One of the first things folks often ask when visiting Brampton is “How old is the house?” along with “What is the history of the place?” Given that 2010 marks the 150th birthday of the house (well, the “newer” part is 150; the older, clapboard sided part was built in the 1830’s), we thought we’d share a bit of the history as we know it.
In 1798 John Beale Bordley is recorded as owning the property, Fairy Hill, where “Brampton” now exists. Important in early Maryland affairs, Bordley, an attorney, served as judge in the provincial court, as judge of the Admiralty, and as member of the Governor’s council. He lived both in Annapolis and the Eastern Shore. Bordley declined George Washington’s offer of public office. He was widely known for his agricultural writings and the utilization of crop rotation to increase harvest, an idea not applied at the time. It is unknown who and when (ca. 1830 to 1840) built the early clapboard house. The house was, however, built on a different location than where it stands today. One of its wings was eventually destroyed by fire. A year after purchasing Fairy Hill in 1857, Henry Ward Carville married Anna Whaland, a young woman who was about forty years his junior. He moved the remains of the clapboard house to its present location and added the brick portion and the south wing, now the Fairy Hill Suite.
Carville, known in the county as a gentleman farmer, is also on record as being the biggest slave owner of the area.
The following description is an excerpt from the book “Historic Houses of Kent County”
by Michael Bourne and Eugene Johnstone:
The brick section of Brampton is one of the most impressive of the Antebellum dwellings in Kent County. It is a five-bay wide three-story building with moderately pitched metal roof having a cross gable above the central bay. Paired brackets enrich the cornice on all sides. As built, there was a porch around three sides of the structure. In many details it is similar to the Kent County Courthouse that was built in 1860. The interior of the house is even more impressive than the exterior.
The plan of the front section is standard for the period, consisting of a central stair hall with two flanking rooms. The balustrade of the stair is not the usual mahogany structure, but rather is made with a turned and carved newel post of walnut with acanthus leaves, rope molding and flutes on an octagonal base made of walnut.
The doors, sash (windows) and baseboards are likewise also made of walnut, the only such use of the fine wood in the county. The two flanking rooms have somewhat standard marbleized slate (now painted) mantles which were originally fit with integral arched coal stoves. In the center of the ceilings of the two large front rooms as well as the first and second story halls are original plaster medallions.
For many years Carville grew peaches on his farm, but towards the end of his life, a blight killed the trees and the income they had produced. His great house was sold to settle the estate. Carville died in the 1890’s and he is buried at St. Paul’s.
Harrison W. Vickers bought the property at auction in 1886. It remained in his family until 1937. There is no evidence that he ever lived at Fairy Hill; it was apparently occupied by tenants during most, if not all, of their ownership. During that time the front rooms are said to have been used for agricultural storage, especially meat in the living room, which left many stains in the flooring. Dr. Frank Hines and his wife bought the property in 1937. By then the manor house had fallen into rather poor condition, from which it was rescued at that time. The name “Brampton” was given to the estate by Dr. Hines who owned it until 1950. The name originated with Dr. Hines’ mother’s line and property on their Emory estate in England.
The Hanscoms bought “Brampton” in 1987 as a private residence with the intention of opening a Bed & Breakfast. They opened the doors to the public on December 12, 1987 with two guest rooms. Brampton Inn now has twelve luxurious guest rooms. In 2004 they finished the restoration of the wrap around porch and the “Belvedere” which had been removed in 1937.
There is quite a bit of history in this old house. We invite you to visit Brampton and make a little of your own history!