The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 2. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.
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LIES the next parish eastward, having the river Thames for its northern boundary. This place was formerly called Lesnes, alias Erith. The former name was, as Mr. Lambarde thinks, (fn. 1) mispelt by the Normans, instead of the Saxon word Leswes, which signifies pastures; but I should rather conjecture it to be derived from the old British word, lese, pastures, and nese, a promontory or cape, both names being suited to the different parts of this parish; the former to the western, and the latter to the eastern part of it. It was written, in old records, Hliesnes; in the Textus Roffensis, Lisna; and in Domesday, Loisnes.
The name of Erith seems to be derived of the Saxon word, ærre-bythe; that is, the old haven. (fn. 2)
THIS PARISH, which is about three miles across each way, is nearly one half of it marsh land, which is bounded on the north by the river Thames; the western part of it seems particularly to have retained the name of Lesnes, as the eastern part about the town and haven, did that of Erith. In the upland, or southern parts, the soil is very light and barren, having several heaths in them, as Northumberlandheath, where it joins to Crayford, part of it being in that parish; but on the north side of it, within the bounds of this parish stands Mr. Wheatley's new mansion; westward from hence is West heath, near which is the hamlet of Bedenwell and the parsonage farm; northward from which is Leason, commonly so called for Lesnes heath; and northward from it, near the marshes, the hamlets of Chalkside and Pickerday. On the east side of Lesnes heath is lord Eardley's seat of Belvidere; not far from which, on the east side of the road leading from the heath, towards the church, is a cottage, not improperly so stiled, being upon a very small scale indeed, erected by John Maddocks, esq. late of Vale Mascall, in North Cray, who gave it the name of Holly Hill, and resides in it. It is a neat and elegant box, and from it there is a delightful view of the Thames, and of the county of Essex beyond it; about half a mile north eastward from thence, close to the marshes, is the church, standing remote from any other building. In the western part of the parish is the large wood, formerly called Westwood, but for many years past the abbey wood, from its having belonged to the abbey of Lesnes, the ruins of which remain close below, on the north side. In the above mentioned wood there is great plenty of chesnut, both timber and stubbs, and a number of large stools of timber trees of that species formerly felled, but now quite hollow and decayed; one of the many instances in this county, of that tree being the indigenous growth of England,
At the entrance of this village from Crayford, on the west side of it, stands the old manor house. On the Thames opposite this town, the Indiamen, in their passage up the river, frequently come to an anchor, and lay some time to be lightened of part of their burthen, that they may proceed with greater safety up the river.
This makes a great resort to Erith, not only of the friends and acquaintance of those who are on board these ships, but for some continuance afterwards, in the carrying on a traffic with the inhabitants and neighbouring country, for the several kinds of East India goods, which have been procured from on board. This, together with the shipping of goods to and from London, the sending hither from hence the produce of the extensive woods in these parts (great part of which is first piled up upon wharfs built here for that purpose) and some few fishing vessels, employ the generality of the inhabitants of this place.
The marshes in this parish, being the northern part of it, contain about fifteen hundred and fifty acres, the whole of which is at times ploughed for corn, and in general more than one thousand acres yearly, which bear constantly the most exuberant crops of corn.
In the year 1544, king Henry VIII. being to embark for France, took his journey from his royal palace of Westminster to this place by water, lay here that night, being the 11th of July; the next day he departed hence by water to Gravesend, and there dined; and then took his horse, and rode that night to Faversham. The next morning the king rode from thence to the house of the lord archbishop of Canterbury, called Forde, near Canterbury, and there dined. and then rode the same night to Dover. (fn. 3)
Towards the latter end of the reign of Henry VI. there were taken in the river, opposite this town, four very large and uncommon fishes, of which one was called mors marina, another a sword fish, and the others were supposed to be whales. (fn. 4)
Althea ibiscus, the common marsh mallow, grows plentifully on the Kentish and Essex shore, along the river Thames, and among other places here. (fn. 5)
William the Conqueror gave Lesnes, among other great possessions in this county, to his half brother, Odo, bishop of Baieux and earl of Kent, under the general title of whose lands it is entered in the record of Domesday as follows:
In Litelai hundred, Robert Latin holds of the bishop (of Baieux) Lesnes. The arable land is 17 carucates. In demesne there is 1, and 60 villeins, with three borderers, having 15 carucates. There are 2 servants, and 3 cottages, and 3 fisheries of 4 sulings, and 30 acres of meadow; wood for the pannage of 20 hogs. In the time of king Edward the Consessor, it was worth 20 pounds, when the bishop received it 18 pounds, and now 22 pounds, and yet he who bolds it pays 30 pounds. This manor was taxed in the time of king Edward the Consessor at 10 sulings, and now at 4 sulings. Azor held it.
Richard de Lucy, justice of England, possessed it in the reign of king Henry II. in the 12th year of which, upon the aid then assessed for marrying the king's daughter, he certified his knights fees lying in Kent, Sussex, and Norfolk, of the old seossment, to be seven, and that his ancestors performed the service of castle guard at Dover for them. Among many other acts of piety and religion, as they were then esteemed, he founded, in the 21st year of king Henry II. the abbey at Westwood in this parish, which he plentifully endowed, and in particular with a moiety of his possessions in this parish, being the western part of it, afterwards stiled the manor of Lesnes, of which farther mention will be made in the account of this abbey; and the next year, taking upon himself the habit of a religious there, he died, and was buried in it. (fn. 6) The remaining part of the possessions of Richard de Lucy, being the eastern part of this parish, from thenceforth stiled the manor of Lesnes, alias Erith, descended to his posterity; for by Roesie, his wife, who died before him, and was buried in the abbey of Faversham, he had two sons, Geoffry and Herbert, and two daughters, Maud, who married Walter Fitz Robert, whose son took the name of Fitzwalter; and Roesie.
Geoffry de Lucy died in his father's life time, leaving Richard his son and heir, who died without issue, upon which this manor, among the rest of his inheritance, became vested in Roesie above mentioned, his then only surviving aunt, married to Fulbert de Dover; and she, in the 7th year of king Richard I. compounded with the king for the possession of the moiety of the lands of Richard de Lucy, her grand father, in England and Normandy, of which Richard her nephew had been possessed.
Their son and heir, as is conjectured, Robert de Dover, died before the 6th of king John, his mother Roesie still surviving; who, in the 9th year of that reign, made an agreement with the king for possession of the whole barony, now descended to her by the death of both Richard and Herbert de Lucy, without issue. (fn. 7)
To Robert de Dover succeeded Roesie, his daughter and heir, who married Richard, son of Roger de Chilham; and in the 12th vear of king Henry III. had possession granted of the manor of Lesnes, which she and her husband had recovered upon trial by battle against Robert Fitzwalter.. On her husband's death, befor the 16th year of that reign, she shortly after married Richard, a natural son of king John, commonly called Richard le Fitzroy; and in the Bodleian library, (fn. 8) is an agreement made between Richard, son of the king, and Roesie his wife, and the abbot of St. Peter's, Westminster, in the 26th year of king Henry III. concerning lands in Lesnes and Hamme, in Kent; about which time the justices of the Jews were prohibited to take distress upon her manor of Lesnes, for any money lent by them to him, because this manor was assigned, in the king's presence, for her maintenance. After which, in the 35th year of that reign, giving a fine to the king to marry whom she pleased, she lastly became the wife of Richard de Wilton, who was called also Richard de Dover, and as well as his wife Roesie, were found, in the 56th of that reign, to have died possessed of this manor, held of the king by homage, leaving a son, called Rich. de Dover, their next heir, and a daughter, Isabel. On the death of Richard de Dover, the son, without issue, John, earl of Athol, or, as he was called in Scotland, John de Asceles, son of Isabel his sister, before-mentioned, by David de Strabolgie, earl of Athol, afterwards married to Alexander Baliol, became his heir. (fn. 9)
Joane Pecche, widow of the last-mentioned Richard de Dover, in the 21st of king Edward I. claimed, and was allowed certain liberties in her manor of Lesnes, alias Erehethe, which she then held in dowry, as of the inheritance of John, earl of Athol, assize of bread and ale, pillory, and tumbrel, free warren and gallows; all which, as it was then found, his ancestors had enjoyed beyond memory. (fn. 10) The same year Joan Pecche, and the abbot of Lesnes, each claimed wreck of the sea in the Thames, within their respective manors of Lesnes. The abbot alledging, that he found this church possessed of it at his coming to it; but it was given against him, it being found, that the ancestors of John, earl of Athol, had enjoyed such wreck, within their manor of Lesnes, alias Erehethe, beyond memory, &c.
In the 32d year of king Edward I. upon the death of Joane, widow of Richard de Dover, last-mentioned, the earl of Athol had possession granted of this manor, which descended to him from Isabel, his mother, sister of the said Richard.
Being concerned in the death of John Comin, and the crowning of Robert de Brus, king of Scotland, and being taken in England, he was, by king Edward I. sentenced to death, in the 34th year of that reign; but in respect of his descent from royal blood, he was not drawn, as traitors usually are, but was set on horseback, and hanged on a gibbet fifty feet high, his head was fixed on London-bridge, and his body burnt.
Upon which this manor came into the hands of the crown, and was given by the king that year, to Margaret, queen of England, who appears by the patent rolls of that year, to have been in possession of it, but it did not continue long with her; for king Edward II. in his 3d year, at the instance of Gilbert de Clare, earl of Gloucester, and Henry de Lacy, earl of Lincoln, made a grant of it to Bartholomew, son of Gunceline de Badlesmere, to hold by the service of half a knights fee, during his life, and that of Margaret his wife; and in the 8th year of that reign he obtained of the king the further grant of the fee of this manor. (fn. 11) The year after which he obtained, as a reward for his eminent services, several privileges and liberties to his manors and estates; among which was the grant of a market every week, on a Thursday, at Erhethe; and two fairs yearly, one on the feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross, and the other in Whitsun-week; and a market weekly on the Thursday, at Lesnes, and two fairs yearly on the same days as those at Erhethe; and free warren in all his demesne lands of Erthethe and Lesnes.
In the 15th of king Edward II. having associated himself with the earl of Lancaster, and others of the discontented barons, and having with them received a defeat at Borough-bridge, in Yorkshire, he was taken and sent to Canterbury, where he was executed, and this manor became forfeited to the crown.
The same year the king granted it to David de Strabolgie, son of John, earl of Athol, before-mentioned, in regard of his eminent services. He died in the 20th year of king Edward II. possessed of the manor of Erith, with the passage there across the Thames; on which it reverted again to the crown.
Giles, son of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, whose process and judgment had been reversed, had his father's manors and lands restored to him in the 2d year of king Edward III. among which was this manor. He was in such favor with the king, that in the 7th year of that reign, though not then of full age, he had possession granted of all his lands, and having been summoned to parliament, he died in the 12th year of that reign, being then possessed of this manor, and the passage of the Thames here, (fn. 12) leaving his four sisters his coheirs. His wife, daughter of William de Montacute, earl of Salisbury, then surviving, who had for her dowry an assignation of this manor. (fn. 13) She died in the 33d year of the same reign, possessed of the manor of Erith, held of the king, as of his castle of Dover, by the service of two knights fees, as was then found by inquisition.
On her death there was a farther partition made (for there had been one already) of the inheritance of Giles de Badlesmere among his four sisters, viz. of her dower, when this manor fell to the share of Elizabeth, then the wife of William de Bohun, earl of Northampton. She died in the 1st year of king Richard II. having survived the earl her husband, and leaving by him one son, Humphry, who afterwards, by the decease of his uncle, Humphry, without issue, succeeded to the earldoms of Hereford and Essex, and to the office of constable of England; but the manor of Erith descended to Roger, her only surviving son by Edmund Mortimer, her first husband.
This great family of Mortimer derive their descent from Roger de Mortimer, founder of the abbey of St. Victor, in Normandy, who was of consanguinity to William the Conqueror, his mother being niece to Gunnora, wife to Richard, duke of Normandy, greatgrandmother to the Conqueror.
Ralph de Mortimer, his son, as is supposed, accompanied William, duke of Normandy, in his expedition hither, being one of his chief commanders, and shortly after the duke's conquest of this realm, one of his most puissant captains in the further subduing of it; he afterwards overcame and took prisoner Edrick, earl of Shrewsbury, who stood out against the Conqueror, and was rewarded with his vast estate.
Among his possessions there are one hundred and thirty-one of his lordships, lying in different counties, recorded in the book of Domesday, besides the castle of Wigmore, which afterwards became the principal seat of him and his posterity.
But these great possessions raised his descendants to such power, and inflamed them with so much ambition, as, joined with their alliance to the blood royal of England, came to be the frequent cause of much bloodshed and trouble in this kingdom, as well as of attainders and executions among themselves; yet did they persevere, till at length, after many struggles, in which they made the throne frequently shake, his posterity, in the person of king Edward IV. attained to, and died in the peaceful possession of the crown of England.
A direct descendant of Ralph Mortimer, who accompanied William the Conqueror, through a series of illustrious ancestors, of the eldest branch of Mortimer of Wigmore, was that great, but ambitious Roger Mortimer, of Wigmore; who, after various changes of fortune, became, for his insolence and haughtiness, so odious to king Edward III. and the nation in general, that the king had him apprehended at the castle of Nottingham, where he then was with the queen, and upon the meeting of parliament he was found guilty in particular of consenting to the murder of the late king Edward II. upon which he was condemned and executed in the 4th year of that reign.
This great, but unhappy man left four sons and several daughters, of the former, Edmund, the eldest, had not the title of earl of March, his father's attainder not being reversed in his time. He was of Wigmore, and married Elizabeth, one of the four sisters and coheirs of Giles de Badlesmere. He died, in the flower of his youth, at Stanton Lacy, in the 5th year of king Edward III. leaving Elizabeth his wife surviving, who afterwards married William de Bohun, earl of Northampton, as has been already mentioned before.
Roger de Mortimer, his son, in the 28th year of the same reign, obtained a reversal of the judgment given against his grandfather Roger, earl of March, as erroneous, and was restored in blood; (fn. 14) after which he bore that title, and he had then restitution of all his other lands, which by that forfeiture came to the crown.
The following year he was made constable of Dover castle, and warden of the cinque ports; and in the 33d year of that reign, he had possession granted of the manor of Erythe, the inheritance of which then descended to him, upon the death of Elizabeth, widow of Giles de Badlesmere, and afterwards of Hugh le Despencer, he being right heir to the former, being the son of Elizabeth, one of his sisters and coheirs. He died next year, at Ronera, in Burgundy, where he commanded the English forces, being then possessed of the manors of Swanscombe and Erythe, which last he held of the king, as of his castle of Dover, by the service of one knights fee. (fn. 15) Edmund Mortimer, earl of March, his eldest son, married Philippa, daughter and heir to Lionel, duke of Clarence, third son of king Edward III. by Philippa of Henault, his wife, from which match his descendants afterwards claimed the crown, as their just inheritance.
In the 46th year of that reign, he had possession granted of his own lands, though he had not then accomplished his full age, and in the 1st year of king Richard II. he bore the titles of earl of March and Ulster, lord of Wigmore, Clare, and Connaught, and marshal of England. In the 3d year of that reign, he was constituted the king's lieutenant of Ireland, where, in passing a great river near Corke, he caught cold and died there, in the 5th year of that reign, being then possessed of the manor of Erith, with the passage over the Thames there, held in capite, by homage, as was found on inquisition, but by what service was unknown. By Elizabeth, the mother of the lady Philippa his wife, who was daughter and heir of William, son and heir of John de Burgh, earl of Ulster, by Elizabeth his wife, third sister and coheir of Gilbert de Clare, the last earl of Gloucester, he enjoyed the third part of the earldom of Gloucester, and by the said William the county of Ulster, and dominion of Connaught in Ireland. (fn. 16) He had by her two sons and two daughters. Roger Mortimer, his eldest son, was, at his father's death, but eleven years of age; but being a hopeful youth, and every way accomplished, he was shortly after made lieutenant of Ireland, and in the parliament held in the 9th year of king Richard II. by reason of his descent from Lionel, duke of Clarence, was declared heir apparent to the crown of this realm. In the 17th year of that reign, he had possession granted of all his lands; and being retained in the king's service, then followed him into Ireland, having in his retinue an hundred men at arms, whereof two were bannerets; also eight knights, two hundred archers on horseback, and four hundred on foot; and the next year was constituted lord lieutenant of that whole realm, as he was in the 21st year of that reign, when he went thither again. But the year following, too much relying on his own bravery, he ventured too far before his army in an Irish habit, and was slain at Kenles. He died possessed of this manor, with the passage over the Thames there, which, as was then found, was held in capite by knights service. (fn. 17)
His son, Edmund Mortimer, was the last earl of March of this family, and was, by king Henry IV. for some time, kept in strict custody,' for the king was but too conscious, that he was right heir to the crown of England, by just descent from Lionel, duke of Clarence, third son of king Edward III. in preference to himself, who was descended from John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster, the fourth son of that king.
Notwithstanding which, in the next reign of Henry V. he found such favour, that in the 1st year of it, he received his summons to parliament as earl of March, and was employed throughout that reign in many important services. He died in the 3d year of king Henry VI. without issue, upon which Richard, duke of York, son of Anne his sister, wife of Richard, earl of Cambridge, was by inquisition found to be his next heir, (fn. 18) being the only son of Richard de Coningsborough, earl of Cambridge, the second son of Edmund de Langley, duke of York, earl of Cambridge, and lord of Tindall, fifth son of king Edward III.
On the death of his uncle, Edward, duke of York, who was slain at the battle of Agincourt, in the 4th of king Henry V. and died without issue, this Richard his nephew was found to be his heir, and in the 3d year of king Henry VI. on the death of his cousin, Edmund Mortimer, the last earl of March, without issue, he was likewise found to be his heir, as has been mentioned before, and as such became entitled to the manor of Erythe; and in the 8th year of that reign, though not then of full age, he was made constable of England, in the room of John, duke of Bedford. In the 10th year of it, having attained his full age, he made petition to parliament by the title of Richard, duke of York, son of Richard, brother of Edward, late duke of York, and cousin to Edmund, earl of March, for the possession of the hereditaments of the late duke and earl, which was assented to, and the next year he received summons to parliament. (fn. 19) After which he was appointed lieutenant and captain-general of all France and Normandy; and then constituted lord lieutenant of Ireland, but returning from thence, he turned his thoughts solely to the recovery of his right to the crown of England, as the lineal heir male to it, and possessed of a prior right to that claimed by the house of Lancaster.
To effect this, he levied an army, and entering Kent, encamped on Dartford Brent, and the king coming with his forces to Blackheath, there was, by the mediation of some of the nobles, a seigned reconciliation made between them, and the duke was, on his submission, pardoned.
Soon after which, the more to strengthen his party, the duke married Cicilie Nevill, the youngest daughter of Ralph, earl of Westmoreland, and Joane Beaufort his second wife, daughter of John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster. By which match he became related to most of the greatest nobility in the kingdom, and nearly allied to the numerous and flourishing family of Nevill, for she had for her brothers, Richard Nevill, earl of Salisbury, father of Richard, earl of Warwick, surnamed Make King; William Nevill, lord Fauconberg; George Nevill, lord Latimer; Edward Nevill, lord Bergavenny; and Robert Nevill, bishop of Durham; and to her half-brothers, Ralph Nevill, earl of Westmoreland, and Nevill, lord Ousley. By whose assistance he was well enabled to cope with the house of Lancaster for the crown. (fn. 20)
Relying therefore on the power of so great an alliance, he again raised an army, to support his pretensions to it, against king Henry, and after several battles sought with the Lancastrians with various success, at one time obtaining the victory and taking the king prisoner, and at another being vanquished, and forced to fly the realm, the duke at last, on the queen's raising a power against him, marched from London northward, appointing his son, the earl of March, to follow him, with all his power, and came to his castle of Sandale, near Wakefield, in Yorkshire, on Christmaseve, anno 38 king Henry VI. Thither the queen immediately followed him; and the duke, though much inferior in number, drew out his forces towards Wakefield; but being overpowered, his little army was soon routed, and he himself slain, and his corpse being first interred at Pontetsract, was afterwards carried and intombed in the choir of the collegiate church of Fotheringhay. (fn. 21) He died possessed of the manor of Eryth, as appears by the inquisition taken in the 3d year of king Edward IV. Notwithstanding there had passed in the 38th year of the last reign a long attainder against him and others, with the forseiture of all their hereditaments in fee, or fee, tail, (fn. 22) on his death it descended to his eldest son Edward, who bore the title of earl of March in his father's life-time, not by any patent of creation, but as his eldest surviving son, by reason of his descent from the Mortimers, earls of March, though by an heir female, as has been already observed.
Being at Gloucester when his father was slain, he immediately raised a large army, and routing a numerous party of the king's friends at Mortimer's Cross, and being joined by a considerable reinforcement, he entered the city of London, great numbers coming to his assistance from the counties of Kent and Essex, and other parts. Upon which he called a great council of the lords, in which it was adjudged, that as king Henry was insufficient to rule, and therefore fit to be deposed, they admitted Edward, earl of March, for king; who was accordingly proclaimed by the title of king Edward IV. where I shall leave him, with the remainder of his life and actions to our public historians. (fn. 23)
The manor of Eryth, thus becoming part of the royal revenue, continued in the crown till king Henry VIII. in his 36th year, granted it to Elizabeth, relict of George, earl of Shrewsbury, by the description of the manor of Eryth, alias Lysnes, with all its members and appurtenances, to hold in capite, by knight's service. (fn. 24)
She was the second wife of George, earl of Shrewsbury, who died anno 33 king Henry VIII. being one of the daughters and coheirs of Sir Richard Walden, of this parish, and the lady Margaret his wife, who both lie buried in this church. (fn. 25) By him she had one son, John, who died young, and Anne, married to Peter Compton, son and heir of Sir William Compton, who died in the 35th year of that reign, under age.
Elizabeth, countess of Shrewsbury, in the 4th year of queen Elizabeth, levied a fine of this manor, with the passage over the Thames, and dying in the 10th year of that reign, lies buried, under a sumptuous tomb, in this church, having her essigies at full length on it.
Before her death this manor, &c. seems to have been settled on her only daughter, Anne, then wife of William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, and widow of Peter Compton, as before related, who was in possession of it, anno 9 queen Elizabeth. The earl of Pembroke died in the 12th year of that reign, leaving no issue by her. (fn. 26) She survived him, and died in the 31st year of it, and was buried, with great solemnity, in Eryth church, and this manor descended to her only son and heir Henry, by Peter Compton, her first husband.
This family of Compton was descended from Philip de Compton, who lived in the reign of king John; whose grandson of the same name, possessed the manor of Compton Wyniate, in Warwickshire, which has been the seat of his posterity ever since. His direct descendant, Sir William Compton, was in such favor with king Henry VIII. whose page he had been, when duke of York, that he advanced him to be chief gentleman of his bedchamber; and within three years after, in consideration of his services, he had a special grant to him and his heirs, of an honorable augmentation to his arms, out of the king's royal ensigns and devices; viz. A lion passant-guardant or, as appears by the special letters under that king's sign manual. They bore before, Sable, three belmets argent, to which this lion passant-guardant or, was added in the centre; which coat of arms they bear at this time.
He died in the 20th of king Henry VIII. being then of the bedchamber to the king, and was succeeded by his only son, Peter Compton, before-mentioned; whose only son, Henry, by the lady Anne, daughter of George, earl of Shrewsbury, on his mother's death, succeeded to this manor of Eryth, as has been already related before.
He had been knighted, and was summoned to parliament among the barons, by writ, in the 14th year of that reign, as baron Compton, of Compton, in Warwickshire, and dying in the 32d year of it, was buried at Compton, among his ancestors. He married first, Frances, daughter of Francis Hastings, earl of Huntingdon, by whom he had William, his heir, and Thomas, and one daughter, Margaret. (fn. 27) His second wife was Anne, daughter of Sir John Spencer, of Althorpe, widow of William Stanley, lord Mounteagle; by her he had Sir Henry Compton, of East Grinsted, in Sussex, K.B. which branch is now extinct.
Henry, lord Compton, above-mentioned, settled the manor of Eyrth on Sir Thomas Compton, his second son by his first lady, on his marriage with Mary, countess of Buckingham, relict of Sir George Villars, and mother of George, duke of Buckingham. He died without issue, and devised it by his will to his great nephew, Sir William Compton, third son of Spencer, earl of Northampton, only son of William, lord Compton, who was created earl of Northampton, by king James I. in the 16th year of his reign, and was elder brother to Sir Thomas Compton, possessor of this manor, as before-mentioned. (fn. 28) Sir William Compton was a most loyal and valiant gentleman, and engaged in the civil wars for king Charles I. in the 18th year of his age, during which he was made governor of Banbury-castle, and in 1648 major-general of his Majesty's forces. Soon after which he conveyed the manor of Eryth to Mr. Lodowick, of London; who quickly sold it to Nicholas Vanacker, esq. merchant of that city, descended from ancestors of foreign extraction, who bore for his arms, or, on a bend gules, three cinquefoils argent. (fn. 29)
He left four sons and two daughters. Of the sons, Francis Vanacker, esq. the eldest, will be mentioned hereafter; James died unmarried; Nicholas was a Turkey merchant, and was created a baronet in the 12th year of king William, with remainder to his brother John, remainder to Sir Jeremy Sambrooke, but he died without issue. John, the 4th son, was a Turkey merchant, and succeeded to the title of baronet, and died without issue. Of the two daughters, Susannah was married to Sir William Hedges, and Judith to Sir Jeremy Sambrooke, whose son, Samuel, succeeded his uncle John, in the title of baronet.
Francis Vanacker, esq. the eldest son, on his father's death, became possessed of the manor of Erith, and was sheriff of this county in 1675. He married Cornelia, daughter of William Bovey, esq. of Gloucestershire, by whom he left no issue. He died in 1686, and was buried in this church. On his death his widow became possessed of it, and afterwards married William Bateman, esq. who in her right enjoyed it. She survived him, and dying in 1702, lies buried in this church. She was succeeded in this manor by her brother in law, Sir John Vanacker, bart. and merchant of London, the only surviving brother, and heir of her first husband, Francis Vanacker, esq. deceased.
Sir John Vanacker, bart. dying without issue, this manor came into the possession of his kinsman, Sir William Hedges, alderman of London, in right of his wife, Susanna, sister of Sir John Vanacker, as beforementioned, and he died possessed of it in the year 1701.
On his death, his son, William Hedges, esq. became possessed of it, and dying without issue in 1734, was buried in this church. He devised the manor of Erith to John Wheatley, esq. who died in 1748, and lies buried with Margaret Salisbury Wheatley his wife, in this church. He seems before his death to have settled this manor on his son, William Wheatley, who died possessed of it in his father's life time, in 1745, and was buried here, leaving his widow surviving, who afterwards married Mr. William Hussey, the city solicitor, whom she likewise survived, and died in 1777.
He was succeeded in it by his only son and heir, William Wheatley, esq. who, in the year 1769, served the office of sheriff for this county. He is the present possessor of the manor of Erith, alias Lesnes, and resides here in a new mansion, which he has lately built on the north side of Northumberland heath, on a much more elevated situation than the old manor house which is situated in the town of Erith. He married, Mary, daughter of Mr. Randall, by whom he has several children. He bears for his arms, quarterly, first and fourth, parted per fess a pale counterchanged, three lions rampant; second and third, parted per fess wavy, three bucks beads caboshed.
BEDENWELL is a small hamlet of houses, formerly reputed a manor. It was once the inheritance of the family of Burford; and in the 1st year of king Edward III. was held of David de Strabolgie, son of John, earl of Athol, as chief lord of the fee. (fn. 30) Rose de Burford held this manor at her death, in the 3d of king Edward III. (fn. 31) Her successor, James de Burford, obtained a charter of free warren for his lands at Bedenwell, in the 35th year of that reign, and then held it as half a knight's fee of the heir of Roger Mortimer, earl of March, late deceased. (fn. 32)
After this family was extinct, which was before the end of king Richard II's reign, it came into the possession of Draper, descended from an antient family of that name in Nottinghamshire, the last of whom, John Draper, dying without male issue, his sole daughter and heir carried Bedenwell in marriage to William Killem, with the provisoe of his changing his name to Draper, which he and his descendants complied with. But in the reign of Charles I. Bedenwell was split into several parts, one of which was sold to Turner, another to Gainsford, of Crowherst, in Surry, who not long after alienated his part to Cholmley, and other parts were sold to others; which entirely destroyed all its rights as a manor; since which it has been again divided by different conveyances into many more separate properties and tenements, in which state it now remains.
HERING-HILL is a place in this parish, which was antiently the residence of a family called Abell, who bore for their arms, a saltier engrailed; (fn. 33) of these Sir John Abell was among those Kentish knights, who attended king Edward I. at the siege of Carlaverock, in Scotland, in the 28th year of his reign. He had, by Margaret his wife, two sons; John, who, as appears by by the patent rolls, was one of the barons of the exchequer, in the 5th year of king Edward II. and Walter, who was owner of Foot's Cray.
In the reign of king Henry IV. as appears by the registers of the crown office, Edward Abell was in the commission of the peace for this county, and lies buried in this church. His descendant, John Abell, died possessed of Hering hill, about the latter end of queen Elizabeth. His son, Samuel Abell, was the last of this family here; and, in the 10th year of James I. together with his son John, passed this estate away by sale to Mr. William Draper, of Drapers place, in this parish, a seat which afterwards passed by sale to Bateman, and thence to Dashwood, by marriage, it is now called Blackball, and is almost in ruins, being inhabited only by working people. Mr. William Draper's descendant, Charles Draper, esq. died possessed of Heringhill in the reign of king George I. and his widow was possessed of it in the year 1725; soon after whose decease, this estate became divided into moieties, one of which became the property of Theodore Johnson, of Lincoln's-inn, esq. custos brevium of the court of king's bench, who died greatly advanced in years, in 1774, and by his will devised his interest in it to three sisters of the name of Smyth, the youngest of whom in this county, and they are now entitled to it. The other moiety was vested in Mr. Edmund Benson, attorney-at law in Yorkshire, in which name it still continues.
BELVIDERE-HOUSE stands on the eastern side of Leason-heath, about half a mile westward from Erith church. It was originally erected by George Hayley, esq. who, after residing in it for some time, passed it away by sale to Charles Calvert, lord Baltimore, of the kingdom of Ireland, which title had been conferred on his ancestor Sir George Calvert, by patent, in the 22d year of king James I. who bore for his arms, Paly of six, or, and sable, a bend counterchanged, granted to him by Sir George Norroy, instead of their antient family bearing or, three martlets sable. (fn. 34) Charles, lord Baltimore, died here in 1751; soon after which this seat was sold by his devisee to Sampson Gideon, esq. who resided at Belvidere, which he greatly improved, and dying in 1762, leaving by Jane his wife, daughter of Charles Ermell, who survived him, one son Sampson, and two daughters, Susannah and Elizabeth, the latter of whom married lord viscount Gage. He was succeeded in this seat and his ample fortune, by his son Sir Sampson Gideon, bart. he having been so created in his father's life time on May 21, 1759, being stiled in the patent of Spalding, in Lincolnshire, since which in 1789, he has been created lord Eardley, of the kingdom of Ireland. He married in 1766 Maria Marow, daughter of Sir John Eardley Wilmot, late chief justice of the common pleas, who died in 1794, by whom he has several children. He bears for his arms, Parted per chevron vert and or, in chief or a rose; of the second, between two fleurs de lis argent, in base a lion rampant, regardant azure. Lord Eardley has lately rebuilt this seat, and makes it his principal residence.
This house is situated on the brow of a hill, and commands a vast extent of prospect over the river Thames, and many miles beyond it. The river and navigation add greatly to the beauty of the scene. The grounds and woods around it are judiciously laid out, and have many beautiful walks in them. The collection of pictures here, though not numerous, yet is very valuable; containing none but pieces which are originals, by the greatest masters, and some of them very capital.
The abbey of Westminster was antiently possessed of lands in this parish, bequeathed to it by one Ætsere. King Edward the Consessor confirmed this gift, as did William the Conqueror, Vitalis being then babot of that monastery.
Godfrid, bishop of Winchester, who was confecrated anno 1189, confirmed the gift which his father Richard de Luci had made, in perpetual alms, to Christ church, in London, and the canons there, of all the land which Godfry Benum held in his manor of Lesnes.
RICHARD DE LUCY, chief justice of England, in the
year 1178, founded and endowed An Abbey of Canons
Regular, of the order of St. Augustine, at Westwood,
in his village of Lesnes. The scite of the abbey being
about a mile and three quarters westward from Erith
church, at the edge of the marshes, and adjoining to
the large wood before-mentioned, then called Westwood, but since the Abbey-wood, and he endowed it
amply, and particularly with a moiety of his possessions
in this parish, being the western part of it, afterwards
stiled the manor of Lesnes, as the other moiety which
remained with his heirs, was from its situation, as well
as to distinguish it, the manor of Lesnes, alias Erith,
of which a full account has been already given before.
The next year, quitting his honors, and great preferments, he took upon him the habit of a canon in this
house, then scarce finished, and dying in 1179, was
buried under a sumptuous monument in the choir of
his church here, and, as is said, with this epitaph
Rapitur in tenebras Richardus lux luciorum,
Justicie pacis dilector, et urbis honorum.
Christe sibi requies tecum sit sede piorum;
Julia tunc orbi lux bis septena nitebat,
Mille annos C. novem et septuaginta movebat. (fn. 35)
This monastery, as first called from its situation, the ABBEY OF WEST-WOOD, which name however was soon changed to that of LESNES, was, with the church of it, dedicated to St. Mary and St. Thomas the Martyr, for so archbishop Becket was called within about eight years after his death. Godfrey de Lucy, a near relation of the founder, bishop of Winchester, was a great benefactor to this house. (fn. 36) In the 9th year of king Edward I. the abbot of Lesnes had free-warren granted to him and his successors, for his lands here, at Tong, and at Acolt. (fn. 37) And in the 5th year of king Edward III. the abbot and convent of Westwude had a confirmation of their foundation-charter, and of their liberties, (fn. 38) the foundation and possessions of which were afterwards confirmed by king John, and king Edward II. and III. (fn. 39) In an antient valuation of the temporalities of the religious houses taken in the 15th of king Edward I. those of the abbot of Lesnes, with the passage of the water, and the marsh lands, with the revenue of Dartford, Lodeham, and Greenwich, were valued at 22l. 18s. 8d.
The abbot of Lesnes was summoned to parliament in the 49th year of king Henry III. and in the 23d year of king Edward I. but when king Edward III. reduced the number of the abbots summoned to parliament, this of Lesnes was omitted. (fn. 40)
In the 7th year of king Edward I. the abbot claimed several liberties, for himself and his tenants; for that he and his predecessors had used them, from the granting of them by king Henry to that time. (fn. 41) In the 21ft year of the above reign, the abbot, and Joan Pecche, who held the manor of Lesnes, alias Erith, in dower, as of the inheritance of John, earl of Athol, each claimed to have wreck of the sea in the Thames, within their manors of Lesnes, as has been noticed before, the former alledging, that he found his church seized of it at his coming to it. But it was given against him; it being found by inquisition that the ancestors of the before-mentioned earl had enjoyed such wreck, within their manor, beyond memory, &c. The same year he claimed to have free-warren in his demesne lands in Lesnes, by charter from the then king; which was by the jury allowed him. (fn. 42)
The abbot and convent of Lesnes, in the 10th year of king Edward III. (fn. 43) granted to the prior and convent of Rochester, an annual rent of 4l. 6s. 8d out of their manors of Leisnes and Akholt, for the performance of certain religious services. In consideration of which, they received of Hamo, bishop of Rochester, one hundred and sixty marcs sterling; which they in great measure applied to the reparation of their church, which was by sudden chance become ruinous; in defence of their lands against the Thames, and in aid of the burthen of their heavy debts; by reason of which, and the purchasing the advowson of the church of Elhethele, in the diocese of London, lately appropriated to them; the deficiency of their corn harvest, and their various suits, and other different matters happening to them, they were necessitated to make the grant of it. (fn. 44)
This abbey continued, without any further occurrence worth mentioning, till the reign of king Henry VIII. when cardinal Wolsey, being desirous of founding two colleges, one at Ipswich, and the other at Oxford; obtained a bull of pope Clement VII. in 1524, for the suppression of St. Frideswide's priory, in Oxford, and that year he obtained another from that pope, for suppressing (with the king's leave) as many small monasteries as were needful, to raise a revenue, not exceeding three thousand ducats per annum. This the king consented to, and granted a commission for that purpose; whereupon this monastery, with seventeen other small ones in different counties, were suppressed; (fn. 45) this in particular, on the 20th of July following; (fn. 46) when it appears, that the spiritualities of it were valued at 75l. 3s. 4d. and the temporalities at 111l. 5s. 8d. in the whole 186l. 9s. per annum. (fn. 47)
After which the king, by his letters patent in his 17th year granted the several suppressed monasteries of Lesnes, Tunbridge, Begham, and Calcote, together with all their manors, lands and possessions, to Thomas Wolsey, cardinal of York, for the better endowment of his college, called the college of Thomas, cardinal of York, and vulgarly, Cardinal college, in Oxford, which letters patent were again confirmed by others that year.
But four years afterward, when that great prelate was cast in a prœmunire, all the estates of the above college, which for want of time had not been firmly settled on it, were forfeited to the king, and became part of the royal revenue of the crown, where this suppressed abbey did not remain long, for king Henry VIII. in his 25th year, granted to William Brereton, the precinct of the late abbey of St. Thomas the Martyr, of Liesnes, excepting the marsh belonging to the manor, to hold to him and the heirs of his body, by fealty only. But he afterwards engaging in the fatal transaction of queen Catherine Howard, in 1542, was attainted and executed, and this, among the rest of his estates, became forfeited to the crown. (fn. 48)
King Henry VIII. in his 28th year, granted to Ralph Sadler, gent. afterwards knighted, the late monastery of St. Thomas the Martyr, of Lesnes, and the manors of Lesnes and Fants, with their appurtenances, in the county of Kent; and all lands, tenements, &c. in the parishes and fields of Lesnes, Fants, Erych, Bexley, Dartford, Plumsted; Higham fields, Fawists-garden, Ledayne, Inveynerd, Hakis, Walstow, Saltland, Ruffeld, John-hill, and Mansfield, and one marsh called Coldherber, to hold in capite by fealty only.
THE MANOR OF FANTS mentioned before, was situated within the bounds of this parish, and was of the revenues of the monastery of Stratford, in Esiex, on the suppression of which, in king Henry the VIIIth's reign, it had come into the king's hands, whence it was soon afterwards granted, with the manor of Lesnes as before-mentioned, to Sir Ralph Sadler, who some little time before had had a grant of the tenths of the manor of Fants, late belonging to the same monastery of Stratford, to hold of the king, in capite.
In the 32d year of the king Henry VIII. Sir Ralph Sadler alienated both the above manors, with their appurtenances (excepting the marshes belonging to them) to Henry Cooke. (fn. 49)
It has been mentioned before, that when the king, in his 25th year, made the first grant of the manor of Lesnes to William Brereton, the marsh lands belonging to it were wholly excepted, and they remained it seems in the crown till the king, in his 35th year, granted among other lands, all these marshes belonging to the above manor, to Thomas Arderne, of Faversham, to hold in capite. (fn. 50)
Henry Cooke died in the 5th year of king Edward VI. possessed of these manors, and the scite of the monastery of Lyesnes, held as before-mentioned, and other marsh lands, as well salt as fresh, in Leysnes, Erith, Bexley, Crayford, and Dartford, held in capite by knight's service, and several other lands in these parts, as was then found by inquisition, and that Edmund Cooke was his son and heir, (fn. 51) who was of Lesnes abbey, and of Mount Mascal in this county, and died possessed of both in 1619. His eldest son, Lambert Cooke, conveyed these manors, and the scite of this abbey, to Sir John Leman, alderman of London, who soon after sold them again to Sir John Hippisley. In whose time some workmen, digging by his order for stones in the place where the church of this abbey sometime stood, then overgrown with trees and bushes, sound several stone coffins, and a handsome funeral monument, on which was the full proportion of a man, in his coat armour, cut in free stone; his sword hanging at his side in a broad belt, upon which the fleur de lis or luce, was engraved in many places, perhaps a device or rebus for the name of Lucy. This figure lay on a flat marble stone, which served as a cover or lid to a hollowed tomb of white smooth hewen asheler stone; in which, wrapped in a sheet of lead, lay the remains of an ashy dry body, whole and undisjointed, having upon its head something like hair. They found likewise other statues of men, in like manner proportioned, and of a woman in her attire and habiliments, with many gravestones and bones of deceased persons; to see all which great crowds of people resorted continually, not only from the neighbouring parts, but even from London. (fn. 52)
By the direction of the then owner, the first mentioned monument was again covered, and he planted a bay tree over it; when Dr. Stukeley visited this place, in 1753, he thought this tree the finest of the kind he had ever seen, but it is since wholly withered and decayed. The doctor was of opinion that the farm house, standing on the premises, was the orioriginal mansion or seat of the founder, in which he and his successors, the abbots, used to reside; it is however certain that all the buildings, used by the religious, were situated southward of the house; whilst this spot was inhabited by the occupiers of the land, the area of the church and cloisters was used as a garden, but the cattle now range over the whole of it. The ruinous north wall of the church, of which the doctor drew a sketch, is inserted in the Archæologia, and again in this volume, is much more dilapidated, but the boundaries of almost the whole precinct may still be traced. (fn. 53)
But to return—Sir John Hippesley (fn. 54) sold these estates to Sir Thomas Gainsford, of Crowherst, in Surry, who, in the reign of king Charles I. sold them to Mr. Haws of London; and he dying without isue, settled them by his will for ever on the mayor and commonalty of London, as governors of the hospitals of Bridewell, Christ church, and St. Thomas, in whose possession they continue at this time.
Abbots and Priors of Lesnes.
In 1321, ROGER DE DERTFORD was abbot. He was deprived by the bishop in 1341. (fn. 55)
The names of the canons of this monastery, present at the above election, were Henry Blackamore, late abbot, Thomas Bible, prior, Robert Hale, subprior, John Johns, John Cytingborne, William Brigth, William Copere, Richard Lee. Absent, John Makyns, John Kynge, and Thomas Lambe; in all eleven; and in the Registrum Roffense there is a long and full account of the manner of his election, the confirmation of it, and of his consecration, by the bishop of Rochester. King Henry VIII.'s licence to the monastery, to proceed to election, is dated from Charing, March 4, that year. (fn. 56)
Of the imbanking and draining THE MARSHES, lying on the Thames, between Greenwich and this place, and from thence to Gravesend, at different times, and the breaches and other accidents which have happened to them, the reader will find a particular account in Dugdale's History of Imbanking, and some account of the inning of part of these marshes in the description of the parish of Plumsted; however, it may be proper to take notice here, that in the fourth year of king James I. upon a petition then exhibited in parliament for inning and winning of certain marsh grounds, lying in the drowned marshes of Lesnes and Fants, which had been of long time overflowed, an act passed, that William Burrell, gent. of Ratcliffe (who had covenanted with the owners for this purpose, in 1606) should have power to enter on this work for the recovery of the same; and that he and his heirs should have one half of the grounds so inned, according to that agreement, and the other moiety should belong to the owners of these marsh grounds, according to the several proportions of their quantities, which they had then in them, to be holden of Edmund Cooke, esq. his heirs and assigns, as of his manor of Lesnes and Fants, in free socage, by fealty, and one penny rent for every acre, and not in chief nor by knights service. (fn. 57)
JOHN STREET, in 1718, gave by will, to be distributed in twopenny loaves, 2s. worth every Sunday, for fifteen Sundays, to begin one month before Christmas, payable out of six acres of marsh land in this parish, of the annual produce of 1l. 10s.
WILLIAM TURNER, in 1739, gave by will a yearly sum of 5s. worth of bread, to be given for eight Sundays to the poor who receive no alms from the parish, payable out of a messuage and farm, called Woodcock's, in this parish, vested in lord Eardley, and of the annual produce of 2l.
RICHARD TURNER, in 1745, gave by will, to be distributed to the poor, in bread, payable out of nineteen and fifteen acres of marsh land, the yearly sum of 20s. vested in the same, and of that annual produce.
FRANCIS CLARE gave by will, 20s. to be given every Christmas to twenty poor people, 7s. worth of bread, to be given every Sunday for three Sundays after, to poor people, vested in Mrs. Bradford, and of the annual produce of 2l. 1s.
ERITH, alias Lesnes, is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and deanry of Dartford. The church is dedicated to St. John the Baptist. It consists of three isles and two chancels, having a spire steeple at the west end, in which are six bells.
Among other monuments and inscriptions in this church, are the following: In the great chancel, a monument for Sir John Griffith of Erith, and dame Mary his wife; he died in 1677. Underneath these arms, Three eagles displayed, impaling parted per chevron flory, three talbots heads, erased and collared. A gravestone and brass plate, with inscription in black letter, for Anne, eldest daughter of Thomas Harman, esq. of Crayford, and wife of William Draper, gent. of Erith, obt. 1574, leaving two sons and two daughters. On a grave stone, before the rails of the altar, are the marks where have been the effigies in brass of a man and woman, which, with the inscription, are lost; but at the four corners are these arms in brass, on a fess, three mullets of five points, between three fleurs de lis; 2d, shield on a bend, three roses. In the south chancel, on a grave-stone, is the effigies of a man between his two wives, and an inscription in brass and black letter for John Aylmer, Margaret and Bennet his wives; he died 1511. Adjoining another, having the effigy of a man in brass, and inscription for Roger Sencler, formerly in the service of the abbot and convent of Lesnes, obt. 1421. On the south side on a grave stone, is a large brass plate, with the effigies of a man and woman, which had labels from their mouths, now lost, the inscription in black letter now remains for John Ailmer, ob. 1405, and Margaret his wife. Within the rails, on the north side, on a gravestone, the effigies in brass of a man in armour, and of his wife, and inscription in black letter, for Edw. Hawte, esq. and Elizabeth his wife; he died 1537; under have been the figures of three sons and one daughter, now lost. Adjoining to the above is another, with the figures of a woman in brass, and inscription in black letter, for Emma, wife of John Wode, citizen of London, and merchant of the staple at Calais, daughter of John Walden, ald. of London, and merch. of the staple at Calais likewise, ob. 1471; under, a shield in brass, Walden, being a bend, cotized, between six martlets. On a large grave stone, are the effigies in brass, of a man in armour and of his wife, beneath his three sons, the inscription and those of the daughters are lost; over his head, the arms of Walden in brass. On a grave-stone adjoining, are the effigies in brass of a man in armour, with his tabard of arms, and of his wife. On his tabard are the arms of Walden, as above, but the inscription and shield of arms are gone, which was for Sir Rich. Walden, and is preserved in Weever. On the south side is a noble altar tomb of white marble, for Eliz. countess of Shrewsbury, daughter and heir of Sir Rich. Walden, on which is her effigies in her robes and coronet, lying at full length, her head supported by a pillar; on the sides of the tomb are her arms, with a great variety of quarterings, the colours of which are now defaced, as well as the inscription, which is preserved in Weever; she died in 1568. On the north side is a mural monument for Francis Vanacker, esq. lord of this manor of Erith, obt. 1686, who left surviving Cornelia his wife, and his two brothers, Nicholas and John, merchants of London; above are the arms of Vanackar, or, on a bend, gules, three cinquefoils, argent, impaling ermine, on a bend, gules, three guttee d'or between two ravens, proper; under the above tomb, and over the grave, is an elegant altar tomb of white marble, covered with black. On a grave stone, within iron rails, an inscription for Mrs. Cornelia, widow of W. Bateman, merchant, lady of this manor of Erith, and formerly the widow and relict of Francis Vanacker, esq. lord of the same manor, obt. 1702; and left her brother-in-law, Sir John Vanacker, bart. and merchant of London, the present lord of this manor, the only surviving brother of her said husband, Francis Vanacker, esq. On a grave stone, a memorial for Margaret, daughter of John Wheatley, gent. by Margaret his wife; she died 1718, æt. 19; above these arms, Wheatley, parted per fess a pale, counterchanged, three lions rampant; another for Wm. Hedges, esq. lord of this manor, obt. 1734, æt. 57; above these arms, two coats quarterly, 1st and 4th, three swans necks, erased, 2d and 3d, a chevron, ermine, between three lions rampant. A memorial for Margaret Salisbury, wife of John Wheatley, esq. and lady of this manor, obt. 1743; for John Wheatley, esq. obt. 1748; above are these arms, being two coats quarterly, 1st and 4th, Wheatley as above, 2d and 3d, parted per fess, wavy, three bucks heads, carboshed, over all an escutcheon of pretence, being a bend between three martlets; another for Wm. Wheatley, esq. lord of this manor, obt. 1745; above are the arms of Wheatley. On a grave stone, at the entrance into the south isle, is a brass plate with this inscription in black letter. (fn. 58)
It appears by the Escheat Rolls, of 35 Edw. III. that Peter atte Coke possessed land in Lesnes. In another record he is called Peter de Wenslingburg, alias Peter atte Coke. In this church lie buried likewise Anne countess of Pembroke, who died in 1589; and Edward Abell, of Hering-hill, who died in king Henry IV.'s reign, as has been already noticed before.
In the 17th year of king John's reign, Peter, bishop of Winchester, William earl Warren, William earl of Arundel, and Hubert de Burgh, chief-justice of England, and constable of Dover-castle, were constituted commissioners to treat with Richard earl of Clare, and others, on behalf of the discontented barons, in the church of Erith, touching a peace betwixt the king and them, for which the latter had a safe conduct. (fn. 59)
Richard de Lucy, founder of the abbey, in the reign of king Henry II. gave the church of Lesnes, in perpetual alms, to the church of the Holy Trinity, London, and to Ralph, prior, and the canons in it, together with all the lands and tenths belonging to it; to which grant queen Matilda and many others were witnesses; which gift was confirmed to them by Godfrid, bishop of Winchester, his descendant, by king Stephen, among the rest of the possessions of that monastery, and by several kings his successors, and different popes from time to time. (fn. 60) Walter de Merton, bishop of Rochester, and Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury, confirmed this church and its possessions to them. Pope Innocent III. in the 2d year of king John, granted a bull for their protection, and the confirmation of their possessions, among which the church of Lesnes is mentioned. (fn. 61) And another, containing many additional privileges to it, and its lands and possessions, especially an exemption from their paying tenths, either of their lands which had never before been cultivated, (fn. 62) and of which none had ever received tithes, so long as they kept them in their own hands, or of the food of their cattle. (fn. 63)
In the 10th year of king Edward I. there was some dispute between the above mentioned abbot and convent, and the parishioners of the churches of Lesnes and Bexley, then appropriated to it concerning the payment of tenths for certain things, for which they alledged they had never as yet paid any; upon which pope Martin directed his bull to the prior of the Crucerois, or Crutched friars, in London, to adjust the same between them.
Another matter of dispute arose in the reign of king Henry VI. between the parishioners of Lesnes and the prior and convent, proprietors and rectors of this church, concerning the finding ornaments for the use of the high altar, and the finding of books by the latter, as by antient agreement between them; which at last, by mutual consent, was referred to the bishop of Rochester, who, in 1432, decreed, that the prior and convent, and their successors, should yearly pay ten shillings to the parishioners, towards the finding ornaments and books for the high altar, with power, in case of non-payment, of distraining all their tenths and chattels, as well in their demesne lands as in their rectory or elsewhere, in the parish. (fn. 64) The church of Lesnes, alias Erith, with the advowson of the vicarage, remained among the possessions of the monastery till its final dissolution, in the 23d year of Henry VIII. when it was surrendered, with its revenues, into the king's hands. (fn. 65)
By virtue of a commission of enquiry in 1650, issuing out of chancery, it was returned, that Erith was a parsonage, which was an impropriation belonging to Sir Thomas Thynne, and that there was in the parish a vicarage presentative with cure of souls, which was worth fifty pounds per annum, including the glebe land, which was worth ten pounds. (fn. 66)
John Weever, the author of the Funeral Monuments, appears to have been possessed of this rectory at the latter end of the reign of queen Elizabeth. (fn. 67)
In the 7th year of king James I. Sir John Thynne, of Longleat, was owner of this rectory, with the advowson of the vicarage. His descendant, Sir Thomas Thynne, possessed them in the beginning of the reign of king Charles I. It afterwards became the property of Sir James Bateman, lord mayor of London, whose eldest son, William, was created viscount Bateman of the kingdom of Ireland, but he devised this estate, which consists of the parsonage or great tithes of this parish, and an inclosed farm, together with the perpetual advowson of the vicarage, to his younger son, James Bateman, esq. who was seated at Well, in Lincolnshire. He left an only daughter and heir, Anne, who carried it in marriage to Samuel Dashwood, esq. of that county, the grandson of Sir Sam. Dashwood, lord mayor of London; on Mr. Dashwood's death, his widow became entitled to it for the term of her life, and she is the present possessor of it; she had by Mr. Dashwood a daughter, married to major Carteret of Lincolnshire, and one son, Francis Bateman Dashwood, esq. to whom the inheritance of this estate now belongs. He married Theresa, daughter and coheir of Mr. March, of Huntingdonshire, by whom he has six children. He bears for his arms, quarterly, first and fourth, Dashwood, Argent, on a fess between two bars gemels, gules, three griffins beads erased, or, second and third, Bateman.
In the 15th year of king Edward I. the church of Lesnes was valued at fifty marcs, and the vicarage at eight marcs, (fn. 68) and the temporalities of the priory of the Holy Trinity in Lesnes at 4l. 4s. 4d. (fn. 69)
The vicarage of Erith is valued in the king's books at 9l. 12s. 6d. and the yearly tenths at 19s. 3d. (fn. 70). It is now of the value of about 200l. per annum. The abbey lands are exempt from all tithes whatsoever. The parsonage farm pays small tithes to the vicar. There are seven acres and a half of glebe land. There is no vicarage house.