The Story of Bunce Court

Bunce Court

To read about a special event at Bunce Court in July 2007 to unveil a plaque for Anna Essinger and the Herrlingen School, CLICK HERE

To read more about Anna Essinger and the Herrlingen School, CLICK HERE

Originally known as "Pollards", Bunce Court is just under a mile to the south of Otterden Place.

In the 17th century, it was owned by the Bunce family and so acquired the title of Bunce Court.

One of the earliest records is of James Bunce, who inherited the property from his father Simon Bunce. A London merchant and also a Member of Parliament, James died in 1631, having been a great benefactor to Otterden parish.

He was succeeded by his son, also James Bunce. As a Sheriff of London under Charles I and a staunch loyalist, he was subjected to persecution and imprisonment in the Tower and confiscation of his estates (by Cromwell). With the accession of Charles II, James' position and estates were restored and, as compensation, he was knighted.

He and his wife, Sarah, had two sons - Sir James Bunce (who succeeded to his father's estates at Kemsing, Kent) and John, who inherited Bunce Court. After a while, he sold it to a Mr Roger Paine of Hall Place.

Around 1710, Mr Paine disposed of the house to a Mr Richard Knocke, who, in 1756, sold it to a Mr Edward Chapman. He is said to have greatly improved the property and lived there until he sold it to a Mr Stringer Belcher. The latter died unmarried and it passed to his brother, a Mr William Belcher of Ulcombe, Kent.

Shortly before the First World War, the building was bought by Brigadier General Sir William Manning. He carried out substantial improvements and it was then let to a Mr and Mrs F. Hawley. They are said to have lived in fine style with a domestic staff of 14, three gardeners, an odd job man and three people tending their five cars!

In 1933, the house was taken over by a Miss Anna Essinger, a pioneering educationalist who had left her school at Ulm, Germany, fearful of Hitler's rise to power. She established her "New Herrlingen School" at Bunce Court, offering a place of refuge for the many Jewish pupils sent to the school by their rightfully anxious German parents.

Miss Essinger, perhaps encouraged by very limited finances, expected her pupils to undertake much of the domestic work and gardening. Nonetheless, her small school offered a wide-ranging curriculum with a strong emphasis on music, dance and drama. The school closed in 1948. The late humorist and composer Gerard Hoffnung was one of its former pupils, as was the distinguished artist Frank Auerbach.

During the 1960s, Bunce Court served as an old people's home. In the early 1980s, the main house was sold and converted into four separate properties, each residence being allocated part of the grounds.

In the mid-1990s, most of the remaining grounds were sold to a developer and five new houses were built, the new development being known as "Pollards". Later, "Bunce Court Barn", a listed building lying between the main house and "Pollards", was modernised and converted as a residence.

This page was last updated on August 2, 2007