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Image:  Kearsney Abbey, c.1900.
Kearsney Abbey, c.1900.

 

Following the Norman Conquest, the Manor of Kearsney was granted to a Shropshire landowner , Jeffrey de Say, in exchange for men from his estates to help maintain and garrison Dover Castle. It passed through various other owners before coming into local hands. Its first local owner was Ralph Tokes, Mayor of Dover from 1445-1449, and Member of Parliament for Dover three times.

In 1790 the estate was purchased by the Fectors, local merchants and bankers, for the sum of £72,000. In 1820 John Minet Fector (who was later to become M.P. for Dover) decided to have a more spacious and impressive building erected, which was completed by 1822. Much of the dressed stone work was acquired from old buildings which had been demolished for road widening in Dover, and possibly also from the mediaeval town wall and gate houses. John Minet Fector misleadingly called his new home 'Kearsney Abbey' despite the fact that it had never been a monastic building.

After John Minet Fector's surprise defeat in the mayoral election of 1837, the family decided to sell the estate and move away from the area. The property changed hands a number of times during the latter half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th, and was used at various times as a private boarding school, an Augustinian convent and a nursing home, as well as a private residence.

The last private owners were the Collier family, who owned it until the beginning of the Second World War, although they had made several attempts to sell the property before the war. In 1937 the estate was listed as comprising area of over 27 acres, the Abbey itself, laundry, dairy, orangery, stables and garage, 10 cottages, farm buildings and parkland. At that time the accommodation with in the Abbey consisted of a hall, dining, drawing, breakfast and billiards rooms, a library, study, boudoir, 15 bed and dressing rooms, and 4 bathrooms.

During the Second World War the Abbey was commandeered by the War Department and used as an A.T.S. operations establishment and H.Q. of No.2 Searchlight Regiment. After the war Dover Borough Council bought the Abbey and 25 acres of land for the sum of £10,000. In 1959 the advanced stages of dry rot were discovered in the house and it was demolished, except for the billiards room which survives as a café. The Abbey grounds were greatly improved in the mid 1970s and it now provides a fine public park on the outskirts of the town.

 


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