The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.
IS the next parish southward from Hollingborne. Kilburne says, that one Ledian, a chief counsellor to king Ethelbert II. who began his reign in 978, raised a fortress here, which was called in Latin, from him, Ledani Castrum, and in process of time in English, LEEDS. This castle was afterwards demolished by the Danes, and continued in that situation till the time of the Norman conquest.
THE PRESENT CASTLE is situated at the southeast boundary of this parish, adjoining to Bromfield, which includes a part of the castle itself. It is situated in the midst of the park, an ample description of it the reader will find hereafter. The Lenham rivulet takes its course through the park, and having supplied the moat, in which the castle stands, and the several waters in the grounds there, and having received into it the several small streamlets from Hollingborne, and one from the opposite side, which comes from Leeds abbey, it flows on, and at a small distance from Caring street, in this parish, adjoining to Bersted, the principal estate of which name there belongs to the Drapers company, it turns a mill, and then goes on to Maidstone, where it joins the river Medway. The high road from Ashford and Lenham runs close by the outside of the pales of Leeds park, at the northern boundary of the parish next to Hollingborne, and thence goes on towards Bersted and Maidstone, from which the park is distant a little more than five miles; here the soil is a deep sand, but near the river it changes to a black moorish earth. Southward from the castle the ground rises, at about three quarters of a mile south-west from it is Leeds abbey, the front of which is a handsome well-looking building, of the time of queen Elizabeth. It is not unpleasantly situated on a gentle eminence, and is well watered by a small stream which rises just above it, and here turns a mill. It is well cloathed with wood at the back part of it, to which the ground still keeps rising; adjoining to the abbey grounds westward is Leeds-street, a long straggling row of houses, near a mile in length, having the church at the south end of it; here the soil becomes a red unfertile earth much mixed with slints, which continues till it joins to Langley and Otham.
LEEDS was part of those possessions given by William the Conqueror to his half-brother Odo, bishop of Baieux; accordingly it is thus entered, under the general title of that prelate's lands, in the survey of Domesday, taken in the year 1080.
Adelold holds of the bishop (of Baieux) Esiedes. It was taxed at three sulings. The arable land is twelve carucates. In demesne there are two carucates, and twenty-eight villeins, with eight borderers, having seven carucates. There is a church, and eighteen servants. There are two arpends of vineyard, and eight acres of meadow. Wood for the pannage of twenty bogs, and five mills of the villeins. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, it was worth sixteen pounds, the like when be received it, now twenty pounds, and yet it pays twentyfive pounds. Earl Leuuin held it.
Of this manor the abbot of St. Augustine has half a suling, which is worth ten shillings, in exchange of the park of the bishop of Baieux. The earl of Ewe has four denns of this manor, which are worth twenty shillings.
The mention of the two arpends of vineyard in the above survey, is another instance of there having been such in this county in early times, some further observations of which the reader will find in the description of the parish of Chart Sutton, not far distant, and he will likewise observe, that at the above time the bishop of Baieux had a park here, which he acquired by exchange with the abbot of St. Augustine, who must therefore have had possessions here before that time.
After which it was granted by king William to the eminent family of Crevequer, called in antient charters Creveceur, and in Latin, De Crepito Corde, who at first made Chatham in this county their seat, or caput baroniæ, i. e. the principal manor of their barony, for some time, until they removed hither, being before frequently written Domini de Cetham.
Robert, son of Hamon de Crevequer, who had probably a grant of Leeds from the Conqueror, appears to have held it of the king, as of his castle of Dover, in capite by barony, their barony, which consisted of five knight's sees, being stiled Baronia de Crevequer . (fn. 1) He erected the castle here, to which he asterwards removed the capital seat of his barony. This castle being environed with water, was frequently mentioned in antient writings by the name of Le Mote. In the north-west part of it he built a chapel, in which he placed three canons, which on his foundation of the priory of Leeds, in the 19th year of king Henry I. he removed thither.
His descendant, Hamon de Crevequer, lived in the reign of king Henry III. in the 19th year of which, he was joined with Walterand Teutonicus, or Teys, in the wardenship of the five ports, and the next year had possession granted to him of the lands of William de Albrincis or Averenches, whose daughter and heir Maud he had married. He died in the 47th year of king Henry III. possessed of the manor of Ledes, held of the king in capite, as belonging to his barony of Chatham; upon which Robert, his grandson, viz. son of Hamon his son, who died in his life-time, succeeded him as his heir, and in the 52d year of that reign, exchanged the manor of Ledes, with its appurtenances, together with a moiety of all his fees, with Roger de Leyburne, for the manors of Trottesclyve and Flete. He lest William de Leyburne, his son and heir, who in the 2d year of king Edward I. had possession granted to him of the manor of Ledes, as well as of the rest of his inheritance, of which Eleanor, countess of Winchester, his father's widow, was not endowed. (fn. 2)
His son, William de Leyborne, observing that the king looked on the strength of this fortress with a jealous eye, in the beginning of king Edward Ist.'s reign reinstated the crown in the possession of both the manor and castle; and the king having, in his 27th year married Margaret, sister of Philip, king of France, he settled them, being then of the clear yearly value of 21l. 6s. 8d. among other premises, as part of her dower. She survived the king her husband, who died in 1307, and in the 5th year of the next reign of king Edward II. by the king's recommendation, appointed Bartholomew de Badlesmere, a nobleman of great power and eminence, and much in that prince's favor, governor of this castle. (fn. 3) She died possessed of them in the 10th year of that reign; on which they came once more into the hands of the crown, and in the beginning of the next year the king appointed Bartholomew de Badlesmere, above-mentioned, governor of this castle, as well as of that of Bristol. In the 11th year of that reign, the king granted to him in see, this manor and castle, and the advowson of the priory of Ledes, in exchange for the manor of Addresley, in Shropshire. Being possessed of great possessions, especially in this county, he was usually stiled, the rich lord Badlesmere of Ledes. Being pussed up through ambition and his great wealth, he forgot his allegiance, and associated himself with the earl of Lancaster, and the discontented barons; which the king being well informed of, resolved, if possible, to gain possession of this strong fortress of Ledes: to effect which, under pretence of the queen's going on a pilgrimage to Canterbury, she set forward for that city with a large train of attendants, and, with a secret intention of surprising this castle, sent her marshal with others of her servants, to prepare lodging for her and her suit in it. The lord Badlesmere's family, that is, his wife, son, and four daughters, were at that time in it, together with all his treasure, deposited there for safety, under the care of Thomas Colepeper, the castellan, who refused the queen's servants admittance, and on her coming up, peremptorily persisted in denying her or any one entrance, without letters from his lord. The queen, upon this, made some attempt to gain admittance by force, and a skirmish ensued, in which one or more of her attendants were slain, but being repulsed, she was obliged to relinquish her design, and to retire for a lodging elsewhere.
The king, chagrined at the failure of his scheme, and highly resenting the indignity offered to the queen, sent a force under the earls of Pembroke and Richmond, to besiege the castle; (fn. 4) and those within it finding no hopes of relief, for though the lord Badlesmere had induced the barons to endeavours to raise the siege, yet they never advanced nearer than Kingston, yielded it up. Upon which, the lady Badlesmere and her children were sent prisoners to the tower of London, Thomas Colepeper, the castellan, was hung up, and the king took possession of the castle, as well as of all the lord Badlesmere's goods and treasures in it. But by others, Thomas de Aldone is said to have been castellan at this time, and that the castle being taken, he, with the lord Badlesmere's wife, his only son Giles, his daughters, Sir Bartholomew de Burgershe, and his wife, were sent to the tower of London by the king's order; and that afterwards, he caused Walter Colepeper, bailiff of the Seven Hundreds, to be drawn in a pitiable manner at the tails of horses, and to be hung just by this castle; on which Thomas Colepeper, and others, who were with him in Tunbridge castle, hearing of the king's approach, sled to the barons.
After which the lord Badlesmere, being taken prisoner in Yorkshire, was sent to Canterbury, and there drawn and hanged at the gallows of Blean, and his head being cut off, was set on a pole on Burgate, in that city. Upon which the manor and castle of Leeds, became part of the royal revenue and the castle remained in a most ruinous condition till the year 1359, anno 34 Edward III. in which year that munisicent prelate, William of Wickham, was constituted by the king, chief warden and surveyor of his castle of Ledes, among others, (fn. 5) having power to appoint all workmen, to provide materials, and to order every thing with regard to building and repairs; and in those manors to hold leets and other courts of trespass and misdemeanors, and to enquire of the king's liberties and rights; and from his attention to the re-edisying and rebuilding the rest of them, there is little doubt but he restored this of Leeds to a very superior state to whatever it had been before, insomuch, that it induced king Richard to visit it several times, particularly in his 19th year, in which several of his instruments were dated at his castle of Ledes; and it appears to have been at that time accounted a fortress of some strength, for in the beginning of the next reign, that unfortunate prince was, by order of king Henry IV. sent prisoner to this castle; and that king himself resided here part of the month of April in his 2d year.
After which, archbishop Arundel, whose mind was by no means inferior to his high birth, procured a grant of this castle, where he frequently resided and kept his court, whilst the process against the lord Cobham was carrying forward, and some of his instruments were dated from his castle of Ledes in the year 1413, being the year in which he died. On his death it reverted again to the crown, and became accounted as one of the king's houses, many of the principal gentry of the county being instrusted with the custody of it:
In the 7th year of king Henry V. Joane of Navarre, the second queen of the late king Henry IV. being accused of conspiring against the life of the king, her son-in-law, was committed to Leeds-castle, there to remain during the king's pleasure; and being afterwards ordered into Sir John Pelham's custody, he removed her to the castle of Pevensey, in Sussex.
King Edward IV. in his 11th year, made Ralph St. Leger, esq. of Ulcomb, who had served the office of sheriff of this county three years before, constable of this castle for life, and annexed one of the parks as a farther emolument to that office. He died that year, and was buried with his ancestors at Ulcomb.
Sir Thomas Bourchier resided at Leeds castle in the 1st year of king Richard III. in which year he had commission, among others of the principal gentry of this county, to receive the oaths of allegiance to king Richard, of the inhabitants of the several parts of Kent therein mentioned; in which year, the king confirmed the liberties of Leeds priory, in recompence of twentyfour acres of land in Bromfield, granted for the enlargement of his park of Ledes.
In the 4th year of king Henry VIII. Henry Guildford, esq. had a grant of the office of constable of Leeds castle, and of the parkership of it; and in the 12th year of that reign, he had a grant of the custody of the manor of Leeds, with sundry perquisities, for forty years. He died in the 23d year of that reign, having re-edisied great part of the castle, at the king's no small charge.
But the fee simple of the manor and castle of Leeds remained in the hands of the crown, till Edward VI. in his 6th year, granted them, with their appurtenances in the parishes of Leeds, Langley, and Sutton, to Sir Anthony St. Leger, lord deputy of Ireland, to hold in capite by knight's service.
His son, Sir Warham St. Leger, succeeded him in this manor and castle, and was afterwards chief governor of Munster, in Ireland, in which province he was unfortunately slain in 1599, (fn. 6) but before his death he alienated this manor and castle to Sir Richard Smyth, fourth son of Thomas Smyth, esq. of Westenhanger, commonly called Customer Smyth.
Sir John Smith, his only son, succeeded his father, and resided at Leeds castle, and dying s. p. in 1632, was buried in this church; upon which his two sisters, Alice, wife of Sir Timothy Thornhill, and Mary, of Maurice Barrow, esq. became his coheirs, and entitled their respective husbands to the property of this manor and castle, which they afterwards joined in the sale of to Sir T. Culpeper, of Hollingborne, who settled this estate, after his purchase of it, on his eldest son Cheney Culpeper, remainder to his two other sons, Francis and Thomas. Cheney Culpeper, esq. resided at Leedscastle for some time, till at length persuading his brother Sir Thomas Culpeper, of Hollingborne, (then his only surviving brother, Francis being dead. s. p.) to cut off the entail of this estate, he alienated it to his cousin Sir John Colepeper, lord Colepeper, only son of Sir John Culpeper, of Wigsell, in Sussex, whose younger brother Francis was of Greenway-court, in Hollingborne, and was father of Sir Thomas Culpeper, the purchaser of this estate as before-mentioned.
Sir John Colepeper represented this county in parliament in the 16th year of king Charles I. and being a person, who by his abilities had raised himself much in the king's favor, was made of his privy council, and chancellor of the exchequer, afterwards master of the rolls, and governor of the Isle of Wight. During the troubles of that monarch, he continued stedfast to the royal cause, and as a reward for his services, was in 1644 created lord Colepeper, baron of Thoresway, in Lincolnshire.
After the king's death he continued abroad with king Charles II. in his exile. During his absence, Leeds-castle seems to have been in the possession of the usurping powers, and to have been made use of by them, for the assembling of their committee men and sequestrators, and for a receptacle to imprison the ejected ministers, for in 1652, all his estates had been declared by parliament forfeited, for treason against the state. He died in 1660, a few weeks only after the restoration, and was buried at Hollingborne. He bore for his arms, Argent, a bend ingrailed gules, the antient bearing of this family; he left by his second wife Judith, daughter of Sir Thomas Culpeper, of Hollingborne, several children, of whom Thomas was his successor in title and estates, and died without male issue as will be mentioned hereafter, John succeeded his brother in the title, and died in 1719 s. p. and Cheney succeeded his brother in the title, and died at his residence of Hoston St. John, in 1725, s. p. likewise, by which the title became extinct; they all, with the rest of the branch of the family, lie buried at Hollingborne. Thomas, lord Colepeper, the eldest son, succeeded his father in title, and in this manor and castle, where he resided, and having married Margaret, daughter of Signior Jean de Hesse, of a noble family in Germany, he left by her a sole daughter and heir Catherine, who intitled her husband Thomas, lord Fairfax, of Cameron, in Scotland, to this manor and castle, with his other estates in this neighbourhood.
The family of Fairfax appear by old evidences in the hands of the family to have been in possession of lands in Yorkshire near six hundred years ago. Richard Fairfax was possessed of lands in that county in the reign of king John, whose grandson William Fairfax in the time of king Henry III. purchased the manor of Walton, in the West Riding, where he and his successors resided for many generations afterwards, and from whom descended the Fairfax's, of Walton and Gilling, in Yorkshire; of whom, Sir Thomas Fairfax, of Gilling, was created viscount Fairfax, of the kingdom of Ireland, which title became extinct in 1772; and from a younger branch of them descended Sir Thomas Fairfax, of Denton, who lived in queen Elizabeth's reign, and changed the original field of his coat armour from argent to or, bearing for his arms, Or, 3 bars gemelles, gules, surmounted of a lion rampant, sable, crown'd, of the first, and was father of Sir. T. Fairfax, who was, for his services to James and Charles I. created in 1627 lord Fairfax, baron of Cameron, in Scotland. He died in 1640, having had ten sons and two daughters; of whom, Ferdinando was his successor; Henry was rector of Bolton Percy, and had two sons, Henry, who became lord Fairfax, and Bryan, who was ancestor of Bryan Fairfax, late commissioner of the customs; and colonel Charles Fairfax, of Menston, was the noted antiquary, whose issue settled there.
Ferdinando, the second lord Fairfax, in the civil wars of king Charles I. was made general of the parliamentary forces, and died at York in 1646. His son, Sir Thomas Fairfax, succeeded him as lord Fairfax, and in all his posts under the parliament, and was that famous general so noted in English history during the civil wars, being made commander in chief of all the parliamentary forces; but at last he grew so weary of the distress and confusion which his former actions had brought upon his unhappy country, that he heartily concurred in the restoration of king Charles II. After which he retired to his seat at Bilborough, in Yorkshire, where he died in 1671, and was buried there, leaving by Anne, daughter and coheir of Horatio, lord Vere of Tilbury, a truly loyal and virtuous lady, an only daughter; upon which the title devolved to Henry Fairfax, esq. of Oglesthorpe, in Yorkshire, his first cousin, eldest son of Henry, rector of Bolton Percy, the second son of Thomas, the first lord Fairfax. Henry, lord Fairfax, died in 1680, and was succeeded by his eldest son Thomas, fifth lord Fairfax, who was bred to a military life, and rose to the rank of a brigadier-general. He represented Yorkshire in several parliaments and marrying Catherine, daughter and heir of Thomas, lord Colepeper, possessed, in her right this manor and castle, and other large possessions, as before-mentioned. (fn. 7)
He died possessed of them in 1710, leaving three sons and four daughters, Thomas, who succeeded him as lord Fairfax; Henry Culpeper, who died unmarried, in 1734; and Robert, of whom hereafter. Of the daughters, Margaret married David Wilkins, D. D. and prebendary of Canterbury, and Francis married Denny Martin, esq. Thomas, lord Fairfax, the son, resided at Leeds-castle till his quitting England, to reside on his great possessions in Virginia, where he continued to the time of his death. On his departure from England, he gave up the possession of this manor and castle, with his other estates in this neighbourhood, to his only surviving brother, the hon. Robert Fairfax, who afterwards resided at Leeds-castle, and on his brother's death unmarried, in 1782, succeeded to the title of lord Fairfax. He was at first bred to a military life, but becoming possessed of Leeds castle, he retired there, and afterwards twice served in parliament for the town of Maidstoue, as he did afterwards in two successive parliaments for this county. He was twice married; first to Marsha, daughter and coheir of Anthony Collins, esq. of Baddow, in Essex, by whom he had one son, who died an instant; and, secondly, to one of the daughters of Thomas Best, esq. of Chatham, who died s. p. in 1750. Lord Fairfax dying s. p. in 1793, this castle and manor, with the rest of his estates in this county, came to his nephew the Rev. Denny Martin, the eldest son of his sister Frances, by Denny Martin, esq. of Loose, who had before his uncle's death been created D. D. and had, with the royal licence, assumed the name and arms of Fairfax. Dr. Fairfax is the present possessor of this manor and castle, and resides here, being at present unmarried.
A court leet and court baron is held for the manor of Leeds, at which three borsholders are appointed. It is divided into six divisions, or yokes as they are called, viz. Church-yoke, Ferinland-yoke, Mill-yoke, Russerken-yoke, Stockwell-yoke, and Lees-yoke.
Leeds castle is a magnificent pile of building, being built of stone, at several times, and of different architecture; notwithstanding which, it has altogether a fine effect. It is pleasantly situated in the midst of a beautisul park, and is incircled by a large moat of running water, in which there is great plenty of fish, especially pike, which are so large as frequently to weigh between thirty and forty pounds. At the entrance to the castle are the remains of an antient gateway, which has been pulled down to within about a yard of the ground. What is left, shews it to have been very strong; the groove for the portcullis is still remaining. A little to the north-west of it is the ruin of a very antient building, perhaps that part of the castle in which Robert de Crevequer placed the three chaplains at his first erection of it, as has been already mentioned before.
The approach to the castle is over a stone bridge of two arches, and under another antient gateway, which, with the part already described, seems to have been part of the old fortress, built by the Crevequers, and not demolished at the time the rest of it was. Within the last-mentioned gate, is an handsome quadrangle or court, and on the right hand a building, which seems by the architecture, to be of the time of William of Wickham, and might be part of what he erected here. That part at the further side of the square, opposite the entrance, contains the state or principal apartments, which has had a handsome uniform front of rustic stone work added to it; the windows of it, though sashed, are arched in the gothic taste, and the parapet is embattled. Behind this building, over a bridge of two arches, formerly a draw bridge, but now built on and inclosed as a passage, there is a large building, being the extremity of the castle; this is a handsome structure, of sightly workmanship, intended no doubt both for beauty and strength, and seems to be of the age of king Henry VIII. If so, in all likelihood, it was erected by Sir Henry Guildford, who was constable of it in that reign, and, as has been already mentioned, reedified this castle at the king's charge. The scite of this building, from the strength and situation of the place, was most probably where the antient keep of the castle was formerly placed.
On the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 3, 1779, his majesty king George III. and his consort queen Charlotte, after having reviewed the grand camp on Cocksheath, honored this castle with their presence. The next day they received here the compliments of the nobility, general officers, and many of the principal gentry of the county, as well of the mayor, and other members of the corporation of the neighbouring town of Maidstone; and next morning set out, amidst the acclamations of thousands, for London, highly pleased with this castle and its environs, and the reception they met with from the possessor of it.
ROBERT DE CREVEQUER, with the assistance of Adam de Crevequer his son, in the year 1119, founded A PRIORY at Leeds for black canons regular, of the order of St. Augustine, and by his charter gave them a scite for the founding of their church, in honor of St. Mary and St. Nicholas, and other convenient buildings for the religious, as it was then inclosed and bounded off. And he gave them the forstall, which was before their gate, and the land which lay on both sides of it; which gift was afterwards confirmed by Daniel de Crevequer his son, as it was by his son Robert, who gave them the mill of Brandescompe, in Ledes, and free common in all his fright here, to seed their cattle in, at all times of the year; and that their conventual church being vacant, they should have the free custody of it, and the disposal and ordering of all their possessions and goods; and he gave them his wood, called East-park, with the lands adjoining to it, in this parish, in pure and perpetual alms.
Robert, son of Hamon de Crevequer, junior, anno 3 Edward I. confirmed all the gifts made to the canons of Ledes by his ancestors or himself, within his barony as before-mentioned; and that on a vacancy, they should chuse their priors, reserving, however, the approbation of them, as had been used of old time to his ancestors. (fn. 8)
Pope Innocent III. in 1198, confirmed the subjection of this priory to the jurisdiction of the see of Canterbury. And Edward III. in his 41st year, by letters of inspeximus, confirmed to the canons of the church of Ledes, i. e. the priory, then of his patronage, all the former donations made by the Crevequers to them.
The archdeacon of Canterbury claimed the privilege of installing the prior of Ledes, at which time he staid at the priory for two nights and a day, and received his victuals and drink for that time, but nothing further.
In which reign Thomas Hazlewood, canon here, after he had taught towards his old age, applied himself to reading and writing history. He wrote many things, and among others, a work which he entitled, A Compendious Chronicle.
James Goldewelle, LL. D. bishop of Norwich, in the reign of Henry VII. finding this convent deeply in debt, and unable to support their usual hospitality, relieved them bounteously, insomuch, that they acknowledged him in some measure as the founder of their house. And the bishop, being rather desirous for the health of his soul, than the repayment of the money, founded a chantry of one priest, at the altar of the Virgin Mary, in the south part of the nave of this conventual church; to which the prior and convent acceded, by their instruments in 1487. On Dec. 22, 1534, anno 26 Henry VIII. the prior and convent of the house or priory of Lyddis signed the act of succession and the king's supremacy; at which time there were, a prior, supprior, and ten canons, in this priory, who then signed this instrument.
In which situation it remained till the 31st year of Henry VIII. when an act passed, for confirming to the king and his successors all religious houses, which had been suppressed since the former act of the 27th year of that reign, or might be in future suppressed. In consequence of which, the prior and convent of Leeds, among others, were in a manner constrained to surrender their house, lands, and possessions, then valued at 362l. 7s. 7d. per annum, into the king's hands. This being one of those religious houses, which by the statute of 31 Henry VIII is capable of exemption from tithes; such being surrendered into the king's hands, in as free and ample a manner as the religious themselves held and enjoyed the same. (fn. 9) Thomas Day was the last prior of it who surrendered this priory into the king's hands in 1539, anno 31 Henry VIII. and had a pension of eighty pounds per annum allowed to him.
Leeds abbey, by which name it has been long known, by the antient remains of it, appears to have been a spacious building. The church of it is said to have been in size and beauty equal to many of our cathedrals. There was a noted figure of the Virgin Mary in it, beside the altar of St. Katherine. There were likewise altars in it dedicated to St. Martin and St. Anne. In this church, Leland, Itin. vol. vi. p. 7, says, were buried three of the Crevequers, Robert, Robert, and Thomas. Guido Mone, who was prebendary of Stow Longa, in Lincoln cathedral, and afterwards bishop of St. David's, died at his house at Charlton, in Kent, in 1407, and was buried here. Joane Goodherst, widow, by her will in 1485, directed to be buried in the church of this priory, under the tomb of John Iprys, esq. her late father, if it conveniently might be, but if not, then in the cemetery of the parish church, near the burying-place of her husband. There are not any remains of this church now left.
The year after the dissolution of the priory, the king demised to Sir Anthony St. Leger, for twenty-one years, at the yearly rent of 22l. 17s. 2d. the house and scite of this priory, with all houses, mills, &c. within the precinct of it, and lands therein mentioned, containing together three hundred and twenty-three acres, and other premises, in the tenure of the said Anthony St. Leger; all which were in this parish, and lately belonged to the late priory here; excepting all houses and buildings within the precinct of it, which the king had already ordered to be pulled down and carried away. In which state it continued till the reign of king Edward VI. when that king, by his letters patent, in his 4th year, granted to Sir Anthony St. Leger, of Ulcomb, knight of the garter, &c. the scite of the priory, and all orchards, gardens, &c and all those demesne lands and woods of this priory, lying in Leeds, Langley, Sutton Valence, and Bromfield, containing by estimation two hundred and twenty-nine acres, to hold of the king in capite by knight's service. But the rest of the estates of this dissolved priory, being by far the greatest part of the manors and possessions of it, were settled by king Henry VIII. in his 33d year, on his new-founded dean and chapter of Rochester, an account of which may be seen in different parts of this history.
Sir Anthony St. Leger died possessed of this estate in 1559, (fn. 10) and was succeeded in it by his son Sir Warham St. Leger, of Ulcomb, who in the 15th year of Elizabeth vested it in trustees for the sale of it, and they quickly afterwards sold it to Norden, who soon afterwards parted with it to Francis Colepeper, esq. of Greenway-court, in Hollingborne, who not long after transmitted it back again to Norden, and he immediately afterwards alienated it to William Covert, whose son William Covert, esq. resided here, and new built the front of the house, as it now remains, and repaired and re-edisied much of the rest of the antient buildings of the priory, over a stone portal on the west side of which, the initials of his name, W. C. and the date, 1598, still remain.
In the 6th year of king James I. he sold this priory, or abbey of Leeds, as it came then to be called, with the lands belonging to it, being then held in capite, to Sir William Meredith, of Stansty, in Denbighshire, and then removed to Vintners, in Boxley. Sir William Meredith afterwards resided here, and bore for his arms, Azure, a lion rampant, or.
His son, William Meredith, esq. was of Leedsabbey, and in the 14th year of James I. purchased of Sir Warham St. Leger other lands and woods in the adjoining parishes, held in like manner, and six years afterwards, anno 1622, was created a baronet. He had by his first wife six sons, and six daughters: of whom, Richard, the second, but eldest surviving son, succeeded him in title; and Roger, the sixth, was a master in chancery, but died s. p. One of the daughters, Elizabeth, married Sir Henry Oxenden, bart. of Deane, whose second wife she was, by whom she had a numerous issue, from one of whom the late Sir Geo. Oxenden, bart. was descended. He died in 1675, and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Sir Richard Meredith, bart. who had six sons and five daughters; of whom Sir William Meredith, bart. the eldest son, was of Leeds-abbey, and died unmarried; Henry, the second son, was a colonel in the army, and left an only daughter Susanna, born in 1710. He died in 1711, at Leeds-abbey, in his father's life-time; Richard, the third son, succeeded his brother William in the title and in this seat, and died unmarried; Thomas, the fourth son, represented this county in the 12th year of William III. and died before his brothers s. p. Philip died unmarried; and Roger, the sixth son, succeeded to the title of baronet and this seat, on the death of his brother Sir Richard, who died unmarried in 1723.
Sir Roger Meredith, bart. resided at Leeds-abbey, and in 1727 was chosen to represent this county in parliament. He married Mary, daughter of Francis Tyssen, esq. of Shacklewell, widow of Samuel Gott, esq. and dying in 1738, s. p. was buried in a vault in the south chancel of this church, having a handsome monument erected to his memory, and by his will devised this seat, among the rest of his estates, to his niece Susanna, (only daughter of his brother colonel Henry Meredith, before-mentioned) in tail general; remainder to several different persons in tail male.
Mrs. Susanna Meredith resided at Leeds-abbey, where she died unmarried in 1758, and her uncle Sir Roger Meredith, having omitted to devise the see of this estate after the above-mentioned remainders, it became vested in her, as his sole heir; she, therefore, by her will, devised the see of it to her heir at-law, Sir George Oxenden, bart. the direct descendant of her grandfather, Sir Richard Meredith's sister Elizabeth.
On Mrs. Meredith's death, unmarried, Walter Hooper, esq. of London, the intermediate remainders having ceased, became possessed, by the limitation in Sir Roger Meredith's will, of this seat and estate, and resided here, where he died in 1758, s. p. on which, it came by the entail above-mentioned, to his nephew, William Jumper, esq. of Stockbury, as tenant in tail male likewise, who afterwards resided here, and in the year 1761 served the office of sheriff for this county, He joined with Sir George Oxenden, bart. in whom the see of it was vested by Miss Meredith's will, in the sale of this seat, with the estate belonging to it, in 1765 to John Calcrast, esq. of Ingress, who made considerable improvements and additions to the house and the grounds adjoining to it. He bore for his arms, Per sess, argent and ermine, three lions passant-guardant, in pale sable, all within a bordure, wavy, azure, granted in 1770, (fn. 11) and died possessed of it in 1772, devising this, among the rest of his estates, to his eldest son, John Calcraft, esq. who married Elizabeth, third daughter and coheir of Sir Thomas Pym Hales, bart. deceased, and at times resides here, being the present possessor of this estate; to which there belongs a manor, called Barnes Garden, for which a court baron is regularly held.
IN THE HAMLET OF NASH, in this parish, about a quarter of a mile westward from Leeds-park, is a house called BATTLE-HALL, which from the remains of gothic architecture in it, seems to be of some antiquity, for there is still remaining in it, a large gothic stone arch, supported by two images, which reaches entirely to the top of the house; there is also, a door-case of stone, in which is a groove for a portcullis, which seems to have led into some place of safety; there is besides, on the other side of the house, a fair-place for holy water. Some have supposed this to have been the place where Robert de Crevequer, the founder of Leeds-castle, had placed the three canons, which he afterwards removed to Leeds-priory on his foundation of it. But the most antient parts of this building seem to be of a much later date, and if that was the purpose of it, the house must have been rebuilt since. Whatever it was, it remained a lay see, and in the reign of Henry VII. was in the possession of Robert Chambre, who in the 16th year of that reign, released his claim and right to Robert Wotton, gent. of Boughton Malherb, Christopher Porter, clerk, &c. in his tenement, called Battaile-hall, with its appurtenances, situated at Nash, in Ledes. It afterwards came to be the property of the Coverts, of Leeds-abbey, with whom it staid till Sir John Covert passed it away to Mr. Harsnet; after some intermediate owners it came into the possession of Mr. Samuel Quested, of whom it was bought by the Hon. Robert Fairfax, who repaired and sitted it up for his residence, till his removal to Leeds-castle; since whose death it is become, with the rest of his estates, the property of his nephew the Rev. Dr. Denny Martin Fairfax, the present owner of it.
MRS. ELIZABETH CAYSER, of Hollingborne, widow, gave by will, in 1612, a sum of money to buy land, which has been since purchased in that parish; out of the rents of which she directed, there should be yearly paid on the anniversary of her death, Sept. 22, 5s. among ten of the poorest of the parish of Leeds, by the minister, churchwardens, and overseers of it.
CHARLES LUMSDEN, gent. in 1732, gave the sum of 200l. as an augmentation of the minister's salary, on condition of his residing, otherwise the yearly income of it to be given to the poor of this parish, vested in the three per cents. in the name of the archbishop, and of the annual produce of 6l.
The church, which is situated at a small distance northward from Leeds-street, is dedicated to St. Nicholas. It has three isles and three chancels, with a remarkable square low tower at the west end, and on it a low small spire. There are remains of good painted glass in the windows.
The north chancel has belonged beyond memory to the possessors of Leeds-abbey. In it lie buried many of the Meredith family, whose monuments still remain there; particularly a most superb marble one, richly embellished with arms, supporters, &c. for Jane, daughter of Sir Thomas Palmer, widow of Sir William Meredith, bart. the first purchaser of the Leeds-abbey estate. She afterwards married John, earl of Carbery, and died in 1643. The south chancel was purchased by that family some years ago of the Wollett's; in a vault in it, among others, lies buried Sir Roger Meredith, bart. who has a handsome monument erected to his memory.
Robert de Crevequer, at the time of his founding the priory of Leeds, gave to the canons there the advowsons of all the churches of his estate, and among them the advowsons of the churches of Ledes and Bromfield, with fifty acres of land in this parish, which gift was confirmed by several of his descendants, as they were by king Edward III. in his 41st year, by letters of inspeximus. (fn. 12)
In the 8th year of king Richard II. the church of Leeds was valued at 13l. 6s. 8d. per annum, the whole profits of it being then in the possession of this priory, the cure of it being supplied by the religious themselves. In which situation it continued till the dissolution of the priory, in the 31st year of Henry VIII. when it was, with all its possessions, surrendered into the king's hands, as has been already mentioned. The year after which, the king demised, among other premises, to Sir Anthony St. Leger, the rectory, with the chapel of Bromfelde, with their appurtenances, lately belonging to the priory there, for twenty-one years, at the yearly rent of twenty pounds.
But the see of it remained in the crown, till queen Elizabeth, in her 3d year, having taken into her hands several manors, lands, &c. parcel of the revenue of the see of Canterbury, granted to archbishop Parker several rectories and parsonages in lieu of them; among which latter was this rectory or parsonage of Leeds, with its appurtenances, which has ever since continued parcel of the possessions of his successors, archbishops of Canterbury.
Soon after the above-mentioned exchange, the archbishop demised this rectory, and the chapel of Bromfield, with all tithes, commodities, &c. excepting the advowson of the church of Leeds, to Jerome, Millicent and Thomas Brett, for their lives, the latter of whom conveyed the lease of it to William Covert, esq. to whom archbishop Whitgift, anno 33 Elizabeth, granted a lease of it for twenty one years, at 20l. per annum, and the like exception, with a covenant for the tenant to repair all buildings, and the chancel of the church of Leeds and chapel of Bromfield. Since which it has been held in lease of the several archbishops in like manner, the term renewable every seven years by the possessors of Leeds abbey, and as such the interest of it is now vested in John Calcraft, esq. of Leedsabbey.
The cure of the church of Leeds, before the surrendry of the priory, having been constantly served by one of the religious of it, there was no vicarage endowed of it; after the dissolution of the priory, therefore, it was esteemed as a perpetual curacy, in the gift of the possessor of the rectory, and after that, was granted, with its appurtenances, by which this advowson passed likewise, anno 3 Elizabeth, to the see of Canterbury. The archbishops constantly excepted the advowson of the church of Leeds out of the several leases demised of it, and it still continues in the gift of the archbishop, who collates a perpetual curate to the church of Leeds, with the chapel of Bromfield annexed.
The antient stipend or pension to the curate of Leeds was, anno 3 Elizabeth 7l. 6s. 8d. and to the curate of Bromfield five pounds, which continued so till the restoration of king Charles II. when archbishop Juxon, in 1661, in conformity to the king's letters mandatory, augmented this curacy, by adding the sum of thirty pounds per annum, to be paid by the lessee of the great tithes of this parish, to the former old pension above-mentioned of 12l. 6s. 8d. (fn. 13)
About the year 1765, Sir Philip Boteler, bart. of Teston, gave two hundred pounds towards the augmentation of this curacy, which was increased by the like sum from the governors of queen Anne's bounty.
It is a discharged living in the king's books, of the clear yearly certified value of 44l. 14s. 4d. (fn. 14)
Church of Leeds.
|PATRONS,||CURATES OF LEEDS,|
|Or by whom presented.||With the chapel of Bromfield annexed.|
|Archbishops of Canterbury.||William Cragge, 1618.|
|Jonathan Browne, 1621.|
|Matthew Laurence, in 1622.|
|John Blackburne, 1624.|
|John Lockwood, 1625.|
|Richard Marsh, March 25, 1635.|
|William Francis, September 29, 1641.|
|Nathaniel Willmott, in 1643.|
|Thomas Parramore, 1647.|
|Thomas Chowning, 1659.|
|Thomas Showell, ejected in 1662. (fn. 15)|
|John Moore, September 29, 1664.|
|James Wilson, May 10, 1665.|
|Edward Waterman, May 28, 1685.|
|Edward Harrison, June 16, 1725, obt. 1760.|
|Denny Martin Fairfax, D. D. Nov. 14, 1760, the present curate. (fn. 16)|