This place is supposed to derive its name from the Saxon words
bec, a brook, and ham, a dwelling. A small stream, which
falls into the Ravensbourn, passes through the parish.
Extent and nature of the land, and how occupied.
Beckenham lies in the hundred of Bromley and Beckenham, at
the distance of nine miles and a quarter from London-bridge. The
parish is bounded by Lewisham, Bromley, Hayes, and West Wickham, in Kent; and by Croydon, a small portion of Camberwell,
and Penge, (a detached hamlet of Battersea,) in Surrey. It contains
about 3170 acres of land, of which, in the year 1793, about 1850
were arable, 1080 meadow and pasture, and about 240 wood and
orchards. A considerable quantity has since been laid down to
grass. The waste land does not exceed 30 or 40 acres. The soil
is for the most part clay and gravel; in some parts loam. This
parish pays the sum of 241l. 4s. to the land-tax, which is at the
rate of about 2s. in the pound.
The manor of Beckenham was held of King Edward the Consessor, by Anschil. When the survey of Doomsday was taken (fn. 1) ,
Ansgot, of Rochester, held it under Odo, Bishop of Baieux.
Richard de la Rokele died seised of it in 1276 (fn. 2) . His son Philip
left a daughter and sole heir, Isolda (fn. 3) , married to Sir William Bruyn;
from whom this manor descended (fn. 4) to Sir Henry Bruyn, who died
in 1461, leaving two daughters, coheirs (fn. 5) . Alice the eldest had, by
her first husband John Berners, Esq. a son, who died without issue;
upon which, a moiety of this manor was inherited by John Harlefton, son of her second husband (fn. 6) . Clement Harleston sold it, in
1530, to Robert Legh, Esq. (fn. 7) , whose descendant of the same
name, in 1610, aliened it to Henry Snelgar, or Snelgrave, Esq. (fn. 8)
(afterwards knighted). About the year 1650, it was sold, by his
grandson Henry Snelgrave, Esq. to Walter St. John, Esq. (fn. 9) , in
whose family the manor became again united.—Elizabeth, second
daughter of Sir Henry Bruyn, married, to her first husband (fn. 10) ,
Thomas Tyrrell, Esq. whose descendants inherited the other moiety
of this manor; one of them, whose name also was Thomas, left a
daughter and sole heir, married to Sir John Dalston, by whom she
had two daughters. Catherine, one of these coheirs, married Sir
Henry Curwen (fn. 11) . About the year 1650, Sir Patrick Curwen, his
son, sold a moiety of the manor of Beckenham to Oliver St.
John, Esq. (fn. 13) ; from whom it came to Sir Walter St. John, Bart.
already possessed of the other moiety. The manor, thus united,
continued in the St. John family till the year 1773, when Frederick,
the late Viscount Bolingbroke, sold it to John Cator, Esq. (fn. 14) , the present proprietor, who resides in an elegant mansion, which he built
soon after his purchase of the estate, and called Beckenham-place.
It stands on an eminence, and commands a beautiful, though not a
very extensive prospect.
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.
Philipott informs us, that Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, son
of Elizabeth Bruyn, before mentioned, by her second husband, resided in the manor-house of Beckenham as lessee; and that he
entertained Henry VIII. there, "with all the cunning pompe of
magnificence, as he went to bestow a visit, at Hever, on his discarded and repudiated wife, Anne of Cleve (fn. 15) ."
Foxgrove-farm belonged, at a very early period, to a family of
that name (fn. 16) . Bartholomew de Burghersh died seised of it in 1354 (fn. 17) .
His son Bartholomew aliened it, in 1369, to Sir Walter de Pavely (fn. 18) .
About the end of the same century, it passed from the Pavelys to
the family of Vaux, of Northamptonshire (fn. 19) . Sir Thomas Grene,
who had purchased it of the Vaux's, died seised of it in 1465 (fn. 20) .
About the year 1510, it came into the family of Baversea. Hum
phrey Baversea aliened it to Luke Hollingworth, who, about the
year 1547, sold it to Sir John Olyffe (fn. 21) , whose only daughter and
heir married John Leigh, Esq. of Addington, in Surrey. From
him, it descended to Sir Francis Leigh, who died in 1711 (fn. 22) , having
directed this and other estates to be sold. This farm was purchased,
in 1716, by Mr. John Tolson, and descended to Lancelot Tolson
Tilly, who devised it to Timewell Brydges, Esq. for his life, with
remainder to John and Edward Brydges, of Wotton. In 1765, it
was sold by the Brydges's to Jones Raymond, Esq. who died in
1768, having left this estate between Amy his sister, relict of Peter
Burrell, Esq. and William and George Evelyn Glanville, Esqrs. the
sons of Bridget, another sister. Mrs. Burrell, having purchased their
share, became possessed of the whole. She died in 1789, when
this estate devolved upon her son, the late Sir William Burrell, Bart.
who sold it to his nephew, Sir Peter (now Lord Gwedir). Sir Peter
Burrell exchanged it, in 1793, for other lands, with John Cator, Esq.
who is the present proprietor.
Kelseys, a considerable estate in this parish, belonged to a family
of that name (fn. 23) . In the latter part of the fourteenth century it came,
by purchase, to the Brograves. In 1479, William Brograve had a
licence for an oratory at Kelseys (fn. 24) . A descendant of the Brograves
sold it, about the year 1688, to Peter Burrell, Esq. (fn. 25) , ancestor of the
Right Honourable Lord Gwedir, who is the present proprietor.
Hasted supposes the manor of Lasela, described in Doomsday, to
be the same estate which is now called Langley-park (fn. 26) . I think that
the orthography seems too remote, even had the name of Langley
been more ancient; but it appears that it derived its present name
from a family who purchased lands in Beckenham of Henry de
Cliffe, about the year 1350 (fn. 27) . Ralph Langley, who died in 1451,
directed this estate to be sold: the purchaser was John Violett (fn. 28) ,
whose descendants enjoyed it till about the year 1510, when it was
conveyed to John Style, Esq. (fn. 29) Elizabeth, the daughter and sole
heir of Humphrey Style, the last heir-male of that family, married
Sir John Elwill, Bart. who died in 1727. His brother, Sir Edmund, sold Langley-park to Hugh Raymond, Esq. who settled it on
his only son Jones Raymond, with remainder to his eldest daughter
Amy and her issue. Jones Raymond, Esq. died without issue in
1768; his sister Amy married Peter Burrell, Esq. whose grandson,
the Right Hon. Lord Gwedir, is the present proprietor of Langleypark, where he resides in the summer season.
Kent-house, in this parish, was for several generations the property and residence of the Lethieulliers. John Greene Lethieullier, Esq. sold it, in 1776, to Thomas Lucas, Esq. of Lee (fn. 30) . The
present proprietor is John Julius Angerstein, Esq. in right of his
wife, who was relict of Mr. Lucas. It is now occupied as a farm.
Among the principal seats at Beckenham, are those of the Right
Hon. Lord Auckland (purchased of J. A. Rucker, Esq.); Joseph
Cator, Esq. (formerly Sir Piercy Brett's); Richard Henry Alexander Bennet, Esq.; and Edward King, Esq. F. R. A. S. author of
Morsels of Criticism, tending to illustrate the Scriptures; and Dissertations on ancient Castles.
The parish church, dedicated to St. George, is a neat structure,
consisting of a chancel, nave, and two aisles, both of which were
built by Oliver Style, Esq. about the beginning of the last century.
At the west end is a handsome spire, which was rebuilt a few years
ago, having received great damage by lightning, on the 24th of
Against the north wall of the chancel stands a table tomb, ornamented with lozenges, quatresoils, and foliage, in memory of Sir
Humphrey Style and his wife Bridget, (daughter of Sir Thomas
Bauldrey, Lord Mayor of London,) whose essigies in brass are fixed
on the wall above, together with that of Elizabeth, second wife and
relict of the deceased (daughter of George Peryn, Esq.). They
are all habited in surcoats, on which are the arms of their families (fn. 31) .
Bridget Style died in 1548; Sir Humphrey, in 1552. On the same
wall are the monuments of Benjamin Burdett (fn. 32) , merchant, son of
Robert Burdett, Esq. (second son of Sir Thomas Burdett, Bart.) by
Mary, daughter of Nathan Wright, merchant, 1710; Ellen,
daughter of George Fairclough, merchant, 1746; St. John
Hare, Esq. 1750; and Mrs. Jane Clerke (fn. 33) , 1757.—On the south
wall are monuments in memory of Richard Acland (fn. 34) , Esq. (brother of Sir Hugh Acland, Bart.), 1735; Ann, his wife, daughter of
Peter Burrell, Esq. 1771; Stephen Holland, Esq. 1768; and Sir
Piercy Brett, Admiral of the Blue, who died Oct. 14, 1781, in
the seventy-second year of his age. On the floor, are the tombs of
William Danyell, alias Malham, rector, 1458 (the inscription is on
a brass plate with a Gothic canopy, but the effigies of the deceased
has been removed); Dame Margaret, wife of Sir William Damsell,
Knt. (with the effigies of the deceased in brass), 1563; Ellen Berney,
her sister, daughter of John Berney, Esq. of Redham, Norfolk, (by
his first wife Margaret, daughter of William Reade, Esq. of Beccles,)
1609; Elizabeth, wife of John Christmas (fn. 36) , citizen of London, 1653;
Richard Hale, and Sarah his wife, 1678; and —— Clarke, Esq.
Elder Brother of the Trinity-house, 1769.
Under the south aisle (built by Oliver Style), is the burial-place
belonging to Langley-house. On the north wall of this aisle, are the
monuments of Sir Humphrey Style, Knt. and Bart. of England and
Ireland, 1659; Thomas Style, LL. D. 1677; William Style, Esq.
barrister at law (fn. 37) , 1679; Humphrey Style, Esq. (fn. 38) , 1718; Sir John
Elwill (fn. 39) , Bart. 1727; Elizabeth, his relict, only daughter and heir of
Humphrey Style, 1731; (her monument was erected, pursuant to the
will of Henry Bartelot, Esq. who died at Paris, in 1732). On the
south wall is the monument of Hugh Raymond, Esq. (with a medallion of the deceased), 1737: on the east wall, that of Jones Raymond, Esq. 1768; and a very handsome monument, of various kinds
of marble, (by Hickey,) erected by the late Sir William Burrell, Bart.
in memory of his mother, Amy, widow of Peter Burrell, Esq. who
died in 1789, aged 89. The bas-relief, in front of the sarcophagus,
represents the deceased in the act of administering charity to the
poor (fn. 40) .
In the north aisle (built also by Oliver Style) is a handsome monument of veined marble, with a medallion of the deceased, in
memory of Peter Burrell, Esq. 1756 (fn. 41) : there are monuments also
of Peter Burrell, Esq. 1775; Sir Merrik Burrell, Bart. (fourth son
of Peter Burrell, by Isabella, second daughter of John Merrik, Esq.),
1787; and Dudley Baxter, Esq. 1766. In the nave are monuments of Peter Burrell, Esq. (fn. 42) , (ninth son of Walter Burrell, of
Holmstead, in the parish of Cuckfield, Sussex,) 1718; Isabella his
wife, daughter of John Merrik, Esq. 1725; and Osgood Gee, Esq.
1766. On the floor are the tombs of Arthur Heywood, 1617; Captain Leonard Bower, 1712; Captain Leonard Bower, 1717; Mrs.
Ann Gater, 1745; and Mr. James Pillener, 1792.
Tombs in the churchyard.
Against the south wall of the chancel, on the outside, is a monument in memory of John Crane (no date), and Phœbe Blondel, wife
of his son Stafford Crane, surgeon, (daughter of John Freke, surgeon,)
1745. In the churchyard are the tombs of Henry King, of Beckenham, Gent. 1520; Robert King, his son, 1555; Rose, wife of Captain Peter Renouf, 1719; Captain Stephen Jerom, 1723; the Rev.
Epiphanius Holland, 1730; John Shish, Esq. 1732; Mary, wife of
Samuel Wragg, merchant, 1737; Richard Holden, of Lincoln's-Inn,
1737; Captain Zachary Tovey, 1740; Benjamin Turton, 1747; Elizabeth, his daughter, wife of the Rev. Robert Nicholas, 1791; Mary,
wife of Thomas Peache, 1751; John Peache, 1771; Mr. John Warriner, apothecary, 1753; Jefferson Miles, Esq. 1763; Edward Miles, Esq.
1777; Elizabeth, relict of Edward Miles, afterwards wife of Richard
Forman, Esq. 1795; St. John Humphrey, 1764; John Willis,
Esq. of Beddington-hall, Suffolk, 1764; Temperance, his wife,
(only daughter and heir of Sir Edward Hannes, M. D. physician to Queen Anne,) 1765; Anne Isted, a child, "killed by
the careless discharge of a pistol, at the distance of 337 yards,"
Aug. 25, 1766; Captain Thomas Motley, 1770; Anne, wife of
Richard Neave, of London, merchant, 1776; the Rev. James
Hales, rector of St. Anne, Limehouse, 1780; William Devisme,
Esq. 1781; Elizabeth, his daughter, wife of the Rev. Edward Auriol
Hay Drummond, 1790; Mrs. Alice Venables, 1789; and William
Watson, Esq. 1795.
The church of Beckenham is a rectory in the diocese of Rochester,
and in the deanery of Dartford. In the reign of Edward I. it was
valued at 25 marks; in the King's books it is rated at 16l. 18s. 9d.
The commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of ecclesiastical
benefices, in 1650, found by their inquest, that the glebe belonging
to this rectory was then worth 30l. per annum, and the tithes 110l. (fn. 43)
The advowson of this benefice descended with the manor of Beckenham, till the year 1773, when Lord Bolingbroke sold the manor
to Mr. Cator, reserving the advowson, which he afterwards alienated to Mr. Rose. It is now vested in his son, who is the present
William Assheton, rector.
William Assheton, D. D. instituted to this rectory in 1676, was
fellow of Brazen Nose College in Oxford. He published some practical and devotional tracts; several pamphlets against the Papists
and diffenters, and some single sermons. He was the first projector
of a scheme for providing a maintenance for widows by the benefit
of survivorship (fn. 45) . Dr. Assheton died at Beckenham in September
1711, and was there buried. A life of him was published by Mr.
Watts, vicar of Orpington.
The present rector is the Rev. William Rose, M. A.; who, in
1778, succeeded William Fraigneau, Greek professor in the University of Cambridge; and vicar of Battersea.
The register of baptisms, burials, and marriages, begins in 1538.
Comparative state of population.
||Average of Baptisms.
||Average of Burials.
The present number of houses is about 140.
In 1603, there were 24 burials; in 1625, one only is entered;
in 1665, there were 18.
Extracts from the Register.
Family of Style.
"Bridget, daughter of Humphrey Style, baptized March 4,
1538–9; John, son of Sr Humphrey, Dec. 24, 1540; Oliver,
Dec. 25, 1542; Nicholas, Jan. 12, 1545–6; Edward, Jan. 21,
1546–7; Bridget, wife of Sr Humphrey Style, buried June 9,
1548; Humphrey, son of Sr Humphrey, baptized July 11, 1550;
Maria, his daughter, Mar. 19, 1551–2; Sr Humphrey Style, buried
Apl 7, 1552. Mr. Thomas Townesend and the Lady Elizabeth
Style, (widow of Sr Humphrey,) married June 27, 1558."
"Elizabeth, wife of Sr Humphrey Style, Knt and Bart, buried
Dec. 27, 1641; Charles, his son (fn. 46) , Feb. 6, 1653–4."
"Christian, daughter of Sr Henry Snelgar, Knt, buried Dec. 14,
1623; Chancy, his son, Decr 1624; Lettice, his wife, Jan. 9,
1624–5; Sr Henry Snelgrave (fn. 47) , Knt, Mar. 11, 1638–9; Robert,
his son, Apl 20, 1639."
"Nicholas Carew (fn. 48) of Beddington, and Ann Lennard, married
Oct. 5, 1710."
Margaret Finch, Queen of the Gipsies.
Anecdotes relating to the Gipsies.
"Margaret Finch, buried Oct. 24, 1740." This remarkable
person lived to the age of 109 years. She was one of the people
called Gipsies, and had the title of their Queen. After travelling
over various parts of the kingdom, during the greater part of a century, she settled at Norwood; whither her great age, and the same
of her fortune-telling, attracted numerous visitors. From a habit of
sitting on the ground, with her chin resting on her knees, the sinews
at length became so contracted, that she could not rise from that posture; after her death they were obliged to inclose her body in a deep
square box. Her funeral was attended by two mourning coaches;
a sermon was preached upon the occasion, and a great concourse of
people attended the ceremony. There is an engraved portrait of
Margaret Finch, from a drawing made in 1739. Her picture
adorns the sign-post of a house of public entertainment in Norwood,
called the Gipsy-house (fn. 49) . In an adjoining cottage lives an old
woman, grandaughter of Queen Margaret, who inherits her title.
She is niece of Queen Bridget, who was buried at Dulwich in
1768 (fn. 50) . Her rank seems to be merely titular; I do not find that
the Gipsies pay her any particular respect; or that she differs in any
other respect, than that of being a householder, from the rest of her
tribe. A few leading facts relating to this extraordinary race of
people, who are scattered over most parts of Europe, Asia, and
America, will, it is presumed, not be unacceptable in this place to
my readers. The Gipsies are called, on most parts of the Continent,
Cingari, or Zingari; the Spaniards call them Gitanos. It is not
certain when they first appeared in Europe; but mention is made of
them in Hungary and Germany, so early as the year 1417. Within
ten years afterwards, we hear of them in France, Switzerland, and
Italy (fn. 51) . The date of their arrival in England is more uncertain;
it is most probable, that it was not till nearly a century afterwards.
In the year 1530, they are thus spoken of in the penal statutes:
Forasmuch as before this time, divers and many outlandish people,
calling themselves Egyptians, using no craft nor feat of merchandize, have come into this realm, and gone from shire to shire,
and place to place, in great company, and used great subtil
and crafty means to deceive the people; bearing them in hand
that they, by palmistry, could tell men's and women's fortunes;
and so, many times, by craft and subtilty, have deceived the
people of their money; and also have committed many heinous
selonies and robberies, to the great hurt and deceit of the people
they have come among," &c. This is the preamble to an act,
by which the Gipsies were ordered to quit the realm under heavy
penalties. Two subsequent acts, passed in 1555 and 1563, made it
death for them to remain in the kingdom; and it remains on record,
that thirteen were executed under these acts, at the assizes for the
county of Suffolk, a few years before the Restoration. It was not
till about the year 1783 that they were repealed. The Gipsies were
expelled France in 1560; and Spain in 1591: but it does not appear
that they have been extirpated in any country. Their collective
numbers, in every quarter of the globe, have been calculated at
7 or 800,000 (fn. 52) . They are most numerous in Asia, and in the
northern parts of Europe. Various have been the opinions relating to their origin. That they came from Egypt, has been
the most prevalent: this opinion (which has procured them here
the name of Gipsies, and in Spain that of Gitanos) arose from
some of the first who arrived in Europe pretending that they came
from that country; which they did, perhaps, to heighten their reputation for skill in palmistry and the occult sciences. It is now, I
believe, pretty generally agreed, that they came originally from
Hindostan (fn. 53) ; since their language so far coincides with the Hindostanic, that even now, after a lapse of more than three centuries,
during which they have been dispersed in various foreign countries,
nearly one-half of their words are precisely those of Hindostan;
and scarcely any variation is to be found in vocabularies procured
from the Gipsies in Turkey, Hungary, Germany, and those in
England (fn. 54) . Their manners, for the most part, coincide, as well as
their language, in every quarter of the globe where they are found;
being the same idle, wandering set of beings, and seldom professing
any ostensible mode of livelihood, except that of fortune-telling.
Their religion is always that of the country in which they reside;
and though they are no great frequenters either of mosques or
churches, they generally conform to rites and ceremonies as they
find them established (fn. 55) . Upon the whole, we may certainly, as
Grellman says (fn. 56) , "regard the Gipsies as a singular phenomenon in
Europe; for the space of between three and four hundred years
they have gone wandering about like pilgrims and strangers, yet
neither time nor example has made in them any alteration; they
remain ever, and every where, what their fathers were; Africa
makes them no blacker, nor does Europe make them whiter."
"Mr. Richard Hoare (afterwards Sr Richard Hoare, Bart.) and
Frances Ann Acland, married May 7, 1761."
Sir Piercy Brett.
"Sr Piercy Brett, Knt, buried Oct. 25, 1781." This brave
officer was son of Mr. Piercy Brett, master attendant, successively,
of the dockyards at Sheerness and Chatham. He served as Lieutenant on board the Centurion in Lord Anson's voyage; and commanded the detachment which took Payta, Nov. 10, 1741. He
was made a Post-Captain before his return home. The drawings
referred to in the printed narrative of that voyage, were taken by
him. When commander of the Lion, he had a memorable engagement with the Elizabeth, which was convoying the young Pretender to Scotland, and obliged her to return to Brest totally disabled.
He was knighted in 1753, and made a Rear Admiral in 1761;
but was never in any active service after he became a flag-officer.
Sir Piercy Brett was for some time representative in parliament for
Queenborough in Kent. He married Henrietta, daughter of Thomas Colby, Esq. clerk of the Cheque at Chatham, by whom he
had two sons, who died young, and one daughter, Henrietta.
Lady Brett was buried at Beckenham Aug. 31, 1788. Sir Piercy
Brett resided, during the latter part of his life, at the house which
is now the seat of Joseph Cator, Esq.
Family of Eden, Lord Aukland.
"George, son of William Eden, Esq. (now Ld Aukland) and
Eleanor, born Aug. 25, 1784; Mary Dulcibella, daughter of the
Rt Hon. Wm Ld Aukland and Eleanor his Lady, born Sep. 2,
1793; Henry Eden, aged 8 years, buried June 16, 1794."
"Sr John Edward Swinburne of Capheaton, Northumberland,
Bart, and Emilia Elizabeth Bennet (fn. 57) , married July 13, 1787."
"Robert Fox, aged 55 years, Thomas Fox, aged 7 years, and
Robert Fox, aged 6 years, buried Jany 2d, 1794. N. B. These
three persons were suffocated by wood-ashes being placed in their
bed-rooms to dry the walls, which were new."
Instances of longevity.
"Old Elizabeth Prowden, aged, as is reported, nigh 100 years,
buried Augst 10, 1678; Richard Easland, parish clerk, aged 90,
Feb. 20, 1699–700; Frances Dean, from the workhouse, aged
93 years, Jany 24, 1793; Nathaniel Hinge, aged 91, July 13,
At the south-east corner of the churchyard are three small almshouses, erected by Anthony Rawlins, Esq. in 1694, for the use of
the poor; they have no endowment.
Charity for the education of children.
Capt. Leonard Bower (fn. 58) gave the sum of 100l. for the education
of poor children. There has been no other benefaction for this
purpose; nor is there any public subscription or collection for a
school, but most of the children of the poor, to the number of
three-score and upward, are educated by private charity.
Benefaction to the poor.
Mrs. Mary Wragg, who died in 1737, about ten years before her
death, purchased an annuity of 15l. per annum, which she directed
to be thus appropriated:
To the curate, on condition that he fees her tomb kept clean, 1l. 1s.
The same sum for an annual dinner for the curate, clerk, and parish officers.
The sum of 12l. 10s. when not wanted for the repairs of her vault, to be divided between 20 poor persons, and thus distributed in equal proportions to each:—Eighteen pennyworth of good bread; five shillings worth of coals, and 4s. 6d. in money. If a part
of the said sum should be wanted for repairs, the remainder to be distributed among
poor persons as far as it will go, in like manner.
The residue of the 15l. above mentioned, being 8s. to the clerk, to keep the vault
clean, and to repair the rails and the door.