The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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THE last parish undescribed in this hundred is that of Bredhurst, which lies at the north-west corner of it, adjoining to the parish of Rainham northward, being wholly in the division of West Kent.
This place takes its name from its situation among the woods, Brade, in old English, signifying broad, and burst a wood, i. e. the broad extended wood.
The manor of Hollingborne claims over a part of this parish. Bredhurst lies about two miles northward from the summit of the chalk hills, and joins that part of Boxley which lies above them; to the northward it joins Rainham, the churches being about two miles and a half apart. The parish is surrounded by an extensive range of woods, in it and the different adjoining parishes, the north-east part of this parish being almost covered with them. It is situated in so unfrequented a part of this county, that it is hardly known to any one, it lies mostly on high ground, and very cold and bleak. The hills here are very frequent and steep, the lands very poor and hungry, and the flint stones very numerous. The village is built round a green, with the church at a small distance eastward from it.
Almost adjoining to the church-yard northward, there is a wood, where the inhabitants have a report, that there was once a village, called Bredhurst town. Several wells are yet remaining in it.
At about a mile's distance from the church, is Kemsley-street, so called from a family who once resided at it; one of them, Isabella Kymsley, widow, of this place, by her will, in 1595, devised to her son John, the elder, two pieces of woodland in this parish, on condition, that he should yearly keep a drinking on All Saints day at night, to the value of a bushel and an half of wheat, and two bushels of malt, and sixteenpence in cheese, till 46s. 8d. should be yearly laid out and expended.
The Kemsleys were buried in a chapel on the south side of this church, in which there was formerly a brass plate over Thomas Kemsley, esq. of Kemsley-street, who died in 1586.
THE MANOR of Bredhurst was antiently part of the possessions of the eminent family of Northwood, of Northwood Castenors, in Middleton; one of whom, John de Northwood, died possessed of it in the second year of king Richard II. as appears by the escheat-rolls of that year. And in this church was once a brass plate for William Northwood, and four of his sons, who lie buried here.
Soon after which, this manor, with that of Merecourt, in the adjoining parish of Rainham, and the estates called Merethorne, now Meresbarrow, was purchased, among others, by John, duke of Lancaster, and others, feoffees in trust, for the performance of certain religious bequests in the last will of king Edward III.
That king, by his letters patent in his 22d year, had endowed and completed the chapel which had been begun by his predecessor king Stephen, in his palace at Westminster, (fn. 1) and made it a collegiate chapel, to consist of a dean and twelve secular canons, and other ministers, to pray for his soul and those of his ancestors and successors; and he granted, that they should receive at his treasury as much as would supply them with food, and support the burthens incumbent on them, until he could give them as much in lands and rents as amounted to five hundred pounds yearly income, to the performance of which he bound himself and his heirs, kings of this realm, and by his will enjoined the duke of Lancaster, and others his feoffees. They, in compliance with the king's will, purchased the manors of Bredhurst and Mere, among other premises in this county and elsewhere, in the beginning of king Richard II.'s reign, and then, in the 5th year of it, demised them to the dean and canons before-mentioned, for forty years, to the intent that the king might grant them in mortmain for ever. After which, by means of some false representations made by Sir Simon de Burley, the king granted these manors to him, but he having forfeited them, with his life, for high treason, in the 10th year of that reign, that prince, by his letters patent, in his 12th year, at the petition of the dean and canons, granted to them the rents and profits of these manors, among others, to hold to them as a sufficient endowment until he should otherwise alter it, or provide for them. And then, by his letters patent, in his 21st year, granted these premises to them for ever, for the performance of those services before-mentioned, and in part of the exoneration of the sum of five hundred pounds to be taken at his treasury as aforesaid. (fn. 2)
In which situation these manors continued in the 1st year of king Edward VI. when an act of parliament having passed, as well anno 37 Henry VIII. as that year, for the surrendry of all free chapels, chantries, &c. this, among others, was soon afterwards dissolved, and the lands and possessions of it were surrendered up into the king's hands, who afterwards, by his letters patent, in the 3d year of his reign, granted, among other premises, these manors of Bradhurst and Merecourt, with their appurtenances, late in the tenure nure of Sir Christopher Hales, to Sir Thomas Cheney, treasurer of his houshold, &c. He died in the 1st year of queen Elizabeth, and was succeeded in them by his son Henry Cheney, esq. of Todington, in Bedfordshire, who, together with Jane his wife, in the 12th year of that reign, alienated this estate, then held in capite, by the description of the manors of Merecourt, alias Merescourt, Merethorne, and Bradhurst, with their appurtenances, to Richard Thornhill, grocer, and Wolstan Dyke Skinner, citizens of London, which by fines afterwards levied, were declared to be to the use of the said Richard Thornehill, and his heirs for ever.
After which, Sir Henry Cheney, then lord Cheney, of Todington, granted and made over to him all and singular liberties, franchises, royalties, assize of bread, wine, and ale, green-wax, and all other privileges whatsoever, within the above manors, which he had ever possessed, or had in any shape a right to, which liberties were claimed by Richard Thornhill, esq. and judgement was given in his favor by the barons of the exchequer, on a trial had in Michaelmas term in the 17th year of that reign, from him they descended to his son and heir Samuel Thornhill, esq. who gave them by his will to his second son Sir John Thornhill, of Bromley, and his son and heir Charles Thornhill, esq. in the reign of king Charles II. alienated these manors of Breadhurst and Merecourt to Sir John Banks, bart. on whose death in 1699, without male issue, Elizabeth his daughter and coheir, then married to the Hon. Heneage Finch, second son of Heneage, earl of Nottingham, entitled her husband to them. He was afterwards created baron of Guernsey, and earl of Aylesford, and died possessed of these manors in 1719, and his descendant, the right hon. Heneage, earl of Aylesford, is the present proprietor of them. (fn. 3)
There are no parochial charities. The poor relieved constantly are about eight, casually seven.
BREDHURST is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Sutton. It is exempt from the jurisdiction of the archdeacon.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, is a small mean building, consisting of one isle and one chancel, having a low pointed steeple at the west end of it, in which hang two bells; adjoining to it on the south side there is a small chapel, now shut out from the church, on the pavement of which are two gravestones, which have been long since robbed of their brasses, and are said to have been placed in memory of the Kemsleys, of Kemsley-street before mentioned, the whole of it is now in a ruinous state, without door or windows, and the pavement of it, which is much sunk, is falling into the vault underneath, and covered with filth and nastiness.
This church of Bredhurst was antiently esteemed as a chapel annexed to the church of Hollingborne, the rector of which is patron of it. It is of the clear yearly certified value of 37l. 17s. 6d. and is a discharged living in the king's books.
In 1640 it was valued at fifty pounds. Communicants seventy.
This church is frequently mentioned as a perpetual curacy, but it is called a vicarage in the several sequestrations of it, as well as in the books of presentation and induction in the prerogative-office in Canterbury, and in the several wills of the incumbents of it, registered there, they constantly stile themselves vicars of Bredhurst.