The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.
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This place, called in antient deeds, Levesham, derives its name from its situation, Leves, or Leswes, in Saxon signifying pastures, and ham, a town or village. (fn. 1)
This parish lies low and flat. The river Ravensborne directs its course through it northward, at a small distance westward of the village or street of Lewisham, which stands on the roads to Beckenham and Bromley, and extends up to the Eltham road, beyond which it extends, northward, up the hill to Blackheath, which is a small part of it within its bounds, on which there is a large hamlet of houses, which reaches as far as Deptford-hill on the London-road, many of these are handsome, and some inhabited by the nobility, particularly one by the earl of Dartmouth, lord of this manor.
Lewisham-street is more than a mile in length, which, as well as the hamlets and environs near it, are in great measure inhabited by opulent merchants and Londoners, the vicinity to the metropolis making this place a most agreeable and convenient recess.
In the street, opposite the rookery, there stood a great house, once the habitation of Sir William Wild, knt. and bart. recorder of London, and afterwards one of the justices of the common-pleas and king's-bench, in the reign of king Charles II. It was held under a term from the corporation of London, which expiring some years ago, it was then pulled down. Farther on, at the corner of the lane going up to Brock- ley, by the church and vicarage house, is a handsome mansion, which was for some generations owned by the family of Lethieullier, the first of whom was Sir John le Thieullier, a Hamburgh merchant, who had raised himself by his industry and trade, in whose descendants it continued till his great grandson, John Greene Lethieullier, esq. alienated it in 1776, to Mr. Sclater of Roterhithe, who is now entitled to it.
At the south end of the street is the hamlet of Rushy-green, and farther on, at near a mile's distance, on the road to Beckenham, that of Southend, noted for those engines on the river, by which the late Mr. Ephraim How made those knife-blades so famous throughout England; on the opposite or western side of the river, on higher ground, is the hamlet of Brockley; and nearer the river a great house, usually called the Place-house, which once belonged to George Plantagenet duke of Clarence, king Edward IV.'s brother, and came to him by marriage with Isabel, daughter and coheir of Richard Neville, the great earl of Warwick, in memory of which the duke's arms, impaled with her's, were put up in the windows of this house, where they remained till very lately, by which it should seem, that he at some time resided here. Near this house is the hamlet of Perystreet, and at some distance, farther southward, the much more considerable one of Sydenham is situated at the south-west corner of it, adjoining to Surry. It was formerly written Cypenham, and among the benefactors to the priory of Rochester, John Besevile is recorded to have given the land of Sipeham, in this parish, to that priory; (fn. 2) and about one hundred years ago had only a few farm-houses and cottages in it, built round the common. The increase of its inhabitants, and prosperity since, has been owing to the discovery of some springs of medicinal purging water in it, which, from their nearness to Dulwich, bear the name of Dulwich-wells, though there are some of the same kind in that parish, but they are of an inferior quality, and not so plentiful in quantity. These springs in this hamlet are at the foot of a hill, about twelve in number. The hill and ground adjoining is a stiff clay, with some wood upon it. These are next to those of Epsom, being discovered about the year 1640. The hole dug is about nine feet deep, and the water about half a yard deep, when emptied every day. The bottom is a loam, as is the hill, and where the water issues in, is found the lapis lutoso-vitriolicus, which glitters with vitriolic sparkles, and is divided into parcels by the trichitis. This water purges very quick; it is bitter like the Epsom waters, it curdles with soap or milk, equal to them, and much more than those at Richmond.
Dr. Allen published his account of these wells in 1699, though there had been before, in 1681, a treatise on them, published at London, in 12mo. by Dr. John Peter, physician, under the name of Lewisham, vulgarly called Dulwich-wells, in Kent, and in No. 461 of the Philosophical Transactions, is an account of a new purging spring at the Green Man, at Dulwich, in 1739, by Mr. Martyn. In 1472, a great spring broke out of the earth in this parish.
Between Lewisham street and Dulwich, is a hill with an oak on it, which was called The Oak of Honour, because queen Elizabeth dined under it, though, indeed, the old tree has been long since gone, and a new one planted in its room, and another tree planted just by, to supply the future defect of that likewise.
Aquilegia cærula; blue columbine; sive aquilegia vulg. simplex; between Lewisham and Bromley. Viola fol. trachelii serotina hirsuta radice lignosa, in the way to Lewisham, in a great gravel-pit. (fn. 3)
Some antiquities having been found on the edge of the heath, particularly next the town of Lewisham, has induced an ingenious gentleman, Mr. William Harrison, to conjecture that Lewisham was the Noviomagus mentioned in the Itinerary of Antonine, but in this he has not been followed by any one.
In the heraldic visitation of this county, begun by John Philipott, rouge dragon, in 1619, is the pedigree of Colfe, beginning with Amand Colfe of Calais, who married Catherine, daughter and heir of — Bradfield of Calais, by whom he had five sons, William, Richard, Joseph, and two others, and a daughter, Beatrix, wife of Barnaby Turner, minister of the gospel. Of the sons, Richard, born at Calais, was prebendary of Canterbury, and D. D. He died in 1613, and was buried in that cathedral, having martied three wives; first, the daughter of Thornton; second, Alice, daughter of — Strughill; and third, Mary, daughter of Richard Rogers. By the first he had issue Abraham, who was vicar of Lewisham, and in the great rebellion was much reverenced here by the orthodox party for his religion and learning; he had likewise the rectory of St. Leonard, Eastcheap, which the restless Presbyterians forced him to give up to one who was scribe to their assembly of divines. After which he retired hither, where he founded a free-school and alms-house. He died, and was buried at Lewisham, in the church-yard, close to the south wall of the chancel. (fn. 4) Isaac, the next brother of Abraham above mentioned, married the daughter of George Elsin; and Jacob, the third, was vicar of Herne. By the second wife, he had Joseph, and a daughter, Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Man, of London. And by the third, four sons, Joseph, another son of Amand, set- tled at Canterbury, where he was an alderman, and left issue. (fn. 5) Their arms were, Quarterly, Colfe and Bradfield, viz. first and fourth, Or, a fess between three colts currant sable; second and third, Vert, a cross pale per cross or and gules, between four mullets or.
The MANOR of Lewisham was given, with its appendages of Greenwich and Combe, by Elthruda, king Alfred's niece, as has been already mentioned, to the abbey of St. Peter at Ghent, to which Lewisham then became a cell, or alien priory; which grant is said to have been confirmed by king Edgar, in 964, and by Edward the Confessor in 1044, with the addition of many privileges. (fn. 6)
In Grenviz hundred the abbot of Ghent holds Levesham of the King, and he held it of King Edward the Confessor; and it then was, and now is taxed at 2 sulings. The arable land is 14 carucates. In demesne there are 2 carucates, and 50 villeins, with 9 borderers, having 17 carucates. There are three servants, and 11 mills, with the rent of the socmen, amounting to 8l. 12s. Of the profit of the haven 40 shillings. There are 30 acres of meadow. Of wood, pannage sufficient for 50 hogs. The whole manor in the time of K. Edward was worth 16 pounds, and afterwards 12 pounds, and now 30 pounds.
William the Conqueror, and several of his successors, confirmed this manor and its appendages to the above abbey; with which they remained till the suppression of the alien priories throughout England, by the statute of the 2d year of king Henry V. when they became vested in the crown, and were the next year settled by the king on his new-founded house, or Carthusian priory, of Bethlehem, of or near Shene. Notwithstanding which, king Henry VIII. found means to obtain the surrendry of this manor, with the rectory and advowson of the vicarage, and annexed them to the crown in his 23d year.
John, earl of Warwick, eldest son of the duke of Northumberland, afterwards possessed this manor; on whose attainder it escheated to the crown, from whence it was, in the 5th year of queen Elizabeth, granted to his brother, Sir Ambrose Dudley, (fn. 7) who had been restored in blood by queen Mary, and in the 4th year of queen Elizabeth, had been created baron L'Isle, and the next day, earl of Warwick. (fn. 8) He soon after exchanged it for other lands with that princess; and she, in the 18th of her reign, granted this manor and rectory, for forty years, to Sir Nicholas Stoddard, of Mottingham; which term expiring in 1605, king James granted another lease of it for forty years more, to Sir Francis Knolles, who being a person very zealous for the reformation, was much esteemed by queen Elizabeth; insomuch, that in the 1st year of her reign, he was made one of her privy council, and shortly after that, vice-chamberlain of her household, captain of her guard, treasurer of her household, and lastly, knight of the Garter. He married Katherine, daughter of William Carie, esq. and had by her several children; of whom William, the eldest surviving son, was, in the 1st year of king James I. created lord Knolles of Grays, in Oxfordshire, and within a short time after, knight of the Garter; in the 14th year of that reign, he was raised to the dignity of viscount Wallingford; and in the 2d year of king Charles I. he was created earl of Banbury. (fn. 9) They bore for their arms, Azure crusele, a cross moline voided throughout, or.
King James, after granting the above-mentioned lease, granted the fee-simple of this manor and rectory to John Ramsey, earl of Holderness, who had been a page to king James, and attending him to the house of earl Gowry, at Perth in Scotland, in 1600, had the good fortune to discover the conspiracy, which the earl and his brother Alexander, had then designed against the king's life; for which service he was advanced to the title of viscount Hadington; and for an augmentation of honour, had An arm holding a naked sword, with a crown in the midst thereof, with an heart at the point, given him, to impale with his own arms.
In the 18th year of that reign he was created baron of Kingston upon Thames, and earl of Holderness, with this special addition of honour, that on the 5th day of August annually, (the day of the discovery) he and his heirs male for ever, should bear the sword of state before the king, in remembrance of his happy deliverance. He died before the expiration of the above lease, and leaving no issue, gave his interest in this estate to his brother, Sir George Ramsay, who was naturalized by Parliament, anno 7th of James I. whose son, John Ramsay, when the former lease was worn out, which was about the year 1645, sold the fee-simple to Reginald Grahme, esq. (fn. 10) and he, in the latter end of king Charles II's reign, sold this manor, with the rectory, church, parsonage, and advowson of the vicarage, to George Legge, esq. admiral of the royal navy, afterwards created baron Dartmouth of Dartmouth, in Devonshire.
An ancestor of this family is said to have been Thomas Leggy, who lived in the reign of king Edward III. and was of the Skinners-company of London, and was sheriff of that city in the 18th year of that reign, and twice lord-mayor. He was several times returned one of the citizens in Parliament for London, and gave for his arms, A buck's head caboshed, on a chief three crosles patoncee. (fn. 11) By Elizabeth his wife, one of the daughters of Thomas Beauchamp earl of Warwick, he had two sons, Simon and John.
The direct descendant of the former was William Legge, who eminently distinguished his loyalty to Charles I. on every occasion, and had so general a reputation of integrity and fidelity, that he never fell under the least imputation or reproach with any man. After the unfortunate death of the king he suffered great hardships, which did not hinder him from espousing the interests of king Charles II. after whose restoration he received many marks of royal favour, and had many honourable and lucrative employments conferred on him.
He died at his house in the Minories in 1670, and was buried in the vault in the Trinity chapel there with great solemnity, where a monument is erected to his memory. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Washington of Packington, in Leicestershire, by whom he had three sons, George, William, and Edward, and two daughters.
George Legge, the eldest son and heir, who, as has been before-mentioned, purchased this manor of Lewisham, and its appendages, was early in life sent to sea, under the care of his kinsman, Sir Edward Spragge, and was commander of several of the king's ships of war. In 1673 he was made governor of Portsmouth, master of the horse, and gentleman of the bedchamber to the duke of York; master of the ordinance, and sworn of the privy-council; and on December 2, in the 34th year of king Charles II. he was advanced to the title of baron Dartmouth of Dartmouth, in Devonshire, to him and his heirs male, with remainder to his next brother, William Legge, in like tail. Having singular skill and experience in military and naval affairs, he was afterwards honoured with the post of admiral of the royal navy; in which capacity he was employed both in that and the next reign. During the reign of king James II. besides other posts, he was master of the horse, general of the ordnance, constable of the tower, and a privy-counsellor. He commanded the royal fleet in the year 1688, at the time of the prince of Orange's landing in this kingdom: yet, notwithstanding he brought the fleet safe home, and had acted by order of the king, he was deprived of all his employments at the revolution, and in 1691 committed prisoner to the tower of London; where, after three months imprisonment, he died suddenly of an apoplexy. By the express order of king William, he had the same respect paid to him at his funeral, that would have been due to him, if he had died possessed of all his employments. He was buried near his father in the vault in the Minories, where a monument was erected to his memory, by Barbara his wife, who died 1718, and was buried in the same vault with him. By her, who was daughter and coheir of Sir Henry Archbold of Staffordshire, he had one son, William, and several daughters.
William Legge, the only son of George lord Dartmouth, was raised by queen Anne to several posts of honour and trust, and was of her privy-council; and on Sept. 5, 1711, was advanced to the dignities of viscount Lewisham, and earl of Dartmouth. He married the lady Anne Finch, third daughter to Heneage earl of Aylesford, who died in 1751, and by her had six sons and two daughters. Of the sons, George the eldest, viscount Lewisham, died in his father's life-time, as will be further noticed.
Heneage Legge, second son, was one of the barons of the exchequer. He married Catherine, daughter and one of the coheirs of Mr. Jonathan Fogge, merchant, of London, by whom he had issue, and died in 1759.
Henry Legge, fourth son, who took the name of Bilson, was a person of great abilities, both as a statesman and financier, and went through most of the great offices of government with reputation and integrity, and quitted them to the great regret of the nation in general. He died in 1764, having married in 1750, Mary, only daughter and heir of Edward lord Stawel, who, in 1760, was created baroness Stawel, with remainder to her heirs male by her said husband; by whom she had one son, the Hon. Henry Stawel Legge, born in 1757, now lord Stawell. She afterwards remarried Wills, late earl of Hillsborough, afterwards marquis of Downshire, and died in 1768.
The earl died at his house at Blackheath in this parish, in 1750, and was succeeded in honours and estate by William, his grandson and heir, only son of his eldest son, George, viscount Lewisham, who had married Elizabeth, sole daughter and heir of Sir Arthur Kaye of Yorkshire, bart. and died in 1732, in his father's life-time. By her (who remarried with Francis, earl of Guildford) he had William, now earl of Dartmouth; and two daughters; which William earl of Dartmouth, is the present possessor of this manor, rectory, and advowson of the vicarage of Lewisham, and resides at his seat on Blackheath, in this parish.
The earl of Dartmouth married in 1755, FrancesCatherine, only daughter and heir of Sir Charles Gunter Nicholl, K. B. and by her has several children; of whom George, the eldest, lord viscount Lewisham, was born in 1755, and married in 1782 lady Sarah, sister of the earl of Aylesford.
He bears for his arms, Azure, a buck's head coboshed argent. For crest, in a ducal coronet or, a plume of five ostrich feathers, party per pale, argent and azure. And for supporters, on the dexter side, a lion argent, semé of fleur de lis sable, and crowned, as the crest; on the sinister, a buck argent, semée of mullets gules.
George lord Dartmouth, obtained from king Charles II. a grant, to hold a fair twice a year, and a market twice a week, upon Blackheath in this parish. The former of which used to be held on the 12th of May, and the 11th of October; but it has since the year 1772, been discontinued, (excepting for the sale of cattle) by public notice, given by the earl of Dartmouth, as lord of the manor.
CATFORD is a manor in this parish, which was antiently the inheritance of a family of the name of Abel, who dwelt at Hering-hill in Erith; one of whom, John Abel, had a charter of free-warren, for his lands here at Lewisham, and in Hachecham and Camberwelle, in the 23d of king Edward I. Soon after this it came into the possession of that great prelate, Anthony Beke, bishop of Durham, at whose death it escheated to the crown; but in the 4th of king Edward III. it was granted, with other manors and lands, to Sir William de Montacute, (fn. 12) knight banneret, and his wife Katherine, in tail, with remainder to the king, &c. as a reward for having apprehended Roger Mortimer at Nottingham; and he obtained, the next year, a charter of confirmation for free warren in this manor. In the 10th year of king Edward III. he was constituted admiral of the king's fleet, westward; and having served the king with great success in his Scottish wars, he was, the next year, in a full parliament held at London, advanced to the title and dignity of earl of Salisbury. After which he obtained a grant, dated at Antwerp in the 12th year of that reign, of the office of marshal of England, void by the death of Thomas, earl of Norfolk. (fn. 13)
The year after which the manor of Catford became by his gift, part of the possessions of the chantry or college of St. Laurence Poultney in London, then newly founded by Sir John Poultney, knt. a man of great account at that time, as well for his wisdom as large riches; and it remained in the possession of the college till its suppression, in the reign of king Edward VI. when it was granted, among other lands, by the description of a capital messuage, called Catford, of the clear yearly value of 3l. 14s. 1d. to Henry Polsted and William More, for 2034l. (fn. 14)
These Polsteds were of a family of great antiquity in the county of Surry; for Hugh de Polsted gave lands, called Inwood, in the 16th year of king John, to the abbey of Waversley in that county. (fn. 15) They bore for their arms, as appears by the visitation of the county of Surry, Argent sretty sable.
Catford continued in the name of Polsted till Francis Polsted, cousin and heir of Richard, sold it, in the 20th year of queen Elizabeth, to Brian Annesley, esq. of the adjoining parish of Lee, in reversion, after the death of Elizabeth, the wife of John Wolley, and widow of Richard Polsted above-mentioned. Brian Annesley died without issue male, leaving three daughters his coheirs, Christian, married to William lord Sandys; Grace, to Sir John Wildgorse, and Cordelia, to Sir William Hervey, the two last of whom shared the inheritance of this place between them. (fn. 16) From them it passed by sale to Edward lord Montague, of Boughton, in Northamptonshire, son of Sir Edward Montague, who was created lord Montague, baron of Boughton, by patent, anno 19 king James I. His descendant and great grand-son, John duke of Montague, in 1717, procured an act of parliament to vest the manor of Catford in Lewisham, with appurtenances, and the capital messuage and appurtenances called Catford, with the lands, &c., belonging to it, in Lewisham, Lee, and Deptford, and the moiety of the manor or farm, some time called Forest-place, and then Brockley-farm. The other moiety, situated in Deptford, being called Hither or Upper Brockley, with its appurtenances in Brockley and Lewisham, with all rents, services, &c. belonging to it, and the capital messuage called Bankers and Great Hatchfield, with their lands and appurtenances in those parishes, (which last-mentioned estate had been before the property of the family of Birde, and before that of that of Banquelle or Bankwell, of the adjoining parish of Lee); being then the estates of Ralph, late duke of Montague, and then of John duke of Montague, his son, in trustees, to sell the same, towards the payment of debts.
The trustees accordingly passed away these manors and capital messuages, with the rest of the estates as above-mentioned, to James Craggs, senior, esq. joint post-master-general; on whose death in 1721, without issue male, (his only son, James Craggs, esq. one of the principal secretaries of state, dying on February 16, preceding,) they descended to his three daughters and coheirs, married to Newsham, Eliot, and Trefusis; since which they have continued in the same clue of ownership that Kidbrooke, in the parish of Charlton, has, and as such are now vested in the right honourable Edward lord Eliot, of Port Eliot, in Cornwall. (fn. 17)
The manor of Billingham in this parish was possessed by the Cistercian monastery of Stratford Langthorne, founded at West Ham, in Essex, by William de Montsitchet, about the year 1134. After which, in the 15th year of king Edward I. the temporalities of the abbot at Levesham were valued at 7l. 11s. 8d. per annum. at the dissolution of which it came to the crown, and was, in the 1st year of queen Mary, granted to Rich. Wheatly, to hold in capite. His daughter and heir Philippa, married John Rochester, who afterwards possessed this manor and levied a fine of it in Easter term, anno 17 Elizabeth. In whose possession it passed afterwards I have not found for some length of time, only that it came some years since into the possession of Thomas Inwin, esq. whose daughter, Sarah, viscountess Falkland, (whose first husband was Henry earl of Suffolk) died possessed of it in 1776, and by her will devised it for life to her husband, Lucius lord Falkland, and the remainder in see to Francis Motley Austin, esq. of Wilmington, since of Kippington, in Sevenoke, who since purchased lord Falkland's interest in it, and is the present possessor of this manor.
As to THE PRIORY here, so much has already been said of it before, in the account of the manor of Lewisham, that little more need be particularized of it, farther than, that on the grant of the manor of Lewisham and its appendages, to St. Peter's abbey, at Ghent, by Elthruda, king Alfred's niece, the abbot and convent built a mansion here, afterwards called the Priory of Lewisham, under the government of one who had the title of Prior, and being thus connected with St. Peter's abbey, it was esteemed a benedictine cell, or alien priory, to it.
There were not many formal foundations of these cells; the course being for the most part, after a grant of land, or other possessions here to a monastery abroad (as by a multitude of instances may be shewn) for the monks beyond sea, either with an intention to increase their own order, or perhaps rather to have faithful stewards of their revenues, to build convenient houses for the reception of a small convent, and then to send over such a number of their order as they thought proper. Some of these cells were conventual, and consisted of a certain number of monks, who had a prior sent them by the superior abbey; others were permitted to choose their own prior, and these were entire societies within themselves, and received the revenues belonging to their several houses for their own use and benefit, paying only perhaps a yearly pension, as an acknowledgement of their subjection, or what was at first, the surplusage to the foreign house. In such cells as had their priors set over them, their monks were mostly foreigners, and removeable at pleasure, and they returned all their revenues to the foreign head houses; for which reason their estates were seized generally during the wars between England and France, and restored to them again upon the return of peace.
The first public seizure of this kind, at le ast upon authority, was in the 23d of king Edward I. as appears by the roll of that year, in which the particular persons of each county, to whom the custody of these houses was committed, are recorded. They were to retain them in their hands during the king's pleasure, answering to his exchequer the profits of them, according to the directions and orders made by the king and his council. And it was usual for the king, after such seizures in the time of war, in consideration of a rent to be paid him yearly into the exchequer, to commit these cells, with what belonged to them, to their respective priors, to hold during his pleasure.
In the 4th year of king Henry IV. there was a new consideration had in the parliament then held, touching these priories alien, that they should be again seized into the king's hands, excepting those that were conventual; upon which the sheriff of each county had command to give warning to the priors of these cells, within their respective limits, to appear in their proper persons at Westminster, and to bring with them all their charters and evidences, by which the king himself and his council might be satisfied, whether they had been priories conventual time out of mind, or not. (fn. 18) The priory of Lewisham seeems to have been one of these conventual alien priories, and is said to have paid a rent-service of forty shillings per annum to its superior monastery at Ghent, in the 12th year of king Richard II. In which situation it continued till the general suppression of the alien priories throughout England, in the 2d year of king Henry V. when, in the parliament held that year at Leicester, one hundred and forty-two of them were suppressed, and their houses and possessions given to the king and his heirs. Though this act is not in the statute book, it is mentioned among the patent rolls of 3 Henry V. It recites, that the commons having considered that the head abbies beyond sea, possessing the lands and revenues of these alien priories, great sums of money were carried out of the nation, and foreseeing, that when the war was begun with France, all the subjects of England, holding lands in that kingdom, would be dispossessed, they, therefore made this act to disseize these foreign monasteries of the priories alien, and vest the same in the king and his heirs for ever. The next year after the suppression of this priory, the king settled it on his new erected Carthusian monastery, at Shene, in Surry, as has been before-mentioned. (fn. 19)
ABRAHAM COLFE, vicar of Lewisham, who died in 1657, founded in his life-time, Two Free Schools, one for teaching English, and the other for teaching Latin, with several yearly allowances to the schoolmasters, and towards the maintenance of some of the scholars at the universities, the oversight and government of which he committed to the company of Leathersellers of London. He likewise founded an Alms-house in this parish, and in the 16th year of king Charles II. an act passed for settling the charitable gift of Abraham Colfe, clerk, for erecting and endowing two free-schools and an alms-house, at Lewisham, in Kent. This free-school is now commonly called Blackheathschool, from its situation near it, upon the declivity next to Lewisham, and maintains a good reputation for learning and the education of youth. When a master is to be chosen, the trustees, (the Leathersellers company) meet at the school-house, where the candidates are strictly examined in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages before the head masters of Westminster and Merchant Tailors schools, the learned deputies of the president and assistants of Sion-college, and the clergy of Blackheath hundred.
The endowment now paid on account of these charities by the Leathersellers company, is for the teaching thirty-one boys of this hundred, 30l. for an usher (besides a house to live in) 20l. for seven poor scholars, to be sent to the university yearly, 70l. to buy books, 1l. 4s. for teaching thirty-one boys in the English school, 20l. for books for ditto, 3l. for the maintenance of five alms-people, 22l. 15s. and for a gown for each, 2l. 5s. Besides the above, Mr. COLFE left by his will, for the benefit of the poor of this parish the annual produce of 2l. 4s. for poor persons attending prayers at church, houses and land of the annual produce of il. to be paid to a maid servant, on her marriage, the amount of 5s. for certain houses and lands, for placing out apprentices, to be paid out of houses and lands, the annual sum of 3l. and for books, for poor persons, from the like, the annual produce of 1l. all likewise vested in the same company.
HUMPHRY STREET gave by will, in 1623, to be distributed in bread to the poor, a house, vested in the vicar and churchwardens, of the annual produce of 4l. and another house, for the like use, vested in trustees, of the annual produce of 1l.
DEAN GEORGE STANHOPE, vicar of this parish, in 1727, gave by will, and the parish of Lewisham by gift, gave 250l. new South Sea annuities, vested in trustees, and Anne Stanhope, in 1730, gave by will, 50l. old South Sea annuities, the product of the 300l. being 9l. per annum, the whole of the same towards the support of the charity school, in this parish, which had been set forward in 1704, for thirty girls, and had been supported by the voluntary subscriptions of several persons, to the amount of 20l. per annum.
Lewisham is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester and deanry of Dartford. The church is dedicated to St. Mary. It was, from the earliest account of time, an appendage to the manor of Lewisham, and as such was given by Elthruda, king Alfred's niece, to the Benedictine abbey of Ghent, which was confirmed at times by several of our kings, particularly by king Henry III. with the churches, church-yards, lands, tithes, and appurtenances.
It was appropriated by Gilbert de Glanville, bishop of Rochester, in king Henry II.'s reign, to the abbot and convent of St. Peter of Ghent, with all its ob- ventions, to be possessed by them, in perpetual alms, and to be converted by them to their own proper use, saving a sufficient support for a curate, together with a clerk (capellanus cum clerico) to be presented to the bishop, and to serve in the church so long as he should be useful to the monks, and saving to the bishop all episcopal right, &c. To which grant was witness, among others, Sigon, prior of Lewisham. This was confirmed by bishop Benedict, and afterwards by bishop Richard, in 1239. On an inquisition, taken of the profits and revenues of the bishopric of Rochester, in the 53d year of king Henry III. it was returned, that the bishop was entitled to receive a yearly pension of four marcs from this church.
King Edward III. in his 17th year, directed his writ to the bishop of Rochester, to return the names of aliens beneficed within his diocese, and the names of the respective benefices, and who of them were resident on them. To which the bishop made return, that the abbot and convent of Ghent possessed to their own proper use this church, with the temporals and spirituals annexed to it, and that brother William Sergotz, the proctor of the abbot and convent, resided here. A like writ was issued in the 20th year of the same reign, when the bishop made return, that the abbot and convent possessed to their own proper use this church, taxed at twenty marcs, but that they were not resident on the same. (fn. 20)
In the parliament held at Leicester, in the 2d year of king Henry V. an act passing for the suppression of all these alien priories, by which their houses, lands, and possessions were granted to the king and his heirs, this church, as part of the possessions of the abbot and convent of Ghent, became vested in the crown, where it staid only till the next year, when the king settling this manor of Lewisham, with its appurtenances, on his new-founded Carthusian monastery at Shene, the church, as an appendage, passed with it at the same time.
In the Register of John Langdon, bishop of Rochester, in the 13th year of king Henry VI. and of bishop Fisher, in 1508, it appears, that the prior and convent of Shene, holding the church of Lewisham appropriate, paid to the bishop a pension of forty shillings yearly. (fn. 21)
Several disputes having arisen between John Bokynham, prior, and the convent of Shene, appropriators of this church, and master William Frome, perpetual vicar of it, concerning the right of taking the tithes of hay of the demesne meadows, and the tithes of silva cædua of the demesne wood of Levesham, a composition was made between them, with the consent of John bishop of Rochester, who by his instrument, under his seal, anno 1431, decreed, with the consent of both parties, that the prior and convent, and their successors, possessors of this church, should take yearly for the future all the tithes of hay of the demesne meadows, and those of sylva cædua of the demesne woods of the town and parish of Levesham, as before possessed by them, and that master William Frome, vicar, and his successors, in recompence of the right which they, as vicars of this church, had or might claim in it, and of the loss which the vicarage of this church, and the vicars of it might undergo from the not taking of the tithes aforesaid, and for the promoting of peace and quietness between the parties, should peaceably and quietly take and have from that time, the half part of the wax offered in the church, on the feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which half part of the wax so offered, either by right or composition, or by the ordination of the vicarage antiently made, was due to the proprietaries of this church. And the parties granted for themselves and their successors for ever, that it should be lawful for the bishop of Rochester for the time being, or his vicar general, his official, or the keeper of the spiritualities of the bishopric, in the vacancy of the see, by sequestering the profits either of the church of Lewisham or the vicarage of it, canonically to compel both or either of the parties to the keeping of this composition. King Henry VIII. in his 23d year, obtained the possession of this church and vicarage from the above priory in exchange, when John Joburne, the prior of Shene, and the convent of the same place, by deed dated in their chapter house, granted to the king their manor of Lewisham, with its appurtenances, and the advowson and patronage of the church, vicarage, and rectory of Lewisham.
Since which the rectory or parsonage, and the advowson of the vicarage, have passed, with the manor of Lewisham, through the same proprietors to the right honourable the earl of Dartmouth, who is the present owner of them. In the 15th year of king Edward I. the church of Lewisham was valued at twenty marcs, and the vicarage at ten marcs. (fn. 22)
By virtue of the commission of enquiry into the value of church livings, in 1650, out of the court of chancery, it was returned, that Lewisham was a vicarage, worth one hundred and twenty pounds per annum, master Abraham Colfe then enjoying it; that the house, and fifty-four acres of glebe land, were worth besides fifty pounds per annum. (fn. 23) The vicarage is valued in the king's books at 23l. 19s. 2d. and the yearly tenths at 2l. 7s. 11d. (fn. 24)
In the year 1774, the church of Lewisham requiring great repairs to support it, and becoming too small to contain the numerous inhabitants of this parish, the parishioners applied to parliament for powers to rebuild it. Accordingly an act passed that year to enable commissioners to take down and rebuild it, and to raise a sum for that purpose, by annuities or lives, not exceeding five thousand pounds. In pursuance of which the old church was pulled down, and a new one has since been erected on the same spot, in which service was first performed on Sunday, September 7, 1777. Within a few days after which part of the east side of it fell to the ground, which was quickly afterwards repaired and made good.
In the old church, among others, on the north side, was a monument for John Perry, esq. of Blackheath, ob. 1732, æt. 92; and for his wife, ob. 1733, æt. 72. On the south side, one for Thomas Dyer, esq. barrister at law, and Catharine his wife; they both died in 1748. In the chancel, a memorial for Susan, wife of Reginald Grahme, lord of this manor, and second daughter of Sir William Washington, ob. 1698, æt. 81. Two memorials for two infant daughters of Sir William Wylde, knt. and bart. and dame Frances his wife, in 1666 and 1668. Within the altar rails, a memorial for George Stanhope, S. T. P. dean of Canterbury and vicar of this church, 1728; another with the figure of a man, in brass, for George, son and heir of William Haltecliff, esq. one of the king's treasurers in Ireland, and one of the clerks of his household, ob. 1514. On the north side, a monument for Margaret, first wife of Jasper Valentine, afterwards of Abraham Colfe, pastor of Lewisham, ob. 1643; another for Thomas Jones, esq. common sergeant of the city of London, ob. 1625, and Priscilla, his wife, who died the same year. On the north side, one for dean Stanhope above mentioned, thirty eight years vicar of this parish and twenty-six of Deptford; another for Olivia, daughter of Charles Cotton, esq. of Staffordshire, and wife of dean Stanhope, ob. 1707. In the south chancel, a memorial for several of the Dyers; two monuments for the family of Symes, of Blackheath; a monument for the family of Dyer. At the back of the pulpit were the arms of Valentine, carved on the wainscot. On the north side of the chancel was an antient stone coffin, cased over with board, which forms a seat of two pews, near the rails of the altar; it probably contained the remains of one of the priors of the cell in this parish. On the south wall of the church, on the outside, near the east end, was a small monument for Abraham Colfe, late minister of Lewisham, ob. 1657. (fn. 25)
There were two chantries founded at Lewisham, one by Richard Walker, for one priest to celebrate mass at the altar of the Trinity, for the founder's soul; the other by Roger Fitz, who, by the appointment of his will, anno 17 king Henry VII. devised his two houses, the Lion and the Ram, in the Stews, on the Bankside, near London, to be sold to build the chantryhouse, and endow it with maintenance for one priest, to celebrate at the altar of the Trinity, in Lewisham church, for the founder's soul.
CHURCH OF LEWISHAM.
|PATRONS, Or by whom presented.||VICARS.|
|Abbot and Convent of Ghent||Richard, first vicar, 1267.|
|Prior and Convent of Shene||William Frome, 1431.|
|John Witton, obt. 1444. (fn. 26)|
|William Helwise, in 1476, and in 1483.|
|Roger Tochett, in July 1483, resigned 1530.|
|John Crayford, instituted 5 July, 1530.|
|The Crown||John Glynn, Oct. 11, 1545. (fn. 27)|
|John Bungay, 1568, ob. 1595. (fn. 28)|
|The Crown||Hadrianus de Saravia, D. D. resigned 1610. (fn. 29)|
|Abraham Colfe, inducted May 1, 1610, obt. Dec. 5, 1657. (fn. 30)|
|George Legge, esq.||Alexander Davidson, A. M. instituted March 2, 1677, obt. 1688.|
|George Stanhope, A. M. instituted Aug. 3, 1689, obt. Mar. 18, 1728. (fn. 31)|
|William Legge Earl of Dartmouth||John Inglis, A. M. Ap. 5, 1728, obt. Oct. 18, 1739.|
|William Lowth, B. D. inducted Decem. 15, 1739, obt. Feb. 1795. (fn. 32)|
|Hugh Jones, A. M. Sep. 1795. Present vicar.|
Anno 5 king George III. an act passed for the more easy and speedy recovery of small debts within the hundreds of Blackheath, Bromley, and Beckenham, Rokesley, and Little and Lesnes; and in the 10th year of it, another act passed to explain and amend the same.