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History / Bayleaf Farmhouse and Farmstead

This is a timber framed Wealden hall house from Chiddingstone in Kent. It has six rooms, four on the ground floor and two upstairs. The house was built in two phases. The earliest part, which has been dendro-dated to 1405-1430, consisted of an open hall and service end. This was probably attached to an earlier structure, which stood where the upper end now stands. The upper end bay that gave the building its present form was added between 1480 and 1520, replacing the earlier structure. We have recreated a Tudor farmstead at the Museum with the addition of the barn from Cowfold (1536), a farmyard, orchard and garden. Winkhurst kitchen (c.1492-1537), which is from the neighbouring village of Sundridge, is typical of the sort of detached kitchen that a house like Bayleaf would have had.

Like Boarhunt, this house has a clearly defined upper & lower end. It is likely that most cooking took place in the detached kitchen rather than the hall. We have called the two ‘service’ rooms at the lower end the pantry (from the French word for bread, pain) & the buttery (for the storage of ‘butts’ or casks), reflecting contemporary use in other houses. However, in practice most food preparation and storage probably took place in the kitchen. The lower chamber at the upper end of the hall (sometimes called a parlour) would have been used for sleeping & as a private living space for the householder & his wife. The upper chamber above the parlour was evidently the most important bedroom since it had an en-suite toilet (in contemporary parlance, a privy or a ‘jakes). The upper chamber above the service rooms would have been used for sleeping as well as to store agricultural produce such as processed grain & wool.

In the sixteenth century Bayleaf was a substantial farm of between 100 and 130 acres. Its occupants were successive members of the Wells family, affluent yeomen farmers, who held the farm on a long lease from the manor of Bore Place. Thomas Wells, who lived in Bayleaf from c.1560, had at least six children, not all of whom survived to adulthood. We know the names of his children because they are recorded in the parish register. We do not know the name of his wife. The family is likely to have had one or two live-in female servants.

Bayleaf is often used by history re-enactment groups.  With it's authentic interior and beautiful garden, the atmosphere of medieval times is recreated. We use this property for Tudor Textiles and Period Workshops. 

Maps of the Bayleaf Farmstead

Click to enlarge the picture for viewing and printing (pdf format)

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Suggested Topics

  • Unit 2 What were homes like long ago?

  • Unit 8 What were the differences between the lives of rich and poor people in Tudor times?

Workshops Using this Building

Life in Stuart Times  Tudor Textiles module and Bees and Candles module Details
Life on a Tudor Farmstead  Tudor Textiles module Details
Medieval Realms Workshop  Bayleaf and the Cowfold Barn Details
Side by Side Farming Visits  Bayleaf, Bayleaf garden and Cowfold Barn Details
Traditional Farming Sessions  Cowfold Barn Details

Other Information

The Wealden House Bayleaf is an example of this type of house, common in South Eastern England. Details
Fireplaces The Museum's buildings contain examples of the development of fireplaces from a simple open hearth through smoke bays to chimneys.  A tangible example of design evolution. Details
Gardens , Orchard and Shaws Landscape features surrounding the Bayleaf House with the character and detail of its original 16th century setting. Details
What is a probate inventory? When someone died a probate inventory listed all of his or her wordly possessions. Details
Transcription of William Goldsmith Probate Inventory William Goldsmith lived in Rolvenden in Kent and died in 1566.  This probate inventory lists all of his worldly possessions and makes fascinating reading. Details
Who lived in Bayleaf in the sixteenth century? From at least 1556 to c.1600 a man called Thomas Wells lived in Bayleaf with his family. He was a prosperous yeoman farmer. substance by his neighbours. Details
What is a yeoman? Thomas Wells who lived in Bayleaf was a yeoman farmer. Details
Servants Yeoman farmers like Thomas Wells usually had servants. Details
The Sixteenth Century House Bayleaf is a good example of a late medieval house Details
Poverty and Poor Relief in the Sixteenth Century Thomas Wells was responsible for deciding who would benefit from parish poor fund Details

Detailed Research

For more details of the social and economic history of Bayleaf and the surrounding area click here