.

Edward's son and heir was John11a, who had a son Thomas12a (1517-87). On the accession of Queen Mary in July 1553, Thomas joined the rebellion with Sir Thomas Wyatt the Younger (1521-54). Consequently, the estate of Preston was presented to Mr. Cartwright, the Deputy Sheriff. Thomas Culpeper12a was confined in the Tower of London. He had a fellow prisoner in Thomas Vane, who had married Thomas's cousin Elizabeth Culpeper. They appeared to have been Protestant martyrs, as suggested by their inscription on the stonewall of their cell:

'Be thou faithful to the end and I will give you a crown of eternal life – 1554, T Fane, T. Culpeper, of Ailsford, Kent.' (from Revelation 2:10.)

They were pardoned and Fane lived to become Sir Thomas Fane of Mereworth Castle. The estate of Preston was restored to Thomas Culpeper12a, who later became a Revenue Commissioner. In 1561 he was Purveyor of Rochester Bridge.

Thomas's daughter Anna married Henry Crisp, the fourth son of Sir Henry Crisp. An inscribed brass was inserted in the floor between the central piers of the chancel of the parish church at Aylesford:

Here lyeth the bodee of Henry Crispe, the fourth sonne of Sir Henry Crisp, Knight. He had to wife, Anne ye daughter of Thomas Culpeper of Aylesford, Esquire. They had issue five sonnes and one daughter. He died the second of December 1594.'

This brass plate, measuring 15 in x 4.75 in, was screwed into the wood of a 19th-20th-century parquet floor, suggesting that it may have been removed from its original position.

Thomas Culpeper's12a second son was also named Thomas13a. He married Marie, Thomas Pinner's daughter, and in 1604 purchased from James I (1603-25) the royal manor (?) of Aylesford. He became Sir Thomas and inherited the estate of Preston.

See: Thomas Culpeper's Monument at St. Peter and St. Paul's Church, Aylesford.

On the death of Sir Thomas of Preston Hall in 1604, the estate passed to the eldest son William14a. He was created a Baronet in 1627 by Charles I (1625-49) and became Sheriff of Kent in 1637. He had three daughters, Alicia, Frances and Helen.

Sir William's son, Sir Richard Culpeper15a, Baronet, of Preston Hall, had several children by his wife Dame Margaret. Two survived their parents. One was Sir Thomas16a, born c. 1657 who succeeded to the title and the estate, and the other was a daughter Alicia16a who was born c. 1658.

Sir Thomas Culpeper16a became Sheriff of Kent in 1704. His wife was Dame Elizabeth. She was interred in the parish church at Aylesford on 5 Feb 1708. Sir Thomas, the last Baronet of the line, died childless. He was interred on 24 May 1723 in the family vault beneath the south chancel of the parish church at Aylesford.

His sister Alicia16a was the last of the line of Aylesford Culpepers. She inherited the estate of Preston Hall.

About 1675, Alicia Culpeper married Herbert Stapeley Esquire, the son and heir apparent of Sir John Stapeley, Baronet, of Patcharn in Sussex. Herbert was MP for Seaford in 1679. They were blessed with several children, all of whom died young. Herbert, the fourth son, died in 1687 aged three and was interred in the chancel of Folkington Church, Sussex. Alicia's husband, Herbert, died c. 1690.

The widowed Alicia Stapeley remarried. Her second husband was Sir Thomas Taylor, Baronet, (1657-96) of Park House, Maidstone. The ceremony took place at St Peter's Church, Ditton. The parish register recorded:

1692 Oct 6 Sir Thomas Taylor of Maidstone, Baronet, and Madame Alicia Stapeley of Aylesford were married.

Sir Thomas died in 1696. Their son Thomas (1693-1720) succeeded to the baronetcy at the age of three.

Lady Alicia Taylor, being left a widow for the second time, was again wooed. She married her cousin, Thomas Culpeper13h, a barrister, the second son of Sir Thomas Culpeper12h of Hollingbourne. Lady Alicia continued to reside in Park House, Maidstone, where she brought up and educated her son, Sir Thomas Taylor. Her third husband died young. Their son, Sir Thomas, died in 1720 at age twenty-seven. The baronetcy became extinct.

Lady Alicia's brother, Sir Thomas Culpeper of Preston Hall, died in 1723 without issue. His baronetcy became extinct. She therefore inherited the estate.

In need of a partner to share in the management of the estates, and someone to comfort her in old age, she remarried. Her fourth husband was Dr John Milner, M.D. of Pudsey, Yorkshire. The marriage ceremony was solemnized at St Peter's Church, Ditton. The parish register recorded: '1723 Oct 16 Dr. Millner of Maidstone and the Lady Taylor of Aylesford were married. Lady Taylor, the last of the Culpepers, had no children.'

Lady Alicia settled all her estates, including Preston Hall, on Dr. Milner and his heirs, reserving only her life interest. John Milner devised the inheritance of the estate of Preston Hall to his brother Dr. Charles Milner, M.D.

Following the pattern established by her previous husbands, John Milner did not survive the union with Lady Alicia. He died in February 1724.

In her lonely, childless widowhood, Lady Alicia lived on at Preston Hall. When she died in April 1734, she must have been nearly eighty. The entry for her interment was entered twice in Aylesford's parish register. She was interred in the north chancel of the parish church.



James H. Sephton, Preston Hall, Aylesford, 1997.


E. Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Vol. 4, 1798


Warren H. "Dick" Culpepper, unpublished manuscripts, 1999

Preston Hall, Aylesford KentThe Old Preston Hall

South of Aylesford village, between the M20 and the A20, ranging over some 220 acres towards the northwest of Maidstone, is the estate of Preston Hall.

The Domesday Book mentions Preston Manor near Malling, suggesting that a dwelling stood here in the 11th century. The termination of the name in 'ton' suggests Saxon origins. Henry I (1100-35) gave the manor to the monks of the church of St Andrew at Rochester. On Symonson's map of Kent, dated 1596, it was named Preston.

The Culpeper family developed the estate as a farming concern as early as the 14th century. By marriage, possession passed into the Milner family.

Towards the close of the 18th century there was an avenue extending in a direct line from Aylesford's 14th-century bridge south through parkland to Barming. Flanking this avenue were beautiful established specimens of the cedars deodora, libane and excelsa…

To the north and below the later mansion, and close to Home Farm Cottage, was the site of the former Elizabethan manor. It was located on the west of the cedar-flanked avenue.

This early structure was a plain white stucco square building of an elegant appearance. On the east was a portico over the entrance. Tall chimneystacks may have been in brick.

This manor was demolished on 19 August 1848, when the estate was in the possession of E. L. Betts. A clock was salvaged and presented by him to Aylesford parish church, where it was installed on the tower's south face.

Salvaged from the demolition was a bronze bell 15 inches high, 17.5 inches diameter across the rim, and 9 inches diameter across the top. It was originally mounted on a wooden beam. The bell bore the inscription:

Dame Hellen Culpeper16a of Alsford in Kent 1662.

Together with another bell it was preserved during the late 1970s in an iron safe in a locked chamber accessed from the tunnel beneath the later mansion.

Of the original Elizabethan manor, only a large barn retained its former character at the close of the 19th century. The north gable was constructed in ragstone to a height of about 6 feet, 9 inches. This height decreased along adjacent sides. Above the ragstone courses of the north gable, the wall was built in brick. Carved in the stonework of a window frame in this gable were the initials 'T.C.' and the date '1102'…

Close to this barn was formerly an elegantly styled oast house built entirely of brick, with stone quoins. This building has long since been demolished. On the left-hand stone portal of the doorpost giving entrance were incised the date '1102' and the initials 'T.C.' carved twice, once with the shield which bore the arms of Culpeper only and again with a shield on which the heraldic device was quartered with the arms of Hardreshall. A similar date and initials were carved on a chimneypiece. The Hardreshall arms, argent, a chevron sable between six martlets gules, were carved in several places on the cloister roof of Canterbury Cathedral.

The initials 'T.C.' were presumably those of a Thomas Culpeper. The quartering of armorial bearings did not occur before c. 1326. The Arabic numeral figures of the date 1102 were not in common use before the 13th century. Historians have therefore disputed the authenticity of the carved date 1102.

Sir John Culpeper5bh married (c. 1344) Elizabeth, daughter and heir of Sir John Hardreshall. This Sir John Culpeper was therefore the first Culpeper in his line who could use the arms of Hardreshall quartered with his own. He succeeded his father in the manor of Bayhall in Pembury. His son was Sir Thomas Culpeper6bh of Bayhall, Hardreshull and Exton (1345-1428). The initials 'T.C.' and the date '1102' probably represented the efforts of young Thomas Culpeper6bh in '1362'. Thomas, who would have been about 17 years old in 1362, was the first cousin, once removed of the then owner of Preston Hall: Sir Geoffrey Culpeper5a. (Conclusion drawn by Warren Culpepper and differs with the authors who was confused about the lineage of the Bay Hall Culpepers)

During the late 1970s an allegorical representation in oils of the original Elizabethan manor hung on the east wall of the reception area, which was the former atrium of the later mansion.

A line engraving entitled Preston Hall in Aylesford, the Seat of Sir Thomas Colepeper Bart, dated 1719, from E. Hasted's The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Vol. 4, 1798, depicted the former estate around the Elizabethan manor. There were several copies of this engraving. One was in the mansion's reception area, which was the former atrium. One, presented to Dr. A. P. Bentley M.B.E., M.B., B.S. on retirement from the National Health Service in 1986, was in the manager's office of the RBLL A third was displayed in the Hengist Restaurant, 7-9 High Street, Aylesford. This engraving was published as a rear plate by the RBLI in 1975 and 1977, in two of their brochures celebrating The Legion's 50th anniversary.

After E. L. Betts purchased Preston manor in 1848 and demolished the old home, he created a sumptuous Victorian country mansion among elegant gardens. The Brassey family, who were generous benefactors to the church and village, then purchased it.

Towards the close of the 19th century, graceful deer grazed over the timbered parkland, which extended north to the river. Originally flat meadow formed of alluvial silt, the land sustained elms, chestnuts, ash, larch, oaks and cedars. Many such trees were felled in recent years.

Because of the need for the treatment of wounded troops in 1914, the property became a hospital complex. Together with a small adjacent village, the British Legion acquired it. This expanded into a cradle for the support, training and rehabilitation of tuberculous and disabled ex-Servicemen.

At the close of the 20th century, Preston Manor remains in service as a hospital, and the magnificence of the old manor is still well represented by it.



James H. Sephton, Preston Hall, Aylesford, 1997.

Summary of Dates, Ownership and Monarch


?-1309: Sir Thomas Culpeper3, Ancestor of the modern-day Culpeppers
(Edward I)


1309-1321: Walter Culpeper4p
(Edward I and II)


1321-1390: Sir Geoffrey Culpeper5p
(Edward II and III)


1390-1402: William Culpeper6p
(Edward III)


1402-1414: Sir John Culpeper7p
(Richard II, Henry IV)


1414-1457: Sir William Culpeper8p
(Henry V and VI)


1457-1484: Richard Culpeper9p
(Edward IV, Edward V, Richard III)


1484-1502: William Culpeper9p
(Richard III, Henry VII)


1502-1533: Edward Culpeper, Esq.10p
(Henry VII, Henry VIII)


1533-1550: John Culpeper, Esq.11p
(Henry VIII, Edward VI)


1550-1587: Thomas Culpeper, Esq.12p
(Edward VI, Mary, Elizabeth)


1587-1604: Sir Thomas Culpeper13p
(Elizabeth, James I)


1604-1651: Sir William Culpeper14p
(James I, Charles I, Commonwealth)


1651-1660: Sir Richard Culpeper15p


1660-1693: Dame Margaret Culpeper, widow of Sir Richard
(Charles II, James II, William III and Mary II)


1693-1723: Sir Thomas Culpeper16p
( William III and Mary II, William III, Anne)


1723-1734: Alicia Culpeper16p, whose 4th husband was Dr. John Milner
(George I)


1734+: Milner Family

Last Revised: 02 Jan 2015

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