Digging up the life of the Sheriff of Kent
10:43 10 August 2012
Up until 2006, Randall Manor was widely heard about but mostly undiscovered, buried beneath soil and hidden by dense woods deep in Shorne Country Park.
Some efforts had been made to unearth the 800-year-old medieval grounds in the 1960s, but the extent of the site was never fully uncovered.
Now the excavation of Randall Manor is in its seventh year and the dig has revealed a series of buildings that once made up the estate of the Sheriff of Kent back in the 13th century. The origins of the manor are obscure but its traceable history begins with a rich landowner named Henry de Cobham who in 1208 bought the house, then called Rundale, and lived there with his family, servants and staff.
His life would have been the epitome of a knight of the times; a wealthy landowner with royal connections who married a rich woman and spent his years acquiring estates. As has now been unveiled through years of digging, he lived in a large hall adjoined to the manor house that was surrounded by outer buildings including a kitchen, bakery, gatehouse, stables and a fishpond.
The de Cobhams continued to live in Rundale through the generations, riding forth as sheriffs, knights of the shire and lords of parliament. Then in the early 15th century the family moved on to Allington Castle near Maidstone. Today, the names Rundle, Rundell and Randall are commonly found throughout the South-East and down into Cornwall.
When the family left, the next 150 years saw numerous changes of hands, but the manor’s demise was near. Four hundred years after Henry de Cobham first set foot inside it, the house disintegrated and materials were taken from it until all that was left was woodland whose tracks held no memory of the old manor. In 1632, a local historian wrote “scarce the ruins appear to direct one where the house stood”.
It is now though, that the roots of Shorne’s past are being pulled up. Over the past month, 20 to 30 volunteers have trekked to the site every day and chiselled away to reveal the manor’s foundations.
Pottery, kitchen pots and decorated floor tiles are among the items found buried for the last 800 years, portraying the structures of the buildings and the lives lived within them. Next year will be the last year that the dig takes place at Randall Manor, putting an end to the chapter of the Sheriff of Kent.