As a teenager I was told there were records back to 15th century when the land was part of a dowry.
Early in the 20th century the manor house burnt down and was rebuilt in a perfect square. The owner then decided on the rooms and layout to a personal and weird plan. I only remember the green front door and that there were extensive cellars. These were retained when the house was demolished in mid-1950s and our parents’ 3-bedroom bungalow was built.
The house and farm were requisitioned by the War Office in WW 2 and used for training. One of the outhouses was used as a garage and had graffiti on the whitewash from that time. As far as I know the Marsh family farmed as tenants there, along with Woolage Green Farm for some years. In the early 1950s Alf Marsh and nephew Fred relinquished the Woolage Green tenancy to concentrate on Botolph Street Farm. After Alf’s sudden death, the day after leaving Woolage Green and moving to 7 The Terrace, Fred was able to buy the 120 acre (I think) farm for the sum of £50 per acre.
One of the meadows was known as ‘Mine Meadow’. When Fred Marsh decided to plough and re-seed it, Mr Collard ploughed up what he thought was an old stove. He started to take it apart, realised he was wrong. Fred identified it as a land mine. The Police, then the Army and finally the Bomb Disposal Squad were called and it was detonated in situ, to the annoyance of villagers who had not heard the news and whose windows were rattled!
After the Army moved out the local council commandeered it as housing for the Medhurst (?) family who lived there for some time. It must have been a cold and uncomfortable rambling place. Their children attended Sibertswold Church of England School by the village green and church, as Sally and I did.
It was a mixed farm, about 40 sheep, 35 cows in milk and 2 or 3 sows whose litters made good money with the Walls sausage factory. The barley was bought by a local brewery and sugar beet shipped by rail to unknown parts, probably East Anglia. The chalk pit which led off Westcourt Lane onto woodland was eventually sold for housing – I think a bungalow. The meadow over the railway line on the opposite hill had the tunnel spoil heap with a chimney. You could hear the trains going through, and the sheep and lambs often roamed up it. There was also an electricity pylon in the same field fenced off, for which the farm received the princely sum of a shilling (5p) annual rent.
Running from the road towards the front of the manor house was a double line of yews on raised banks. I think this must have been the original carriage drive from the heart of Sibertswold, the church and village green, down to the farm.
It was down this hill in the early 1960s that we saw the full-blooded East Kent Hunt riding down the hill following the hounds. Fred stood in the middle of the road as they reached it and turned them off his land – no one hunted on his farm except a friend who shot the occasional rabbit. The lead rider uttered the unforgettable words ‘Do you know who I am? I’m deputy speaker of the House of Commons.’ To which Fred replied ‘And I’m the owner and you don’t hunt across my land’. They had to trot slowly through the village. We were immensely proud of him that day. He did subsequently receive a letter of apology from the Master and an offer of restitution for any damage. This no-hunting policy meant we were often woken during winter nights by screaming vixens in the woods that had once led from Westcourt Lane.
The other side of the lane we knew as Cox Hill were stables used as storage and garage, attached to what had been oast houses. These had been converted into tiny cottages.
Florence Marsh, Fred’s mother, lived in No. 1 immediately after the war before she moved to be housekeeper for Alf in Woolage Green farm. It had 2 bedrooms, outside privies of course and late at night you’d hear the night-soil men coming to empty them. The middle had one up, one down. No.3 was a little larger and Mr Collard and his family lived there with several children. I remember Olive, Margaret, Rita, Colin and possibly Eddy. Eventually Fred was required to ‘modernise’ the cottages.
The gardens around the house were, I think, originally 3 acres. There was a walled kitchen garden and orchard with a tumbledown greenhouse. The pigs would live in the orchard. The greenhouse was restored and the existing Victorian grape vine brought successfully back to life. At least one bottle of wine was produced.
In the gardens was an ancient venerable mulberry tree whose branches swept down to the ground, a great hiding place. Nearer the wall was the concrete base of a Nissan hut that provided a useful safe site for our annual Good Friday bonfire.
On the wall between the formal garden and the kitchen garden there was a medieval effigy of St Botolph. It was eroded by time and few knew of it. Eventually it was sold to an antiquarian for the princely sum of £25.
One year he allowed the village to build a firework bonfire in the field next to the Village Hall with disastrous consequences. Yew branches cut for the fire were lethal to animals and there were fatalities amongst the young stock grazing there as the fire was being built – but accidental. No one had realised the possible effect. One young heifer gave birth prematurely after being frightened by the fireworks. She produced a tiny bull calf that was later hand reared by neighbouring farmers and went on to win prizes when mature.
Every Spring my father advertised in the Dover Express a warning that dogs found worrying sheep could be shot on sight, a legal requirement. There was always a danger that cattle and sheep chased by dogs – after all they are prey animals and are liable to spontaneously abort if hunted by so-called ‘pet’ dogs – for it is hunting, not ‘fun’ and still a serious problem for farmers across the country.
Information written by Ann Granville (née Marsh) and Sally Stone (née Marsh) August 2023