Set in the pretty village of Matfield, near Tonbridge, this Grade II-listed traditional 19th-century Kent cottage has been finished to a very high standard. Adjacent is a picturesque chapel, with planning permission for its conversion into an accommodation comprising two bedrooms and bathrooms, a living room and an open-altar kitchen, linked to the chapel by a corridor and designed by John Bullock Design. Manicured gardens rise behind the pretty cottage and chapel and back onto woodland, giving the plot a secluded feel despite its village location. Matfield is also on the edge of the charming High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Setting the Scene
Matfield comes from Old English, meaning Matta’s Field, ‘Matta’ being a local leader whose details are now barely known to us. Arranged around a large green, still used for village fêtes and local celebrations, the village is part of the Borough of Tunbridge Wells. Surrounded by pretty Kent countryside, the cottage has easy access to several rail stations including Paddock Wood, which is less than 10 minutes away by car, offers frequent train connections to London Bridge in around 40 minutes. For more information, please see the History section.
The Grand Tour
The handsome, timber-clad façades of the cottage and chapel lie a few minutes outside the village centre. Set back from the road behind a picket fence, the cottage cladding is painted in creamy tones with the trim picked out in deep green. The cottage was likely built in the latter half of the 19th century, with the current chapel constructed at the advent of the 20th century to accommodate a local Pentecostal congregation. Symmetrically arranged around a central door set within a gable porch, single-storey lean-tos—added in the 19th century—balance the façade.
The cottage’s front door leads directly into a pretty sitting room. Extensively renovated to a very high standard, the room is centred around a brick fireplace with a modern wood burner now ensconced within the depressed arch lintel. Original beams have been left exposed with seagrass carpet stretching out underfoot, complementing the gentle grey tones of the walls. A pair of four-pane casement windows with two-pane vent lights above take in views of the front garden and fill the south-west-facing room with light.
The charming kitchen is found to one side of the plan. With the original terracotta quarry tiles in place underfoot, the kitchen has otherwise undergone a full refurbishment to utilise the space’s full potential. Hardwood countertops are set alongside a Belfast sink with polished chrome taps, and a modern induction range has been installed in the original fire breast. On the opposing side of the plan sits a bathroom decorated in crisp tones. With a muted grey toile wallpaper accented by a black and white chequerboard floor, the room is centred around a large clawfoot bath with a luxurious rain shower.
The stairs to the first floor leads to two double bedrooms. The principal bedroom overlooks the verdant garden, while the smaller bedroom features a deftly designed combination bed/bookcase, allowing for wonderful usages of the charming bedroom’s plan.
The chapel sits alongside the cottage, just over a passage. Built around the turn of the 19th century, the chapel has full listed planning permission for conversion into a further two-bedroom ancillary space with a connecting glazed corridor. With unique Gothic windows and pitch pine floorboards, the space has a wealth of intact original features. This dynamic space would make an ideal weekend bolt hole, a flexible live-work space, and even presents opportunities for multi-generational living as well as the potential for long or short-term letting.
The Great Outdoors
A front garden stretches out in front of the cottage, framed by the charming picket fence and edged by a honey-toned gravel drive on one side. Beyond the rear of the cottage and chapel lies a large garden space. A few steps rise to a terraced patio area, perfect for a relaxing moment with a book in fine weather. Above, a large lawn stretches out, edged with beds planted with mature perennials, shrubs and specimen trees. Completely encircling the peaceful garden, the space enjoys evergreen colour and a high level of privacy while remaining within walking distance to the village centre.
Out and About
Matfield is a pretty village revolving around its central green, reputedly the largest in Kent, which plays host to the local cricket teams’ regular matches throughout the season. With two pubs–celebrated gastropub The Poet, as well as neighbourhood stalwart The Star–the village is well-served for food and drink. A post office/shop completes the little village. A footpath opposite the cottage leads directly to this green, and another leads through orchards to the adjoining picturesque village of Brenchley via The Hopbine pub, which serves excellent wood-fired pizzas.
Nearby Tunbridge Wells is a bustling town with an alfresco dining culture, with many restaurants and cafés spilling out onto the streets. Geography is a lovely little natural wine bar next door to The Ivy, while Sankey’s The Old Fish Market is the place to go for champagne and oysters. Thackerays, The Beacon, The Square Peg and Tallow are also highly recommended for delicious food. Local pubs in the town and the nearby countryside include the Kentish Hare, the Sussex Arms and Ragged Trousers. There are live jazz performances on the bandstand on summer evenings.
An excellent primary school, Brenchley and Matfiled Primary, is a few minutes up the road. There are many highly regarded state and private schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells and the surrounding area. Excellent primary school options include Rose Hill and The Mead. Secondary options also include several highly sought-after grammar schools, including Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School, Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar, Tonbridge Grammar School for Girls, Tonbridge School, Weald of Kent Grammar, Judd and Skinners.
Trains run from Paddock Wood, less than a 10-minute drive from the house, to London Bridge in around 40 minutes and and Charing Cross in under an hour. The M25, Ashford International (for connections with the continent) and Gatwick Airport are all in easy driving distance.
Council Tax Band: D
Little early history is known about the quiet hamlet of Matfield. According to the Old English name derivation, it is believed the area was originally open fields under the protection of a local leader named Matta. Following the Norman Conquest of 1066, the land was granted to Richard Fitz Gilbert, cousin of William the Conqueror.
The Wheelwrights Arms, a charming white weatherboard pub, though now sadly closed, sits directly on the green and is one of the villages earliest buildings, dating back to 1602 when it was originally constructed as a farm building. It underwent a transformation into an ale house approximately in 1750. In 1728, Matfield House, a splendid Grade I-listed mansion located on Matfield Green, was erected. This grand residence was commissioned by Thomas Bold Marchant, a farmer from Horsmonden, and his wife Mary, a wealthy heiress from Marden.
John Marius Wilson in his 1866 Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales described Matfield as “a hamlet in Brenchley parish, Kent; 4¼ miles SE of Tunbridge. It contains a neat Baptist chapel, and several genteel residences.” Though slightly large than a hamlet today, the description still largely holds true.
The village was the birth place of notable writer and poet, Siegfied Sasson, who spent his early years at Weirleigh House. He detailed his formative years and his great love of the Kentish countryside in High Weald, published in 1942, and people still visit the village of his birth on pilgrimage to the beloved poet.
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