The Weald of Kent, Surrey and Sussex
Sissinghurst Castle    Sissinghurst  Cranbrook  

Books and other documents
PublishedTitle, author and references
1797The Tunbridge Wells Guide by J. Sprange ⇒ p. 267
1798The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent - Volume VII by Edward Hastedp. 100
1874A History of The Weald of Kent with an outline of the History of the County to the present time, Volume II by Robert Furley, F.S.A.p. 611; p. 668
1896A Glimpse at Cranbrook - The Town of the Weald by W. Stanley Martin ⇒ p. 78
1914Highways and Byways in Kent by Walter Jerrold with Illustrations by Hugh Thomson ⇒ p. 248
1926Notes on the life of Sir John Baker of Sissinghurst by Rev. F.V. Baker ⇒ p. 5
2008A History of Cranbrook from the earliest times to 1914 by Peter Allenp. 64; p. 68; p. 87

Historical records

c 1553BirthJohn BakerSissinghurst CastleIGI - Family Search

1554HistorySissinghurst Castle

Sir John Baker was born in Sissinghurst circa 1488, the eldest child of Richard and Joan Baker and grandson of Thomas and Benet Baker of Cranbrook. The Bakers of Cranbrook were wealthy landowners in the Weald of Kent.

Sir John was educated at Cranbrook and was in chambers at the Inner Temple in London by June 1506 at the age of 18. He retained a life-long connection with the Inner Temple and was appointed Governor of the Inn twelve times between 1532 and 1557. His career developed into high office in the time of Henry VIII when he was Under-Sheriff of London in 1520, Recorder of London in 1526, Attorney-General in 1536, elected to the Privy Council in 1540 and Chancellor of the Exchequer (or as known then Chancellor of the Court of First Fruits and Tenths and Keeper of the Privy Seal of that Court) in 1540. Throughout the rest of Henry VIII's reign Sir John is active in the politics of the time and was named as one of the trustees of Edward VI in the 1547 will of Henry VIII.

When Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553, Sir John is Chancellor of the Exchequer and member of the Privy Council and he retains these roles throughout her reign. It is during this time that Sir John aquires the acronym "Bloody Baker" for his role in the persecution of reformers - in particular John Bland, Vicar of Adisham and Edmund Allin, a miller from Frittenden - who were subsequently condemned to death. There is some controversy over the extent of Sir John Baker's role but over the years the Bloody Baker name has stuck.

Circa 1520 Sir John had married Catherine Sackville the daughter of Richard Sackville of Withyham in Sussex. Her brother was married to Margaret, sister of Sir Thomas Bullen, the father of Queen Anne Boleyn. It is probable that this relationship had a bearing on Sir John's future career. Catherine died within a few years and circa 1525 Sir John married the widowed Elizabeth Barrett who was the daughter and heiress of Thomas Dyneley, lord of the manor of Wolverton in Hampshire. Sir John and Elizabeth had six children.

Within a month of the death of Queen Mary, Sir John Baker died on 23rd December 1558. He was buried at St Dunstan's Church at Cranbrook in the family vault and in 1736 a monument to him and the Baker families was erected in the church.

c 1555BirthThomas BakerSissinghurst CastleIGI - Family Search

c 1557BirthAnna BakerSissinghurst CastleIGI - Family Search

c 1568BirthSir Richard Baker, Religious writer and historianSissinghurst CastleODNB web site

Jul 1573HistorySissinghurst CastleThe Parish of Benenden, Kent
From a study of her Progress it appears the Queen started from her Palace July 14, 1573, to Archbishop Parker at Croydon, where she remained seven days, after which she went a Progress into Kent, and was again entertained by the same prelate at Canterbury. From Croydon July 21, the Queen proceeded to Orpington, the House of Sir Perceval Hart, Knt., where she remained three days, when she went to Knolle, then her own, thence to Birlingham, or Berling, the seat of the Lords Bergavenny where she remained three days, afterwards to Sir Thomas Gresham, of Mayfield, and then to Eridge, another house of Lord Burgavenny, where she stayed six. days. Then onwards to Bedgbury, Mr. Culpepper's, for one day. Thence to Hempsted, Mr. Guilford's, for three days, thence to Rye, where the Queen remained three days, and conferred the honor of Knighthood on Thomas Guilford, Thomas Walsingham, and Alexander Culpepper, Esquires. She proceeded onward to Sissinghurst, Mr. Baker's, whom she Knighted and stayed there, three days. After this to Boughton Malherb, the seat of the Wottons, where she was two days, thence to Mr. Tufton's at Hothfield, where she was two days, and some of her courtiers were entertained at Surrenden, the mansion of the Derings. From Hothfield to Westenhanger, the Keeper whereof was Lord Buckhurst, and remained there four days. After leaving Westenhanger on August 25 she proceeded to Dover.

c 1576BirthCatharina BakerSissinghurst Castle 

c 1578BirthEdwardus BakerSissinghurst Castle 

c 1580BirthSir Henry Baker, 1st Baronet Baker of SissinghurstSissinghurst Castle 

1608BirthSir John Baker, 2nd Baronet Baker of SissinghurstSissinghurst CastleThe Harleian Visitation of Kent made in 1619

c 1612BirthElizabeth BakerSissinghurst CastleThe Harleian Visitation of Kent made in 1619

1616BirthThomas BakerSissinghurst CastleThe Harleian Visitation of Kent made in 1619

c 1700Sissinghurst CastleSissinghurst CastleAllen's History of Cranbrook

1760An Outside View of Sisingherst Castle dedicated to the OfficersAn Outside View of Sisingherst Castle dedicated to the Officers drawn by an Officer© British Library Board - Shelfmark: K Top 18, Item number: 52.2a

1780Great Gate at SissinghurstGreat Gate at Sissinghurst, ink wash on paper (16 x 10.8 cm) drawn by unknown artist© British Library Board - Shelfmark: K Top 18, Item number: 52.2b

3rd Apr 1881CensusJames Parks, M, Head, married, age 39, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: farm labourerJames Parks, farm labourerSissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Agness Parks, F, Wife, married, age 39, born Cranbrook, KentAgness Parks
Kate Parks, F, Daughter, single, age 16, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: milkmaidKate Parks
Anne Parks, F, Daughter, single, age 15, born Cranbrook, KentAnne Parks
Fanny Parks, F, Daughter, age 12, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: scholarFanny Parks
James Parks, M, Son, age 4, born Cranbrook, KentJames Parks
Albert Parks, M, Son, age 3, born Cranbrook, KentAlbert Parks

3rd Apr 1881CensusThomas Levett, M, Head, married, age 33, born Newenden, Kent; occupation: coachman (domestic)Thomas Levett, coachman (domestic)Sissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Ellen Levett, F, Wife, married, age 35, born Rolvenden, KentEllen Levett
Herbert J. Levett, M, Son, age 11, born Appledore, Kent; occupation: scholarHerbert J. Levett
Frank Levett, M, Son, age 6, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: scholarFrank Levett
Ellen Levett, F, Daughter, age 4, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: scholarEllen Levett
Charles C. Levett, M, Son, age 2, born Cranbrook, KentCharles C. Levett

3rd Apr 1881CensusRichard Evenden, M, Head, married, age 31, born Biddenden, Kent; occupation: waggonerRichard Evenden, waggonerSissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Elizabeth Evenden, F, Wife, married, age 29, born Cranbrook, KentElizabeth Evenden
Fanny Evenden, F, Daughter, age 8, born Biddenden, Kent; occupation: scholarFanny Evenden
Richard Evenden, M, Son, age 7, born Biddenden, Kent; occupation: scholarRichard Evenden
Leonard Evenden, M, Son, age 4, born Biddenden, KentLeonard Evenden
George Evenden, M, Son, age 2, born Biddenden, KentGeorge Evenden
Charles Evenden, M, Son, age 1, born Biddenden, KentCharles Evenden
Parnell Evenden, F, Mother, widowed, age 66, born Biddenden, KentParnell Evenden

3rd Apr 1881CensusFrank Higgins, M, Head, married, age 40, born Hawkhurst, Kent; occupation: farm labourerFrank Higgins, farm labourerSissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Ann Higgins, F, Wife, married, age 41, born Salehurst, SussexAnn Higgins
Traton Higgins, M, Son, age 12, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: scholarTraton Higgins
Anne Higgins, F, Daughter, age 9, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: scholarAnne Higgins
Thomas W. Higgins, M, Son, age 6, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: scholarThomas W. Higgins
Henry Higgins, M, Son, age 4, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: scholarHenry Higgins
Ernest F. Higgins, M, Son, age 7 m, born Etchingham, SussexErnest F. Higgins

3rd Apr 1881CensusCharles Lampsett, M, Head, married, age 56, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: waggonerCharles Lampsett, waggonerSissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Kate Lampsett, F, Wife, married, age 44, born Lambeth, LondonKate Lampsett
John Lampsett, M, Son, single, age 18, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: farm labourerJohn Lampsett
William Lampsett, M, Son, single, age 16, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: farm labourerWilliam Lampsett
Anne Humphrey, F, Lodger, widowed, age 66, born Cranbrook, KentAnne Humphrey

3rd Apr 1881CensusElizabeth Pope, F, Head, widowed, age 50, born Frittenden, Kent; occupation: dairy womanElizabeth Pope, dairy womanSissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Elizabeth Pope, F, Daughter, single, age 16, born Frittenden, Kent; occupation: genr servantElizabeth Pope
Joseph Pope, M, Son, age 13, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: farm labourerJoseph Pope
Hepzibhah Pope, F, Daughter, age 7, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: scholarHepzibhah Pope
Esther Pope, F, Daughter, age 5, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: scholarEsther Pope

3rd Apr 1881CensusFrederick Chacksfield, M, Head, married, age 49, born Tenterden, Kent; occupation: farm bailiffFrederick Chacksfield, farm bailiffSissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Jane Chacksfield, F, Wife, married, age 58, born Poona, East IndiesJane Chacksfield
Maryanne Chacksfield, F, Daughter, single, age 20, born Brede, SussexMaryanne Chacksfield
Alfred J. Chacksfield, M, Son, single, age 19, born Brede, Sussex; occupation: farm labourerAlfred J. Chacksfield

3rd Apr 1881CensusJason Baldock, M, Head, married, age 40, born Ticehurst, Sussex; occupation: farm labourerJason Baldock, farm labourerSissinghurst Castle1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Emily Baldock, F, Wife, married, age 41, born Burwash, SussexEmily Baldock
John W. Baldock, M, Son, single, age 17, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: farm labourerJohn W. Baldock
James Baldock, M, Son, age 15, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: farm labourerJames Baldock
Henry J. Baldock, M, Son, age 13, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: scholarHenry J. Baldock
Jason Baldock, M, Son, age 12, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: scholarJason Baldock
Albert E. Baldock, M, Son, age 7, born Etchingham, Sussex; occupation: scholarAlbert E. Baldock
Emily A. Baldock, F, Daughter, age 3, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: scholarEmily A. Baldock
James Baldock, M, Boarder, single, age 17, born Eltham, Kent; occupation: carpenterJames Baldock
Edward Dence, M, Boarder, single, age 20, born Frittenden, Kent; occupation: farm labourerEdward Dence

3rd Apr 1881CensusGeorge Neve, M, Head, married, age 54, born Benenden, Kent; occupation: land agent and farmer of 1190 acres employing 40 men, 10 boys and 4 womenGeorge Neve, land agent and farmerCastle House1881 Census
Cranbrook, Kent
Mary Neve, F, Wife, married, age 52, born Maidstone, KentMary Neve
Thomas Neve, M, Son, single, age 27, born Benenden, Kent; occupation: farmer of 340 acres employing 7 men, 3 women 1 boyThomas Neve
Fanny M. Neve, F, Daughter, single, age 24, born Sissinghurst, KentFanny M. Neve
Henry Neve, M, Son, single, age 21, born Sissinghurst, Kent; occupation: farm pupilHenry Neve
Martha Walter, F, Sister-in-law, widowed, age 51, born Maidstone, Kent; occupation: gentlewomanMartha Walter
Mary R. Walter, F, Sister-in-law's daughter, single, age 25, born Great Ormond St, London; occupation: gentlewomanMary R. Walter
Caroline M. Wood, F, single, age 20, born Sissinghurst, Kent; occupation: parlourmaid (domestic)Caroline M. Wood
Frances Goodlad, F, widowed, age 48, born Hastings, Sussex; occupation: cook and general servantFrances Goodlad
Maria Hiscock, F, single, age 62, born Watlington, Sussex; occupation: housemaidMaria Hiscock
Mary Foster, F, single, age 17, born Cranbrook, Kent; occupation: kitchenmaid and servantMary Foster

1896Sissinghurst CastleSissinghurst Castle photographed by E.J. HolmesGlimpse at Cranbrook

1925The Cottage and Tower, Sissinghurst CastleThe Cottage and Tower, Sissinghurst Castle photographed by E.A. Sweetman & Son Ltd, Tunbridge WellsPrivate collection

1930Sissinghurst CastleSissinghurst Castle photographed by Judge's Ltd, HastingsPrivate collection

1930Sissinghurst CastleSissinghurst Castle photographed by J.E. Downward, F.I.B.P.Private collection

Apr 1930PurchasedHon. Sir Harold George NicolsonSissinghurst CastleNigel Nicolson's
Portrait of a Marriage

Apr 1930PurchasedHon. Victoria (Vita) Mary Nicolson [Sackville-West]Sissinghurst CastleNigel Nicolson's
Portrait of a Marriage

1930 to 1962HistorySissinghurst Castle

Victoria Mary (Vita) Sackville-West, poet, novelist and gardener, was born on 9th March 1892 at Knole, Sevenoaks, the only child of Lionel Edward Sackville-West (1867-1928), and his wife and first cousin, Victoria Josefa Dolores Catalina Sackville-West (1862-1936), the illegitimate daughter of Sir Lionel Sackville Sackville-West (1827-1908) and the Spanish dancer Josefa Durán (known as Pepita).

Vita grew up at Knole House and her early experiences there, including her often difficult relationships with other Sackvilles, were to have an important bearing on her writings. In 1913 she married the diplomat and broadcaster Harold Nicholson. They lived in London and at Long Barn, a house near Knole, between 1915 and 1930 where she wrote many of her early books (including Knole and the Sackvilles in 1922 and the pastoral poem The Land in 1926 which was awarded the Hawthornden Prize) and where she and her husband developed and experimented with their first garden. In 1930 they bought the ruined Sissinghurst Castle and spent many years creating Sissinghurst Gardens including the famous White Garden, Rose Garden, Orchard, Cottage Garden and Nuttery - now run by the National Trust. Her attachment to Knole led to her publishing English Country Houses in 1940 and records her love for such houses from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. She wrote extensively about gardening including a weekly column for the Observer from 1946 until 1961.

Vita was a prolific writer from an early age. But it was in the 1930s that she published her best known work The Edwardians (1930), All Passion Spent (1931), Family History (1932) which portrayed English upper-class manners and life, and Pepita (1937) which recalls her early life and her relationships with her mother and grandmother.

Throughout her life Vita's private life led to numerous affairs including Violet Trefusis (daughter of Mrs Alice Keppel the mistress of Edward VII), Evelyn Irons and Hilda Matheson. She was also very close to Virginia Wolfe about whom she wrote Seducers in Ecuador (1924) to which Wolfe responded with Orlando (1928).

In 1948 she was appointed a Companion of Honour for her services to literatures and in 1955 was awarded the gold Veitch medal of the Royal Horticultural Society. In later life she became reclusive at Sissinghurst and in 1961 became ill with stomach cancer and died there on 2 June 1962. She was cremated and buried in the Sackville family vault at Withyham, Sussex.

After her death, her son Nigel published Portrait of a Marriage in 1973. It was based on an autobiographical manuscript found in Sissinghurst and written when Vita was 28 - in 1920

See also

1948Sissinghurst CastleSissinghurst CastlePrivate collection

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