Past Times – Short history of Town Place

Town Place was built during the first half of the reign of Henry VI (1423-61) by Thomas at Town, a family of that name having been parishioners and taxpayers in Throwley throughout the 14th century. He was, at the time, a large landowner in Charing. He married Benedicta Detling, who possessed the manor of Throwley through a succession that could be traced back at least as far as the Dene family in the early 14th century (Hasted, 1798). Upon his marriage, Town ‘transplanted himself into this parish, and here erected a seat, which he adopted into his own name, and called it Town-place’ (Thos. Philipott, 1659).

Thomas and Benedicta Town had three children, all daughters. One married a Lewknor, one a Watton and one a William Sonds of Sonds-place in Dorking, Surrey.

When Thomas Town died, his estate was partitioned (1443). The manor of Throwley passed to the Sonds, and Town-place itself, passed to the Lewknors. They sold it to Edward Evering, whose daughter carried it in marriage to John Upton. Upton, a Faversham ‘worthy’, sold it to Joseph Shilling in 1582. His inheritors sold it in 1634 to Sir George Sonds (who, but for a stroke of the pen, might have inherited it from Thomas Town in the first place.) Philipott tells us that Sir George Sonds ‘now derives his right and inheritance, in the manor and signory of Town-place’ from that purchase.

The Sonds were among the sheriffs of Kent in the 16th and 17th centuries. Philipott reproduced a list of them in his book – the list having been compiled by his father, John Philipott, Somerset Herald at the College of Arms.

·         Robert Sonds of Town-place in Throwley and of Sonds-place in Dorking in Surrey was sheriff of Kent in the 13th year of Henry VIII (1521-22)

·         Thomas Sonds Esq of Throwley was sheriff of Kent in the 22nd year of Queen Elizabeth (1579-80)

·         Michael Sonds Esq of Town-place in Throwley, afterwards knighted, was sheriff of Kent in the 26th year of Queen Elizabeth (1583-84)

·         Michael Sonds of Throwley was sheriff of Kent in the 35th year of Queen Elizabeth (1592-93).

This list presents us with an unresolved problem because, in the 16th century, members of the Sonds family associated themselves with Town Place when they did not own it. It is unlikely that John Philipott would have ascribed a place name that did not appear on the original documents. What is the significance of the use of Town-place in only two of the four cases?  Perhaps they were tenants? 
Almost certainly, the Sonds owned or occupied another house in Throwley. This was a manor house close to Throwley church, of which nothing visible remains, and about which very little is known. (The place-name of nearby Park Farm is probably an allusion to it.) When the Sonds moved to Lees Court, Sheldwich, they are said to have removed themselves not from Town Place but from the manor house next to the church. 
Town Place and a farm of about 100 acres, however, remained part of the Sonds estate from the time they bought it from Shilling until 1921. It was leased to tenant farmers. The Bunce family held if for 108 years from 1678 to 1785, and the Cobb family for 115 years thereafter to 1901. The Bunces and the Cobbs are buried in Throwley churchyard and are remembered on memorial inscriptions inside the church.
Town Place was sold in 1921 to Lord Harris of Belmont for £2,300 to include 88 acres and two cottages. The present owners bought the freehold of the house and garden in 1983. 
The house has undergone much change since it was first built, but still maintains its fairly isolated position. It was originally a ‘Hall house’, that is to say that it had a large central hall with a solar at each end that extended out beyond the front elevation of the hall. It was much-altered c.1830. The barn alongside the house was burned by incendiaries in June 1831, and rebuilt by 1839 probably re-using the serviceable timbers. These timbers suggest a late 14th century construction, thereby pre-dating the house. The tantalizing thought arises that Thomas Town may have built his ‘mansion’ on the site of an earlier building.
Peter Tann
Town Place
September 2009