The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.
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IS the last parish remaining undescribed in this lath. It lies the next adjoining parish south eastward from Penshurst, and was sometimes written, in antient records, Speleberste, but in the Tex t u Rossensis, Speldburst.
THE PARISH of Speldhurst is about three miles across each way; the north-west part, in which the church stands, and Hallborough, is within the hundred of Somerden, as is the hamlet of Groombridge, three miles from the church, at the southern boundary of it, where a branch of the river Medway separates this county from Sussex, throughout all which the soil remains a stiff clay; the remaining part of this parish is in the hundred of Warchlingstone, which stretches across a narrow district, by Mitchell's and Tophill farms, and towards the parish of Ashurst, which it includes, thus entirely separates that part of the hundred of Somerden in which the hamlet of Groombridge lies, and surrounds three sides of it, from the other in which the church stands. The soil in the eastern part of this parish changes to an uninterrupted scene of losty hills, with deep vallies intersecting, the soils are a stiff loam and a barren sand, which covers a continued bed of rock stone, several of which appear above it, of large size and dimensions, greatly abounding with iron ore, which renders the springs of it more or less chalybeate; at the south east boundary of the parish is the noted resort of Tunbridge-wells, (of which a further account will be given hereafter) situated thirty-five miles from London, and five from Tunbridge town; here the high road branches off to the right, by Rust-hall, and the hamlets of Bishopsdown and Rust-hall common, on by Groombridge, across the branch of the Medway into Sussex.
The large and populous hamlet or village of TUNBRIDGE-WELLS is situated at the south-east boundary of this parish; part of it only is in Speldhurst, another part in the parish of Tunbridge, and the remainder in that of Fant, in the county of Suffex. It consists of four smaller districts, named from the hills on which they stand, Mount Ephraim, Mount Pleasant, and Mount Sion; the other is called The Wells, from their being within it, which altogether form a considerable town; but the last is the centre of business and pleasure, for there, besides the Wells themselves, are the market, public parades, assembly rooms, taverns, shops, &c. Near the Wells is the chapel, which stands remarkably in the three parishes above mentioned—the pulpit in Speldhurst, the altar in Tunbridge, and the vestry in Fant, and the stream, which parted the two counties of Kent and Suffex, formerly ran underneath it, but is now turned to a further distance from it. The right of patronage is claimed by the rector of Speldhurst, though he has never yet possessed the chapel or presented to it; the value of it is about two hundred pounds per annum, which sum is raised by voluntary subscription; divine service is performed in it every day in summer, and three times a week in winter. Adjoining to it is a charity school, for upwards of fifty poor boys and girls, which is supported by a contribution, collected at the chapel doors, two or three times a year.
The trade of Tunbridge-wells is similar to that of Spa, in Germany, and consists chiefly in a variety of toys, made of wood, commonly called Tunbridge ware, which employs a great number of hands. The wood principally used for this purpose is beech and sycamore, with yew and holly inlaid, and beautifully polished. To the market of this place is brought, in great plenty, from the South downs, in Sussex, the little bird, called the wheatear, which, from its delicacy, is usually called the English ortolan. It is not bigger in size than a lark; it is almost a lump of fat, and of a very delicious taste; it is in season only in the midst of summer, when the heat of the weather, and the fatness of it, prevents its being sent to London, which otherwise would, in all likelihood, monopolize every one of them. On the other or Suffex side of the Medway, above a mile from the Wells, are the rocks, which consist of a great number of rude eminences, adjoining to each other, several of which are seventy feet in height; in several places there are cliffs and chasms which lead quite through the midst of them, by narrow gloomy passages, which strike the beholder with astonishment.
THESE MEDICINAL WATERS, commonly called TUNBRIDGE-WELLS, lie so near to the county of Suffex that part of them are within it, for which reason they were for some time called Fant-wells, as being within that parish. (fn. 1) Their efficacy is reported to have been accidentally found out by Dudley lord North, in the beginning of the reign of king James I. Whilst he resided at Eridge-house for his health, lord Abergavenny's seat, in this neighbourhood, and that he was entirely cured of the lingering consumptive disorder he laboured under by the use of them.
The springs, which were then discovered, seem to have been seven in number, two of the principal of which were some time afterwards, by lord Abergavenny's care, inclosed, and were afterwards much resorted to by many of the middling and lower sort, whose ill health had real occasion for the use of them. In which state they continued till queen Henrietta Maria, wife of king Charles I. having been sent hither by her physicians, in the year 1630, for the reestablishment of her health, soon brought these waters into fashion, and occasioned a great resort to them from that time. In compliment to her doctor, Lewis Rowzee, in his treatise on them, calls these springs the Queen's-wells; but this name lasted but a small time, and they were soon afterwards universally known by that of Tunbridge-wells, which names they acquired from the company usually residing at Tunbridge town, when they came into these parts for the benefit of drinking the waters.
The town of Tunbridge being five miles distant from the wells, occasioned some few houses to be built in the hamlets of Southborough and Rusthall, for the accommodation of the company resorting hither, and this place now becoming fashionable, was visited by numbers for the sake of pleasure and dissipation, as well as for the cure of their infirmities; and soon after the Restoration every kind of building, for public amusements, was erected at the two hamlets above mentioned, lodgings and other buildings were built at and near the wells, the springs themselves were secured, and other conveniencies added to them. In 1664, the queen came here by the advice of her physicians, in hopes of reinstating her health, which was greatly impaired by a dangerous fever, and her success, in being perfectly cured by these waters, greatly raised the reputation of them, and the company increasing yearly, it induced the inhabitants to make every accommodation for them adjoining to the Wells, so that both Rusthall and Southborough became ruinous and deserted by all but their native inhabitants. The duke of York, with his duchess, and the two princesses their daughters, visited Tunbridge-wells in the year 1670, which brought much more company than usual to them, and raised their reputation still higher; and the annual increase continuing, it induced the lord of the manor to think of improving this humour of visiting the wells to his own profit as well as the better accommodation of the company. To effect which, he entered into an agreement with his tenants, and hired of them the herbage of the waste of the manor for the term of fifty years, at the yearly rent of ten shillings to each tenant, and then erected shops and houses on and near the walks and springs, in every convenient spot for that purpose; by which means Tunbridge wells became a populous and flourishing village, well inhabited, for whose convenience, and the company resorting thither, a chapel was likewise built, in 1684, by subscription, on some ground given by the lady viscountess Purbeck, which was, about twelve years afterwards, enlarged by an additional subscription, amounting together to near twenty-three hundred pounds.
About the year 1726, the building lease, which had been granted by the lord of the manor of Rusthall, in which this hamlet is situated, expiring, the tenants of the manor claimed a share in the buildings, as a compensation for the loss of the herbage, which was covered by his houses. This occasioned a long and very expensive law suit between them, which was at last determined in favour of the tenants, who were adjudged to have a right to a third part of the buildings then erected on the estate, in lieu of their right to the herbage; upon which all the shops and houses, which had been built on the manor waste, were divided into three lots, of which the tenants were to draw one, and the other two were to remain to the lord of the manor; the lot which the tenants drew was the middle one, which included the assembly room on the public walk, which has since turned out much the most advantageous of the three. After which long articles of agreement, in 1739, were entered into between Maurice Conyers, esq. then lord of the manor of Rusthall, and the above mentioned tenants of it, in which, among many other matters, he agreed to permit the public walks and wells, and divers other premises there, to be made use of for the public benefit of the nobility and gentry resorting thereto, and several regulations were made in them concerning the walks, wells, and wastes of the manor, and for the restraining buildings on the waste, between the lord and his tenants, according to a plan therein specified; all which were confirmed and established by an act of parliament, passed in 1740. Since which several of the royal family have honoured these wells with their presence, and numbers of the nobility and persons of rank and fashion yearly resortto them, so that this place is now in a most flourishing state, having great numbers of good houses built for lodgings, and every other necessary accommodation for the company. Its customs are settled; the employment of the dippers regulated; (fn. 2) its pleasures regulated; its markets well and plentifully supplied, at a reasonable rate, with sowl, fish, meat, every other kind of food, and every convenience added that can contribute to give health and pleasure.
The whole neighbourhood of Tunbridge-wells abounds with springs of mineral water, but as the properties of all are nearly the same, only those two, which at the first discovery of them were adjudged the best, are held in any particular estimation. These two wells are enclosed with a handsome triangular stone wall; over the springs are placed two convenient basons of Portland stone, with perforations at the bottom; one of them being given by queen Anne, and the other by the lord of the manor; through which they receive the water, which at the spring is extremely clear and bright. Its taste is steely, but not disagreeable; it has hardly any smell, though sometimes, in a dense air, its ferruginous exhalations are very distinguishable. In point of heat it is invariably temperate, the spring lying so deep in the earth, that neither the heat of summer, nor the cold of winter, affects it. When this water is first taken up in a large glass, its particles continue at rest till it is warmed to nearly the heat of the atmosphere, then a few airy globules begin to separate themselves, and adhere to the sides of the glass, and in a few hours a light copper coloured scum begins to float on the surface, after which an ochreous sediment settles at the bottom. Long continued rains sometimes give the water a milky appearance, but do not otherwise sensibly affect it. From the experiments of different physicians, it appears that the component parts of this water are, steely particles, marine salts, an oily matter, an ochreous substance, simple water, and a volatile vitriolic spirit, too subtile for any chemical analysis. In weight it is, in seven ounces and a quarter, four grains lighter than the German Spa (to which it is preferable on that account) and ten grains lighter than common water; with syrup of violets this water gives a deep green, as vitriols do. (fn. 3) It requires five drops of oleum sulphuris, or elixir of vitriol, to a quart of water, to preserve its virtues to a distance from the spring.
This water is said to be an impregnation of rain in some of the neighbouring eminences, which abound in iron mineral, where it is further enriched with the marine salts and all the valuable ingredients, which constitute it a light and pure chalybeate, which instantly searches the most remote recesses of the human frame, warms and invigorates the relaxed constitution, restores the weakened fibres to their due tone and elasticity, removes those obstructions to which the minuter vessels of the body are liable, and is consequently adapted to most cold chronical disorders, lowness of spirits, weak digestions, and nervous complaints. Dr. Lodowick Rowzee, of Ashford, in this county, wrote a Treatise of the Nature and Virtues of these Waters, printed in 12mo. 1671; and Dr. Patrick Madan wrote a Philosophical and Medical Essay on them, in 1687, in quarto.
THE MANOR OF SPELDHURST, in the reign of king Edward III. was in the possession of Sir John de Pulteneye, lord of the neighbouring manor of Penshurst, a man of great account at that time, as has been already noticed before, who, in the 19th year of that reign, on his perfecting the foundation he had begun of a college in the parish of St. Lawrence, Canon-street, London, afterwards called the College of St. Laurence Poultney, settled the manor with the church of Speldshurst on it.
It remained part of the possessions of the college till its suppression in the reign of king Edward VI. when it was granted among other premises, by the description of the manor of Speldhurst and Harwarton (then demised to Sir William Waller, at the rent of 16s. 8d. per annum) of the clear yearly value of 13l. 14s. 1d. together with the patronage of the church appendant to the manor, parcel of the late college of St. Laurence, Poultney, London, to Henry Polsted. (fn. 4) How the manor of Speldhurst passed afterwards I have not found, only that after several intermediate owners, it came into the name of Goodhugh, and in the latter end of the reign of king George I. was possessed by Richard Goodhugh, esq. from which name it passed by a female heir, Sarah, in marriage to Mr. Rich. Round, whose son, Mr. Richard Round, of Stonepit, in Seale, died possessed of it, and the trustees of his insant children are now in the possession of it.
RUSH-HALL is a manor of eminence in this parish, which had antiently possessors who took their surname from it Elias de Rusthall was proprietor of it in the reign of king Edward I. and was a good benefactor to the chapel of Groombridge, in this parish. His descendants afterwards contracted their name to Rust, and continued in the possession of this manor till the reign of king Henry VI. about which time it was alienated to Richard Waller, esq. in the 26th year of queen Elizabeth, sold it to Mr. George Stacy, who conveyed it by sale to Robert Byng, esq. of Wrotham, (fn. 5) who died possessed of it in the 37th year of that reign; his descendants remained possessed of it for several generations, till at length one of them passed it away to Richard Constable, gent. of Groombridge, who sold it to Sir Francis Dashwood, bart. and he quickly after conveyed it to Maurice Conyers, esq. who possessed it in the beginning of the reign of king George II. he alienated it to Mr. O'Connor, whose son, John O'Connor, esq. sold it to George Kelly, esq. who resided here and served the office of high sheriff in 1762, in which year he was knighted. He died possessed of this manor in 1772, leaving his three sisters his coheirs, viz. Anne Shorey, widow, Hannah Tanner, widow, and Martha, wife of James Spagg, esq. Mrs. Tanner died in 1780, since whose death, and that of her two sisters, this manor is now, in pursuance of their different wills, become vested in Miss Elizabeth Shorey, daughter of the former, and Thomas Christopher Gardiner, a son of another daughter of Mrs. Shorey.
HOLAND's, now called THE MANOR OF HOLLAND, was once the inheritance of a noble family of that surname, who were great benefactors to the church of Speldhurst, aud were allied to the Holands, earls of Kent, who flourished in the reigns of king Edward III. and king Richard II. It continued in this name till about the reign of king Henry VI. when it was alienated to Richard Waller, esq of Groombridge, in whose descendants it remained till Sir Thomas Waller, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, passed it away by sale to Thomas Sackville, earl of Dorset, and lord treasurer of England, who died possessed of it in 1608. He was succeeded in this manor by his eldest son, Robert, earl of Dorset, who dying within twelve months afterwards, Richard, earl of Dorset, his eldest son, became possessed of it. He conveyed it to Lindsey, who in the reign of king Charles I. sold it to Caldicot, and he, in the next reign of king Charles II. alienated it to Mr. William Canfield, who afterwards sold it to the Rev. Mr. George Lewis, of Westerham, who devised it by his will to his son, Mr. Erasmus Lewis, gent. and he sold it to George Kelly, esq. afterwards Sir George Kelly, who died possessed of it in 1772, leaving his three sisters his coheirs, one of whom, Mrs. Hannah Tanner, widow, on the division of certain parts of his estate, became the owner of this manor. She died in 1780, and devised this estate in trust for her nephew, George Gardner, a son of her niece, one of the daughters of her sister Shorey, remainder to his brother Thomas Christopher Gardner, who since his death is become the present owner of this manor.
FERBIE's, though now hardly known, was antiently a seat of no small consideration in this parish, and gave name to a family, who afterwards became of some note in different parts of this county, though this was their most antient residence. John de Fereby resided here in the reigns of king Edward II. and III. and sealed with his paternal coat of arms, a sess ermine between three goats heads erased, as appears by the labels affixed to his deeds. His descendants contracted their name to Ferby, one of whom having purchased lands at Paul's Cray, in this county, removed thither about the beginning of the reign of king Henry VI. and upon that alienated his antient patrimony here to Richard Waller, esq. of Groombridge, in whose posterity it remained till the reign of king Charles I. when it was sold to Richard Chiverton, skinner and alderman of London, and lord mayor in the year 1658, son of Mr. Henry Chiverton, of Trehousie, in Cornwall, and bore for his arms, On a mount, a castle triple towered, from which name it was conveyed to Woodgate, who gave it in marriage with his daughter to Mr. Wm. Durrant, of Frantfield, in Suffex, whose son, Mr. Robert Durrant, is the present owner of this estate.
EAST and WEST EWEHURST are two manors, situated in the southern part of this parish, which were formerly owned by the family of Read, of Marden, in this county, originally descended from the county of Northumberland. They resided at Marden till Sir Robert Read, chief justice of the common pleas, in the reign of king Henry VII. having married Margaret, one of the daughters and coheirs of John Alphew, of Chidingstone, removed thither. (fn. 6) He died possessed of these manors about the 10th year of the reign of king Henry VIII. leaving four daughters his coheirs; on the partition of whose inheritance these manors, among other estates, were allotted to the share of Bridget, who entitled her husband Willoughby to them. They remained in his descendants till Sir Percival Willoughby, having in the reign of James I. married Bridget, eldest daughter and coheir of Sir Francis Willoughby, of Wollaton-hall, in Nottinghamshire, became possessed of that seat and other large possessions in that county, and being desirous of increasing his interest there, he conveyed the manors of East and West Ewehurst in the 8th year of king James I. to Nathaniel Studley, esq. (fn. 7) whose only son of the same name, during the civil wars, alienated them to Mr. Christopher Knight, of Cowdham, on whose death they came to his son, Mr. Michael Knight, of Westerham, who possessed them in the reign of Charles II. soon after which they were conveyed to Sidney, earl of Leicester, whose descendant, Robert, earl of Leicester, died seised of them on Nov. 11, 1702; his youngest and fourth son, Joceline, at length succeeding to his titles and estate, both Philip and John, his brothers, successively earls of Leicester, dying without issue, deceased likewise in 1743 without lawful issue, and by his will bequeathed his estates, to his natural daughter, Anne Sidney; but his two nieces, daughters and coheirs of colonel Thomas Sidney, his next elder brother, who died before the earls Philip and John, in 1729, Mary, married to Sir Brownlow Sherard, bart. and Elizabeth, married to William Perry, esq. claimed his estates in this county, as his coheirs, by virtue of an intail created by the marriage settlement of Robert, earl of Leicester, father of earl Joceline, in 1700; after much litigation, a compromise was entered into in 1746, between them and Anne Sidney above-mentioned, which was confirmed by act of parliament, by virtue of which the Kentish estates were vested in Sir Brownlow Sherard and William Perry, esq. free from any further demand of the said Anne Sidney.
Part of these estates they afterwards divided into separate moieties, and the remainder, among which were these manors of East and West Ewehurst, they continued possessed of as tenants in common. Sir Brownlow Sherard died without issue in 1748, leaving his widow surviving, who died in 1758, and by her last will gave the whole of her interest in the Sidney estates, divided and undivided, to Anne, widow of Sir William Yonge, bart. and K. B. for her life, remainder to her son Sir George Yonge, bart. of Escot, in Devonshire, (fn. 8) They in the year 1770 joined in the sale of the undivided part of these estates, among which were these manors, to Mrs. Elizabeth Perry, widow of William Perry, esq. above-mentioned, who died in 1757, the owner of the other undivided moiety. Mrs. Perry died in 1783, and by her will devised them to trustees for the benefit of her eldest grandson, John Shelley Sidney, esq. who is the present possessor of them.
NEALHAMPTON is a manor in this parish, which in the reign of queen Elizabeth was in the possession of Sir Richard Sackville, who in the 19th year of that reign alienated it, with the queen's licence, to Thomas Smith, esq. of Westerhanger, commonly called Customer Smith, who devised it by his last will to his second son, Sir Thomas Smith, of Sutton-at-Hone, in whose descendants it continued down to Sir Sidney Stafford Smythe, late chief baron of the exchequer. He died in 1778, as did his widow the lady Sarah Smythe, possessed of it in 1790, and by her will devised it to trustees, to be sold for the benefit of her nephews and nieces, which it afterwards was to the right honorable John, earl of Darnley, the present owner of it.
It is called in antient writings Gromenebregge, no doubt from some Saxon, who was antiently owner of it, and was said to be situated in the manor of Redemeregge, which manor was held of the manor of Ashurst, and in the reign of king Edward III. was the property of William Russell and Hawis his wife.
In the reign of king Edward I. it was in the possession of a younger branch of the eminent family of Cobham, of Cobham, in this county. Henry de Cobham, the younger son of John de Cobham, of Cobham, by the daughter of Warine Fitzbenedict, was proprietor of it in that reign. He was of Roundal, in Shorne, and was commonly called le Uncle, to distinguish him from Henry de Cobham, of Cobham, son of his elder brother John. In the 14th year of that reign, he, with Joane his wife, obtained the king's charter for a market every week, upon the Thursday, at Groombridge, and a fair yearly there, on the eve, day and morrow after the feast of St. John Port Latine, which was on May 6. (fn. 9) He died in the beginning of the reign of king Edward II. leaving by Joane his wife, the eldest of the two daughters and coheirs of Stephen de Pencestre, a son of Stephen de Cobham, of Roundal, and afterwards knighted, who having received summons to parliament, died in the 6th year of king Edward III. (fn. 10) and one of his descendants alienated it to the family of Clinton.
Sir John de Clinton possessed it in the next reign of king Richard II. who having received summons to parliament, died possessed of it in the 20th year of king Richard II. He had by Idonea his wife, sister and coheir of William de Say, a son, Sir William de Clinton, who died in his life-time, leaving by Elizabeth his wife, daughter of Sir William Deincourt, a son William, his grandfather's heir, who succeeded to this estate. In the 6th year of king Henry IV. this William de Clinton had possession granted of his wife's share of the inheritance of her brother, William de Say, and thereupon bore the title of lord Clinton and Say. He alienated Groombridge, at the latter end of that reign, to Thomas Waller, of Lamberhurst, whose family was possessed of good estates in this county and Suffex, and bore for their arms, Sable, three walnut tree leaves, or, between two cotizes argent. (fn. 11) His son and heir, John Waller, esq. was of Groombridge, and had by his wife, daughter and heir of Lansdall of Lansdall, in Suffex, Richard Waller, his heir, who was a valiant soldier, and displayed remarkable courage and good behaviour at the battle of Agincourt in France, fought on October 25, in the 4th year of Henry V. which was the greatest victory that ever was, or perhaps ever will be, obtained by this nation. The king's army amounted only to 9000, and those sickly and greatly harrassed; whereas the French were 150,000 men, in health and unfatigued. The battle lasted from ten in the morning till five in the afternoon. There were slain on the side of the French, one archbishop, three dukes, six earls, ninety barons, 1500 knights, and 7000 esquires or gentlemen. The loss of the English was very inconsiderable, not more than four hundred, of every degree. (fn. 12) He had the duke of Orleans, then taken prisoner, who was found, under a heap of dead bodies, by Mr. Waller, with others of the archers, with some signs of life in him, committed to his custody, by command of the king, who ordered care to be taken of him; and in honor of his taking so noble a prisoner, had an additional crest granted to him and his heirs for ever, viz. the arms, Or, escutcheon of France hanging by a label on a walnut-tree, with this motto, Hœ fructus virtutis. The duke being brought by him into England, was confined at his seat at Groombridge, which was so beneficial to him, that during the time of his restraint here, he rebuilt the house upon the old foundation, and was besides a benefactor to the repairs of Speldhurst-church, where the duke's arms now remain in stone over the porch. (fn. 13) How long the duke remained with him I do not find, but he was certainly committed to other custody before the 8th year of king Henry VI. for it was enacted in parliament that year, that the duke of Orleance, the king's cousin, then in the keeping of Sir Thomas Chamberworth, should be delivered to Sir John Cornwall, by him safely to be kept.
Richard Waller, esq. was sheriff in the 16th year of king Henry VI. and left by his wife, daughter of Gulby, two sons; Richard, the eldest, who was ancestor of the Wallers, of Southampton, and John, who was of Groombridge, and a daughter Alice, married to Sir John Guldeford.
John Waller, esq. of Groombridge, the second son, married Anne, daughter of William Whetenhall, and dying in 1517, leaving by her two sons, William, his heir, and John, who was ancestor of the Wallers, of Beconsfield, in Buckinghamshire, of which branch was the celebrated poet Edmund Waller, esq. who courted, though in vain, with all the energy of his poetical talents, the lady Dorothy Sidney, the eldest daughter of the earl of Leicester, under the name of Sacharissa, whom he was a near neighbour to here, whilst on his visits to his relations at Groombridge.
William, the eldest son of John Waller, was of Groombridge, esq. and was sheriff of this county in the 22d year of Henry VIII. whose lands among others were disgavelled by the act of the 31st of that reign, at which time, as well as in the middle of queen Elizabeth's reign, there appears to have been a park here. (fn. 14) He died in 1555. From him this estate at length descended to his grandson Walter, who resided at Groombridge, and was knighted, he left two sons, of whom George the eldest, by his second wife Mary, daughter of Richard Hardres, esq. had one son and heir, Sir Hardres Waller, a major-general in the parliament army against king Charles I. and one of the regicides, for which he was, after the restoration, tried and condemned, but was, through the king's mercy, pardoned. He left issue several daughters. (fn. 15)
Thomas, the second son, succeeded his father at Groombridge, and was afterwards knighted, and lieutenant of Dover-castle in the reign of James I. He alienated this estate to Thomas Sackville, earl of Dorset, and lord treasurer of England, who died possessed of it in 1608.
He was succeeded in it by his eldest son Robert, earl of Dorset, who died within twelve months afterwards, on which, Richard, earl of Dorset, his eldest son, became possessed of it, and afterwards conveyed it to John Packer, esq. clerk of the privy seal to Charles I. who resided here, and was a good benefactor to the chapel, which he rebuilt, as will be mentioned below. He bore for his arms, Gules, a cross lozenge, or, between four roses argent. He was succeeded in it by his son, Philip Packer, esq. who died possessed of it in 1686, and was buried in Groombridge chapel. He had by his first wife Isabel, daughter of Sir Robert Berkeley, of Spetchley, in Worcestershire, two sons and two daughters; of whom, John Packer, esq. the eldest son, succeeded to this estate and resided here. He died possessed of it in 1697, leaving by Barbara his wife, daughter of colonel Morgan, of Warminster, in Somersetshire, one son, Philip, and two daughters, Isabel and Anne. Philip Packer, esq. afterwards at length succeeded to this estate of Groombridge, but dying soon afterwards unmarried, his two sisters became his coheirs; the eldest of whom, Anne, married Thomas Lyte, esq. of London, and Isabella, the youngest, married first, George Rivers, esq. and secondly, Mr. Cook; and they intitled their respective husbands to it; after which it became vested in the court of chancery, where it remained till it was purchased by Mr. William Camfield, who resided at Groombridge-place.
He died in 1781, upon which it came by his will to his three sons, Thomas, John and Henry, by whom it afterwards passed by sale to Robert Burges, esq. of Lyghe, who died possessed of Groombridge-place, with the manor of Redmerege, in 1794, and his widow, Mrs. Sarah Burges, remarrying with James Harbroc, esq. entitled him to the possession of this estate, of which he still continues owner. A court-baron is held for this manor. A fair is held here on May 17, and Sept. 25, for cattle, pedlary, &c.
THE CHAPEL OF GROOMBRIDGE, belonging to this hamlet, was dedicated to St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, and was built before the end of the reign of king Henry III. in the 23d year of which William Russell and Hawis his wife, granted lands in different places to this chapel of St. John of Gromenebregge in their manor of Redmeregge, and Robert de Speldhurst and his successors, chaplains there, in pure and perpetual alms. It appears by a lease granted by the above-mentioned Robert, of part of the above premises in the 38th year of that reign, that this chapel was likewife called the chapel of Redmeregge, several other benefactors of small parcels of land are recorded in the Registrum Roffense, in some of which this chapel is mentioned to be situated in the manor of Redmeregge in the parish of Speldhurst. (fn. 16) John Packer, esq. who purchased this estate, rebuilt this chapel in the year 1625, and dedicated it to the service of God, in gratitude for the safe return of Charles, prince of Wales, from Spain; whence it was afterwards called St. Charles's chapel. Over the door of the chapel was the following inscription, now obliterated: D.O.M. 1625, ob felicissimi Caroli Principis Ex Hispania reducis Sacellum boc D. D. I. P. over which is the devise of the prince of Wales. He endowed it at the same time with twenty pounds per annum, and ten pounds per annum, in consideration of a chaplain's board. The duty in it is still kept up, but there is now paid out of the estate to the chaplain, only 12l. 15s. per annum. The hamlet being large, there is a large congregation likewife. It is now esteemed as a donative in the king's gift.
In this chapel, in the chancel, is a monument for Philip Packer, esq. obt. 1686; another for John his son, obt. 1697; in the windows are the arms of Packer with their several quarterings. In the middle isle is a memorial for John Poeton, minister of this chapel 36 years; obt. 1691. (fn. 17)
SIR THOMAS SMITH, by his will in 1625, gave for cloathing and feeding six poor persons of this parish, among others, in bread and cloth, houses and lands in London, vested in the Skinner's Company, who now provide the same, to the annual amount to this parish of 11l. 10s. (fn. 18)
WILLIAM STRONG, esq. gave by will in 1713, two small farms, to cloath and put out apprentice one scholar every year alternately, from the school at Tunbridge-Wells, in this parish, and the free school of Tunbridge, the surplus of the rents, if any such, to remain to be lent upon good security to either of the scholars, for five years, without interest.
On Thursday, October 22, 1791, a dreadful storm of thunder and lightning happened in these parts, which set fire to this church, a ball of fire being observed to enter the center of the shingled part of the spire, and instantly a thick smoke, followed by slames issued from it, and there being no help at hand, every thing contributed to its destruction. The high wind, the rain and hail having ceased, drove the flames from the steeple on the church, and in about four hours this beautiful structure was totally reduced to a heap of ruins, The bells were melted by the intense heat, the monuments in it, and every thing else which could become a prey to the fiery element were reduced to ashes; the stone walls only were left, but in so ruinous a condition as not to be fit for future use, and what is extraordinary, the font, though left entire, was turned upside down; the tombs and head stones near the church were considerably damaged. A brief was obtained towards the re-building of it, but the work, though the size of it has been greatly reduced, the new church, consisting but of one isle and a very small chancel, has gone on but slowly, and at this time is not near finished, and neither steeple nor bells are yet agreed upon, the brief not producing so much as was expected.
In the old church, before it was burnt down, there were the following monuments and inscriptions:— In the chancel, on the south wall, an antient and beautiful monument,. with the arms of Waller, with the augmentation and several quarterings, for Sir Walter Waller; a brass plate for John Waller, esq. obt. 1517. In the nave, were several brass plates for the same family, one of them for William Waller, esq. of Groombridge, obt. 1555. The porch was very curious, over which was an antique shield, cut in stone, being the arms of France, with a file of three flambeaux, for Charles, duke of Orleans, mentioned before. He built this porch, and was a good benefactor to the repairs of the church itself. (fn. 19)
By a fine levied in the 39th year of king Henry III. before Gilbert de Preston, and others justices itinerant, Walter de la Dene, the possessor of this advowson, granted it to the Walter Fitzwalter in tail general, to hold of him and his heirs for ever, at the yearly rent of one penny, and performing all other services due from thence to the capital lords of the fee.
Roger de Padlesworth was patron of the church of Speldhurst in the 48th year of the same reign, and he then released his right to certain rent and service due for lands granted to the chapel of Gromenebregge, situated within his manor of Speldhurst. In the reign of king Edward III. the manor and church of Speldhurst were part of the possessions of Sir John de Pulteneye, who, in the 19th year of that reign, on his perfecting the foundation and endowment of his college in the parish of St. Lawrence, in Canon-street, London, afterwards called the College of St. Lawrence Poultney, settled both manor and advowson on it. (fn. 20) Three years after which, anno 1347, Hamo, bishop of Rochester, at the instance and petition of Sir John de Pulteneye, by his instrument appropriated this church to that college for ever, reserving out of it nevertheless a fit portion to the perpetual vicar serving in it, to be presented to the bishop and his successors, by the master or guardian and the chaplains of the college, by which he might be supported decently, and be enabled to discharge the episcopal dues and other burthens incumbent on him; and he decreed, that they should take possession of this church immediately on the death or cession of Sir Thomas, then rector of it (whom he by no means intended to prejudice by this appropriation) without any further licence or authority obtained for that purpose, saving, nevertheless, and reserving to himself and his successors canonical obedience from the master or guardian and chaplains or their successors, on account of their holding this church as aforesaid, and the visitation of it, and other rights due to the church and the bishop of Rochester, and to the archdeacon of the place, either of custom or of right, and all other rights and customs in every thing whatsoever; and saving and reserving in the church a perpetual vicarage, which he then decreed should take effect at the death or resignation of the rector of it. And he willed, that a sit and competent portion should be assigned out of the fruits, rents and produce of it to such vicar to serve in it, who should first be presented by the master, &c. to be instituted and admitted by the bishop, or his successor, into it, before his admission, according as circumstances required, to the use of him and his successors for ever. And he willed and decreed, that the portion above-mentioned should for ever consist of the tithes of filva cedua, pannage, apples, and fruits of other trees, hay, herbage, flax, hemp, wool, milk, butter and cheese, lambs, calves, pigs, swans, pidgeons, fowlings, huntings, mills, fisheries, merchandizing, and in all other small tithes and dues of the church, oblations and obventions whatsoever belonging to the altarage, together with competent buildings situate on the soil of the church, to be assigned for the habitation of the vicar, and in which the visitors of the ordinary might be commodiously received. And he willed and decreed, that the vicar for the time being, (after the books and vestments belonging by custom to the rector to provide, should have been sufficiently provided by the master, &c.) should cause the books to be bound, and the vestments to be washed, repaired and amended, as often as need should be; and should find and provide, at his own expence, bread, wine, and processional tapers, and other lights necessary in the chancel, and the accustomed attendants in the church; and should keep and maintain in a proper state, at his own costs, the buildings allotted to his vicarage, after they should have been once sufficiently repaired, and assigned as an habitation for him and his successors, and should wholly pay all episcopal dues, and archidiaconal procurations, and should undergo and acknowledge all other extraordinary burthens, which should be incumbent or laid on him, according to the taxation of his portion, which, so far as related to them, he estimated and taxed at sixty shillings sterling; but that the master, &c. should undergo and acknowledge, at his and their own costs for ever, all other ordinaries and extraordinaries, according to the taxation of their portion, which he estimated at six marcs and an half. Lastly, that his cathedral church of Rochester might not be in any manner hurt, or prejudiced by this appropriation, he, in recompence of such loss, as it might happen to receive from it, either in the not receiving the profits of it whilst it should become vacant, or otherwise, reserved a certain annual pension of seven shillings sterling from this church to him and his successors, to be yearly paid at the feast of the Purification of the blessed Virgin Mary, by the master, &c. as soon as they should have obtained effectual and full possession of it, &c. (fn. 21)
On the 8th of June following Sir William de Chetwode, master of the college, appeared before the bishop, and obtained the bishop's letters, as proctor for himself and his college, for putting him in corporal possession of this church.
But the profits and income of this vicarage becoming in process of time scarce sufficient for the decent support of the minister officiating in it, and the support of the burthens incumbent on it, and being like to be much less so in future; John Thurston, the master, and the chaplains of the college, that the cure of fouls might be the better observed, renounced and gave up all right, title, and possession which, by reason of the appropriation above-mentioned, they had, or might have in future, in this church, the right of patronage of it only excepted and reserved; and they granted, that every incumbent, or curate of it to be by them presented, and admitted and instituted by the ordinary of the place, should have in future all tithes, as well great as small, belonging of antient time to the church, or to them by reason of the appropriation, as also all rights, produce, and emoluments however accruing, or to accrue, late belonging to the vicarage of it; so that he, the incumbent for the time being, should for the future undergo, pay, support, and acknowledge all burthens ordinary and extraordinary, due and accustomed, belonging or incumbent on the church, or on them by reason of the same. The instrument for this purpose, under their common seal, was dated in 1448, and was ratified and confirmed by John Lowe, bishop of Rochester, saving nevertheless, the pension of seven shillings paid to the bishop and his successors, from it, which in future should continue to be paid by the rector of this church, for the time being, or whoever should be in possession of the great tithes of it, under whatever name he should be entitled to them. In consequence of which, Richard Barker, then vicar, resigned this vicarage into the hands of the bishop of Rochester, who the same day admitted and instituted him, on the presentation of the master and chaplains of the college, to the church of Speldhurst, together with all its appurtenances, tithes and profits, as well great belonging formerly to the master, &c. as oblations and small tithes belonging to the vicar of it, the pension of seven shillings due and accustomed to be paid to the bishop, and his successors, yearly reserved, nevertheless, and excepted; and that he should have all emoluments whatsoever, which of antient time belonged, as well to the rectory as the vicarage, and should undergo and acknowledge the tenths due to the king, the above spiritual pension to the bishop of Rochester, the reparation of the chancel, and all other burthens whatsoever belonging to, or incumbent on this church.
The patronage of the church of Speldhurst remained, with the manor, part of the possessions of the abovementioned college, till the suppression of it in the reign of king Edward VI. when it was granted, among other premises, by the description of the manor of Speldhurst, together with the patronage of the church appendant to it, parcel of the college, to Henry Polsted. (fn. 22) In the beginning of king James I's reign, Mr. Henry Weston owned the patronage of it. (fn. 23) After which it became the property of a family of the name of Kearsley, and then of that of Scawen, of Carshalton, in which name it continued till the year 1759, when Tryphena, daughter of Thomas Scawen, esq. carried it in marriage to Henry, earl Bathurst, whose second wife she was, and they in 1779 joined in the sale of it to the Rev. Robert Gunsley Ayerst, who, about the year 1792, alienated it to Robert Burges, esq. of Lyghe, who died possessed of it in 1794, leaving his wife, Mrs. Sarah Burges, surviving, who re-marying with James Harbroc, esq. entitled him to the property of it, and he still continues the patron of it.
Church Of Speldhurst.
|Or by whom presented.|
|Master and Chaplains of St. Laurence Poultney College, London.||Sir Thomas (fn. 24)|
|Richard Barker, resig. March 9, 1448. (fn. 25)|
|Richard Barker, instit. March 9, 1448. (fn. 25)|
|Master and Chaplains of St. Laurence Poultney College, London.||John Denton, in 1558. (fn. 26)|
|Edward Weston, in 1627.|
|Draper, ejected 1662.|
|Winterley, in 1715.|
|Cornwell, in 1720.|
|James Kearsley, instit. Jan. 17, 1728.|
|Richard Onely, A. M. 1768, obt. 1777. (fn. 27)|
|Robert Gunsley Ayerst, A. M. 1777, the present rector.|