The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 6. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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IS the principal parish in the Island of Shepey. It lies on high ground near the middle of the north side of it.
The parish takes its name from the monastery founded very early within it, Minstre in the Saxon language signifying a monastery or religious house.
The manor of Newington claims over a small part of this parish, but the paramount manor over the whole of it is that of Milton.
THE PARISH of Minster is by far the largest of any in the island. The village is situated on high ground near the middle of it, with the church, and ruins of the monastery close on the northern side of it; of the latter there is little more than the gate-house remaining.
THE VILLE of Sheerness is situated at the western bounds, as well of this parish as of the whole island, a further account of which will be given hereafter. It was formerly accounted as part of this parish, but it has long since been made a ville of itself, and as to its civil jurisdiction, entirely separate from this parish.
The cliffs on the northern side of this island, are likewise the northern boundaries of this parish; Queenborough and Sheerness bound it towards the west, and the Swale and the island of Elmley southward.
In June 1756, a monstrous fish, thought to be a young whale, was driven on shore at this place. It measured thirty-six feet and upwards in length, twentytwo feet in circumserence, and eight feet from the eyes to the tip of the nose. It was supposed to yield twenty hogsheads of oil.
King Edward III. in his 17th year, granted a fair to be held here on Palm Monday, which is still continued for toys and such like merchandize.
SEXBURGA, one of the daughters of Annas, king of East Anglia, and widow of Ercombert, king of Kent, between the years 664 and 673, having obtained lands in this parish of her son king Egbert, founded A MONASTERY here, which she finished and got well endowed for seventy-seven nuns, whom she placed in it, king Egbert himself adding several lands to it, and she became herself the first abbess. Soon after which, about the year 675, she resigned her government of it to her daughter Ermenilda, who became the second abbess, and then retired, in the year 699, to the Isle of Ely, to the monastery there, over which her sister Etheldred presided. (fn. 1)
During the times of the Danish invasions, the religious of this monastery were subject to continual instances of cruelty and oppression, and at last their house was in a great measure destroyed by them, and the nuns dispersed. In which situation it seems nearly to have remained till the reign of the Conqueror, who, on the prioress of the nunnery of Newington near Sittingborne having been strangled in her bed, consiscated their possessions, and removed the few remaining nuns to this ruinated monastery, which continued but in a very mean condition till the year 1130, when it was reedified and replenished with Benedictine nuns, by archbishop Corboil, and dedicated to St. Mary and St. Sexburg.
In the 8th year of king Richard II. anno 1384, the temporalities of this monastery were valued at 66 l. 8s. and the spiritualities at 73l. 6s. 8d. Total 139l. 14s. 8d.
In the 27th year of king Henry VIII. an act having passed for the suppression of all religious houses, whose revenues did not amount to the clear yearly value of two hundred pounds, this monastery, whose revenues amounted to no more than 129l. 7s. 10½d. annual re venue, or 122l. 14s. 6d. clear yearly income, being then ten pounds less than they were near two hundred years before, was surrendered up to the king, at which time it was in so indigent a state, that there were but a prioress and ten nuns in it. To the former, Alicia Crane, the king granted a pension of fourteen pounds for her life, towards her proper support and maintenance.
The manor of Minster, alias Sexburg, was granted, together with the scite of the monastery, and all the lands and possessions belonging to it, by the king, in his 29th year, to Sir Thomas Cheney, lord warden, and treasurer of the household, to hold in capite by knight's service. He died in the 1st year of queen Elizabeth, and was succeeded in his estates by his only son Henry, afterwards knighted, and created lord Cheney, of Tuddington, (fn. 2) who in the 3d year of that reign levied a fine of all his lands, and quickly afterwards exchanged this estate with the queen for others elsewhere, though he afterwards remained possessed of much other lands in this parish, which as well as all the rest of his estates, through his prosuse manner of living, he was obliged to alienate at different times. (fn. 3)
After the above-mentioned exchange, the queen regranted this manor, with the scite of the monastery, to Sir Thomas Hoby, of Bisham, in Berkshire, who married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Anthony Cook, of Giddy-hall, in Essex, by whom he had two sons, Edward, and Thomas-Posthumus, both afterwards knighted. He died at Paris, where he was ambassador, in 1566, leaving his wife with child of his second son there. She brought his body home, and having built a chapel on the south side of the church of Bisham, laid him in the vault underneath. He was succeeded in this manor and estate at Minster by his eldest son Sir Edward Hoby, who, as Camden stiles him, was a famous and worthy knight, being made constable of Queenborough-castle, where he resided, and custos rotulorum of this county. The Hobys bore for their arms, Argent, three spindles in fess, gules, threaded, or, being the arms of Badland, the heiress of whom their ancestor had married; the antient arms of Hoby being Gules, three halberts in pale, argent, their staves, or, which they bore in the second place. Sir Edward Hoby's arms are in a window of the Middle Temple hall, with his quarterings. He was an officer at the taking of Cadiz, and was chosen to serve in parliament several times, at the latter end of queen Elizabeth, and on king James's coming to the crown was made a gentleman of his privy chamber. He was a person of learning, and wrote several books. He died at Queenboroughcastle in 1616, not long before which he had sold this manor and estate to Mr. Henry Richards, who gave it by his will to Gabriel Levesey, esq. of Hollingborne, sheriff in 1618. He was descended from the family of Levesey, or Livesey, which was originally of Levesey, in Lancashire. His father, Robert Levesey, esq. was of Stretham, in Surry, sheriff of Sussex and Surry in 1592 and 1602, and left three sons, of whom Gabriel above-mentioned, was the youngest. They bore for their arms, Argent, a lion rampant, gules, between three tresoils slipt, vert. His son Sir Michael Levesey, about the year 1623, conveyed this manor, with the scite of the monastery, to Sir John Hayward, of Hollingborne-hill, second son of Sir Rowland Hayward, citizen and alderman of London. (fn. 4) Dying in 1636, s. p. he settled it by his will in 1635, upon his two feoffees, Richard Buller, esq. of Cornwall, and Mr. Sergeant Clerk, of Rochester, in trust for such charitable uses as they should think proportionate to the profits of the estate from time to time. In which situation it still continues, the present trustees of it being John Buller, esq. of Cornwall, and his brother, Sir Francis Buller, one of the justices of the court of common pleas. The trustees of this charity in 1651, in pursuance of Sir John Hayward's will, settled fifty pounds per annum, for the relief of the poor of St. Nicholas's parish, in Rochester, to be paid out of this manor, and other premises in Shepey; and these estates still increasing in value, the residuary trustee of them, in 1718, purchased out of their profits 636l. South-Sea stock, which he transferred to the mayor and citizens of Rochester, for the perpetual support of three charity schools in that city and in Strood. (fn. 5)
NEWHALL, alias BORSTAL, is a small manor in this parish, which in the 9th year of king Edward II. was in the possession of Fulk Peysorer, who that year died possessed of it; from which name it passed into that of Potyn, one of whom, Nicholas Potyn, was possessed of it in the reign of king Richard II. and left one only daughter Juliana, who carried it in marriage to Thomas St. Leger, of Otterden, second son of Ralph St. Leger, of Ulcomb, whose daughter and heir Joane, carried it in marriage to Henry Aucher, esq. of Newenden, and he seems to have passed away this manor before the end of king Henry the Vth.'s reign, to Sir William Cromer, lord mayor of London in the years 1413 and 1423, who died possessed of it in 1433. He, as well as his descendants, possessors of this manor, resided at Tunstall; one of whom, William Cromer, esq. engaging in the rebellion raised by Sir Thomas Wyatt in the 1st year of queen Mary, was attainted, by which this manor, among the rest of his estates, became forfeited to the crown, (fn. 6) whence it was soon afterwards granted by the queen to Sir Thomas Cheney, knight of the garter, treasurer of the houshold, &c. who died possessed of it in the 1st year of queen Elizabeth, and was succeeded by his only son Henry, afterwards knighted, and created Lord Cheney, of Tuddington.
He levied fines of all his lands anno 3 and 17 Elizabeth, and in the 20th year of that reign, alienated the manor of Newhall to Richard Luck, whose son of the same name sold it to Mr. Henry Newton, as he did soon afterwards to Mr. Josias Gering, who was possessed of it at the restoration of king Charles II. After which it came into the name of Randal, the last of whom, Mr. Thomas Randal, devised it by his will to Mr. John Swist, who has rebuilt the greatest part of this seat, and resides in it.
RUSHINDON, formerly called Rossingdone, is a manor here, which in the reign of king Henry II. seems to have been in the possession of that prince, who gave to the church of the Holy Trinity, now Christ-church, Canterbury, fifteen pounds, rents in Rissendon, and other places in this neighbourhood; after which it came into the possession of the family of Savage, seated at Bobbing, in this county, one of whom, John le Sauvage, obtained a charter of free-warren for his lands here, among others, in the 23d year of king Edward I. Of one of his descendants it was purchased by queen Philippa, wife of king Edward III. who settled it, together with the farm of Dandeley, in this parish, (fn. 7) on the master and brethren of the royal hospital of St. Katherine, near the Tower, in London, and their successors, towards the enlarging and better endowing of that hospital, to hold to them in pure and perpetual alms.
By a survey remaining in the First Fruits office, taken in the 26th year of king Henry VIII. this manor of Rossingdone was valued at twenty-pounds, and the farm of Dandeley at eight pounds yearly income.
This hospital escaped the suppression of such foundations in the reigns of king Henry VIII. and Edward VI. and consists at this time of a master, three brethren priests, three sisters, and ten beadswomen, with officers and servants, to whom the see of this manor, with Dandeley and other estates in this parish, now belongs; but the possession of them is leased by them at an annual reserved rent for three lives to different tenants.
This estate was held of the hospital in the 14th year of king Richard II. by John of Gaunt, the king's uncle. In much later times it was held by Decroe for three lives, afterwards by Adam Edwards, since that by Caleb Banks, esq. of Maidstone, by one of the coheirs of whose son, Sir John Banks, bart. his interest in it went in marriage to Heneage Finch, created afterwards earl of Aylesford, whose eldest son Heneage, earl of Aylesford, in 1721, anno 7 George I. having procured an act for the purpose, passed away his interest in this manor to his next brother the hon. John Finch, whose only son Savile Finch, esq. died in 1788, and his heirs are now possessed of his interest in the lease of it.
THE FARM OF DANDELE above-mentioned is situated in the western part of this parish; in the reign of king Edward VI. it was in the possession of Sir Thomas Seymour, lord Seymour, and lord high admiral of England, who being attainted in the 3d year of that reign, this, among the rest of his possessions, became forfeited to the crown, whence it was granted that same year, being then in the tenure of Sir William Poultney, to Sir Thomas Cheney, knight of the garter, &c. to hold in capite by knight's service. He was succeeded by his only son Henry, afterwards knighted, and created lord Cheney of Tuddington, who in the 3d year of that reign had possession granted of all his lands, and among them of a house, and three hundred acres of land and marsh, called Daunley, with their appurtenances, in Minster, parcel of the possessions of St. Katherine's, in the tenure of Thomas Harris and Thomas Horton, held of the king in capite by knight's service.
He levied a fine that year of all his lands, as he did again in the 17th year of it, and soon afterwards sold his interest in this estate to Levesey, who parted with it about the year 1604 to Sir Julius Cæsar, master of the rolls, under treasurer of the exchequer, and privy counsellor, (fn. 8) who the next year settled it on his eldest son, Charles Cæsar, esq. He was afterwards knighted, and succeeded his father as master of the rolls, and was of the privy council both to king James and Charles I. He died in 1643, and was buried in the church of Benington, in Hertfordshire, having been twice married; first to Anne, daughter of Sir Peter Vanlore, by whom he had three daughters, Jacomina, wife of Henry Anderson, esq. of Pendley; the second of Henry Levingston, esq. of Hampshire, and Anne; secondly Jane, daughter of Sir Edward Barkham, lord-mayor of London, by whom he left two sons, Sir Henry, of Benington, and Charles, of Much Haddon, in Hertfordshire, esq. His lady survived him, and possessed his interest in this estate, of which she died possessed in 1661, this estate being at that time part of the possessions of St. Katherine's hospital, of whom it was afterwards held by Garret, and Charles Garret passed away his interest in it to Philip Crespigny, esq. whose descendant Philip Champion Crespigny, esq. is the present leffee of it.
NEATS, alias Neats-court, is a manor in this parish, which in the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign was in the hands of the crown, and was granted by that princess, in her 5th year, to Robert Merrywether, but it was only for a term, for in the 17th year of that reign it was again in the queen's hands, who then granted it, at the yearly rent of seventy pounds, for a term of years, to John Bode and Elizabeth his wife; after which the fee-simple of it remaining in the crown, was by king Charles I. in his Ist year, settled, on his marriage with queen Henrietta-Maria, as part of her dower.
Her trustees afterwards granted a lease of the manor-house and lands belonging to it, in the 14th year of king Charles I. in consideration of 450l. fine, the surrender of a former lease, and 70l. 0s. 0½d. rent per annum, to Sir Edward Hales, knight and baronet, for three lives; and there was reserved out of the grant, all courts-baron and leets, advowsons, mines, quarries, &c.
After the death of king Charles I. anno 1648, the powers then in being seized on the royal estates, and passed an ordinance to vest them in trustees, that they might be surveyed and sold. Accordingly, by the survey taken in 1650, it appeared, that the number of acres then belonging to this estate was 649, and the yearly annual improved rent of it amounted to 380l. 3s. and that the three lives above-mentioned were then subsisting. Soon after which the fee of this estate was sold by them to Edward Downton and Edward Finch, with whom it continued till the restoration of Charles II. anno 1660, when the inheritance of it returned again to the crown. (fn. 9) Since which it has come into the possession of the name of Edwin; Humphry Edwin, esq. lately owned it, and it is now the property of Mrs. Mary Edwin, of St. Albans, in Hertfordshire.
CALEHILL is another manor here, which in the reign of king Henry VIII. was in the possession of William Bury, who in the 37th year of it, conveyed it to that king in exchange for Culneham, in Oxfordshire.
This manor remained in the crown till the 2d and 3d years of Philip and Mary, when it was granted, with divers lands and pastures parcel of it, to Sir Thomas Cheney, knight of the garter, &c. to hold in capite by knight's service, whose only son and heir Henry, lord Cheney, of Tuddington, who, in the 3d year of that reign, had possession granted of his father's estates, and among others of this manor called Calehill, with its appurtenances, in this parish, and several parcels of land, called Notts, Mayotts, and Chetercroft, in Leysdowne, Estchurch, and Warden, held of the king in capite, late parcel of the possessions of William Bury, merchant. After which he exchanged Calehill, with the lands above mentioned, with the queen, among other estates in this parish and neighbourhood, and the fee of it remained in the crown till king James I. in his 2d year, granted it to Philip Herbert, younger brother of William, earl of Pembroke, who was the next year created lord Herbert of Shurland, and earl of Montgomery, and on his brother's death, without surviving issue, succeeded him as earl of Pembroke. Since which it has descended down in like manner as Milton manor, to the right hon. Philip, viscount Wenman, and Mrs. Anne Herbert, who are the present possessors of it, but it has been long since so blended with the rest of their possessions here, that the very name of it is forgotten; nor is the exact situation of it at present known.
THE GOVERNORS of the Chest for sick and maimed seamen at Chatham, are possessed of lands here called Scockles, containing by estimation three hundred and forty acres, which formerly belonged to the family of Levesey.
A PERSON UNKNOWN gave for the relief of the poor a house and some land, containing about three acres, it was last rented at 4l. per annum, but is now in the occupation of the parish.
The poor relieved constantly are about sixty; casually about fifty five.
MINSTER is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Sittingborne.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary and St. Sexburg, (as was the monastery) is supposed by some to have been the very church of it, but by others, that it only adjoined to it; at present it consists of two isles and two chancels. The steeple is at the west end, being a large square tower, with a turret at the top, in which there is a clock, and a ring of five bells. It was formerly higher than it is at present, as appears by the remains. There was formerly a building adjoining to the east end of the north chancel, as appears by a doorcase and some ornaments on the outside of it. In the north chancel, on the south side, is the tomb of Sir Thomas Cheney, knight of the garter, &c. who was buried with great state, in a chapel which had been the conventual church, adjoining to the north east part of this parish; but his son Henry, lord Cheney, having in 1581, anno 24 Elizabeth, obtained a licence to remove the coffins and bones of his father and ancestors from thence, he having sold the materials of the chapel to Sir Humphry Gilbert, and placed them in this parish church, the coffin of his father was, among others removed, and deposited in this chancel. On the north side, under an arch in the wall, on a grey marble, lies the figure of a man, habited in armour. In the south, or high chancel, against the south wall, is an antient tomb, with the effigies of a man lying at length crosslegged, and in armour; on his right side is the figure of a horse's head, carved alike in alabaster, and fixed to the tomb, concerning which many idle reports are current. (fn. 10) On a stone in the middle of the chancel, are the figures in brass of a man and woman; his in armour, cross-legged, with large spurs, his sword by his side, and this coat of arms, Ermine, a pale, engrailed, (perhaps it might have been originally a cross, the rest of it having been rubbed out); on her mantle, Three bars, wavy; under his feet a lion, under her's a talbot; the inscription underneath is gone, except the word Hic at the beginning of it. At the upper end of the north isle is a small stone, seemingly very antient, with a cross bottony on it.
In the year 1489, there was a chapel, dedicated to St. John Baptist, Situated within the cemetery of Minster, in Shepey.
The church of Minster seems to have been part of the endowment of the monastery at the first foundation of it.
This church was not many years afterwards appropriated to it, (fn. 11) the cure of it being esteemed as a donative, in which state it continued at the time of the dissolution of the monastery, when it came, together with the rest of the possessions of it, into the king's hands, where it remained till the king granted the rectory of Minster, with its rights, members, and appurtenances, and the advowson of the church there, to Sir Thomas Cheney, knight of the garter, &c. to hold in capite by knight's service, whose son Henry, lord Cheney, of Tuddington, alienated this rectory, with the advowson, to Robert Levesey, esq. in whose descendants it continued sometime afterwards, till at length it was sold to Gore, and William Gore, esq. of Boxley, died possessed of the rectory impropriate, with the advowson, in 1768. He died s.p. and by his will devised it to his relation Robert Mitchell, esq. who dying likewise. s.p. in 1779, gave his estates to his three nephews, Robert, Christopher, and Thomas, sons of his brother Thomas, the eldest of whom, Robert Mitchell, esq. became afterwards the sole proprietor of them.
The parsonage at present consists of a house, barns, &c. and one hundred and eighty-eight acres of arable, meadow, and pasture belonging to it, together with all the great and small tithes of the parish, of all kinds whatsoever.
The ecclesiastical jurisdiction of this parish extends over the ville of Sheerness, the populousness of which adds greatly to the burials in it, insomuch that in some years of late, they have amounted to between two and three hundred.
The church of Queenborough was formerly esteemed as a chapel to this church, but it has long since been independent of it. The cure of it is still esteemed as a donative, the yearly stipend of the curate being 16l. 13s. 4d. In 1578 the communicants were three hundred and eight.
In 1640 the stipend of the curate was 16l. 13s. 4d. Communicants two hundred and sixty-five. It is not in charge in the king's books.
Roger, abbot of St. Augustine's, in 1188 let to Agnes, prioress, and the convent of St. Sexburg, certain tithes within this parish, to hold in perpetual ferme at fourteen shillings yearly rent, &c. These tithes were those of Westlande; being those of Sir Adam de Shurlande, and of Adam Rusin (fn. 12)