BHT PICTURE GALLERY - Birchington Hall

Old House - c.1800
Old House - c.1800

As early as 1203 there was a place called “Scottestone” in the area now associated with Birchington Hall. The oldest picture we have of the building, at the present moment is dated 1800. It is labelled simply ‘The Old House’, with additional wording stating, “Birchington Place, before the alterations”. The painting shows an imposing house with a similar appearance to many of the old Court Houses of the 15th and 16th century. There are some even earlier examples of these Court Houses in England, but the Birchington one probably dates from about 1560, according to the opinion of three experts.

The FRIEND family held the land for several generations.

The Friends held land elsewhere in Thanet, as well as here in Birchington. By 1620 the name appears in a Baptism Register for All Saints Church. In 1674, William Friend held the land known as ‘Scot’s Down’ or ‘Scot’s Land’, which at that date consisted of 40 acres. In that year, he refused to pay his cess (assessment or rates) to the church and so was ordered to appear at Canterbury assizes, but he failed to turn up. He probably paid it in the end, because the following year he is shown as being rated for 132 acres. This continued until 1680, when the land was inherited by George Friend, who remained in occupation until about 1703. In 1690 George Friend was rated for ‘Scotsdown’ at £20.

Friend Arms
All this while, the house appears to have remained in its imposing but fairly compact state which we see by the end of the 1700s. Various members of the Friend family inherited it during this century, including another George Friend, John Friend and George Taddy Friend. At one stage, the Friend family paid nearly half the rates levied in the parish – £616 out of £1,299. Between 1740 and 1792 the estate was enlarged to about 148 acres and by this time is clearly called ‘Birchington Place’. On the 1840 Tithe Map, the house was in the occupation and ownership of John Friend Esq, sometimes known as John ‘Birchington’ Friend, to differentiate him from his relatives, John ‘Brooksend’ Friend and John ‘Taddy’ Friend. The house was still called “Place” until it was sold in 1852, when it was renamed ‘Birchington Hall’. On the back of the 1800 painting of the house, the Friend Coat of Arms has been pasted.