Wenbans Farm
© 2008 Wenban Family.  Website by Myles design.
"In the beginning  there was Wenbans Farm"
c 1320 History       Wenbams [als Wenbourne]                    Ref.Wace's Wadhurst
(The property)….Wenban is named in Edward II's time as belonging to the Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany - lords of the Rape of Hastings, & Manor of Bibleham ( Wenbans Farm Is a Manor House in Bibleham).............It then became the property of the family of Whitfield, who gave it the name of "WENBANS FARM", when Robert Whitfield married Kathleen, widow of Wenborne of Wenbans, and settled there.

Editors Note... The above seems incorrect as there were already de Wanebornes in existance in 1295 , and the property was already known by the name Wenbornes./Wenbons Farm  long before Whitfield came along.

c 1066
Here history gets a little murky.The problem being that Britain was under Saxon rule until the battle of Hastings in 1066 when William the Conqueror assembled an army of Normans, French Flemish and Bretons. After a bloody battle the Norman army defeated the Saxons which changed the course of English history. With a name like "de Wanebourne", that would indicate that de Wanebourne was more of  Norman or Breton descent (which would contradict, the Saxon origin theory) which means his predecessors would have come in with William the conqueror's army when they defeated the Saxons at the  battle of Hastings, 14th October 1066.
What is known is that sometime after the Normans took over England, the property  Waenna Bourne, slowly became Wenbourns. in various spellings. It is clear however that it was originally a Saxon Chieftains village prior to the invasion of the Normans in 1066. Around 1200 the property was in the ownership of King John who it is commonly believed, used the property as a hunting lodge.  Around the late 1200 early 1300's the property passed into the hands of Jean de Bretagne, or "John of Brittany", Earl of Richmond,  Duke of Brittany, Lord of the Rape of Hastings and Lord of the Manor in Bibleham quarter. who incidentally was the Grandson of  Henry III. It was at this time that the name "de Wanebourne" meaning people of the place Waenna Bourne, started to appear with John de Wanebourne or "John of Wenbournes", also Gilbert( Gilbro), Hugh & Laurence de Waneburn, in various spellings as spelling had not yet been formalised but although blurred by time they were all definitely connected to the mediaevil property "Wenbans"
It's not clear how John de Wanebourne gained ownership of the property of "Wenbons Farm". Its also not clear how or what the connection was with the royals if any, but it seems unlikely that a royally bequeathed property would be just sold off to a commoner family and being a substantial holding of around 100 acres, would have been out of the reach of a common family. There are mentions in  Mediaevil court rolls of people connected with the property having an eighth of a Knights share, which indicates that they could have been decendants of the original granted Knight, so this further indicates that the property could have been granted to officers of William the Conquerors Army who were granted lands to the South of London, after the defeat of the Saxons. The property remained in the ownership of Wenbournes for the next 140 odd years.The property later became the property of  the family of Whitfield in the late 1400's when Richard Wenborne died, who seems to be the last of the Wenbornes to hold the property, leaving behind his widow Kathleen who then married Robert Whitfield, who, probably for reasons of respect to the Wenbourne line  (and pressure from the new wife) officially named the property “Wenbon's Farm" around 1490. or Wenbourns depending on which old ordinence map that you are viewing. The Wenbourne name was often still connected with the property during the Wealden Iron age.
Over the centuries, many direct decendants of these original "Wenbans" continued  to live in the Wadhurst and surrounding districts.
The property is still named as "Wenbans Farm" to this day.



Here is a little about the property "Wenbans" when it was for sale around 2001
.
From an article in the Ref.Telegraph.co.uk
THE main part of the garden at Wenbans is uniform lawn with a rectangular, formal pool
and a long, creeper-hung walkway overlooking the high Sussex Weald. The impression
is of wide-open vistas, and an all-encompassing embrace of the world around it; quite
appropriate for this venerable old house, parts of which have been standing for more than
700 years. But at the sheltered back of Wenbans, hidden from prying eyes, there is a
tiny jewel of a garden - heart-shaped and barely three paces across, bordered with rows
of red bricks. It is planted with roses, rhododendrons and scented azaleas, and at its
centre is an ancient millstone, worn, mossy and evidently centuries old.
Who knows for what reason this cumbersome and portentous millstone was placed at the
centre of an otherwise wildly romantic heart-shaped plot? Who knows what was going through the mind of the garden's creator as he placed his heart around the millstone? For this tiny garden, secluded from the rest of the world at the rear of this craggy building was designed, dug and planted in the 1930s by Edward, then Prince of Wales, for one of the many lovers he brought to Wenbans.
The Prince and his girlfriends - in the main, married, well-connected women - would regularly visit Wenbans, just outside the East Sussex village of Wadhurst. It was owned by Lord George Cholmondeley, a friend of the Prince, who could guarantee absolute privacy. It was the perfect romantic hideaway and the thoughtful host provided the Prince with a tiny flat at the back of the great hall, comprising a ground-floor bedroom and bathroom and upstairs, a small drawing-room with a fireplace.
"Nobody knew who was visiting," says Lionel Gadd, now in his eighties, who once worked at Wenbans, as did his wife. "But one foggy night, the Prince drove his car into a ditch and some of the locals from Wadhurst came to help out. The secret was out. After that, people kept a look-out for the Prince and his dolly birds."
The flat is not much, particularly if you are used to the comforts of Buckingham Palace and the mock castle Fort Belvedere in Sunningdale, the Prince of Wales's official residence. Today, the ground-floor bedroom is a rather sorry-looking boiler room and storeroom, piled with junk, floored with hardboard, the leaded windowpanes spotted with dead flies.
                                                              
                                                                       The fireplace in the little sitting-room has been recently bricked up, although the original
                                                                       chimney bricks are still blackened and scorched. The rest of the room is now a mini
                                                                       gymnasium, crammed with state-of-the-art get-fit equipment. But the rooms have their
                                                                       charms, constructed as they are out of the original 13th-century beams during a massive
                                                                       restoration of the hall that the Cholmondeleys undertook in the 1920s.
                                                                      "It would have been a perfect place for a secret hideaway," says current owner Vic Fatah  
                                                                       who believes that Wallis Simpson was also a visitor. "I can't imagine a safer refuge away
                                                                       from prying eyes, within 50 miles of London." Mr Fatah, who bought the house in 1984
                                                                       from a family who had owned it since the 1950s, says the Prince was a regular visitor
                                                                       throughout the 1920s and early 1930s until the house  changed hands.
                                                                       Wenbans is one of those old settlements whose precise origins are unclear, but it is
                                                                       known to have been the site of a Saxon village. It was named after the chief, Wenna, and
                                                                       its proximity to water (Wenna's "bourne" or "ban", meaning stream). The great hall is Grade II listed and today no owner would be allowed to hack it around as it was in the 1920s, although the Cholmondeleys did a sympathetic job. Nevertheless, it is a huge, rambling L-shaped house with nine bedrooms, servants' quarters and any number of sculleries, butlers' pantries and odd nooks and crannies. One side of the "L" is the original Wealden hall house, built in 1293, at the back of which is the discreet little flat where the future Edward VIII used to stay. The other side was built in 1612 by a wealthy local family whose riches were based on the area's iron smelting trade.

Affairs of the state: Wenbans, the country retreat of the hapless King Edward VIII
A house of this age is always full of mysteries and this one has its fair share of alcoves hidden behind wood panels, doors leading to secret passageways and little rooms hidden under the eaves.
But Prince Edward may have felt a regal resonance in the house as it was built on the site of a hunting lodge owned by King John - another English king with fairly disastrous judgement. The original Wealden hall house was owned by the well-connected Earl of Richmond and Duke of Brittany. The plasterwork of the great hall is decorated with recurrent bas-reliefs of the English rose and French fleur-de-lis of the Royal houses of France and England.
Anyone with a bent for prophecy could read much into the fact that the playboy Prince of Wales (and King for less than a year) would spend his final years in exile in France. The recurrent heraldic symbol, also picked out in the plasterwork, is of a griffin holding aloft a knight's helmet atop the - deeply ironic - motto: Cassis tutissima virtus - "Virtue is the greatest protector of all".
Coincidentally, Wadhurst Park, the big house up the road, was used by another Prince of Wales, the future Edward VIlI. He was also a notorious playboy but one who, unlike his grandson, was able to bury his indiscreet past for the sake of his country.
"There are a lot of stories knocking around about Royal princes and their mistresses," says writer and local historian Oliver Mason, author of Wadhurst Town of the High Weald. "There are a number of large houses around here whose owners had friends in high places and who knew the value of discretion."
According to archives held in Wadhurst village library, the Cholmondeleys bought Wenbans in the mid-1890s. They undertook major restoration work and passed the house on, pretty much as it is today, to Rear-Admiral Astley Rushton, who died in a motor accident in 1935. It is not clear exactly when the Rushtons bought the house - Mr Fatah believes it was after the Prince began his love affair with
Wallis Simpson, and that the Prince, whose fondness for gardening would be a great solace for him during his subsequent years of exile, dug the heart-shaped flower-bed for the American divorcee.
The poignancy of this flower garden, with a weather-beaten millstone at its centre, resonates still; created by a prince doomed to lose his throne for love.

The next interesting link is to a Laurence Wenborn relating to the period 1404 - 1414. In the same Wadhurst area.
Other names used by the WENBAN forebears have been Waneburn,Wenborne, and Wenbourn.
Obviously spelling was not a long suite in the early centuries.
Our interest lays with the descendants around Laurence Wenborn, when we find references to another John Wenbourne born 1663 and died 1732 who was married to Ann Waterhouse. We know this because his original will still exsists dated 18th of September 1732.
We then decend to a Thomas Wenbourne , born 1689 and then to another John Wenbourne born 1716 and his brother Thomas born 1719 died 1795 who it seems married  Susanna Veness. Thomas and Susanna produced 3 children that we can find. Their names are, Thomas born 1746, Mary born? and Susanna 1751.
This Last Thomas is the one we are interested in as he is our direct ancestor and we believe is directly descended from Laurence back in 1404, all in the same area with the same re-occuring family names thoughout the family history. We now move forward to around the time that Captain James Cook was learning how to sail.
 
Thomas was born at Salehurst Sussex in 1746 and died in 1835 at age eighty nine. Thomas is buried at Hawkshurst Kent.
Thomas married Mary Longley on 9th of December 1772 at Sandhurst Kent and produced ten children, four of whom emigrated to the USA to become the USA lineage of Wenbans. The marriage certificate of Thomas and Mary shows they both signed "WENBAN" which could be the point that the Name of "Wenban" was formalised as a family name with the current form of spelling.
Nine of the children were baptised at Wadhurst Sussex except the first son who was named William Wenban.
William was born in 1773 and died in 1845 aged 72.
William is listed as literate, a miller and farmer and William was baptised at Sandhurst Kent.


The following is courtesy of Peter Wenban from his great uncle Archie Wenbans book "Rude Forefathers"
Archie created some great work in the time long before computers were invented and much of the preserved Wenban family history is directly attributable to Archie Wenbans efforts.
















William worked as a grinder at Wandle Mill which lies in the valley between Sandhurst and Benenden in Kent. Five generations of Wenbans were to work there at the water mill, later powered by steam, until it closed down in the first quarter of the 20th century.
William married Dinah Burgis (Burges, Burgess) in 1796 at the age of 26.
Dinah’s death is listed as 1836, which means they were married for some
40 years before her death.
To the West of the old square- towered church of St.Nicholas at Sandhurst
which stands on a bluff overlooking the valley of the Rother and the
Castle of Bodium, stand two gravestones. They mark the last resting place
of William and Dinah and some of their children. One of these Henry, died
of smallpox in London but his death is recorded here although his body lies
in Kensington. So too the death of the older of the two brothers, John, who
emigated to Australia, who died on the other side of the world, at Wilberforce
on the Hawksbury River in NSW Australia.
Two sisters who died in the neighbouring County of Sussex are on the same
stone.
Lying with William and Dinah are the three children who died young,
Elizabeth at 8, David at 14, and Walter who came by his death accidentally at
Bodiam Water Mill at 19 years of age in 1826.

Life was hard in an agricultural community in the 18th century and beginning of the 19th was for many disastrous.
The demands upon the Parish relief funds for relief of the poor increased tenfold and in the 1820's the Parish books began to record requests for help to emigrate to America. The church wardens and the overseers of the Parish began to see that it would be more economical in the long run to assist emigration than pay ever increasing sums of money to the distressed families. Two of Williams brothers left for America in 1828 and ten years later two of his sons(John and William) went to Australia.


And this account from Archie Wenban's book "Rude Forefathers"

House and Lands

In a still secluded valley about a mile and a half South from the Parish Church of Wadhurst, Sussex, lies a small estate known today as "Wenbans" and formerly marked on the ordnance survey maps as "Wenbon's Farm", and as we have seen in earlier documents variously as Waneburne or Wenb(o) (u) rn (e).
Of approximately 90 acres, a little more or less, with the farmhouse standing at the crest of the hill at the Northern edge of the estate it has fields sloping down to the banks of a stream once dammed for a "Hammer Pond" (for the forge) which is a tributory of the Rother.
Whether any part of the exsisting buildings formed part of the "tenement " referred to in the 15th century court rolls is not known, but in the last century in a bedroom on the first floor at the West end of the house , under many layers of wallpaper, was found a surface of hardened yellow clay scoured with regular pattern as if a pronged rake or comb. It consisted of four or five curved rays or spokes, springing equidistantly from a common centre, each ray composed of parallel ending about 2 feet from the centre in a roughly curled whorl. This feature and solid oak beams indicate considerable antiquity. The East end which is clearly a latter addition is nevertheless proven early 17th century for beneath one of the fine clusters of brick chimneys is a fireplace with initials A.M.E.M. on one upper corner and the date 1612 on the other. The will of Christopher Maunser, who died in 1545 says " I will that my wife Joan shall have my tenement called Wenborn during her liffe term". She was his second wife, his first was Mildred nee Barham, and he mentions his daughter Mildred who was the wife of Robert Wenborne. The building must therefore have been a fair size then. His son  Robert Manser (Maunser) inherited and it passed to his younger son Abraham who probably built the East wing putting his own and his wife's initials on the chimney breast.

In the description contained in the schedule of the Ministry of Enviroment of buildings of architectural or historic interest in which it is classified in grade II, it says the following-" Of medieaval origin -said to have been an early Royal hunting lodge, possibly at the time of
King John... the West half of the house is now wholly fronted with weather-boarding, partly with brick, and the first floor which overhangs on the projecting ends of the floor joists and brackets is tile hung... to the South East of the house is 16th century barn, timbered... and is now joined to the house by a corridor that was formerly a cowshed!. Inside the house has ceiling beams and contemporary fireplaces...." In Volume LXV of the Sussex Archaeological Society's Transactions there is another quite full description of the house by late Col. H Ramsden, CBE, JP, FSA. written in 1923 when the property ceased to be a yeomans holding farmed by the owners and became a gentleman's residence for retired or active business and professional people most of whom have leased the fields to other local farmers.

The 17th century was a prosperous time for the Wealden Iron Industry and "Wenbans" was in the iron working area of the Sussex - Kent border on the Wadhurst clay which had iron ore (stone) and plenty of timber for charcoal furnaces. The great Lamberhurst Furnace was not far away, The map shows many others around. Straker, the author of "Wealden Iron" which is the standard work on the subject, lists "Wenbans" as the site of a "bloomery", the rather primitive type of charcoal furnace which preceded the later blast furnaces. Commenting on the site he records "The field is pasture but there is bloomery slag on the path leading down to it from the farm, mixed with blast furnace slag, probably from the neighbouring Scrag Oak furnace which at one time belonged to the Mansers who also owned Wenbans". The field to which he referred is the Sinden (Cinder) Field still marked on the ordnance survey maps. Other fields are named Upper and Lower Furnace Field and Furnace Plat. On the revised ordnance survey 1/2500 large scale map Pond Bay (dam) is marked indicating where the Furnace stood for the adjoining land beside the stream is part of the Scrag Oak estate. The Pond Field on their land indicates the actual site of the now drained hammer pond, the house stands on high land above the stream due West of "Wenbans".

After the Mansers had held the land for nearly a hundred years it passed into the hands of the Barhams, a number of whom are commemorated by cast iron tomb slabs in Wadhurst Parish Church which has the largest single collection of such memorial slabs in the country. With the decline of the iron industry they became impoverished and had perforce to part with their lands which they had mortgaged heavily. (Editors note. Sounds very much like our present day farmers in Australia) Thus by the middle of the 18th century both the "Wenbans" and "Scrag Oaks" estates had passed into the hands of James and John Tompsett who, with their heirs, farmed the land until 1923. Two estate maps survive, one of "Scrag Oak" which is signed "Thomas Baldock fecit" and the other of "Wenbon's Farm" clearly by the same hand made for the Tompsetts in 1759. These give the field names and acreages of the two adjoining estates. The Tithe Assessment Map of the 30th September 1839 also gives the then current field names, many the same as those on the earlier maps, the acreages and the crops thereon.


"
Wadhurst  East Sussex
St Nicolas Church
Sandhurst England
Wenbans Farm
Hideaway: Wenbans could guarantee absolute privacy

Affairs of the state: Wenbans, the country retreat of the hapless King Edward VIII
William & Dinahs grave Sandhurst Kent also mentions Johns death in NSW
Latest view of Wenbans Farm kindly sent to me by Peter Wenban UK. 2008 The property is being very well cared for.  Thanks Vic.
I think we shall make you an honorary Wenban!
A reminder also that this is a private residence .
Wandle Mill Where several generations of Wenbans worked.
Please Note!
Wenbans Farm is a private residence..
Photo courtesy : Christoper Wenban