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House histories: Paramour Grange


Paramour Grange in Ash, Kent, may appear to be like any other country house, but behind the front door is an incredible collection of original historic detailing rarely seen elsewhere. It features a rare example of a Jacobean painted room, an original Tudor staircase and inglenook fireplaces.

Large sections of Paramour Grange were built during the late sixteenth century, when Queen Elizabeth I was on the throne; however, there are some doubts and discrepancies as to the date of the original construction of the Grange. It is difficult to be certain, but it is likely that sections of the house actually date back much earlier, to around the early 1400s. 

James I & the painted room

The paintings on the wall at Paramour Grange are very significant, being one of few remaining examples still to be found in situ in a residential home. They were painted in heraldic colours with a bold octagonal design, featuring images of roses, asterisks and ovals. Running along the top is a frieze that depicts inscribed painted verses from the fifth chapter of St Matthews Gospel, commonly known as the Beatitudes. Further decoration includes panels with the crown, the portcullis and the fleur-de-lees, and most importantly, the date 1603. Above the fireplace are the letters I.R. along with a letter H, but with the crossbar forming a horse’s bit, and the letters P.H. The I.R. is understood to stand for James I, and the P.H. for Princeps Henricus (Prince Henry, James I’s eldest son who died in 1612). Unfortunately, very little documentary evidence survives to explain the motivation or reason for the painted room. Various local historians have speculated that it could have been because the house was used as a chapel-at-ease, or it was painted for the newly crowned James I who visited Sandwich shortly after his coronation in 1603. Members of the king’s entourage are believed to have occupied the room at this time. Despite the decorative brilliance of the paintings, they are believed to have been covered over only fifty years later, during the Civil War – perhaps understandable if there was fear of recriminations for royal allegiances. The paintings remained hidden for the next 250 years and were only uncovered in 1915. 

The Farmhouse

Records show that Mr Foster was the owner from around the 1690s until 1733, but Paramour continued to be the home of farmer John Foatt. In around 1735 Paramour Grange came into the ownership of a Mr Fullagar. The Fullagar family had also lived in Kent for generations, being based nearby in Headcorn since the early seventeenth century. From around 1747 the house was occupied by Stephen Wood and his family, who remained as residents throughout the eighteenth century. The house passed to his son George in around 1780, and he appears to have excelled there; by 1804 he had in fact purchased the large plot and house of Paramour Grange. The land tax record in 1805 shows Mr George Wood as the owner and occupier of a section of Paramour Street valued at £65 15s. By 1815 he still owned the land, but the running of the farm had passed to his son, George junior, who by 1830 had taken over the whole farmland house. By the time of the tithe survey in 1840, the Grange had passed into the hands of Lawrence Wood, believed to be George junior’s son. The survey shows that Lawrence Wood’s property comprised of a house and garden, an orchard and home field, and totalled over 18 acres.

Daniel Ralph

John Bushell and his family lived in the house during the 1850s, farming over 103 acres. But by 1861 the Grange was the home of 34-year-old Daniel Ralph, a farmer of 230 acres and employing five men and two boys. Helved here with his wife Hannah and their two young sons, William aged 6 and Daniel aged 1, along with Daniel’s father, 73-year-old Thomas, a retired farmer, and three agricultural servants and one house servant. The Ralphs remained for many years, raising nine children. By the late 1890s Daniel was in his seventies and was last recorded at Paramour Grange at the turn of the twentieth century, after which time he retired from farming.

Mrs Wakeham and the Fullers

Within a few years Paramour Grange became the home of Mrs Susan Wakeham. The 1911 census reveals Mrs Wakeham was a widow and ‘farmer and market gardener’, raising two daughters, Clare and Susie. It was around this time, in 1915, that the unique wall paintings at Paramour Grange were uncovered. It is uncertain if this was during Mrs Wakeham’s time in the house; it is more likely to have been when the new occupants, Henry and Ada Fuller, moved in during the early years of the First World War. Apart from a small mention in the Kent Archaeological Society journal, very little is known about the discovery. Despite this grand unveiling in their home, the Fullers continued the farming tradition for the next thirty years. However, they also supplemented their income by renting out the house during the tough inter-war years. Advertisements in The Times from 1929-33 show the house publicised as a ‘Spacious Tudor house, historical interest ... all conveniences: home comforts: restful: best food: [and with] bountiful table’.

The Paramours

Paramour Grange and Paramour Street were named after a prominent Kentish family, the Paramours. The earliest recorded member of the Paramour family at Ash was a John Paramour, who was buried in the local churchyard in 1497. The most illustrious member of the family, who may have been responsible for the painted room at Paramour Grange, was Thomas Paramour, Mayor of Canterbury from around 1607 to 1619. Thomas Paramour was also the first mayor to commission the making of a sword for the ‘SwordBearer’ of Canterbury, granted by James I in 1609. 

Tracing Ownership

Generations of the Paramour family remained at Paramour Grange throughout the early seventeenth century and are believed to have stayed until around the 1650s. Between themed and late seventeenth century it is difficult to know what happened to the ownership and occupation of the Grange, with very few surviving documents or details. However, good collection of land tax records for Ash show that by the 1690s the house had come into the ownership of Amr Foster and was occupied by farmer, John Foatt. Today Paramour Grange has been beautifully conserved, highlighting its amazing historic character with the ornate painted walls, outstanding Tudor staircase, inglenook fireplaces, exposed wooden beams and mullion windows. It has also been suggested that a full architectural analysis may in fact find many more historic features that have gone undiscovered for centuries.

By Melanie Backe-Hansen

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