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James Whatman II
James Whatman II (1742 - 1798)

The Whatman Family - Landlords of Grove Green Farm

In 1939, Charles Wingrove and his family moved from Middlesex to Maidstone and rented Grove Green Farm on the Vinters Park estate which was, at that time, owned by the Whatman family. The Whatman family has a long history and strong connections with the town of Maidstone.

In 1861, a photograph was shown at an exhibition of the London Photographic Society titled "Vinters, Near Maidstone: Seat of J Whatman, Esq". As further reminders of the Whatman family's long-standing connection with Maidstone, there is also a "James Whatman Way and "Whatman House" in the town.

James Whatman married Ann Harris in 1740. She was the widow of Richard Harris, who willed her the Turkey Mill. Within thirteen years, Whatman paper, turned out at the Turkey Mill, had the reputation of being the finest in England. This was the only paper Audubon used for his double elephant etchings. James Whatman developed a new type of paper called wove. James died in 1759, leaving the operations to his son James (pictured above) who sold the business in 1792 to Thomas Hollingworth and the Hollingworth family continued making paper until 1976. Napoleon wrote his will on Whatman paper as he sat on the island of St. Helena. George Washington signed state documents on Whatman paper. Queen Victoria chose Whatman paper for her personal correspondence and it is still used today as the writing paper of choice in Buckingham Palace.

James II died in 1798 aged 57 and, like many Whatmans, was buried at Boxley Church. His son, also called James, inherited the Vinters Park estate and himself had three sons. The estate passed to his eldest son James in 1852. At that time, the house could boast an icehouse, brew house, servants' hall, boat house, pantry, landscaped grounds with many exotic trees and plants and a large walled kitchen garden with heated glasshouses and extensive stables. This James died in 1887 but his widow, Louisa Isabella, remained there until 1905.

James and Louisa had several daughters who inherited the estate one by one, until the last was Miss Louisa Elizabeth Whatman who died in 1950 aged 92. She hadn't lived in Vinters for many years, residing instead in Newnham Court, and had rented out the estate to various occupiers including the Wingroves.

Having been empty for a number of years, the entire estate (comprising 660 acres) was sold to a property developer in 1956. Shortly after this the house burnt down, and was demolished. Vinters housing estate was built on the hop gardens and wheat fields to the West and later, Grove Green covered the former market garden on the East. Parkland became school playing fields and the rest of the land fell into ruin until a local couple - Donal and Lida MacGrory - found the site looking like a neglected wild garden and set about saving the land from further development. With the support of other local residents, further planning permission was reduced and eventually Kent County Council bought the remaining land.

Lida worked as unpaid warden and Donal became a parish councillor to fight for the park. Eventually KCC opened up the land as a park in 1987 and began to employ Lida. The park was transferred to a Trust in 1987 with a 99 year lease and it was awarded Local Nature Reserve status in 1992, becoming a thriving and much loved Nature Reserve from that time onwards.

More information about the Whatmans can be found in the accompanying article; The Wingroves at Grove Green.

The Whatman Company is still flourishing and it's website contains further information about the company's history and their connection with the Whatmans.