History and Buildings of Smiths Hall


The seat of Smiths Hall is located in West Farleigh on the Medway River. It came into the possession of the Brewer (Bruer) family during the reign of Henry VI (1421-1471). The first house on the site was built during that time, and the Brewer family, who had been present in this area of Kent since the reign of King John, took up residence.  

The current house on the site replaced the original 15th-century structure and was completed in 1719 by John Brewer, a prosperous barrister of Gray’s Inn. The house remained in the Brewer family until 1762, when the house and estate were left by Jane Brewer to her cousin, Rev. John Davis, Rector of Hamsey, East Sussex. When Rev. Davis died in 1766, the estate passed to his son, Sir John Davis, who sold it in 1774 to William Perrin. This was the first sale of the property. Perrin died in 1820, and by 1838 the house was owned by Sir Henry FitzHerbert, son of Sir William FitzHerbert, and his wife Sarah FitzHerbert (née Perrin, and probably William Perrin's niece).

General Charles Wake Norman purchased West Farleigh Hall in 1949. General Norman's family had formerly resided at The Rookery in Bromley since the early 1700s.

During World War II the Royal Air Force (RAF) occupied The Rookery for use as a flight control center for the D-Day operation. During that time the house was modified to accommodate the RAF, and in 1946 it was completely destroyed by fire. However, some of the furnishing and finishes of The Rookery were salvaged by the Norman family and have been incorporated into Smiths Hall.

General Norman remained in residence at West Farleigh Hall until his passing in 1974. Smiths Hall remains in the Norman family.

In the late 19th century, the house was renamed West Farleigh Hall, reflecting its location and its prominence to that village. The exact date is not clear, but an 1870 Ordnance Survey (OS) Map lists it as “Smiths Hall,” while an article published in "Country Life" magazine in 1918 refers to it as West Farleigh Hall. It remained West Farleigh Hall until 1992, when it was returned to its original moniker, Smiths Hall, by the Norman family.

Smiths Hall in Print

In addition to being included in Dr. Harris's, 1724 "History of Kent," Smiths Hall has been featured three times in "Country Life" magazine. The first time was in the May 11, 1918 edition. In 1967, the publication revisited Smiths Hall in successive issues, September 14 and 21.


Residents of Smiths Hall

John Brewer Completed construction of main house in 1719 d.1724
William Phillip Perrin, esq High Sheriff of Kent 1774-1798
Sir Richard FitzHerbert 5th Baronet of Tissington 1846-1906
Herbert Leney First Class Cricketer 1907-1915
General Charles Wake Norman High Sheriff of Kent 1949-1974



Smiths Hall in Pictures


smiths hall
Smiths Hall Front - From Lower Road

Smiths Hall Front - From Lower Road

Smiths Hall Front Covered With Ivy - circa 1930

Buildings and Background

The current house was constructed in 1719 as recorded in the dated rainwater hoppers. It is a two-storey brick structure, with a plain tile roof. The Johannes Kip Plan of Smiths Hall was published in 1724’s “History of Kent” by Dr. Harris. This plan shows a third storey on Smiths Hall. The third-floor attic was never constructed. The conclusion that can be drawn is that Kip's Plan of Smiths Hall was derived from the building plans that John Brewer commissioned.


1724 - Kip's Plan for Smiths Hall, showing third storey.
Published in "History of Kent" by Dr. Harris

As yet, no formal acknowledgement of the architect or builder of Smiths Hall has been discovered. There are certain characteristics about Smiths Hall that spur speculation about the designer and builders, in particular, the craftsmanship and technique used in the brickwork. Similar design elements and craftsmanship are found in several other houses in the Maidstone area that were constructed contemporaneously, possibly indicating a team of designers and builders had come to the area in the early 18th century.

A clue to the primary use of the house may be revealed by the lack of a fireplace or chimney stones in the main hall. This may indicate that John Brewer intended to use Smiths Hall primarily as a summer residence rather than year-round. Chimney stones were added to several rooms, including the drawing room and dining room, by William Perrin in the late 18th century. The Norman family added a major chimney stone, rescued from the 1946 Rookery fire, to what is now the library at Smiths Hall in the late 1940s.

The interior surprise of the Queen Anne period design and building is the large two-storey entrance hall and the exceptional room-length balustrade timber gallery staircase that overlooks the hall. The porch opens directly into the hall. Doors at either end of the main hall lead to a dining room and drawing room. On entrance, stairs rise from the right, culminating in the room-length gallery. Stairs at either end of the gallery ascend to the second storey bedrooms of the house. Support for the gallery and ceiling is provided by a two-storey, square, fluted column. A wooden banister runs the length of the gallery for safety.

A picture from www.weald.org showing
the main hall and second storey gallery.

The exterior of Smiths Hall is dominated by detailed brickwork using fine terracotta bricks in multiple shades of red and gray. It is the quality of bricks and the craftsmanship imbued in the brickwork that push speculation that the builders of Smiths Hall may not have been local, moving to the area for a period of time, constructing several homes of similar design, materials and workmanship and then moving on. John Brewer likely had access to quality architects and builders from outside the local area that could have designed and built a structure of the quality exhibited by Smiths Hall.

Smiths Hall facade showing various colorations and patterns in the brickwork around the late-18th century porch and door.
(click image to enlarge)


A highlight of the exterior is the front porch and door, which were added well after initial construction, probably by William Perrin in the late 1700s. The central doorway is actually a pair of doors in a late 18th-century porch with a modillioned open pediment. The doors are larger than the opening with the upper panels concealed behind a lowered lintel.

The house is a Grade I listed building. A separate 18th-century red and grey brick garden house (formerly the coach house) is listed as Grade II as is the wall surrounding the grounds.


Exterior wall of Smiths Hall showing multi-colored brickway.

(click image to enlarge)

The Garden House

Smiths Hall Garden House
(click image to enlarge)

The following description of the Garden House is excerpted from British Listed Buildings, mucj of which appears to have been derived from the September 1967 edition of "'Country Life".

"Stables and coach house, now house. Late C18. Red and grey brick in
Flemish bond. Slate roof. 2-storey central section (probably the coach
house), built gable-end on to courtyard, with single-storey lean-to
flanking sections (probably stables). Chamfered brick plinth. Plat band.
Front gable-ends of lean-tos built up as blind two-storey brick facades
with plain parapet. Central section breaks forward slightly, with
pedimented gable, the base plat band of which continues the line of the
flanking parapet coping. Brick stack towards front, and another towards
rear, of left side of central section. Hexagonal wooden bell cupola with
modillioned cornice, leaded onion dome and weathervane, towards front of
central section.

Regular 5-window front of two blind windows with splayed
rubbed brick voussoirs to each flanking section, and central Diocletian
window, the central light of which forms the top of a half-glazed door
which drops through the plat band to the lintel of the panelled ground-
floor garage doors. Flanking sections have doubly-recessed arcading to
ground floor with rubbed brick voussoirs and plat band at impost level.
Each of four arches contains semi-circular fanlight with radiating glazing
bars. Two inner arches have twelve-pane sashes with horns. Left end
arch has boarded door to Garden House, right end has boarded door with
four-light rectangular top light (beneath the fanlight). "