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Old Soar Manor: a fortified medieval house

A Scheduled Monument in Plaxtol, Kent

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Coordinates

Latitude: 51.2631 / 51°15'47"N

Longitude: 0.3198 / 0°19'11"E

OS Eastings: 561947.598756

OS Northings: 154103.497125

OS Grid: TQ619541

Mapcode National: GBR NPM.PNP

Mapcode Global: VHHPV.HJF2

Entry Name: Old Soar Manor: a fortified medieval house

Scheduled Date: 1 July 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1014532

English Heritage Legacy ID: 27035

County: Kent

Civil Parish: Plaxtol

Traditional County: Kent

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Kent

Church of England Parish: Plaxtol

Church of England Diocese: Rochester

Details

The monument includes the solar wing, attached chapel and garderobe block of a
fortified manor house situated c.2km to the east of the village of Plaxtol, on
the edge of the Kent Downs. The buildings, which are constructed of coursed
Kentish Ragstone rubble and capped with red clay-tiled roofs, are Listed Grade
I, and comprise the north eastern end of the original manor house. They date
to c.1290, although there are some 14th century additions and alterations, and
were restored during the 1940s. The main hall range of the medieval house,
originally attached to the south western end of the solar wing, was demolished
in 1780 and replaced by an adjoining farmhouse. This incorporates traces of
the coursed rubble base of the original hall, which is believed to have been
rectangular, aisled and timber-framed. The Grade II Listed farmhouse is in use
as a private dwelling and is not included in the scheduling.
The solar wing is the largest of the standing medieval ranges and takes the
form of a north west-south east aligned, two-storeyed, rectangular building
measuring c.10m by c.7.5m. At ground floor level is a barrel-vaulted
undercroft with an inserted brick floor, originally used for storage. The
first floor, reached from the undercroft by way of a newel staircase set in a
semicircular tower projecting from the south western corner of the block,
formed part of the private accommodation of the lord's family. This chamber is
lit by two, tall lancet windows set in the north western and south eastern
walls. Further light is provided by a smaller, square-headed window, with a
shouldered lintel and chamfered jambs, set in the north eastern wall, just to
the north west of a large, square chimney breast. In the north eastern corner
is a doorway leading to the attached chapel, whilst a further, now blocked,
doorway in the south western wall originally provided access to the now
demolished hall range. The solar wing has an open crown-post, collar-purlin
truss roof, and its defences include arrow loops in the north eastern wall at
first floor level, in the north western wall of the ground floor and in the
wall of the staircase tower.
The chapel block, attached to the north eastern corner of the solar wing, is a
roughly square building with walls c.6m long. The chapel is located on the
first floor above an undercroft with an inserted, modern concrete floor,
entered from the outside by a doorway with chamfered jambs and a
segmental-pointed arch, set in the south western wall. The room is mainly lit
by a large, pointed-arched two light window in the south eastern wall,
restored during the 1940s, and two further arched windows which pierce the
south western and north eastern walls. Set into the south western wall is a
piscina, or stone basin, with a cinquefoiled head, trefoil and crocket
decoration and a hexagonal drain, dating to the early 14th century. The chapel
functioned essentially as a chapel of ease, allowing the lord's family to
attend regular Christian worship at home, rather than travel to the nearest
parish church at Wrotham c.5km to the north.
The garderobe chamber, used as a room for storing clothes and also originally
containing a latrine, is located on the first floor of the garderobe block.
This is a small, rectangular building attached to the north western corner of
the solar wing, measuring c.6m by c.5m. Access to the garderobe is by way of a
segmental-pointed arched doorway in the north western corner of the solar.
Cruciform arrow loops provided protection on all four sides. To the north east
at ground floor level is an exterior, two centred arch which allowed the
emptying of the underlying latrine pit. The block now has a hipped roof,
although this would originally have been pitched.
The external faces of all three blocks have putlogs, the regularly spaced,
square holes which housed the original wooden medieval scaffolding poles used
to aid the construction of the building.
Old Soar Manor is believed to have been built for the influential Culpepper
family, who owned the manor of Soar from c.1290 to 1601, at which time the
manor was sold to Nicholas Millar. By the 16th century, the buildings were
being used as a farmhouse, and the solar wing was converted into a granary
during the 18th century. The manor eventually became part of the Geary estate
and the monument was given to the National Trust by Mrs J Cannon in 1947. The
monument is in the care of the Secretary of State and is open to the public.
Excluded from the scheduling are all rainwater goods, all English Heritage
fixtures and fittings, all modern wooden doors and the modern concrete floor
of the chapel undercroft, although the ground beneath this feature is
included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Fortified houses were residences belonging to some of the richest and most
powerful members of society. Their design reflects a combination of domestic
and military elements. In some instances, the fortifications may be cosmetic
additions to an otherwise conventional high status dwelling, giving a military
aspect while remaining practically indefensible. They are associated with
individuals or families of high status and their ostentatious architecture
often reflects a high level of expenditure. The nature of the fortification
varies, but can include moats, curtain walls, a gatehouse and other towers,
gunports and crenellated parapets.
Their buildings normally included a hall used as communal space for domestic
and administrative purposes, kitchens, service and storage areas. In later
houses the owners had separate private living apartments, these often
receiving particular architectural emphasis. In common with castles, some
fortified houses had outer courts beyond the main defences in which stables,
brew houses, granaries and barns were located.
Fortified houses were constructed in the medieval period, primarily between
the 15th and 16th centuries, although evidence from earlier periods, such as
the increase in the number of licences to crenellate in the reigns of Edward I
and Edward II, indicates that the origins of the class can be traced further
back. They are found primarily in several areas of lowland England: in upland
areas they are outnumbered by structures such as bastles and tower houses
which fulfilled many of the same functions. As a rare monument type, with
fewer than 200 identified examples, all examples exhibiting significant
surviving archaeological remains are considered of national importance.

Old Soar Manor survives comparatively well, retaining three standing wings of
the original house, and represents an early example of this monument type. The
buildings have been the subject of few alterations over the years and contain
many original features, illustrating 13th century, Early English architectural
techniques and fashions. The garderobe block and chapel are particularly
unusual survivals, the latter providing evidence for the importance of regular
Christian worship amongst high status families during the medieval period.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
English Heritage, , Exhibition at Old Soar Manor, (1994)
Other
Tonbridge and Malling, Plaxtol, English Heritage, TR65SW 4/23 Listed Building description,

Source: Historic England

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