The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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THE PARISH of Mereworth is within the district of the Weald, being situated southward of the quarry hills. It is exceedingly pleasant, as well from its naturalsituation, as from the buildings, avenues, and other ornamental improvements made throughout it by the late earl of Westmoreland, nor do those made at Yokes by the late Mr. Master contribute a little to the continued beauty of this scene. The turnpike road crosses this parish through the vale from Maidstone, towards Hadlow and Tunbridge, on each side of which is a fine avenue of oaks, with a low neatly cut quick hedge along the whole of it, which leaves an uninterrupted view over the house, park, and grounds of lord le Despencer, the church with its fine built spire, and the seat of Yokes, and beyond it an extensive country, along the valley to Tunbridge, making altogether a most beautiful and luxuriant prospect.
Mereworth house is situated in the park, which rises finely wooded behind it, at a small distance from the high road, having a fine sheet of water in the front of it, being formed from a part of a stream which rises at a small distance above Yokes, and dividing itself into two branches, one of them runs in front of Mereworth house as above mentioned, and from thence through Watringbury, towards the Medway at Bow-bridge; the other branch runs more southward to East Peckham, and thence into the Medway at a small distance above Twiford bridge.
Mereworth-house was built after a plan of Palladio, designed for a noble Vicentine gentleman, Paolo Almerico, an ecclesiastic and referendary to two popes, who built it in his own country about a quarter of a mile distance from the city of Venice, in a situation pleasant and delightful, and nearly like this; being watered in front with a river, and in the back encompassed with the most pleasant risings, which form a kind of theatre, and abound with large and stately groves of oak and other trees; from the top of these risings there are most beautiful views, some of which are limited, and others extend so as to be terminated only by the horizon. Mereworth house is built in a moat, and has four fronts, having each a portico, but the two side ones are filled up; under the floor of the hall and best apartments, are rooms and conveniences for the servants. The hall, which is in the middle, forms a cupola, and receives its light from above, and is formed with a double case, between which the smoke is conveyed through the chimnies to the center of it at top. The wings are at a small distance from the house, and are elegantly designed. In the front of the house is an avenue, cut through the woods, three miles in length towards Wrotham-heath, and finished with incredible expence and labour by lord Westmoreland, for a communication with the London road there: throughout the whole, art and nature are so happily blended together, as to render it a most delightful situation.
In the western part of this parish, on the high road is the village, where at Mereworth cross it turns short off to the southward towards Hadlow and Tunbridge, at a small distance further westward is the church and parsonage, the former is a conspicuous ornament to all the neighbouring country throughout the valley; hence the ground rises to Yokes, which is most pleasantly situated on the side of a hill, commanding a most delightful and extensive prospect over the Weald, and into Surry and Sussex.
Towards the north this parish rises up to the ridge of hills, called the Quarry-hills, (and there are now in them, though few in number, several of the Martin Cats, the same as those at Hudson's Bay) over which is the extensive tract of wood-land, called the Herst woods, in which so late as queen Elizabeth's reign, there were many wild swine, with which the whole Weald formerly abounded, by reason of the plenty of pannage from the acorns throughout it. (fn. 1)
The soil of this parish is very fertile, being the quarry stone thinly covered with a loam, throughout the northern part of it; but in the southern or lower parts, as well as in East Peckham adjoining, it is a fertile clay, being mostly pasture and exceeding rich grazing land, and the largest oxen perhaps at any place in this part of England are bred and fatted on them, the weight of some of them having been, as I have been informed, near three hundred stone.
The manors of Mereworth and Swanton, with others in this neighbourhood, were antiently bound to contribute towards the repair of the fifth pier of Rochester bridge. (fn. 2)
In Littlefield hundred. Hamo holds Marourde. Norman held it of king Edward, and then, and now, it was and is taxed at two sulings. The arable land is ninecarucates. In demesne there are two, and twenty-eight villeins, with fifteen borderers, having ten carucates. There is a church and ten servants, and two mills of ten shillings, and two fisheries of two shillings. There are twenty acres of meadow, and as much wood as is sufficient for the pannage of sixty hogs. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, it was worth twelve pounds, and afterwards ten pounds, now nineteen pounds.
This Hamo Vicecomes before-mentioned was Hamo de Crevequer, who was appointed Vicecomes, or sheriff of Kent, soon after his coming over hither with the Conqueror, which office he held till his death in the reign of king Henry I.
Roger, son of Eustace de Mereworth, possessed it in the above reign, and then brought a quare impedit against the prior of. Leeds, for the advowson of the church of Mereworth. (fn. 3)
William de Mereworth is recorded among those Kentish knights, who assisted king Richard at the siege of Acon, in Palestine, upon which account it is probable the cross-croslets were added to the paternal arms of this family.
Roger de Mereworth, in the 18th year of king Edward I. obtained the grant of a fair at his manor of Mereworth, to be held there on the feast day of St. Laurence, and likewise for free-warren in the same, and in Eldehaye, &c.
John de Mereworth held this manor in the beginning of the reign of king Edward II. and in the 15th and 16th years of the next reign of king Edward III. he was sheriff, and resided at Mereworth-castle. His son, of the same name, died in the 44th year of it, without issue, on which John de Malmains, of Malmains, in Pluckley, was found to be his heir; and he, in the 46th year of the same reign, alienated his interest in it to Nicholas, son of Sir John de Brembre, who bore for his arms, Argent, three annulets sable, on a canton of the second, a mullet of the first.
Nicholas de Brembre was a citizen and grocer of London, and was lord mayor in the 1st year of king Richard II. in the 5th year of which reign he was knighted for his good services against that rebel Wat Tyler, in the 6th parliament of it, he represented the city of London in it; but at length becoming obnoxious to the prevailing party of that time, he was attainted of high treason in the 10th year of that reign, and was afterwards beheaded, (fn. 4) and his body buried in the Grey Friars church, now Christ church, in London. His estate being thus forfeited to the crown, king Richard, in his 13th year, granted this manor to John Hermenstorpe, who shortly afterwards passed it away to Richard Fitz Alan, earl of Arundel, lord treasurer and admiral of England, whose son, Thomas Fitz Alan, earl of Arundel, dying without issue in the 4th year of king Henry V. anno 1415, his four sisters became his coheirs, and on the division of their inheritance, the manor of Mereworth became the property of Joane, lady Abergavenny, the second sister, who had married William Beauchamp, lord Abergavenny, and she died possessed of it in the 13th year of king Henry VI. (fn. 5) After which it appears to have been vested in Elizabeth, daughter and sole heir of her son, Richard Beauchamp, earl of Worcester, and lord Abergavenny, who afterwards married Edward Nevill, fourth son of Ralph, earl of Westmoreland, who had possession granted of the lands of his wife's inheritance, and was afterwards, in the 29th year of Henry VI. summoned to parliament by the title of lord Bergavenny. He survived her, and died in the 16th year of king Edward IV. being then possessed, as tenant by the curtesy of England, of the inheritance of Elizabeth his first wife before-mentioned, of the manor of Mereworth.
From him it descended to his great grandson, Henry Nevill, lord Abergavenny, who died in the 29th year of queen Elizabeth, (fn. 6) when by inquisition he was found to die possessed, among other premises, of this manor with the advowson of the church of Mereworth, and the manor and farm of Oldhaie, alias Holehaie, in this parish, and that Mary, his daughter, was his sole heir, who had been married in the 17th year of that reign, to Sir Thomas Fane.
The family of Fane, (fn. 7) alias Vane, are of antient Welsh extraction, and for many generations wrote themselves solely Vane. They were first seated in this county in the reign of king Henry VI. when Henry Vane became possessed of Hilden, in Tunbridge, and resided there. He left three sons, the eldest of whom, John, was of Tunbridge; Thomas left a son Humphry; and Henry, the third son, was father of Sir Ralph Vane, who was attainted in the 4th year of king Edward VI.
John Vane, alias Fane, esq. of Tunbridge, the eldest son, had four sons; the eldest of whom Henry, was of Hadlow, but died s. p. Richard was ancestor of the Fanes, of Badsell, in Tudeley, the earls of Westmoreland, the viscounts Fane of Ireland, and the Fanes of Mereworth and Burston. Thomas, was of London, and John, the fourth son, was of Had low, and was ancestor of the two Sir Henry Vanes, whose descendant is the present earl of Darlington, as were the late viscounts Vane, and the Fanes, late of Winchelsea, in Sussex.
John Fane, esq. the father, dying in 1488, anno 4 king Henry VII. was buried in Tunbridge church. whose son Richard, heir to his elder brother Henry, married Agnes, daughter and heir of Thomas Stidolfe, esq. of Badsell, where he afterwards resided, as did his son George Fane, and grandson of the same name, the latter of whom was sheriff, anno 4 and 5 of Philip and Mary, and died in 1571, leaving two sons of the name of Thomas, the eldest of whom will be mentioned hereafter, and the youngest was seated at Burston, in Hunton, where a further account may be seen of him.
Thomas Fane, the eldest son and heir, having engaged in the rebellion raised by Sir Thomas Wyatt, in the first year of queen Mary, was attainted, and a warrant issued for his execution, but the queen having compassion on his youth, pardoned him, and he was soon afterwards restored to his liberty and estate. He was twice married, first to Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Colepeper, of Bedgbury, by whom he had no issue; and secondly, to lady Mary, sole daughter and heir of Henry Nevill, lord Abergavenny, by his wife Frances, daughter to Thomas Manners, earl of Rutland, and in her right possessed this manor of Mereworth, &c. as has been already mentioned.
Sir Thomas Fane, for he had been knighted the year before his last marriage, in the queen's presence, by the earl of Leicester, after this resided at times, both at Mereworth castle and at Badsell, of which latter place he wrote himself. He died in the 31st year of queen Elizabeth, and was buried at Tudely, whence his body was afterwards removed to Mereworth church. He left by the lady Mary, his wife, who survived him, Francis, his heir, and George, who succeeded to this manor and estate at Mereworth, after his mother's death, and who was made heir to his uncle, Sir Thomas Fane, of Burston.
Lady Mary Fane, on the death of her father, Henry, lord Abergavenny, had challenged the title of baroness of Bergavenny, against Edward Nevill, son of Sir Edward Nevill, a younger brother of George, lord Bergavenny, father of Henry, lord Bergavenny, before-mentioned, on which Sir Edward Nevill, the castle of Bergavenny had been settled both by testament and act of parliament.
This claim was not determined until after Sir Thomas Fane's death, in the first year of king James I. when after great argument used on both sides, the title of baron of Bergavenny, was both by judgment of the house of peers, and order of the lords commissioners for the office of earl marshal, decreed for the heir male, and to give some satisfaction to the heir female, the king, by his letters patent dated as before-mentioned, granted and restored to her and her heirs, the dignity of baroness le Despencer, (fn. 8) with the antient seat, place, and precedency of her ancestors.
The lady Mary, baroness le Despencer, survived her husband many years, and died at Mereworthcastle, in 1626, and was buried in Mereworth church, leaving her two sons, Francis and George, surviving. The eldest of whom Francis, in 1623, was created baron Burghersh, and earl of Westmoreland. He died in 1628, having had by Mary his wife, daughter and sole heir of Sir Anthony Mildmay, of Apethorp, in Northamptonshire, several sons and daughters, of the former, Mildmay was the eldest, who succeeded him in titles; Francis was afterwards knighted; and Henry was ancestor to the viscounts Fane.
Mildmay, the eldest son, earl of Westmoreland, dying in 1665, was buried at Apethorp. He left by his first wife Grace, daughter of Sir William Thorn hurst, one son Charles, who succeeded him in honors and estate, and by his second wife Mary, second daughter and coheir of Horace, lord Vere, of Tilbury, widow of Sir Roger Townsend, bart. of Rainham, in Norfolk, one son, Vere Fane.
Charles, earl of Westmoreland, was twice married, but dying without issue in 1691, was succeeded by his half-brother Sir Vere Fane, K.B. above-mentioned, who was M. P. for this county in 1678, and in 1692 joint lord-lieutenant with Henry, lord viscount Sidney. He died next year, leaving by Rachael his wife, only daughter and heir of John Bunce, esq. alderman of London, several sons and daughters, of the former, Vere, succeeded him in titles and estate, and died unmarried in 1699. Thomas, the second son, succeeded his brother as earl of Westmoreland, and died without issue; and John, the third son, succeeded his brother as earl of Westmoreland, and Mildmay, was the fourth son, both of whom will be further mentioned.
Of the daughters, Mary married Sir Francis Dashwood, bart. of London, father of the late lord le Despencer; Catherine married William Paul, esq. of Berkshire, whose only daughter and heir, Catherine, married Sir William Stapleton, bart. father of Sir Thomas Stapleton, bart. lately deceased, and Susan died unmarried.
But to return to George Fane, the second son of the lady Mary, baroness le Despencer, by her husband, Sir Thomas Fane. He was knighted at the coronation of king James I. in the 18th year of which reign he was chosen M. P. for this county, and on his mother's death in 1626, he succeeded to the manor of Mereworth, with the castle, advowson, and other estates in this parish; and on the death of Sir Thomas Fane, of Burston, his uncle, in 1606, succeeded by his will to his seat at Burston, and the rest of his estates.
Sir George Fane resided afterwards at Burston, where he died in 1640, being succeeded in this manor and estate by his eldest son, Thomas Fane, esq. of Burston, who was a colonel in the army. He died unmarried at Burston in 1692, and was buried near his father in Hunton church, leaving the manor and castle of Mereworth, with the advowson of this church, his seat at Burston, and all other his estates in this county, to Mildmay Fane, the youngest son of Vere, earl of Westmoreland, by Rachael, his wife, daughter of John Bunce, esq.
Mildmay Fane, esq. resided at Mereworth-castle, and in 1715 was chosen M. P. for this county. He died unmarried that year, and was succeeded in this manor and castle, as well as in his other estates, by Thomas, earl of Westmoreland, his eldest surviving brother, who was chief justice in eyre, south of Trent, and of the privy council to king George I. This earl intending to reside at Apethorp, in Northamptonshire, procured an act in the 5th year of that reign, to sell this manor, as well as all the rest of his Kentish estates, but changing his mind, no sale was made of any of them, and he afterwards resided at Mereworth castle, where he died s. p. in 1736, and was buried at Apethorp, so that his honours and estates descended to John, his younger and only surviving brother, who became the 7th earl of Westmoreland, and following a military life in his early youth, at length arrived at the rank of lieutenant general. On the death of his younger brother, Mildmay Fane, he was in 1715 chosen in his room M. P. for this county; and in 1733 was created a peer of Ireland, by the title of baron of Catherlough, and in 1737 he was appointed lordlieutenant of Northamptonshire. He retired to Mereworth castle soon after the death of earl Thomas, which seat he rebuilt, as well as the church of Mereworth, in an elegant manner, and continued adding to the improvements and grandeur of this place till the time of his death, insomuch, that it may now be justly esteemed one of the greatest ornaments of this county.
The earl was high steward, and afterwards chancellor of the university of Oxford, in which last high and honorable office he was installed there, on July 3, 1759, with the greatest solemnity, and with a magnificence and splendor unknown at any former installation. He married Mary, only daughter and heir of the lord Henry Cavendish, but dying in 1762, s. p. he by his will devised this manor and seat, with the rest of his estates in this county, to his nephew Sir Francis Dashwood, bart. son of Sir Francis Dashwood, bart. of West Peckham, by his sister the lady Mary, eldest daughter of Vere, earl of Westmoreland, and to the heirs of his body, with remainder to Sir Thomas Stapleton, bart. his great nephew, viz. son of Sir William Stapleton, bart. by Catherine, daughter and heir of William Paul, of Bromwich, in Oxfordshire, by his sister Catherine, younger daughter of the said Vere, earl of Westmoreland.
On the death of John, earl of Westmoreland, without issue, his Irish peerage became extinct, but the barony of le Despencer being a barony in fee to heirs general, was confirmed to Sir Francis Dashwood, bart his sister's son; and the titles of baron Burghersh and earl of Westmoreland went to Thomas Fane, of Bristol, merchant, the next heir male descendant of Sir Francis Fane, second surviving son of Francis, first earl of Westmoreland. The earls of Westmoreland bore for their arms, Azure, three right hand gauntlets with their backs affrontee, or. And for their crest, Out of a ducal coronet or, a bull's head argent, pyed sable, armed or, and charged on the neck with a rose gules, barbed and seeded proper; being the antient crest of Nevill.
Sir Francis Dashwood, bart. was descended from Samuel Dashwood, esq. of Rowney, near Taunton, who by his first wife had John, ancestor of the Dashwoods, of Essex and Suffolk; Francis, of whom hereafter; Richard and William, of Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire, who fined for alderman of London. By his second wife he had George, ancestor to the Dashwoods, of Oxford, baronets.
Francis Dashwood, the second son, was a Turkey merchant, and an alderman of London, who bore for his arms, Argent, on a fess double cotized gules, three griffins heads erased, or, granted to him in 1662, by Byshe, clarencieux. He died in 1683, leaving several children, the eldest of whom Samuel was knighted, and was lord-mayor of London in 1702, and was ancestor of the Dashwoods, of Well, in Lincolnshire; Francis the youngest was knighted and created a baronet in 1707, whose second wife was the lady Mary, eldest sister of John, earl of Westmoreland, who died in 1710, and lies buried in West Wycomb church, in Bucking hamshire, where an elegant monument is erected to her memory; by whom he had an only son, Francis, and a daughter, Rachael, married in 1738 to Sir Robert Austen, bart. of Bexley, in this county. Sir Francis Dashwood, bart. the son, was of West Wycomb, and on the decease of John, earl of Westmoreland, succeeded by his will to this manor and house of Mereworth, as well as the rest of his estates in this county, to whom the king on April 19, 1763, confirmed to him, in right of the lady Mary, his mother, the premier barony of Le Despencer, the same being a barony in fee descendible to the heirs general.
He married the daughter of Henry Gould, esq. of Iver, in Buckinghamshire, by whom he had no issue, and died in 1760, being a privy-counsellor and lord-lieutenant of Buckinghamshire, upon which this manor and seat, with the rest of his estates in this county, went, by the will of John, earl of Westmoreland, as mentioned before, to Sir Thomas Stapleton, bart. of Grays, in Oxfordshire, (son of Sir Thomas Stapleton, the earl's great nephew who had deceased in 1781) who on the death of Rachael, sister of the late lord le Despencer, widow of Sir Robert Austen, bart. before mentioned, in 1788, s. p. succeeded to the title likewise of lord le Despencer, and he is the present proprietor of this elegant seat, now called Mereworth, or more commonly Merrud house, the manor and the advowson of this church.
He married Elizabeth, second daughter of S. Eliot, esq. of Antigua, by whom he has a son and daughter, He bears for his arms, Argent, a lion rampant gules, for Stapleton, quartered with the arms of Fane; and for his supporters, those of the earls of Westmoreland, the dexter a griffin, the sinister a bull, both collared and chained; crest, a Saracen's head.
YOKES-PLACE, formerly called Fotes-place, is a seat in this parish, the scite of which, in the reign of king Henry III. was in the possession of Fulco de Sharstede, who then held it as the third part of a knight's fee, of the earl of Gloucester, (fn. 9) and his descendant, Simon de Sharsted died possessed of it in the 25th year of king Edward I. After which it became the property of the family of Leyborne; and in the reign of king Edward III. it was come into the possession of William de Clinton, earl of Huntingdon, in right of his wife, Juliana de Leyborne, the heiress of that family, and he, in the 20th year of that reign paid aid for it. His wife survived him, and again possessed this estate in her own right, and died possessed of it in the 41st year of that reign, without issue.
On her death, this estate, among the rest of her possessions, escheated to the crown for want of heirs. Soon after which, it seems to have come into the possession of a family, who implanted their name on it, and were written in several old dateless deeds, Feotes, and by contraction were called Fotes. But this name was extinct here before the end of the reign of king Richard II. when it appears to have been in the possession of Richard Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, from whom it descended in like manner, as Mereworth manor, to Joane his daughter, coheir to Thomas, earl of Arundel, her brother, who married William Beauchamp, lord Abergavenny, and their son, Richard, earl of Worcester, and lord Abergavenny, leaving an only daughter and heir, Elizabeth, she carried Jotes-place in marriage to Edward Nevill, fourth son of Ralph, earl of Westmoreland, who was summoned to parliament as lord Bergavenny, and died in the 16th year of king Edward IV. being then possessed, as tenant by the curtesy of England, in right of Elizabeth his wife, of this estate, as well as of Mereworth manor. His son Sir George Nevill, lord Bergavenny, died possessed of it in the 7th year of king Henry VII. anno 1491, leaving several sons and daughters, of whom George, the eldest son, succeeded him as lord Abergavenny, in this estate, and in the manor of Mereworth; William was the second son; Edward was the third, whose descendants succeeded in process of time to the barony of Abergavenny, and Sir Thomas Nevill was the fourth son, to whom his father bequeathed Jotes-place, with the estate belonging to it. (fn. 10) He was of the privycouncil to king Henry VIII. and secretary of state, and dying in 1542, was buried in Mereworth church. His only daughter and heir, Margaret, married Sir Robert Southwell, master of the rolls, &c. who in her right became possessed of Jotes place, where he resided. (fn. 11) But in the 35th year of king Henry VIII. anno 1543, he alienated it, with other estates in this parish and West Peckham, to Sir Edward Walsingham, of Scadbury, in this county, in whose descendants it continued till the latter end of the reign of king Charles I. when Sir Thomas Walsingham, of Scadbury, conveyed Yokes-place, as it came now to be called, with the other estates before-mentioned, to his son-in-law, Mr. James Master, son of Mr. Nathaniel Master, merchant, of London, whose widow he had married, being the second son of James Master, esq. of East Langdon. Mr. James Master resided here, where he died in 1689, and was buried in Mereworth church. He left three sons and two daughters, James his heir; Streynsham, of Holton, in Oxfordshire, and Richard. The daughters were, Frances, who died without issue, and Martha, who married Lionel Daniel, esq. of Surry, by whom she had William, his heir, and a daughter Elizabeth, married to George, late lord viscount Torrington.
James Master, esq. the eldest son, resided at Yokesplace, and was sheriff in 1725. He died in 1728 unmarried, and gave by his will this seat, with the rest of his estates, to his youngest brother, Richard Master, who likewise resided at Yokes, where he died unmarried in 1767, and by his will devised it, with all his other possessions, to his nephew, William Daniel, esq. of Surry, son of his sister Martha, enjoining him to take the arms and surname of Master; accordingly he bore for his arms, Quarterly, first and fourth, Master; azure, a fess crenelle between three griffins heads erased or; second and third, Daniel, argent, a pale fuslly sable.
William Daniel Master, esq. resided at Yokesplace, where he kept his shrievalty in the year 1771, having almost rebuilt this seat, and laid out the adjoining grounds in a modern and elegant taste. He married Frances-Isabella, daughter of Thomas Dalyson, esq. of West Peckham. He died. s. p. in 1792, and left Mrs. Master still surviving him.
SWANTON-COURT is a manor in this parish, the mansion of which, situated about half a mile westward from Yokes, place, is now only a mean cottage. In the reign of king Henry III. Richard de Swanton held it, as half a knight's fee, of John de Belleacre, as he did of the earl of Gloucester. (fn. 12) In the 10th year of king Edward III. it was become the property of Elizabeth, sole daughter and heir of Wm. de Burgh, earl of Ulster, who by her husband Lionel, duke of Clarence, left an only daughter, Philippa, whose husband, Edward Mortimer, earl of March, had possession granted to him of this manor, among other lands of her inheritance.
Soon after which, this manor came into the possession of that branch of the family of Colepeper, seated at Oxenhoath, in the adjoining parish of West Peckham; in which it remained till Sir John Colepeper, one of the justices of the common pleas, gave it, with other lands in this neighbourhood, in the 10th year of king Henry IV. anno 1408, to the knights hospitallers of St. John, of Jerusalem, who founded a preceptory on that part of these lands, which lay in West Peckham.
This manor continued part of their possessions till the general dissolution of their order in the 32d year of king Henry VIII. when it was suppressed by an act then especially passed for that purpose; and all the lands and revenues of it were given by it to the king and his heirs for ever. The next year the king granted the manor of Swanton to Sir Robert Southwell, who in the 35th year of that reign, alienated it to Sir Edmund Walsingham, in whose descendants it continued till the latter end of king Charles I.'s reign, when Sir Thomas Walsingham alienated it, with Yokes-place and other estates in this neighbourhood, to his son-in-law, Mr. James Master; since which it has descended, in like manner as Yokes, to William Daniel Master, esq. who died possessed of it s. p. in 1792, and by his will de vised it to George Bing, lord viscount Torrington, the present possessor of it.
FOWKES is a manor in this parish, formerly esteemed as an appendage to the manor of Watringbury, under which a further account of it may be seen. It belonged to the abbey of St. Mary Grace, near the Tower, London, and after the dissolution in the reign of king Henry VIII. passed through several owners till the reign of king James I. when it was alienated to Oliver Style, esq. in whose descendants it has continued till this time, the present inheritance of it being vested in Sir Charles Style, bart. of Watringbury.
BARONS-PLACE is a capital messuage in Mereworth, which, with the estate belonging to it, was part of the possessions of Sir Nicholas Pelham, of Cattsfieldplace, in Sussex, who alienated it to Christopher Vane, lord Barnard; after which it descended in like manner as Shipborne and Fairlawne, to William, viscount Vane, who dying in 1789, s. p. devised it by his will to David Papillon, esq. of Acrise, the present owner of it.
THE FAMILY OF BREWER resided in this parish for many generations, before they removed in the reign of king Henry VI. to Smith's hall, in West Farleigh; their seat here, being called from them, Brewer'splace.
THE BARONESS, wife of Francis, lord Despencer, gave by will certain land, the yearly produce of it to be applied towards the purchasing of twenty gowns for twenty poor families yearly, vested in the present lord le Despencer, and now of the annual produce of 20l.
The church was dedicated to St. Laurence. It was an antient building, and formerly stood where the west wing of Mereworth-house, made use of for the stables, now stands. It was pulled down by John, late earl of Westmoreland, when he rebuilt that house, and in lieu of it he erected, about half a mile westward from the old one, in the center of the village, the present church, a most elegant building, with a beautiful spire steeple, and a handsome portico in the front of it, with pillars of the Corinthian order. The whole of it is composed of different sorts of stone; and the east window is handsomely glazed with painted glass, collected by him for this purpose.
In the reign of king Henry II. the advowson of this church was the property of Roger de Mereworth, between whom and the prior and convent of Ledes, in this county, there had been much dispute, concerning the patronage of it: at length both parties submitted their interest to Gilbert, bishop of Rochester, who decreed, that the advowson of it should remain to Roger de Mereworth; and he further granted, with his consent, and that of Martin then parson of it, to the prior and convent, the sum of forty shillings, in the name of a perpetual benefice, and not in the name of a pension, in perpetual alms, to be received yearly for ever, from the parson of it. (fn. 13)
The prior and the convent of Ledes afterwards, anno 12 Henry VII. released to Hugh Walker, rector of this church, their right and claim to this pension, and all their right and claim in the rectory, by reason of it, or by any other means whatsoever.
In the reign of king Henry VI. the rector and parishioners of this church petitioned the bishop of Ro chester, to change the day of the feast of the dedication of it, which being solemnized yearly on the 4th day of June, and the moveable seasts of Pentecost, viz. of the sacred Trinity, or Corpus Christi, very often happening on it; the divine service used on the feasts of dedications could not in some years be celebrated, but was of necessity deferred to another day, that these solemnities of religion and of the fair might not happen together. Upon which the bishop, in 1439, transferred the feast to the Monday next after the exaltation of the Holy Cross, enjoining all and singular the rectors, and their curates, as well as the parishioners from time to time to observe it accordingly as such. And to encourage the parishioners and others to resort to it on that day, he granted to such as did, forty days remission of their sins.
Soon after the above-mentioned dispute between Roger de Mereworth and the prior and convent of Ledes, the church of Mereworth appears to have been given to the priory of Black Canons, at Tunbridge. (fn. 14) And it remained with the above-mentioned priory till its dissolution in the 16th year of king Henry VIII. a bull having been obtained from the pope, with the king's leave, for that purpose. After which the king, in his 17th year, granted that priory, with others then suppressed for the like purpose, together with all their manors, lands, and possessions, to cardinal Wolsey, for the better endowment of his college, called Cardinal college, in Oxford. But four years afterwards, the cardinal being cast in a præmunire; all the estates of that college, which for want of time had not been firmly settled on it, became forfeited to the crown. (fn. 15) After which, the king granted the patronage of the church of Mereworth, to Sir George Nevill, lord Abergavenny, whose descendant Henry, lord Abergavenny, died possessed of it in the 29th year of queen Elizabeth, leaving an only daughter and heir Mary, married to Sir Thomas Fane, who in her right possessed it. Since which it has continued in the same owners, that the manor of Mereworth has, and is as such now in the patronage of the right hon. Thomas, lord le Despencer.
It appears by a valuation of this church, and a terrier of the lands belonging to it, subscribed by the rector, churchwardens, and inhabitants, in 1634, that there belonged to it, a parsonage-house, with a barn, &c. a field called Parsonage field, a close, and a garden, two orchards, four fields called Summerfourds, Ashfield, the Coney-yearth, and Millfield, and the herbage of the church-yard, containing in the whole about thirty acres, that the house and some of the land where James Gostlinge then dwelt, paid to the rector for lord's rent twelve-pence per annum; that the houses and land where Thomas Stone and Henry Filtness then dwelt, paid two-pence per annum; that there was paid to the rector the tithe of all corn, and all other grain, as woud, would, &c. and all hay, tithe of all coppice woods and hops, and all other predial tithes usually paid, as wool, and lambs, and all predials, &c. in the memory of man; that all tithes of a parcel of land called Old-hay, some four or five miles from the church, but yet within the parish, containing three hundred acres, more or less; and the tithe of a meadow plot lying towards the lower side of Hadlow, yet in Mereworth, containing by estimation twelve acres, more or less, commonly called the Wish, belonged to this church.
The parsonage-house lately stood at a small distance north-eastward from Mereworth-house; but obstructing the view from the front of it, the late lord le Despencer obtained a faculty to pull the whole of it down, and to build a new one of equal dimensions, and add to it a glebe of equal quantity to that of the scite and appurtenances of the old parsonage, in exchange. Accordingly the old parsonage was pulled down in 1779, and a new one erected on a piece of land allotted for the purpose about a quarter of a mile westward from the church, for the residence of the rector of Mereworth and his successors.
Church of Mereworth.
|Or by whom presented.|
|Roger de Mereworth.||Martin, in the reign of king Henry II. (fn. 16)|
|Prior of Tunbridge.||William Smythe, in 1486.|
|Hugh Walker, 1496. (fn. 17)|
|The lady Mary Fane . .||Samuel Cooke, A. B. 1596, obt. Aug. 26, 1638. (fn. 18)|
|Trustees of Mildmay Fane, esq.||Stephen Lion, instit. Sept. 7, 1702.|
|John, earl of Westmoreland.||John Davis, M. A. 1748, obt. 1776. (fn. 19)|
|Francis, lord le Despencer.||Robert Style, 1776, the present rector. (fn. 20)|