Kentwell Hall is a stately home in Long Melford, Suffolk, England. It includes the hall, outbuildings, a rare-breeds farm and gardens. Most of the current building facade dates from the mid-16th century, but the origins of Kentwell are much earlier, with references in the Domesday Book of 1086.
Kentwell has been the background location for numerous film and television productions, and, since 1979, has annually been the scene of Tudor and other period historical re-enactments, with weddings and other events. It also hosts Scaresville, an annual Hallowe’en event which won national awards in 2009 and 2018.
The earliest recorded reference to Kentwell is in the Domesday Book of 1086, which states that the manor of Kentwell (along with six others) formed part of the property of Frodo, brother of Abbot Baldwin, of the Abbey of St. Edmund’s.
At that time, the manor was called by its old English name of Kanewella. The record in the Domesday Book survey, translated from the original Latin, reads:
“In the time of King Edward the Confessor, Algar held Kanewella under Seward, a freeman of Meldon, as a manor containing two carucates of land with Soke. There were thereon at that time 7 villeins, and afterwards, and now 4 velleins. There was then, and subsequently, 1 bordar; now there are 3. There were always 2 ploughs belonging to the demesne. There were then and afterwards 2 ploughs belonging to the Homagers of the manor; there now remains 1. There are 8 acres of mowing meadow. There has always been 1 horse at the Manor house. There were then 5 working oxen; there are now 8. At that time there were 30 swine; there are now 40. Then 80 sheep, now there are 50. At that time and subsequently, this manor was worth 40 shillings; it is now worth £4.”
Frodo is known to have left at least two sons, Alan and Gilbert, but the documented history of Kentwell is somewhat sparse for the next 300 years. An interpretation of papal tithe records suggests that Kentwell was owned by a person called Galleus from 1145 to 1148; and there are references in Church papers to a “De Kentewell” family, including one Sir Gilbert de Kentewell, in the 13th century.
Between the years 1252 and 1272, Kentwell Manor appears to have been granted by King Henry III to Sir William de Valence, who was killed in battle in France in 1296. Kentwell passed to his niece, who married David Strabolgie, Earl of Athol; in 1333 he in turn conveyed the manor to Sir Robert Gower and his heirs. Kentwell passed to Sir Robert Gower’s daughter and afterwards, in 1368, to John Gower, poet, a personal friend of Geoffrey Chaucer.
In 1373 Kentwell was acquired by Sir John Cobham and soon afterwards passed to the ownership of the Mylde family.