Whilst the ancient Saxon village of Merston was falling into decay a notable manor grew within the parish boundaries. From early times the de Cobham family had held lands in Shorne. In 1287, John de Cobham died and his two sons divided the estates between them.
The manor of Randall in Shorne fell to the share of Henry de Cobham and this is the first occasion when the manor is named, as its origin is obscure. From an extent of the manor dated in the early 14th century it seems the manor was a conglomeration consisting of a subinfeudation from the Abbess of Fontevrand at 40 pence a year, a similar holding from one Edmund de Pakenham at 7 shillings a year and the remainder, some 120 acres of arable land 20 acres of pasture, 5 acres of wood, 80 acres of salt marsh and a windmill, was held of Roger de Northwood by the service of 35 shillings a year, obviously a subinfeudation of part of Shorne manor. The reference to a windmill is interesting and raises the query whether this was in fact the Shorne windmill that is mentioned in an extent of Shorne manor of about the same date. Two windmills within a limited area at so early a period seem unlikely. Probably the manor of Shorne relied on its watermill in Shorne Street.
Notwithstanding its scrappy origin when Henry acquired the manor of Randall he made it his home in a fashion very different from the lords of Shorne and for a couple of generations Randall was a famous manor house from which members of the de Cobham family rode forth as sheriffs, knights of the shire, lords of parliament, or to join the king’s array.
The manor house has now disappeared but the site is identifiable. Today, under a tangle of roots and coppice woodland, traces of the old building show that it had substantial stone foundations standing on a rectangular plateau surrounded on three sides by a moat and fishponds. Lying in a valley on the north side of Randall Heath, it was protected to the south and west by the high ground of the heath and looked out to the north over the fishpond (about half an acre) to a distant view of the Thames. Excavations on the site show signs that it was probably on the site of an earlier building, the rebuilding being probably late 13th or early 14th century. A feature of the wall s is that the angles are founded upon large sarsen stones. The remains of a large medieval hearth consisting of a large flat sarsen stone surrounded by tiles set on edge was also found.
The life of Henry de Cobham was an epitome of the life of a knight of the times. He married a rich heiress, Joan, the daughter of Stephen de Penchester, through whom he acquired Allington Castle and other estates. He was elected as knight of the shire in 1307. Royal favour was gained as a result of his personal bravery in the wars of King Edward 1 with the Welsh and Scots and he is said to have been made a knight banneret in the field for gallantry at the siege of Calaverock in Scotland in 1300. Following this he was sheriff of Kent in 1301, 1302, 1307 and 1315. Upon the death of Edward 1 he seems to have supported Edward 11 against the barons and probably because of this loyalty he was created Lord of Randall and received a writ of summons to the Lords in the year before his death.
He built Randall Chapel (now the south chancel) at Shorne church and his effigy as Lord of Randall still rests ‘armed with mail and cross-legged’ in the rebuilt chapel. On the tomb is an inscription said to be a modern copy of the original.
‘Sir Henri de Cobham le eine seignour de Roundale fust apele gist dieu de salme et merci.’
The helmet on which the effigy’s head rests is remarkable as having its interior carefully carved to show the method of fitting and padding the helmet, not unlike the padding of a modern crash helmet.
On the death of ‘le eine’ his son, Sir Stephen, succeeded to the barony and for something like a hundred years the manor was to be an important part of the life of the village, though after a couple of generations it was usually occupied by collaterals of the main line of the family. In 1368 Thomas Morice, a wealthy pleader in the Kings Courts left to his son in law Sir Thomas de Cobham his leasehold interest in Randall and – a strange appurtenance for a lawyer – his armour.
Taken from ‘A History of Shorne – the History of a Kentish Village’ by A F Allen
Meresborough Books 1987
The following website gives details of an archaeological dig on the site in 2008: