Stories of Kent Characters
Bradbourne Hall in Sevenoaks was originally a timber-framed manor house and was replaced by a stone mansion in 1689. The Hall was demolished in 1937 and houses were later built on the site, however the lakes beyond the former mansion still exist.
One of Bradbourne Hall's most famous resident from 1870 was Francis Crawshay - a man who had made his wealth as a Welsh Iron Baron who owned coalmines and iron foundries.
A touch eccentric by local standards he was said to have midnight druid processions within the grounds, and he also had great stone monoliths and Druid circles erected within the grounds. He was very well known in the area for the ringing of the ‘The Great Bell of Bradbourne’ at 6am and 6pm every day - a sound that could be heard for miles around. It was said that when he was suffering and enraged by gout, he would use a hefty rope in his bedroom connected to the bell to ring it - usually in the middle of the night - much to the anger of his neighbours!
In the late 1600s and early 1700s, the church found it difficult to find vicars for the small fishing village of Seasalter that would last more than a year. They kept coming and they kept leaving. That was the case until 1711 ... when along came Reverend Thomas Patten who became ‘The Vicar of Seasalter’ and the ‘Perpetual Curate of Whitstable’ ... he stayed for fifty-three years.
Patten, an eccentric, openly lived with his mistress, didn’t pay his debts, wore dirty clothes, and drove to church in a butcher’s cart. During sermons he would talk and talk and talk ... until one of the parishioners held up a lemon - which was a sign that the vicar’s drinks were on them - whereupon the sermon would be brought to a very prompt end, and they would head off to the pub over the road.
He made outrageous entries in the parish registers - such as ...
1744 John Halston, widower, a young gate-mouthed lazy fellow and Hannah Matthews, an old toothless wriggling hag married by license at the Cathedral of Seasalter.
He called himself the ‘Bishop of Whitstable’ and ‘The Bishop of Seasalter’ which enraged the Archbishop of Canterbury but the church were unable to curb his eccentricities. He would refer to his small church as ‘the cathedral’.
Patten took advantage of the smuggling trade going on under his nose by The Seasalter Company. He worked out a way of taking a cut, by informing the smugglers when the authorities were about. The vicarage was kept well stocked with wine, brandy, and tobacco.
Reverend Thomas Patten lived to the grand old age of 80, having served as vicar for 53 years - died in 1764.Each Quiz Trail is packed with local history stories & facts.
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