The heritage of Waldershare dates back many centuries and some of the earliest discoveries made in the parish are believed to date back to around 400,000 years, with Neolithic flints being unearthed at Malmains Ridge. The documented history for Waldershare starts with Odo (1030 – 1097),Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeux, who was the half-brother of William the Conqueror. Odo acquired vast tracts of English land, primarily in the south east and East Anglia. Odo acquired vast tracts of English land, primarily in the south east and East Anglia. This was the time that the estate at Waldershare, or Walwaresere as it was known then, was recorded amongst Odo’s possessions. At the time of the Domesday Survey the Manor of Waldershare was already under the possession of Bishop Odo, from whom it passed to the Crown. It was then held as a manor of Dover Castle by the Malmaines family. The manor was subsequently split up by inheritance, but the parts were later reunited under the possession of John Monins during the reign of Henry VI.
Waldershare later came into the possession of the Malmaines via Gilbert Maginot of Dover Castle (John de Malmalnes was standard bearer to the Norman Footmen at the Battle of Hastings). They built their manor house on land adjacent to the current Waldershare, which still bears the name Malmains to this day. By 1422, the ancient moated Malmains manor house was in a poor state of repair and John Monins relocated to Waldershare where he built his new manor house on the site of the current mansion. Sir Henry Furnese of Sandwich rebuilt Waldershare mansion between 1705 and 1712 in a style attributed to Inigo Jones. However, it has long been debated over which architect he used, but it was most probably William Talman (1650-1719).
Through inheritance and marriage the estate at Waldershare passed to the Earl of Guilford in 1766 and remained the seat of the Lords North and Earl of Guilford, until the mid-20th century.
Within the Park is Waldershare mansion, which is a Grade I listed property. The mansion was restored by Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1915, after the property was almost completely destroyed by a fire in 1913. The fire and conversion has meant that much of the original interior has been lost. During the 1970s the mansion was sold and converted into private apartments. The house is set in extensive parkland of some 400 hectares, which is Registered as Grade II within the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. Within the Park there is the Grade I Listed Waldershare Belvedere as well as an ice house, riding school and stables, fountain, The Kennels, cottages, Home Farm, cottage granaries, lodges and walled gardens are all Grade II listed.
The Waldershare Belvedere was built 1725-27 for Sir Henry Furnese and is attributed to either Lord Burlington, known as “the architect Earl” or Colen Campbell. The Belvedere is recognised as a nationally important Palladian style building, but is currently in a ruinous state and has been derelict for a number of years. The Belvedere is included on the English Heritage’s ‘Heritage at Risk Register’ and its condition is highlighted as being “very bad”.
During the early part of the 20th century one of the first collieries was established as the Guilford (Waldershare) Colliery, which started out as one of the first collieries in the Kent Coalfield. Disaster struck in 1913, when Waldershare mansion suffered a devastating fire, which completely destroyed the interior of the property, leaving only the outer walls standing. The house was eventually restored by the architect Sir Reginald Theodore Blomfield. Throughout the Second World War facilities were moved from the Royal Victoria Hospital in Dover to Waldershare mansion. Tragedy struck again when the Earl of Guilford’s son and daughter were killed in 1940 by standing on a landmine while taking a walk along Sandwich Bay. Finally, due to the rising costs of managing such a large estate plans were rejected in 1965 by KCC for the demolition of Waldershare mansion, before it was placed under a preservation order and proposals were made to convert the mansion into apartments. During the early 1970s, apartments were created and in 1987 a new scheme was set up, which has since seen 100% occupany.
Written by Colin Varrall