Parish of St. Margaret's, Rochester, Kent — Little Delce Manor
The Manor of Little Delce comprised arable land, pasture, and woodland lying either side of the Maidstone Road in the parish of St. Margarets, Rochester. The 1595 estate map shows 159a.2r.16p. arable land and pasture and 77a.0r.0p. woodland, making a total of 236a.2r.16p. Although never part of the manor, two cottages on Love Lane in Rochester, containing 0a.0r.20p. and 22 square yards, were also included in the lease until 1752. A 1711 terrier claims 163a. arable and pasture land, 95a. woodland, and 3a. salt marsh, making a total of 261a.0r.0p. for the manor. George Russell's 1716 estate map more accurately measures the manor as 167a.3r.35p. arable and pasture and 89a.0r.20p. woodland, making a total of 257a.0r.15p. In 1772, the woodland, containing 94a.0r.17p., and saltmarsh, containing 3a.1r.39p., were removed from the lease, leaving about 159a.1r.13p. according to the 1856 surveyor's report. The 1874 survey, as plotted on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map, shows a total acreage of 153a.3r.5p. and describes the property as follows: "Upper Delce Farm, St. Margaret's, Rochester. In the occupation of Mr. James Latchford Edwards, with a farm residence, brick and slated containing in the basement, 2 cellars and dairy, of the ground floor dining and drawing rooms, office, kitchen, scullery, larder, and on the first floor 5 bedrooms, laundry and men's bedroom, detached coal house, knife house, water closet, a double barn timber and thatch, open cattle shed, 3 stables, cart house, granary, store and two labourer's cottages".
During the latter third of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth, much of the former woodland was grubbed and let as arable land, and at the same time various other fields were sold for residential development, as the city of Rochester spread southward. In 1914, the property contained 186a.3r.7p.
Between 1772 and 1890 the detached piece of saltmarsh called "The Tigh", situated between Rochester High Street on the south and the River Medway on the north and between Hangman's Lane on the east and Bath Hard Lane or Williams Street on the west, was let separately from the rest of Little Delce Manor. Measured variously as 3a.1r.39p. in 1771 and 3a.2r.22p. in 1821, this parcel of land was leased first to the Commissioners of His Majesty's Victualling Office for the Navy and subsequently leased as a slaughterhouse and bone store. Part of the premises was compulsorily purchased by the East Kent Railway in 1858; a further part was sold to the Richard Watts Charity for the construction of swimming baths in 1865. The 1874 survey, as plotted on the First Edition Ordnance Survey map, shows a total remaining acreage of 0a.1r.3p. and describes the property as follows: "The Tighe Premises, St. Nicholas, Rochester, Let to the Representatives of the late Mr. John Lewis Levy, including part of an Orchard with a Cattle Shed and Piggery, part of a Slaughter house and yard, part of a Timber and slated Corn room, part of a Timber and tiled shed, part of a Brick and tiled warehouse and part of a Brick and tiled Bone store" (RBT: E01/02/113, p. 34). In 1883 a land exchange between the Rochester Bridge Trust and St. Bartholomew's Hospital increased slightly the total acreage in these commercial premises to 0a.1r.7p.and 17 square yards, but in 1891 the entire holding was compulsorily purchased by the South Eastern Railway.
Because leases before 1772 give only a general description of the property and because in leases after 1772 there are discrepancies between the acreage given in the lease and the acreage shown on the estate plans, the following tables show the adjusted acreage used to calculate the rent per acre:
Little Delce Manor
Detached Saltmarsh called The Tigh
Following expiry of the agricultural lease in 1883, Little Delce Farm was divided into smaller pieces which were gradually sold or redeveloped for residential premises. In 1883, part of Queen Croft Field containing 7a.0r.18p. was let on an 80-year building lease to the City of Rochester Industrial Dwellings Company at £17 15s. 7p. per annum for 2 years and £85 per annum thereafter, producing an initial rent of £2 10s. per acre rising to £11 19s per acre. In 1884, Delce Farmhouse with garden and grounds containing 2a.1r.29p. was let separately for £61 10s. (£25 5s. 11d./acre) rising by 1914 to £83 13s. (£34 8s. 2d./acre). In 1885, Shoulder of Mutton Field containing 3a.1r.23p. was divided into 22 building plots, and all but two were sold at auction. Between 1892 and 1914 these remaining two plots were let to The Governors of Rochester Grammar School for Girls at rent of £8 (£27 16s. 6d./acre).
The commercial rent for The Tigh was far higher per acre than the agricultural rent received for the rest of Little Delce manor. In 1772, rent for The Tigh was £1 8s. 8d per acre, while the rest of Little Delce was let for only 11s. 6d. per acre. Over the next century the rent rose as high as £100 per acre before the property was sold in 1891.
When these residential and commercial rents have been removed from the agricultural rents, it will be seen that the agricultural rent for Little Delce lags behind the Turner-Beckett-Afton agricultural index (TBA) for most of the 18th century before rising in two step changes to remain above the TBA index during the 19th century (except for 1884 when the farm was in hand) and then falling slightly below the TBA index in the early twentieth century. The first step change from 3s. 4d. per acre to 11s. 4d. per acre happened in 1772, when woodland containing 94a.0r.17p. and salt marsh containing 3a.1r.39p. were removed from the lease, leaving 159a.1.13p. of mainly arable land and pasture. This reduction in the less-productive non-arable land, combined with an increase in rent from £43 to £92, produced a dramatic rise in rent per acre, pushing the Little Delce rent above the TBA average for the remainder of the century. Surveyor's reports describe the location as good but the soil as thin, most of it having been planted with barley, oats, wheat, peas, beans, and clover, and there was only a modest rent increase in 1789 to 11s.11d. per acre. By 1800, the rent had once again fallen below the steadily rising TBA index. The second step change occurred in 1808 during the period of inflationary farm prices, when the farm was let on a 21-year lease at £96 rent for the first 3 years and £300 rent for the next 18 years, producing a second dramatic rise in rent per acre from just over 12s. in 1810 to £1 17s.8d. in 1811, before dropping back to £1 4s.1d. at the end of the lease in 1829, still well above the TBA index. Rents recovered by mid-century, however, and capital investment by the Bridge Wardens led to improved rents well above the TBA index for the rest of the century (apart from 1884 when the farm was in hand): an increase to £1 7s. 11d. per acre for laying on water supply in 1866, a new lease at £1 14s. per acre for the building of two new cottages in 1870, a further increase to £1 16s. 10d. per acre following the construction of a new farmhouse in 1872, an additional increase to £2 6s. 10d. following construction of new farm buildings, including a piggery, cattle lodge, and stables, in 1877, and two further cottages leading to a new lease at £2 9s. 18d. in 1885. These capital improvements, plus the grubbing of former woodland and new letting as arable land, kept the Little Delce rents high until they fell back in the first decade of the twentieth century.