Estate History & The Nevills of Birling
Probably our favourite Nevill of Birling over the generations is Sir George, 5th Baron Bergavenny. Sir George was Chief Larderer for Henry VIII – the renowned gourmond – and also competed for him in France in 1520 on the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Not one to sit around, he also held the post of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. His son, Henry Nevill, also managed to keep in with the Royal Family; Queen Elizabeth I is recorded as having visited him in Birling for a few days as part of her travels in 1573. The Manor of Birling was originally part of the possessions of Odo, Bishop of Baieux, half-brother of William the Conqueror. Following that Ralph de Curva Spina resided at the Manor House of Birling called Comfort until 1154, it then passed through various families to Elizabeth Beauchamp, daughter of the Earl of Worcester, who married Sir Edward Nevill in 1435. At that time it was a deer park and has remained in the Nevill family ever since. The very shortlived Birling Manor House was built in the 1830’s by the Hon. Rev. William Nevill, later the 4th Earl of Abergavenny. But early in the morning of January 17th 1917 fire broke out and the house was almost totally demolished – bringing to an end what was at the time a central part of village life.
Ne vile velis – ‘form no mean wish’
It’s not only on our family crest – it represents how we approach the next phase of the Estate’s continuing story. Heading towards our 600th anniversary in 2035, we wanted to develop a vision and a brand for the next 20 years that would help drive the ventures forward. A heritage brand based around ‘healthy enjoyment of life’ The new ventures bring into use areas of the Estate that had been untouched and unmanaged for many years. Much needed diversification that can help enhance and support the conservation and restoration of the natural heritage of the Estate. The brand has been a development of the crests and emblems used by my family over the generations – a sensitive re-interpretation relevant to the 21C. The brand has an almost nurturing role – it becomes a constant reminder of what we want to achieve. Guy Nevill.
The farming on the Estate has moved with the times; the hop fields and orchards so apparent in the old tithe maps, being replaced with livestock and arable in the last century. Since the loss of the cattle, the arable farming has become more intensive and we have now begun a programme to improve the long-term soil health. The 1000 acres of arable and 100 acres of pasture are managed under the Environmental Stewardship Scheme. This is apparent in the field margins and areas set aside for wild bird seed and nectar mixes to support the birds and the bees.
The estate has around 700 acres of predominantly ancient woodland. The woodland compartments are a mixture of sweet chestnut coppice with oak standards and mixed broadleaves. There are occasional conifer plantations which are being harvested and restored to native species. For many years the timber value did not support significant management of the woodland, however we are in the process of bringing the ancient woodland back into management and restoring for commercial timber production & amenity value. The increased management also improves the biodiversity of the woodland and encourages the wildlife. All harvesting is done with reference to our Woodland Management plan and Forestry Commission felling licences. We are also accelerating our coppicing programme using local coppicing firms. All work is overseen by our head forester, who also provides certified training courses on the Estate in all aspects of practical forestry work.