Memories of Newgardens and the Honeyball Family

Honeyball House

The house shown was reputed to have been built by Richard Harris, who was the head gardener to King Henry VIII, as his residence. Early history of the property is unknown except it was in the possession of the Roper family who became the Lords Teynham. The Ropers sold the property and land in 1714 to Sir Robert Furnese of Waldershare. Subsequently it descended to  his daughter the Countess of Rockingham, but after the death of her first husband she married the Earl of Guildford and the house remained in the possession of that family until bought from them by Colonel James Honeyball.   In the time of the Countess of Rockingham the property had consisted of the farm, two large barns, two stables, one granary, one lodge, 20 acres of land [arable and pasture], one old cherry orchard and two acres of hop ground.  Newgardens was originally known as the Outlands and Oziers Farm as the Brennet. It was always thought that the first cherry trees were planted at Newgardens but after reading books of Teynham they suggest that Oziers was the first place that cherry trees were planted.

Referring back to Col. Honeyball, he was a well known figure in Kent; formerly the Commanding Officer of the East Kent Volunteers, and an expert agriculturist and hop grower.  When you read the history of Teynham, it appears he was a very well liked gentleman who seemed involved with everything that happened.   Some of the positions he held was Chairman of the Parish Council and President of the Greenstreet Rifle Club.  He formed a brickfield company named the Co-operative Company to help the unemployed of Teynham. This company lasted for two years; no profits were made during this period so it was decided to close the plant down.

The Colonel and his wife Olympia Loetitia had two sons namely Martyn & Lawrence. On the death of the Colonel, Mrs Honeyball took on the roll to manage the estate.   She liked to be known as Lady Honeyball.  One memory that sticks in my mind of her is that she would go shopping in her car to Greenstreet & Sittingbourne, park in the middle of the road outside the shop and beckon the shop keeper to come out to serve her;  this they would do with no argument.

An annual event on Empire Day was that all the children of Teynham School were invited to Newgardens to salute the Union Jack.  This was followed by the children receiving a bun and a drink.  If you went carol singing outside Mrs Honeyball’s house at Christmas, she would invite you in the house to sing to her and a few pennies would be your reward.

Newgardens had very lovely gardens; these gardens were open to the public during the summer months. People travelled from Sittingbourne and Faversham to walk round and admire them. Royalty too came to visit Mrs Honeyball.  The Duke of York, later to become King George VI, visited the gardens in 1922.  All the flowers that year were white to represent the white rose of York.

Cherries were sent to the royal family every year to commemorate the fact that cherries were first planted at Teynham.

Cllr R Boorman

Extracted from "A Saunter through Kent with Pen and Pencil by Charles Igglesden (1928) - Volume 21"

Just before you come to the railway station you are attracted by a fine brick wall that surrounds Newgardens, which at one time went by the name of Tenham Outlands and was part of the possessions of the Ropers, who subsequently became the Lords Teynham. In 1714, however, Sir Robert Furnese, of Waldershare, purchased the property from the Ropers, and subsequently it came to one of his daughters, the Countess of Rockingham, and it is interesting to read that at that time " the farm consisted of two large barns, two stables, one granary, one lodge, twenty acres of land, arable and pasture, one old cherry orchard and two acres of hop ground." The Countess, after the death of her husband, married the Earl of Guilford, and it remained in the possession of that nobleman's family until Colonel Honeyball purchased it a few years ago.

Colonel Honeyball, during an active life, was one of the most popular men in Kent, being well known as an expert agriculturist and an extensive hop-grower, and commanding officer of a battalion of the East Kent Volunteers, while during his military career he was one of the finest rifle shots in England. Having purchased Newgardens he at once began to restore it and lay out the gardens in an artistic manner. Upon his death in 1923 the property was left to Mrs. Honeyball, and this lady has continued to increase the size of the gardens and enlarge the house. Newgardens is built of red brick, but within can be seen beams supporting the ceilings to indicate that in early days it was a timber-built construction. Up to within a few years ago the residence was covered in ugly plaster, but this was all taken away to reveal some beautiful brickwork of a mellow red tint.

A turret at one corner, recently erected by Mrs. Honeyball, is in character with the rest of the building and adds to its impressive appearance. The hall is a spacious apartment, and out of it rises an original Jacobean staircase. In the drawing-room is a beautiful oak mantelpiece also of the Jacobean period, brought from Tonacombe Manor, Cornwall, the home of Mrs. Honeyball previous to her marriage. In an upper room is another charming fireplace, built up from timber taken from the cellars, which, by-the-bye, extend under the whole of the house. There is a remarkable little chamber upstairs leading from one large room to another, probably a hide or powder-room. In many of the windows the ancient lead-lights add a romantic touch to the house, and further evidence of the old style of building can be found in the kitchen department. Here are heavy beams, as well as a large open fireplace. The most interesting feature about the house is that it was probably the residence of Richard Harrys, King Henry the Eighth's Fruiterer, and the first orchard he planted is supposed to be upon this estate.

One can picture Bluff King Hal journeying down to Newgardens and enjoying feasts of luscious cherries and apples, and it is in the happy fitness of things that royalty has since then visited the place. The Duke of York accepted an invitation of Colonel and Mrs. Honeyball, and he arrived on July 14th, 1922, to spend a delightful afternoon amid the orchards, while the grounds were decorated with white roses in compliment to the House of York. Previously, on April 21st, 1920, Helena Victoria, daughter of Princess Christian, also honoured Colonel and Mrs. Honeyball with a visit.

The gardens are a feature of this delightful residence. Well-groomed lawns run in all directions, and the other day when I was there—it being Spring-time—thousands of daffodils were peering out of the turf and presenting a gorgeous spectacle with their golden heads thrown up against a green background. In all sorts of odd corners you find enclosures with fountains playing in the centre, and in one corner is a sunken rock garden. One circular enclosure is belted by tall elms, and here the Duke of York was formally welcomed by his host and hostess. Another delightful spot is known as Australia House, a thatched building with tiny dormers peering out of the roof. In the front bricks have been built to represent the sun, the moon and the stars, and facing us are flower beds so [39] planted that in the Spring-time the quiet tone of blue flowers will be indicative of the moonlight, while in the Summer-time, when the sun is in the ascendant, scarlet flowers will give an appropriate brilliant glow. I have never seen bricks treated with such artistic effect as they are in this garden.