The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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WESTWARD from Town Malling lies Ofham, called by the Saxons, Offaham; which name it is supposed to have taken from its having been once part of the possessions of Offa, king of Mercia, the most famous monarch of the Saxon heptarchy; ham in Saxon signifying a village or dwelling. Probably from this, and the Roman military way having gone through, or at least very near it, this place was then, and had been for some time, a village of some note.
THIS PARISH seems to have been formerly of much greater account than it is at present, the antient military way passing through it, as has been already noticed above; although the road from the Weald of Kent through Wrotham to London leads through the village, yet it is lonely, and otherwise a place but little frequented or known; the whole, from its being so much inveloped with woods, has a very gloomy appearance.
The village is situated on high ground round a broad green, having the parsonage, a handsome sashed house, on one side of it, and the church and courtlodge at a small distance northward.
On Ofham green there stands a quintin, a thing now rarely to be met with, being a machine much used in former times by youth, as well to try their own activity as the swiftness of their horses in running at it. The following is the figure of it.
The cross piece of it is broad at one end, and pierced full of holes; and a bag of sand is hung at the other, and swings round, on being moved with any blow.
The pastime was for the youth on horseback to run at it as fast as possible, and hit the broad part in the career with much force. He that by chance hit it not at all, was treated with loud peals of derision; and he who did hit it, made the best use of his swiftness, least he should have a sound blow on his neck from the bag of sand, which instantly swang round from the other end of the quintin. The great design of this sport was, to try the agility both of horse and man, and to break the board, which whoever did, he was accounted chief of the day's sport.
When queen Elizabeth was at the earl of Leicester's, at Kenelworth castle, among other sports for her entertainment, the running at the quintin was exhibited in the castle yard by the country lads and lasses assembled on that day, to celebrate a rural wedding.
Dr. Plot, in his Natural History of Oxfordshire, says, this sport was used in his time at Deddington, in Oxfordshire; and Dr. Kennet, in his Parochial Antiquities, says, it was at Blackthorne. It is supposed to be a Roman exercise, left in this island at their departure from it. (fn. 1)
It stands opposite the dwelling-house of the estate, which is bound to keep it up. This estate has been for almost three centuries in the name of Tresse; the last of which, Mr. Thomas Tresse, died possessed of it, unmarried, in 1737. It is now the property of Mr. William Currant, who resides on it, and possesses it in right of his wife, a daughter of Mr. Thomas Coleman, descended from a sister of the above-mentioned Mr. Thomas Tresse. This name of Tress, or Tresse, is supposed to be the same as that of Tracy, and to have been altered by vulgar corruption and the succession of time; if so, the family of Tresse, so long settled at West Malling and this place, might very probably be a branch of the family of Tracie, possessors of the manor which still bears their name at Newington, near Sittingborne, in the reign of Henry III. They bore for their arms, Or, two bends between nine escallops, gules.
From the village, the ground descends for a mile down to the Maidstone road to London, which is at its northern boundary. Here the soil is a deep sand, which nearer the village approaches the quarry rock, adjoining the south side of it is the great tract of woods, called the Hurst woods, which extend from hence for near two miles, as far as West Peckham and Mereworth.
It is commonly said that Jack Straw, a principal companion with Wat Tyler in the rebellion, which they headed in the 5th year of king Richard II. was born at a small cottage at Pepingstraw, in this parish, whence he assumed his surname. (fn. 2)
This parish, among others, ought antiently to have contributed to the repair of the fifth pier of Rochester bridge. (fn. 3)
ATHULF, or Ethelwulph, king of England, son of king Egbert, about the year 832, gave Ofnehamme, at the instance of archbishop Ceolnoth, to the church of Canterbury. At the close of the grant were added the three letters, L. S. A. that is, Libere Sicut Adisham, meaning, that the land given by this charter to the church should be endowed with the same franchises and liberties, that Adisham originally was; a clause, or one similar to it, which the archbishops procured to most of the Saxon grants made to their church, if the lands were in this county. (fn. 4)
This place was wrested from the church of Canterbury during the troublesome times that followed, and seems afterwards to have been divided in the hands of two different owners. However, the whole appears, by the record of Domesday, to have been at the taking that survey, in the year 1080, part of the possessions of Odo, bishop of Baieux and earl of Kent, the Conqueror's half-brother, under the general title of whose lands it is thus entered there:
The same Hugh (de Port) holds of the bishop (of Baieux) Ofeham. It was taxed at one suling. The arable land is three carucates. In demesne there is nothing. There are six villeins, with one borderer having two carucates. There is one mill of fifty pence and three servants, and four acres of meadow. Wood for the pannage of ten hogs. In the time of king Edward the Con- fessor, it was worth forty shillings, when he received it twenty shillings, now thirty shillings Gedric held it of king Edward.
And a little lower thus:
Anschitil holds of the bishop (of Baieux) Ofehant. It was taxed at one suling. The arable land is . . . . In demesne there is one carucate, and six villeins, with two borderers having one carucate. There are four servants, and one mill of ten shillings, and seven acres of meadow. Wood for the pannage of ten hogs, and in the city of Rochester one house paying thirty pence. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, this manor was worth one hundred shillings, when he received it four pounds, and now four pounds and nine shillings. What Richard de Tonebridge holds is worth eleven shillings. Uluric held it of Alnod Cilt.
These estates, on the disgrace of the bishop of Baieux, about four years afterwards, became confiscated to the crown. After which they were become the possessions of a family, which assumed its name of De Osham, from their property here, who held it of the archbishop of Canterbury. William de Ofham held the manor of Ofham, with its appendages of Godwell, Snodbean, and Pepingstraw, and the advowson of the church of Ofham, in the latter end of the reign of king Henry III. (fn. 5)
In the reign of king Edward I. Stephen de Pencestre, who had married Christiana, sister of William de Ofham above-mentioned, enfeoffed Richard de Courtone of an annual rent of assise, and the third part of the advowson of the church of Ofham. Ri chard de Courtone seems at that time to have been possessed of the other parts of this manor, a third part of which was claimed of him by Matilda, another sister of William de Ofham. Soon after which Robert, brother of Richard de Courtone, passed away that annual rent, and the third part of the advowson, to Ralph de Ditton, who together with the said Richard de Courtone, for he still remained owner of Godwell, were found to be possessed of Ofham manor, and its appendages, in the 7th year of king Edward II. (fn. 6)
Ralph de Ditton, senior, appears soon afterwards to have had the entire fee of this manor, and its appendages, excepting Godwell, and to have been possessed likewise of the entire advowson of Ofham; and in the 16th year of king Edward II. he granted to his daughter, Isabella, his manor of Ofham, together with the advowson of the church, in perpetual inheritance for ever, rendering yearly the due and accustomed services of the chief lords of the fee. In consideration of which he had paid him in hand one hundred marcs sterling, as a fine. Isabella de Offeham afterwards enfeoffed Sir John Chidocke in this manor and advowson, but this was in trust, on her marriage with Thomas de Plumsted, called Guodchepe; and accordingly he again assigned this manor and advowson back again to the said Thomas and Isabella his wife.
This Thomas de Plumsted seems also to have been called Thomas de Ditton, in respect of his wife, and to be the same person who paid aid for this manor, in the book for the collecting of which it is thus entered, under the title of the manor of Offeham, and sometime with Godwell annexed, as follows, viz.
Of Thomas de Ditton and John Melford, for one knight's fee, which Ralph de Ditton and Richard de Courtone held in Offeham of the archbishop of Canterbury; of which John de Melford holds one quarter of a knight's fee.
Thomas de Plumsted, alias Ditton, called likewise Thomas Guodchepe, survived his wife Isabella, by whom he had a son and heir, Theobald, and died in the 31st year of that reign, possessed of this manor and advowson, and leaving his second wife, Nichola, guardian to his son before mentioned, then under age.
How long this estate remained in this family I have not seen; but it was not long before the Colepepers, of Aylesford, were in possession of it.
Sir Richard Colepeper, of Oxenhoath, who was sheriff of this county in the 11th year of king Edward IV. died possessed of this manor, with its appendages, Snodbean and Pepingstraw, and the advowson of the church, in the 2d year of king Richard III. anno 1484. He left no issue male; so that his three daughters, Margaret, married to William Cotton, of Oxenhoath; Joyce, the wife of Edmund, lord Howard, and Elizabeth, wife of Henry Barham, of Teston, became his coheirs. They, in the next reign of king Henry VII. joined in the sale of this manor, and its appendages above-mentioned, and the advowson of this church, to Thomas Leigh, of Sibton, in Liminge, in this county. He left issue a son and heir, John Leigh, alias a-Legh, esq. who was of Addington, in the county of Surry, and in the 35th year of king Henry VIII. exchanged this manor and advowson with the appendant manors of Pepingstraw and Snodbeane, with that king, for other lands and premises. After which the king, in his 36th year, granted to William Wilford, John Bennet, and George Briggs, citizens of London, his manors of Ofham, Snodbeane, and Pepingstraw, with their appurtenances, in Ofham, Ryarsh, Yalding, Brenchley, and elsewhere in the county of Kent, to hold in capite by knight's service.
They next year alienated the above premises to John Tuston, esq. of Hothfield, in whose descendants, earls of Thanet, the manor of Ofham, with its appendages of Snodbeane and Pepingstraw, have continued down to the Right Hon. Sackville Tuston, earl of Thanet, the present owner of them.
The court is still held for this manor, which pays a fee-farm of 2l. 6s. 8d. yearly to the crown.
THE OTHER APPENDAGE of the manor of Osham, called GODWELL, which in the 7th year of king Edward II. anno 1313, remained in the possession of Robert de Courtone, passed from that name soon afterwards to Melford, and John de Melford paid aid for it in the 20th year of king Edward III. as one quarter of a knight's fee, which Richard de Courtone before held of the archbishop of Canterbury.
His descendants continued owners of this manor of Godwell till the reign of king Henry VI. when it was conveyed to Browne, whose descendant, Sir Matthew Browne, of Beechworth-castle, in Surry, alienated it about the latter end of the reign of king Henry VIII. to Richard Nortop, alias Clerk, which name he acquired the addition of from his office of clerk of the forest of Sherwood, in Nottinghamshire, and it before long became the common name of this family, who soon afterwards wrote themselves Clerk, alias Nortop, who bore for their arms, Argent, a cross chequy argent, and azure. His descendant, George Clerk, alias Nortop, died possessed of this manor in the reign of king James I. leaving seven daughters his coheirs, (fn. 7) one of whom, Frances, married Mr. Thomas Dowell, who purchased the other six parts of his wife's sisters, and so became entitled to the whole fee of this manor. (fn. 8)
His son of the same name, passed it away by sale in the reign of king Charles II. to Henry Streatfeild, esq. of Chidingstone, whose descendant, Henry Streatfeild, esq. of Chidingstone, in 1781 sold it to Mr. John Smith, who resided at it. Since whose death it has become the property of Mrs. Elizabeth Knell, the present owner of it. There is a court baron held for this manor.
There are no parochial charities.
OFHAM is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and deanry of Malling.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Michael, stands about a quarter of a mile northward from the village. It is a strong building of one isle and a chancel, having a tower steeple on the middle of the north side of it.
The patronage of the church of Ofham continued an appendage to the manor of Ofham from time to time, as has been already shewn; and John Leigh, esq. of Addington, in the 35th year of king Henry VIII. exchanged both manor and advowson with that king for other lands. Since which, though the manor was the next year alienated by the king, yet the advowson of this church continued in the hands of the crown, where it remains at this time.
It is now a discharged living, of the clear yearly certified value of forty pounds, the annual tenths of which are twelve shillings. (fn. 9)
CHURCH OF OFHAM.
|PATRONS, Or by whom presented.||RECTORS.|
|Lords of Ofham manor.||Master Bartholomew, temp. Edward II. resig. (fn. 10)|
|Isabella de Ditton||Richard de St. Quintin. (fn. 11)|
|Thomas de Plumsted||Robert Joye. (fn. 12)|
|Henry de Grof herst, for this turn only||Robert de la Chambre, temp. Edward III. (fn. 13)|
|William Spayne, in 1493. (fn. 14)|
|The King||Richard Kydde, Oct. 10, 1553. (fn. 15)|
|John Baxter, clerk, Nov. 8, 1572. (fn. 16)|
|John Cowper, A. B. 1630. (fn. 17)|
|Robert Brownwell, A. M. Aug. 3, 1632.|
|Samuel Bickley, April 1714.|
|William Miles, A. M. March 7, 1741, obt. Oct. 16, 1746. (fn. 18)|
|Boxworth Liptrott, 1746, resig. 1777.|
|John Liptrott, 1777, the present rector.|