The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 6. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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THERE was an antient castle here, called the Castle of Shepey, situated at the western mouth of the Swale formerly, as has been already mentioned, accounted likewise the mouth of the river Thames, which was built for the defence both of the island and the passage on the water, the usual one then being between the main land of the county and this island.
This castle was begun to be new built by king Edward III. about the year 1361, being the 36th of his reign, (fn. 1) and was finished about six years afterwards, being raised, as he himself says in his letters patent, in his 42d year, for the strength of the realm, and for the refuge of the inhabitants of this island.
This was undertaken under the inspection of William of Wickham, the king's chief architect, afterwards bishop of Winchester, who considering the difficulties arising from the nature of the ground, and the lowness of the situation, acquitted himself in this task with his usual skill and abilities, and erected here a large, strong, and magnificent building, fit equally for the defence of the island, and the reception of his royal master. When it was finished, the king paid a visit to it, and remained here for some days, during which time he made this place a free borough, in honor of Philippa his queen, naming it from thence Queenborough, and by charter in 1366, he created it a corporation, making the townsmen burgesses, and giving them power to choose yearly a mayor and two bailiffs, who should make their oath of allegiance before the constable of the castle, and be justices within the liberties of the corporation, exclusive of all others; and endowing them with cognizance of pleas, with the liberty of two markets weekly on Mondays and Thursdays, and two fairs yearly, one on the eve of our Lady, and the other on the feast of St. James, and benefiting them with freedom of tholle, and several other privileges, which might induce men to inhabit this place. Three years after which, as a further favor to it, he appoined a staple for wool at it.
King Henry VIII. repaired this castle in the year 1536, at the time he rebuilt several others in these parts, for the defence of the sea-coast; but even then it was become little more than a mansion for the residence of the constable of it. And Mr. Johnston, in his book intitled
Iter Plantarum Investigationis ergo susceptum, anno 1629, tells us, that he saw in this castle at that time, a noble large dining-room or hall, round the top of which were placed the arms of the nobility and gentry of Kent, and in the middle those of queen Elizabeth, with the following verses underneath:
Lilia virgineum pectus regale leonis
Significant; vivas virgo, regasque leo:
Umbra placet vultus, vultus quia mentis imago;
Mentis imago placet, mens quia plena Deo:
Virgo Deum vita, Regina imitata regendo,
Viva mihi vivi fiat imago Dei.
Qui leo de Juda est, et flos de jesse, leones
Protegat et flores, Elizabetha, tuos.
Lillies the lion's virgin breast explain,
Then live a virgin, and a lion reign.
Pictures are pleasing, for the mind they shew;
And in the mind the Deity we view:
May she who God in life and empire shews,
To me th' eternal Deity disclose!
May Jesse's flower, and Judah's lion deign
Thy flowers and lions to protect, great Queen.
In this situation it continued till the death of king Charles I. in 1648; soon after which the state seized on this castle, among the rest of the possessions of the crown, and then vested them in trustees, to be surveyed and sold, to supply the necessities of government, accordingly this castle was surveyed in 1650, when it appears to have consisted of a capital messuage, called Queenborough-castle, lying within the common belonging to the town, called Queenborough Marsh, in the parish of Minster, and containing about twelve rooms of one range of buildings below stairs, and of about forty rooms from the first story upwards, being circular and built of stone, with six towers, and certain out-offices belonging to it, the roof being covered with lead; that within the circumference of the castle was one little round court, paved with stone, and in the middle of that one great well, and without the castle was one great court surrounding it; both court and castle being surrounded with a great stone wall, and the outside of that moated round, the whole containing upwards of three acres of land. That the whole was much out of repair, and no ways defensive by the commonwealth, or the island on which it stood, being built in the time of bows and arrows. That as no platform for the planting of cannon could be erected on it, and it having no command of the sea, although near unto it, they adjudged it not fit to be kept, but demolished, and that the materials were worth, besides the charge of taking down, 1792l. 12½d.
The scite of the castle remained in his possession afterwards till the restoration of king Charles II. when the inheritance of it returned again to the crown, where it has continued ever since. There are no remains of the castle or walls to be seen at this time, only the moat continues still as such, and the antient well in the middle of the scite within it, a further account of which will be given hereafter.
|Anno 36 Edw. III.||John Foxley was the first constable.|
|Anno 50 Edw. III.||John of Gaunt, duke of Lancaster.|
|Anno 8 Rich. II.||Robert de Vere, marquis of Dublin, and earl of Oxford, attainted anno 11 Richard II. (fn. 2)|
|Anno 16 Rich. II.||Sir Arnold Savage, obt. 12 Henry IV.|
|Anno 20 Rich. II.||William Le Scroope.|
|Anno 1 Henry IV.||William de Watterton.|
|Anno 4 Henry IV.||John Cornwall, baron of Fanhope, obt. 22 Henry VI. (fn. 3)|
|Anno 10 Henry IV.||Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury.|
|Anno 1 Henry V.||Gilbert de Umfreville, obt. anno 9 Henry V.|
|Anno 28 Henry VI.||Humphry Stafford, duke of Buckingham, obt. 27 July, anno 38 Henry VI. (fn. 4)|
|Anno I Edw. IV.||John Northwood, esq.|
|George, duke of Clarence, obt. 17 Edward IV.|
|Anno I Rich. III.||Thomas Wentworth. (fn. 5)|
|Anno 2 ejusd. regni.||Christopher Colyns. (fn. 6)|
|Anno 1 Hen. VII.||William Cheney.|
|Sir Anthony Browne, obt. 22 Henry VII.|
|Anno 2 Hen. VIII.||Francis Cheney.|
|Anno 3 Hen. VIII.||Sir Thomas Cheney, K. G. obt. anno I Elizabeth.|
|Anno I Elizabeth.||Sir Richard Constable.|
|Sir Edward Hoby.|
|Temp. Jac. I.||Philip, earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, the last constable of it.|
In the reign of queen Elizabeth, the annual fee of the keeper of this castle was 29l. 2s. 6d. (fn. 7)
ALTHOUGH Queenborough was formerly, whilst the castle waas standing, a place of much more consequence than it is at present, yet as to its size and number of inhabitants, it was much less so; for in the reign of queen Elizabeth, as may be seen by the return made of it in the 8th year of that reign, it ap pears, that there were here houses inhabited only 23; persons lacking proper habitation one; boats and ships twelve, from four tons to sixteen; and a key and landing-place to the town; proper persons occupied in carrying things from port to port, and in fishing, forty-five. At present this town consists of one principal wide street, the houses of which are neat, and mostly well-built, in number about one hundred and twenty, or more. The market house is a small antient brick building, in the middle of the street, with a room over over it. The court-hall is the upper part of a mean plaistered dwelling-house, close to the church-yard.
Notwithstanding the above-mentioned increase both of houses and inhabitants, it is, even now, but a poor fishing town, consisting chiefly of alehousekeepers, fishermen, and dredgers for oysters; the principal source of wealth to it being the election for members of parliment, which secures to some of the chief inhabitants many lucrative places in the ordnance, and other branches of government.
The corporation still subsists, consisting of a mayor, chosen on Sept. 29th, four jurats, two bailiffs, a recorder, town-clerk, chamberlain, and other officers, chosen annually by the free burgesses of the town and parish. (fn. 8)
Though the water throughout the whole island of Shepey has been mentioned before to be in general exceeding unwholesome and brackish, yet the well be fore-mentioned on the scite of the castle here, is one of the exceptions to it. This well has been useless for many years, having little or no water in it, though several attempts had been made to restore it, when in the year 1723 it was more effectually opened by order of the commissioners of the navy, a full account of which was communicated to the Royal Society by Mr. Peter Collinson, F. R. S. (fn. 9) The depth of it was then found to be two hundred feet, and artificially steamed, the whole of it with circular Portland stone, the mean diameter four feet eight inches, there was little or no water then in it; on boring down they brought up a very close blueish clay, and after three days endeavours the augur slipping down, the water flowed up very fast, and kept increasing for some days, till there was one hundred and seventy six feet and upwards depth of water; what was extraordinary, they bored eighty-one feet below the trunk they had fixed four feet below the curb at the bottom of the well, before they met with this body of water, which by comparison is one hundred and sixty-six feet below the deepest place in the adjacent seas. This water proved excellently good, soft, sweet, and fine, and in such plenty as in great measure, excepting in time of war, when there is a more than ordinary call for it, to supply the inhabitants, as well as the shipping and several departments of government, which, jointly with the new well at Sheerness before-described, it now fully does.
The corporation have taken upon themselves to repair this well for several years past, at their own expence; notwithstanding which, it still continues the property of the crown, there having never yet been any grant made of it.
Though Queenborough was made a borough by king Edward III. as before-mentioned, yet it had not the privilege of returning burgesses to parliament till the 13th year of queen Elizabeth's reign, in which year it made its first return of them.
In the time of QUEEN ELIZABETH.
In the time of KING JAMES I.
|1st.||Sir Edward Stafford, Sir Michael Sondes.|
|12th.||Sir Edward Hoby, Thomas Culpeper, esq.|
|18th.||James Palmer, William Freind, esqrs.|
|21st. Parliament at Westminster||Roger Palmer, esq. Sir Robert Pooley.|
IIn the reign of KING CHARLES I.
|1st.||Roger Palmer, esq. Edward Hales, gent.|
|Ibid.||Roger Palmer, Robert Pooley, esqrs.|
|3d.||Roger Palmer, esq. Sir John Hales.|
|15th.||Sir Edward Hales, knt. and bart. Sir John Wolstenholme.|
|16th.||Sir Edward Hales, knt. and bart. William Harrison, esq. (fn. 10)|
In the time of KING CHARLES II.
|12th. 1660.||James Herbert, esq. Sir William Wheler.|
|13th. 1661.||James Herbert, esq. Sir Edward Hales, bart.|
|31st. 1678.||James Herbert, esq. Sir Edward Hales, bart.|
|31st. 1679.||The same.|
|32d. At Oxford. 1681||William Glanville, Gerard Gore, esqrs.|
In the time of KING JAMES II.
In the time of K. WILLIAM AND Q. MARY.
In the time of QUEEN ANNE.
|1st. 1702.||Robert Crawford, Thomas King, esqrs.|
|4th. 1705.||Sir John Jennings, Thomas King, esq.|
|7th. - 1708.||Sir John Jennings, Henry Withers, esq.|
|9th.- 1710.||Thomas King, James Herbert, esqrs.|
|12th. 1713.||Thomas King, Charles Fotherby, esqrs.|
In the time of KING GEORGE I.
|1st. 1714.||Philip Jennings, Thomas King, esqrs.|
|7th. 1722.||John Cope, James Littleton, esqrs. (fn. 11)|
In the time of KING GEORGE II.
|Years of the Reign, &c.||Names of the Burgesses in Parliament.|
|1st. At Westminster. 1727.||Sprigg Manesty, John Crowley, esqrs. (fn. 12)|
|7th. 1634.||Sir George Saunders, (fn. 13) Richard Evans, esq.|
|14th. 1741.||Richard Evans, Thomas Newnham, esqrs|
|21st. 1747.||The same.|
|28th. 1754.||Sir Percy Bret, Charles Frederick, esq.|
In the time of KING GEORGE III.
By the charter of king Charles I. in his 2d year, anno 1626, the burgesses in parliament were to be chosen by the inhabitants, in number about seventy; the returning officer to be the mayor. But it was voted by a resolution of the house of commons, on April 17, 1729, that the right of election for this bo rough is in the mayor, jurats, and common council only of this corporation.
TWO GENTLEMEN, who escaped on shore at this place after shipwreck, gave 40l. to the corporation, to be laid out, first for an annual sermon in this church, and the remainder for the behoof of the poor of this parish.
The church, which is dedicated to the Holy Trinity, is a handsome building, consisting of one isle and one chancel; it is decorated with a painted roof, and other ornaments, and very neatly kept. There is a high-raised seat in it, for the mayor and two bailiffs. The whole of it was raised, paved, and ceiled, and the gallery at the west end, erected by Thomas King, esq. the first time he was elected member of parliament in 1695. It has a square tower steeple at the west end, which seems much older than the church itself, and at the top of it there is a small wooden turret, in which hang five bells. It was once accounted as a chapel to the mother church of Minster, and belonged with it to the monastery of St. Sexburg in that parish, but it has long since been independent of it.