story of the way in which John Corbett gained control of
the Manor of Bourne, Kent brings no credit to the name.
He was the son of Edward of
Blakeland (1649-1719) and Hannah Jenkes, and the grandson
of Roger Corbet (1600-61) and Catherine Barnsley
(1621-91) of Bobbington, Staffordshire.
Several members of
this branch of the Moreton Corbett family were engaged in
the practice of law at Lincoln's Inn and lived in London,
some being Citizens and members of one guild or another.
The 2000 acre estate
of the Manor of Bourne, Bishopsbourne, south of
Canterbury stands in parkland and it was built between
1704 and 1707 by Lady Elizabeth Aucher nee Hewytt. Her
husband, Sir Anthony Aucher had died in 1692 leaving his
widow a considerable gambling debt of £10,000 to clear
and four young children to support, Anthony, Hewytt born
in 1686, Elizabeth and Hester. By 1704 she had reduced
the debt to £1,400 whilst improving the estate at the
She became the trustee
of the estate, following the death of her husband (she
being his second wife), on behalf of her 10 year old son,
Sir Anthony who died two years later. Dame Elizabeth's
second son, 8 year old Sir Hewytt, who was a delicate
child, inherited the estate. He was, it will be shown,
not only delicate but weak and foolish. To help her in
its management Dame Elizabeth married her estate clerk
Thomas Hunt in 1694 but he, unfortunately died 4 years
In the early 1700's
the Elizabethan manor house needed rebuilding and with
her son's approval work was begun and re-building
commenced in 1704. It was anticipated that Hewytt would
use the house when he became 21 in 1707.
Because of Hewytt's
delicate health a tutor was engaged for him and when he
was 13 it was decided that he should attend Trinity
John Corbett (aged 27
at the time) became a Doctor at Law at the same college
in 1707, the year of Hewytt's majority, and he befriended
the young man. He raised doubts in young Hewytt's mind as
to Dame Elizabeth's management of the estate and the son
accused her of mismanagement. He granted John Corbett the
right to act on his behalf and he, in turn, brought
pressure on Dame Elizabeth to hand over the account
books, suggesting that the re-building of the house has
been unnecessary. Furthermore Corbett said that Dame
Elizabeth owed her son not less than £10,000 and that
the annuity of £660 per annum which she received from
the estate by her husband's bequest was no longer valid
and it was reduced to £160 per annum.
She tried to have an
unbiased party examine the accounts but Corbett refused
saying that he had the sole right to decide the issue.
Under extreme pressure she was persuaded to sign deeds
drawn up by Corbett agreeing to the lower income from the
estate. Within a short time, due to the money (payable at
£40 quarterly) being paid irregularly she was soon
reduced to destitution.
To add to her
indignities Corbett in 1711 married her older daughter,
Elizabeth, without Dame Elizabeth's permission. In the
same year Dame Elizabeth was forced to sell her personal
possessions to sustain her household and in 1712, having
received no money from the estate for a year, went to
Bourne House for accommodation and subsistence. There she
was treated badly by her son and daughter and son-in-law
and was not even allowed to eat at table having to exist
on the left overs. The sympathetic servants who had known
her in earlier and happier days fed her secretly and the
local parson, a family friend, also supplied her with
several meals each week.
In 1713 she left
Bourne for Canterbury and presented a petition to
Chancery for the restoration of her husband's bequest and
for compensation for her ill treatment by her son,
daughter and Corbett's. Her other daughter, Hester, had
by then married the Reverend Ralph Bloomer, D.D.,
Prebendary of Canterbury and he supported her claims.
The case was heard
over three days in 1715 at the end of which the Lord
Chancellor remarked on Corbett's ill conduct to Dame
Elizabeth, saying that he had been partial, was a friend
of Sir Hewytt's and had no regard for Dame Elizabeth's
interests. He had treated her harshly and had threatened
and terrified her. Had acted unfairly towards her and had
not drawn up proper accounts. He said the Manor house had
been built in agreement with and at the behest of Sir
Hewytt and that she had no interest in it except on
behalf of her son and that she had signed the deed
agreeing to the reduction of her husband's bequest under
duress and she had been distressed by the hardships she
had endured. In addition she had not received even that
agreed amount. He also decreed that the accounts were to
be examined by the Master of the Court and that
recompense be made to Dame Elizabeth.
This was not done and
in 1717 the case again came before the Lord Chancellor
who said that Sir Hewytt and Corbett had been guilty of
foul practices towards Dame Elizabeth and they had been
the cause of delays and had not provided the accounts. A
Receiver was appointed by the court to receive all rents
and profits from the estate which were to be paid to her.
In 1716 the Court
awarded her £24,695. This so infuriated Corbett and Sir
Hewytt that they appealed to the House of Lords which
appeal was dismissed in 1718.
Dame Elizabeth, not
surprisingly, never returned to Bourne, preferring to
live in Canterbury and when she died permission to bury
her at Bourne was refused.
Sir Hewytt died
unmarried in 1726 aged 40. He bequeathed his estate to
his sister Elizabeth which then, in accordance with the
law, became the property of John Corbett. He died in 1736
aged 55 and was buried in Shropshire.
His widow, Elizabeth,
lived at Bourne until 1764 when she died aged 82. She and
her husband had eight daughters of whom 5 survived to
marry well. The estate devolved down through these
descendants for 80 years. In 1844 the estate was
purchased by Matthew (later Honourable) Bell.
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