A Virtual Museum - Your Town, the Borough and its History

wombwell-hall.jpg
wombwell-hall.jpg
There have been at least three Wombwell Halls, the first known being built by the Wombwell family in 1471, presumably on the same site as the later two, although it is not possible to be certain as no description of this first hall is known to exist.
The Wombwell family who originally came from Wombwell in Yorkshire took over the ownership of the Hall and estate from the Wangford (Wainford) family of Southfleet, who held the Old Manor of Durndale.

The family owned the Hall until 1646, when the local branch of the family died out and John Forterie, a Huguenot refugee from Lille, purchased the estate. He and his descendants occupied the estate until 1774, when they too died out. During their time there the family pulled down the original Hall and built a very fine red brick mansion faced with white stone to take its place. This house was acknowledged by many as being one of the loveliest country mansions in the country, and great was the consternation when in 1860 the new owner, Thomas Colyer, had it pulled down and erected his own Victorian hall.

With the passing of the Forteries, the Hall had a succession of owners and tenants. First George Sanders, a farmer and maltster from Darenth, who made a lot of improvements to the Hall, then a Captain Elliott, before the property passed through the hands of the local Harman and Brenchley families.

Though the old mansion was acclaimed for its beauty, it did have its dark side. In the early 1800s, one of the servants, a young maid, said to have been strikingly beautiful was murdered by a man called Farmer. Farmer, having shot the girl, attempted to commit suicide by cutting his own throat. As Miss Brabazon in her little book (some editions only) A Month in Gravesend reported gleefully, 'the blood of murdered and murderer mingled together on the floor'.

Farmer, though did not die; he got off at the subsequent trial by pleading that his pistol had gone off accidentally; later he was transported for his part in a robbery, only to return years later to the town, where he was regarded as a criminal and public nuisance. Eventually he was taken ill and ended his days in Gravesend workhouse some sort of justice at last maybe.

The Colyer family, and later through marriage the Colyer Ferguson family, were to be the last lords of the manor of Wombwell Hall. They quickly began to stamp their identity on the village   the second hall was demolished and the third and last building erected. Though history only records three buildings on the site, as previously speculated it is possible that the remains of a Durndale Manor could be found on the site, but, given the circumstances of the destruction of the last of the Halls, it would seem very unlikely that permission would ever be given to search for it.

At the time of their acquiring the Hall and estate, the Colyer family were already very large landowners, having property and land as far away as Farningham and Crayford and a number of other places, principally Southfleet. While under the ownership of the family the estate probably reached its zenith, but with the rapid industrialisation of Gravesend and Northfleet in the later part of the 19th century, artisan housing began to encroach across the once green estate fields, so much so that, by the mid 1930s, housing developments were nearing (in a matter of speaking) the doorsteps of the Hall, and in 1937 the family finally moved out.

During the Second World War the Hall served as a hospital for wounded anti aircraft gunners from the Tollgate and Green Street batteries. After the war the family finally sold the hall and grounds to the Kent Education Committee, who turned it into a Girls Technical School and later Northfleet Grammar School for Girls. When the school closed in 1988, it was sold to become part of an Old People's Home. As to the hall's final demise in 1994, the then owners of the nursing home sent in the bulldozers, efforts were made to get the destruction stopped but despite the efforts of historians, councilors and local residents, Wombwell Hall was demolished over the Easter weekend in 1994. Today, only the Lodge, stable block and the old stone boundary wall are left to remind us of what once was.

References and further information:

"A Historical Walk Through Gravesend And Northfleet" published by Gravesend Historical Society.


See the publications for more information on this book and more.