Sunday, May 26, 2019

Who wants to join me in buying a crumbling, haunted British estate?

Screenshot from the blog Manning Family History -"Esse Quam Videri"

In last weekend's post on Haunted Britain, I mentioned Downe Court Manor in passing. I have since nosed around a little bit to discover more about this place, purportedly home to many ghosts, including, inexplicably, Charles Darwin.

The estate is located in Downe, which is a village within the London Borough of Bromley, which is part of Greater London. Downe was, indeed, once home to Charles Darwin.1 So I suppose it's not impossible that it's the place he chose to haunt in the afterlife.2

So, what about Downe Court Manor? Here's a brief overview from Historic England:
"Modest red brick house of 1690. The building has been vacant and showed the effects of long term neglect. Roof and joinery repairs have been undertaken to arrest the decline of the building. Attempts are being made by Historic England to contact the owner to reassess the condition of the building."
The best information on the place comes from, aka Manning Family History. It was active from 2004 to 2016 (though with just 56 posts during that span). The site's mission is described as "dedicated to the decendants of two brothers John and Thomas Manning from Kent who left England in 1635 on the Primrose and Globe bound for Virginia!"

Downe Court Manor is discussed in a November 2011 post that, unsurprisingly for a serious research endeavor, makes no mention of ghosts or hauntings.3 It provides this history of the estate:
"There is an early deed referring to Downe Court Manor dated 1287. The present building dates from around 1690. Years ago it was surrounded by ponds which tend to suggest the original manor house could have been moated. Sir Thomas Mervyn owned the house in 1518 and was Lord Mayor of London. When he died he left one penny to each prisoner in the London gaols. One time owner was Sir Thomas Smyth who was governor of the East India Company and Treasurer of the Virginia Company.

"Another owner was Henry Manning Marshal of the Household under Henry VIII, and Queen Elizabeth is believed to have attended the christening of his [Henry Manning Marshal's] daughter Margaret in 1559. Parish Register records the ceremony took place ‘after ye Queene’s visitation’.

"Then came Jacob Verzillini, an Italian from Murano, near Venice, who took over a glass-making factory in Crutched Friars in London around 1571. He was granted a 21-year licence to make drinking glasses providing he taught his skills to Englishmen and did not import the glasses."
None of this, however, tells us what happened with Downe Court Manor in the 19th and 20th centuries. Who were the more modern owners? Who, presumably after World War II, began the talk of spooks and spirits around the estate? When did it become abandoned?

And, most importantly, what would it take to purchase it today? Wouldn't it be fun to fully restore this 17th century house, fill it with books, comfy chairs and a few cats, and live there?4 Would there be creaks, moans and footsteps at night?

1. Downe is also the birthplace of Nigel Farage, who is not the UK's Most Popular Human at the moment.
2. Which isn't to say that I agree with the idea of an afterlife.
3. This history also appears on I don't know what, ultimately, is the original source.
4. There's also the small detail of obtaining British citizenship. That's neither likely nor easy.

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