The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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IS situated the next parish northward from Hawkhurst. That part of it which is in the borough of Benenden, is in the hundred of Rolvenden; as much of it as is in either of the boroughts of Hevenden, or Ibornden, is in the hundred of Barkley; as much as is in the North Borough, is in the hundred of Selbrittenden; and as much as is in the borough of Crothall, is in the hundred of Cranbrooke. The liberty of the court of the bailiwic of the seven Hundreds claims over this parish.
THE PARISH is in extent from east to west about seven miles, and about four the other way, is situated mostly on high ground, much more so than most of the adjoining country, which consequently makes it more pleasant, as much so as the generality of the soil and roads will allow of. It has of late years had the improvement of a turnpike road, which leads through it from Cranbrooke towards Rolvenden and Tenterden; before which, the roads were so deep in winter, as they still continue, excepting the above road, that within these fifty years Sir John Norris, whilst he resided at Hemsted, was forced to have his coach drawn to church in the common waggon track, by six oxen, one before the other, as the only means of conveyance to it. The soil is mostly is stiff clay, having plenty of marle at different parts throughout it, and in some parts sand. The northern boundaries of it are much covered with coppice woods; in this part is Hemsted, situated on very high ground, exceedingly pleasant, and commanding an extensive prospect over the neighbouring country; it stands in the midst of a paddock, or park-like ground, well planted with avenues of trees; the house has been lately altered and modernized, and the moat round it filled up; the two wings have been pulled down, the right one, which seems to have been the gate-house to the more antient mansion, was of the time of queen Elizabeth; among the rubbish of it was found a silver coin of that reign, anno 1575. It was built of brick, and has two handsome octagon towers, of a grand and stately appearance; the left wing, by the remaining form of a large circular window, seemed to have been the domestic chapel of the mansion, the centre remaining, is a sashed modern building. At a place in the park, called the Merry Tree, the ground is reputed to be the highest in all the Weald of Kent; westward of Hemsted there rises a small streamlet, which runs on from hence towards Rolvenden, and at a small distance eastward, near it, is the hamlet of Walkhurst. The village of Benenden is situated likewise on high ground, nearly in the centre of the parish, and is built on each side of the beforementioned road.
At a small distance southward from it is the church and the vicarage; adjoining to the latter is a large green, called the Playstool, formerly used as a bowlinggreen by the neighbouring gentry, who within memory used frequently to resort to it, and at whose expence it was kept in order. In the southern part of this parish, near the hamlet of Iden-green, is Framefarm, formerly the property of Edward Alexander, esq. of Bedford row, who married Levina, daughter of Sir Levinus Bennet, and their grandson Richard Henry Alexander Bennet, passed it away by sale, for which an act passed in 1764, to Sarah, viscountess Falkland, who in 1776 devised it by will to her husband Lucius, viscount Falkland, for life, with remainder to Francis Motley Austen, esq. now of Sevenoake, who purchased lord Falkland's interest in it, and is the present owner of it.
GREAT and LITTLE alias EASRT WALKHURST are two estates here which belonged to the priory of Christ-church in Canterbury, and, at the dissolution of the priory in the reign of king Henry VIII. were settled by him, by his dotation charter anno 33 of that reign, on his new-erected dean and chapter of Canterbury, who are now entitled to them. At a small distance north-eastward from hence, adjoining to the woods, is pump-house, formerly the residence of a branch of the family of Gybbon, one of whom, Edmund Gybbon, esq. was a good benefactor to the free school in this parish, as will be further mentioned.
The family of Sharpe resided in this parish for many generations. Many of them lie buried in the south porch of this church; and in the beginning of the last century, a branch of the Hendons lived here, and were clothiers of great repute. (fn. 1) A fair is held here on May 15, for horses and cattle.
THE MANOR OF BENENDEN, which is subordinate to the liberty of the Seven Hundreds, appears by the record of Domesday to have been among those possessions which William the Conqueror gave to Odo, the great bishop of Baieux; under the general title of whose lands it is thus entered in that record:
In Rovindene hundred, the same Robert de Romenel holds of the bishop (of Baieux) Benindene. It was taxed at half a suling. The arable land is two carucates. In demesne there is one carucate, and four villeins, with nine borderers having two carucates. There is wood for the pannage of five hogs, and one church. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth forty shillings, now fifty shillings. Oster held it of king Edward.
Upon the bishop's disgrace about four years afterwards, this, among the rest of his estates, came to the crown, of whom it was again afterwards held by the earl of Albermarle, and of him again by a family who assumed their name from their possession of it. In the reign of king Edward I. John de Benenlene held it, as one knight's fee, of the countess of Ewe, and she again of the earl of Albermarle; and it was held in the 20th year of king Edward III. in like manner, by another John de Benenden. In his descendants, who bore for their arms, Azure, a lobster, or, this manner continued, till by a female heir Joane de Benenden, it went in marriage to Sir William Brenchley, chief justice of the common pleas, who died possessed of it in 1446, as she did in 1453, s.p. and were both buried in the nave of Canterbury cathedral, in which she built and endowed a chantry; on which this manor came into the possession of Margaret, daughter and coheir of John Brenchley, esq. by Margaret his wife, daughter and heir of Richard Golding, who had been married anno 21 Henry VI. to William Moore, esq. of this parish, who, in his wife's right became entitled to it.
This family of More, or De la More, as they were antiently written, had been seated at More-court, in Ivychurch, as early as the reign of king Henry II. and had removed from thence hither in the reign of king Edward III. on the marriage of Thomas De la More with a daughter and heir likewise of Benenden; by which alliance he became possessed of lands both in this and the adjoining parishes. After which one of his descendants, most probably William Moore before-mentioned, in the reign of king Henry VI. built for his future residence that seat here, since called Moore-court, which, with the manor, came at length into the possession of his descendant John Moore, esq. who married Margaret, daughter and heir of John Brent, relict of John Dering, esq. by whom he had several sons, from the second of whom Edward, the present Earl of Drogheda, is descended. They bore for their arms, Azure, in a chief indented or, three mullets, gules. He alienated this estate in the first year of queen Mary, to Mr. William Watts, who died possessed of it in the 15th year of queen Elizabeth, holding it of the king, as of the honour of Hereford, and in his descendants it continued down till it was at length sold to Sir John Norris, of Hemsted. Since which this manor, with Moore-court, has passed in like manner with that seat, as will be further mentioned hereafter, to Thomas Hallet Hodges, esq. of Hemsted, present owner of it.
HEMSTED is a manor here, lying in Cranbrooke hundred, Hemsted bridge dividing the hundreds of Cranbrooke and Rolvenden, which about the 20th year of Henry III. as appears by the Testa de Nevil, kept in the Exchequer, belonged to Robert de Hemsted, who had assumed his surname from it; but his descendants did not continue long here; for in the 7th year of Edward III. James de Echyngham, of Echyngham, in Sussex, who bore for his arms, Azure, frettee, argent, was possessor of it, and that year brought his action of trespass against the prior of Christ-church, and others, for entering his close at Benenden, and cutting down his trees there. The latter pleaded, that the place where they grew was a drosden, at Knolle, in this parish, immediately holden of him; and that by the custom of gavelkind, the lord was entitled to the great oaks, ash, and beech; and the jury found accordingly. In the beginning of the next reign of king Richard II. Sir Robert Belknap, chief justice of the common pleas, was become possessed of it; but favouring too much the designs of that prince, in the extending of his prerogative, he was, in the 11th year of that reign, attainted, and this, among the rest of his estates, became forfeited to the crown, whence it was presently after granted to William de Guldeford, who kept his inrievalty at his seat here that year, and made great additions to this mansion. This family of Guldeford, or Guildford, as they were in after times frequently spelt, seem to have settled in this county very soon after the conquest, and were eminent for the considerable services they had performed for the public; the offices or trust and honor which they had conferred on them, and the noble alliances they made, by which through females descended, among others, the Darells, Gage's, Brownes, Walsinghams, Cromers, Isaacs, and Isleys. They bore for their arms, Or, a saltier, between four martlets, sable. William Guldeford, son of William before-mentioned, by his marriage with Joane, daughter and heir of John de Halden, became possessed of the inheritance of that family, and of their seat called Lambin, alias Halden, in the adjoining parish of Rolvenden, where several of his descendants afterwards resided. Sir John Guldeford, his grandson, was a person of considerable note in king Edward the IVth.'s reign, being comptroller of his household. He afterwards espoused the cause of the earl of Richmond, for which he was, as well as his son Sir Richard, attainted in parliament anno 1 Richard III. which attainders were reversed anno 1 Henry VII. and Sir John was made of that prince's privy council. He died in the 8th year of that reign, and was buried in Canterbury cathedral. Sir Richard Guldeford, his son above-mentioned, having fled on his attainder, returned with the earl of Richmond, after whose accession to the crown he had continued favors, as well as posts of trust and honor conferred on him, being made of that prince's privy council, and master of the ordnance, and in the 8th year of that reign a knight banneret, and next year sheriff of this county, keeping his shrievalty at Halden, his father residing then at Hemsted, in which year he was made knight of the garter, as he was afterwards comptroller of the household. In the 11th year of it he procured his lands to be disgavelled, by a private act then passed specially for the purpose. He bore for his arms those of his ancestors as above-mentioned, quartered with those of Halden, with two supporters, between two stags, attired proper, or, which were afterwards continued to be so borne by his descendants.
He died about the year 1500 at Jerusalem, where he had journeyed on a pilgrimage. He left by his first wife two sons, Edward, to whom he gave his seat of Halden, under which a further account of him and his posterity may be seen, and George Guldeford, esq. to whom he gave this seat of Hemsted, where he kept his shrievalty in the 16th year of Henry VIII. (fn. 2) His son Sir John Guldeford, of Hemsted, procured his lands to be disgavelled by the acts of the 31st of that reign, and the 2d and 3d of king Edward VI. in the 6th year of which latter reign he was sheriff. His eldest son Sir Thomas Guldeford, was of Hemsted, where he had the honor of entertaining queen Elizabeth in her progress through this county on the 20th of August, 1575. And in his descendants, residents at this seat, it continued down to Robert Guldeford, esq. of Hemsted, who, anno 1 James II. was created a baronet. He removed from hence to Camber farm, in Sussex, and having, anno 10 queen Anne, procured an act for the sale of this manor and his other lands in this county and Sussex, he in 1718 vested them in trustees, who soon afterwards conveyed this manor, with the mansion, and all his other lands in this county, to Sir John Norris, admiral of the British fleet, and vice admiral of England, who had been in 1717 envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Czar of Muscovy, bearing for his arms, Quarterly, argent, and gules, a fret, or. He died in 1749, after which this manor and seat descended at length down to his grandson John Norris, esq. who was of Hemsted, and in 1780 procured an act to vest this estate, among others, in trustees, who sold it for the purposes mentioned in it; afterwards to Thomas Hallet Hodges, esq. sheriff in 1786, who now resides at Hemsted, and is the present owner of it.
COMBDEN, now called Camden, is another manor in this parish, which was antiently possessed by Fulk, son of Ralph Bullard, who, as appears by Testa de Nevil, in the exchequer, paid aid for his land here at the marriage of Isabel, sister to king Henry III. in his 20th year. He resided here, as did his descendants for some time afterwards, but in king Richard II.'s reign it was come into the possession of the Whitfields, an antient family descended from Whitfield, in Cumberland, one of whom was Sir Ithan de Whitfield, who in behalf of the consederate barons desended Boroughbridge against king Edward II. and in this name it continued down to Sir Ralph Whitfield, who, at his decease in the reign of Charles I. bequeathed it by will to his daughter Dorothy, and she carried it, with another small manor here, called Ripton, in marriage to John Fotherby, esq. after which these manors passed into the family of Norris, and thence again in like manner as Hemsted above-described, to Thomas Hallet Hodges, esq. the present possessor of them.
EDMUND GYBBON, Esq. of Hole, in Rolvenden, gave by will in 1677, fifty shillings per annum, to be paid out of Mr. John Elphee's estates in Rolvenden; which money is applied by the minister and churchwardens to the use of such poor as take no monthly relief.
MR. JOHN GINDER, in 1712, gave 50s. per annum to be paid out of Northlands, in Salehurst, in Sussex, now the estate of Mr. George Springet, of Hawkhurst, to be disposed of in such manner, and at such time as the before-mentioned bequests.
A SMALL HOUSE belongs to this parish, for poor people to dwell in; and also lands belonging to it, of the produce of 8l. 10s. per annum, now in the tenure of John Munn, brickmaker, called Feoffee lands, the profits to be disposed of by the minister, churchwardens, overseers, and feoffees, now vested in Thomas Hallet Hodges, esq.
TWO SMALL HOUSES on Iden-green, belong to it, for poor people to dwell in, and one field, called Parish lands, which single field is rented by Mrs. Munn, at 1l. per annum; and the money is distributed by the minister and churchwardens to such poor as take no monthly relief.
JOHN GYBBON, Esq. of Hole, in 1707, gave by will an Exchequer annuity of 14l. per annum, out of the excise of beer, &c. which expired in 1791, for a further augmentation to the said master, provided he be neither vicar, curate, nor reader here; if he should be so, then to the use of poor girls.
EDMUND GYBBON, Esq. of Hole, gave a house and lands in this parish, called Sarnden, estimated at 73 acres, for the maintenance of an usher to the school. The feoffees of which, by the sale of the timber off the lands, purchased a house and lands, estimated at 16 acres, near the Beacon-hill, for an additional maintenance for the usher.
THOMAS BUCKLAND, in 1786, gave by will for the educating of poor male children, in money, 200l. to be vested in the public funds, which has been since done in the names of the minister and parish officers.
This church was ruined by a storm of thunder and lightning, on Dec. 29, 1672. It was rebuilt and finished in 1673. The present steeple was built in 1715. It stood before apart on the north side of the church, at a small distance from it; being built with stone at the bottom, and the upper part with wood of curious workmanship, having a lofty spire on the top of it. In the high chancel, against the north wall, is a monument, with the bust in white marble, made by Sheemaker, of Sir John Norris. In the north isle a memorial for dame Mary, relict of Sir Edmund Fortescue, of Bragnam, obt. 1693, and for Edward Guldeford, esq. of Hemsted, obt. 1678, and Anne his wife, obt. 1710. In the south isle a memorial for Edmund Gibbon, esq. of this parish. Walter More, lord of the manor of Benenden, by will in 1504, ordered his body to be buried in our lady's chapel, in this church, and gave 3l. 6s. 8d. to buy a chalice of silver, and gilt, to be used at our lady's altar there, and that a yearly obit be kept in this church by him who should have the lordship of Benenden.
The church of Benenden was part of the possessions of the priory of Combwell, in the neighbouring parish of Goudhurst, to which it was appropriated before the reign of Richard II. In which state the appropriation, together with the advowson of the vicarage, continued till the suppression of it in the reign of Henry VIII. when they both passed into the hands of the crown, where they remained till the 34th year of that reign, when the king granted this rectory and advowson to Sir John Gage, to hold in capite by knight's service, who passed them away to Sir Thomas Guldeford, in whose descendants they continued, in like manner as Hemsted above-described, till they passed by sale with that manor to Thomas Hallet Hodges, esq. of Hemsted, the present proprietor of them.
The vicarage is a discharged living, of the clear yearly certified value of forty pounds, in the king's books, the yearly tenths of which are 2l. 15s. 3d. In 1640 it was valued at ninety pounds, and there were then communicants here five hundred. The vicarage is now about fifty pounds per annum value.
Church of Benenden.
|Or by whom presented.|
|The Queen, by the minority of Henry Guldeford, esq.||Walter Jones, A. M. April 1586, deprived 1608.|
|Sir Henry Guldeford.||Vincent Hussam, A. M. June 22, 1608, resigned 1611|
|Richard Austen, A B. June 8, 1611, obt. 1643.|
|Sarah Sharp, of Benenden, widow, has vice.||Nathaniel Wilmot, A. B. March 22, 1643.|
|Joseph Osborne, ejected 1662. (fn. 3)|
|Sir John Henden||Nicholas Monyman, A. M. Sept. 19, 1662, obt. 1700.|
|John Fetherstone, resig. 1732. (fn. 4)|
|Sir John Norris.||Thomas Hudson, Aug. 11, 1732, resigned 1739|
|John Prince, A. B. May 25, 1739, obt Aug. 1741.|
|The Archbishop, by lapse.||Benjamin Slocock, D. D. ind. Oct. 1741, resig. 1744.|
|Sir John Norris||John Williams, April 26, 1744, resigned 1761. (fn. 5)|
|Dame Elizabeth Norris.||Joseph Dunne, A. B. Dec. 9, 1761, the present vicar.|