The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 6. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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THE next parish westward is Davington, which is situated mostly on the summit of the hill, just above the town of Faversham, on the opposite side of the Ospringe rivulet. The church and priory stand on the brow of the hill, on the south-east verge of it, and at a small distance from them the little village of Davington, and the hall opposite to it, all which are conspicuous objects from the London road and the neighbouring country. It is even in this higher part, where it is not an unpleasant situation, exceedingly unhealthy, in which part of it the land is mostly pasture, lower towards Ore the arable land is very good. To the westward this parish stretches up the hill to Bizing wood, mostly a poor soil, part of which, opposite to Juddehouse, is within the bounds of it. It has much swampy wet land towards the north and east, where it is bounded by the Ospringe rivulet, Ore, and Faversham creeks.
At the north-west boundary of this parish are Ore mills, so called from their contiguity to that parish. They formerly belonged to the priory here, and escheated with it to the crown, in the 27th year of king Henry VIII. after which, in the 35th year of it, they were granted, by the description of a water mill, called Ore Mill, and likewise twenty acres of land, being then rented at 4l. per annum, to Sir T. Cheney, whose son Henry, afterwards lord Cheney, succeeded to them. The corn mill and land have been for some generations the property of a family of the name of Colegate, and are now the joint property of the three sons of the late Wm. Colegate, viz. Robert, William, and John, and one daughter Mary-Ann, who married Mr. Wm. Bristow, an alderman of Canterbury. Another portion of land is the property of the heirs of Mr. Steph. Gillow, of Cooksditch. On these estates many mills and buildings have been erected for the manufacturing of gunpowder, by Miles Peter Andrews and Fred. Pigou, esqrs. the present lessees of them, considerable quan tities being made here for the use of the East-India company.
On the brow of the hill, near the eastern bounds of this parish, next to Faversham, there were discovered some few years ago, in digging the foundations for some offices belonging to the royal powder-mills, several of which are situated within it, more than twenty Roman urns and other vessels, of various sizes and different coloured earths, and in the environs of this spot, several single urns have been likewise dug up, as well as some coins of the Roman emperors, from Vespasian down to Gratian, which makes it probable, that this place was once a Roman burial ground, of which more will be said, under the description of the adjoining parish of Ospringe.
THE PARAMOUNT MANOR of Faversham claims jurisdiction over this parish, subordinate to which is THE MANOR OF DAVINGTON, which, in the reign of king Stephen, was in the possession of Fulk de Newnham, who in the 19th year of that reign, anno 1153, founded on the scite of it A PRIORY for nuns of the Benedictine order, which was dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, and he at the same time gave to them this manor, among other lands, for their support and maintenance. (fn. 1)
King Henry II. took this foundation under his patronage, from which he has been esteemed as the founder of it by some. King Henry III. on April 22, in his 39th year, confirmed to these nuns all their possessions, with sundry liberties and privileges, which charter was pleaded by their attorney, Richard de Roylaund, in their behalf anno 7 Edward I. at which time, as appears by the ledger-book of the priory, John de Da vington possessed lands in this parish in the reign of Henry III. and was a benefactor to the priory.
Their original number of nuns was 26, but in the reign of Edward III. from the scantiness of their revenues, they were reduced to fourteen. In the 17th year of the above reign, the prioress and nuns presented a petition to the king, representing, that from their great poverty they were unable to satisfy the king's public aids, without depriving themselves of their necessary subsistence; upon which the king directed his writ to John de Vielston, then sheriff, to make enquiry into the truth of it, (fn. 2) who returned, that notwithstanding their reduced number, they had not a competent means of subsistence, nor could they live upon the revenue of the convent, but had the charity of their friends to supply them. From which representation, most probably, their petition had the desired effect; however that be, they, from their extreme poverty, afterwards acquired the name of the poor nuns of Davington.
To the above-mentioned petition they annexed a schedule of their possessions, which, so far as a mutilated paper contains, the rest being torn off, amounts to no more than 21l. 13s. which was nearly the whole amount of their income, as appears by a valuation taken in the 8th year of the next reign of Richard II. anno 1384, when their spiritualities, viz. the churches of Hercheghe, Nyewngham, and Davyngton, were estimated at twelve pounds per annum, the church of Burdefeld at 53s. 4d. and their temporalities at 14l. 6s. 8d. the whole being but 28l. 19s. 9d. yearly revenue.
About the year 1326, archbishop Walter Reynolds prescribed certain rules and ordinances for the better government of the nuns of this priory, which being in the French tongue for their better understanding, has made it supposed by some that they were French women. As the necessaries of life increased in value, their poverty became more distressing; their little income, so far from being sufficient to maintain the original number of nuns prescribed at the foundation of the priory, became afterwards unequal to the support even of the fourteen, to which they were reduced in king Edward III.'s reign, and it appears that they afterwards continued diminishing in number, till at last, in the reign of Henry VIII. this priory was become quite deserted, so that it escheated to the crown, tanquam locum profanum et dissolutum, in the 27th year of it, it being then found, before the escheator of the county, that there were neither prioress nor nuns left in it, to perform the service of the foundation.
The priory, with all its possessions, coming thus into the hands of the crown, remained there till the 35th year of the above reign, when the king granted the scite and precinct of it, and all houses, buildings, gardens, and orchards, the manor of Fishborne, and divers premises in Fishborne, Faversham, and other parishes mentioned in the grant, all lately belonging to it, with all their appurtenances, liberties, and privileges, to Sir Thomas Cheney, who was then tenant of the whole of them under the crown, at the yearly rent of twenty pounds, to hold in capite by knight's service. He died in the 1st year of queen Elizabeth, leaving a son Henry, afterwards knighted, and created Lord Cheney of Tuddington, who had possession granted of them in the 3d year of that reign, and in the 8th year of it alienated the manor or capital messuage of Davington, and the scite of the priory, with all buildings, lands, &c. belonging to it, in Davington, and sundry other premises, with their appurtenances, and all liberties, privileges, and immunities belonging to them, parcel of the possessions of it, to John Bradbourn, descended from those of Derbyshire, who two years afterwards sold them to Avery Giles, and his son Francis passed them away by sale, in the 20th year of that reign, to Mr. John Edwards, who resided here, and dying in 1631, was buried in this church. He left an only daughter Anne, by whom they went in marriage to Mr. John Bode, gent. of Rochford, in Essex, descended of a family which had possessed good estates in that county for several generations, and of which the Bodes of this county were the eldest branch; the youngest branch being settled at Rayley, where their descendants continued for several generations. They bore for their arms, Sable, two chevronels between three escallops, argent (fn. 3). His grandson John Bode, esq. resided here, and died about the time of the restoration of Charles II. leaving his widow, Margaret Bode, (who was his third wife) surviving, who became possessed of them, and held a court baron here in 1662. After which his daughter and heir Mary, by his first wife, daughter of Sir Edward Boys, of Fredville, became entitled to them, and died possessed of them about the year 1700, on which they came to the Rev. Mr. John Sherwin, rector of Luddenham, who died in 1713, and was buried in Davington church. He gave them by will to his nephew, Mr. William Sherwin, of Deptford, who died in 1725, whose grandson William Sherwin, gent. of Deptford, dying in 1786, this estate came to his aunt Margaret Wood, of Greenwich, widow, who gave it by will to Henry-Jeremiah Leuson Sayer, esq. of Lincoln's-inn, and he in 1790 sold it to Thomas Bennet, esq. of Faversham, who is at this time entitled to the manor and scite of this priory, with the other lands and premises in this parish, as above-mentioned. There is a court baron still held for this manor.
By the liberties granted as before-mentioned by Henry III. to this priory, of being quite from suit at all county and hundred courts, the proprietors have ever since claimed an exemption from serving the office of constable, if chosen at the leet or hundred court.
The priority joined to the south side of the church; great part of it is yet remaining, and is made use of as a farm-house. The west front is almost entire; the hall or resectory, (in which there is the frame of the organ, and a gallery at one end) and a part of the cloyster, nearly ceiled with chesnut wood, still remain. Several other buildings belonging to it were much shattered, by the blowing up of the stove of the powder-mills, some years ago, and were taken down; but there are ruins of them still to be seen round about it. The walls surrounding the court, orchard, and churchyard, built of flints and rag-stone, are partly entire, through in a very decaying state. The whole building was again much shattered, and some parts of it torn to pieces, in a surprising, manner, by the terrible explosion of the powder-works in 1781.
DAVINGTON-HALL, or court, was once likewise accounted a manor, the ruins of the mansion of which yet remain, at a small distance south-westward from the church. In the reign of Edward III. this seat was part of the possessions of the Strabolgies, earls of Athol, and owners of the honor and castle of Chilham, one of whom was probably the builder of it, by their coat of arms, which remained fixed up in the stone-work of the great hall, when this seat was pulled down.
David de Strabolgie, the last earl of Athol of this name, died possessed of it in the 49th year of king Edward III. anno 1374, leaving by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of Henry, lord Ferrers, two daughters his coheirs, of whom Elizabeth, the eldest, became the wife of Sir Thomas Percy, a younger son of Henry, lord Percy, and Philippa of John Halsham, of Halsham, in Suffex; the latter of whom became entitled to this estate, as part of his wife's inheritance. She survived him, and died possessed of it in the 19th year of Richard II after which it at length descended to her grandson Sir Hugh Halsham, and he, in the beginning of the reign of Henry VI. passed it away by sale to Mr. James Dryland, whose daughter and sole heir Constance carried it in marriage, first to Sir Thomas Walsingham, of Scadbury, in Chesilhurst; and secondly to John Green, esq. and dying in the 16th year of that reign, was succeeded in it by her son by her first husband, Sir James Walsingham, who kept his shrievalty at this seat of Davington-hall, in the 12th year of Henry VII. (fn. 4)
His son Sir Edmund Walsingham, of Scadbury, in the beginning of the next reign, passed it away by sale to Ralph Symonds, who purchased afterwards of Richard Dryland, of Cooksditch, land in the manor of Fishbourne, in this parish, a manor, which so early as king Henry the IId.'s reign, was held by owners of the same name, and afterwards passed into that of Dryland, but who are now owners of it, or where it is situated, is wholly unknown. Ralph Symonds abovementioned, died possessed of Davington-hall, anno 33 Henry VIII. whose widow afterwards possessed it; (fn. 5) his heirs, in the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, alienated it to Coppinger, whose son having, about the beginning of king James I.'s reign, mortgaged it to Freeman, they both joined in the conveyance of it to Mr. John Milles, of Norton, who was the son of Richard Milles, of Hothfield, and bore for his arms, Ermine, a ser de moline, sable, on a chief, azure, a pair of wings conjoined, or. He afterwards resided here. His only daughter Anne, in 1627, marrying with John Milles, esq. of Hampshire, son of Sir John Milles, (an early marriage, she being only twelve years of age, and he only twenty) entitled him to this estate, who was head customer of Sandwich, keeper of Rochester castle, and had been esquire of the body to king James I. He was of Davington-hall, and was succeeded by his son of the same name, pulled down this antient mansion, and at the same time fitted up a part of the outhouses adjoining to it, as a sufficient dwelling for the farmer, or occupier of it, which remains at this time, and afterwards passed it away by sale to Thomas Twisden, esq. of Bradbourne, in East Malling, sergeant-at-law, afterwards one of the judges of the king's bench, and created a baronet in 1666, and in his descendants this estate of Davington-hall continued to Sir Roger Twisden, bart. who died in October, 1779, leaving his lady Rebecca, the daughter of Isaac Wildash, esq. of Chatham, by Rebecca Tihurst his wife, big with child, which proved to be a daughter, born on Jan. 4, next year. He was succeeded at Bradbourne, and the principal part of his estates, by his next surviving brother, now Sir John Papillon Twisden, bart. but this estate of Davingtonhall, with other premises in this neighbourhood, was settled by Sir Roger on his lady Rebecca, and she is at this time entitled to the possession of it.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary Magdalen, is a small building of two isles. The west door of it is an elegant circular arch of stone, enriched with pillars on each side, and a variety of ornaments over it. The steeple, which is square, with a pointed top to it, tiled, stands at the south-west corner of it. It was built adjoining to, and indeed under one roof, with the priory, to which it likewise served as a conventual church. At the further end of the south isle, against the south wall, near the altar, was an antient tomb in the wall, which was opened, and among the bones inclosed in it, was a manuscript book, which being exposed to the air immediately crumbled to dust. On the north wall of the north isle, next the door, was another such tomb, which was opened a few years ago, and there were found in it many bones, which seemed of children about eight or nine years old.
Of this church and church-yard the prioress and convent were possessed in their demesne, as of see, to their own proper uses, the same being so appropriated to them at their foundation, by which they were obliged to find three priests and two clerks, to perform divine services in it, and to pay them wages, and support them in their diet, by the year and week, sufficient for that purpose.
The priority having escheated to the crown, with all its possessions and appurtenances, in which this church was included, as has been already mentioned, the king, in his 35th year, granted the whole of it, with all its possessions, appurtenances, immunities, privileges, &c. by which this church passed likewise to Sir Thomas Cheney, who then became possessed of it in as ample a manner as the prioress and convent or the king had been before. From him the property of this church has continued in the same succession of owners that the priory itself has, and is now, with that, in the possession of Mr. Sherwin, the impropriator of it.
Church of Davington.
|Or by whom presented.|
|The King.||Richard Mills, clerk, July 12, 1625. (fn. 6)|
|Bode, widow.||Francis Worral, inducted 1666.|
|John Sherwin, A. M. obt. Jan. 17, 1713. (fn. 7)|
|Thomas Lees, jun. A M. March 9, 1713, obt. Sept. 1728. (fn. 8)|
|Robert Harrison, obt. 1755. (fn. 9)|
|Francis-Frederick Giraud, A. M. 1781, resigned 1794. (fn. 10)|
|George Nailor, 1794, the present curate.|