House History

1698 – John Harrison leaves ‘tenement and 1½ acres’ to his son John.

1708 – Robert Wright buys ‘messuage (property) and 1½ acres’ off John Wright (possibly a clerical error – was this John Harrison?).

17?? – Robert Wright dies, leaving property to his daughter Ann Hodges.

1736 – Ann Hodges dies, leaving property to her son John Hodges.

Mid C18 – The house goes through two owners: John Newling and Thomas Chapman.

1776 – House in possession of Edward Pearman, baker, of Cromer, and rented to James Copperwit.

1810 – A property, smaller than the current one, is shown on a map.  It is owned by Thomas Pearman, miller, of Cromer, and rented to Joseph Edwards.

1823 – Thomas Field, farmer, buys property off Thomas Pearman.

1825 – Thomas Field sells the ‘messuage’ to Mr John Fray, a blacksmith.

1841 – Census shows the house occupied by Fray, then aged 58 and now a farmer, Sarah Andrews (aged 45), his housekeeper, and Mary Hurry (aged 10).

1848 – John Fray dies.  He leaves the property to Sarah Andrews for her lifetime, after which it is to be split three ways between his second cousins, William Bray (a wheelwright), James Bray (a carpenter) and Robert Bray.

1851 – Census shows the house occupied by Sarah, her niece Eliza Hurry (aged 20, so either the twin sister of Mary Hurry or the same person) and a lodger, George Webb, a labourer aged 21.

1855 – Robert Bray dies and his entitlement passes to his only son George, who is 16.

1860 – (Jan.)  George, now a cooper, becomes 21 and takes possession of his entitlement. (Nov.)  Sarah Andrews dies.

1861 – James Bray buys out William and George for £109 10s each.  He does not move into the house, but rents it out.  (I don’t know who to.)

1867 – James (who continues to live in Walkern) mortgages the property to Thomas Vesey for £260.  Around this time he sets up a brewing business, presumably funded by this mortgage.

1886 – James Bray sells his brewing business and repays the mortgage to Thomas Vesey’s widow, Catherine.  Some time in the next three years, James dies and his widow, Sarah, moves to London.

1896 – (Oct.) Sun Yat Sen is rescued from Chinese Legation by James Cantlie. (3 Nov.)  Sarah Bray sells the house to Mabel Cantlie for £780.  Mabel buys it as a present for her husband, James.

1896 – 1911 - Sun Yat Sen visits The Kennels whenever he is in Britain.

1897 - Friends of Sun in Hong Kong send James Cantlie a wooden tablet with the Chinese characters for ‘Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall obtain Mercy’ on.  These characters are subsequently used on the Cantlie family tomb.

1905 - Dr Sun visits The Kennels: the visit that was recalled by the Cantlies’ youngest son Kenneth in his introduction to the 1960 China Society Reprint of Sun’s ‘Kidnapped in London’.

“Dr Sun always stayed with us whenever he came to London, and two pictures stay in my mind.  The first was at our country house in Hertfordshire, and I must have been about five years old.  It was sunset on a summer evening, and Dr Sun was walking up and down in the orchard.  He was wearing a grey frock-coat and his Homburg hat was tilted forward to keep the level sun out of his eyes.  He had his hands behind his back and was pondering deeply.  I was about to rush up to him in my usual impetuous way, when I stopped.  ‘He is probably thinking Great Thoughts’ I said to myself, and I went quietly away.  I was not in the least afraid of Dr Sun, who was kindness itself, but my parents and my nurse may have put the idea into my head that here was a great man who must not be interrupted when he was thinking…”

1907 – James Cantlie awarded the KBE, becoming ‘Sir James’.

1911 – (29 Dec) Sun Yat Sen elected first President of the Republic of China.

1921 – Mabel Cantlie dies, leaving the house to Sir James for his life, and then to Kenneth.

1926 – Sir James dies.

1929 – 33 - Dr Sao-ke Alfred Sze is Chinese Ambassador to Great Britain.  Some time during this period, he unveils a memorial to Sir James in Cottered church.

At some time in the 1930s, The Kennels is a Guest House.

1957 –  Kenneth Cantlie sells the house to Margaret West for £2,475.

1965 – The Kennels is visited by Deson C Sze, son of Dr Sze and former secretary to Song Ziwen (TV Soong), Sun Yat Sen’s brother in law.

1991 – The Chinese connection is continued by Christopher West, Margaret’s son, with the publication of a China travelogue, .

2001 – First visit by China Central Television.

2011 – Visit by Wang Jianjun and team from CCTV as part of filming a ten-part documentary series on the centenary of Dr Sun’s ‘Xinhai’ revolution.