The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.
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IT IS PLEASANTLY situated in a dry healthy country. The high road from Ashford to the town of Hythe crosses this parish; on this road is Lacton green, on which there is a pretty hamlet of houses, some of them of good size, and are well built, and of a very neat appearance; they were formerly inhabited by owners of some account, as by the family of Hall, or Haule, as they were sometimes called, who bore for their arms, Sable, three battle axes, two and one, or. John Hall resided here, and died in 1528; (fn. 1) they continued here till the beginning of king Charles the 1st.'s reign, when their property here was sold. A younger branch of the family of Aucher resided here in king James the 1st.'s reign, from whom descended Dr. Aucher, prebendary of Canterbury, who died in 1701. A branch of the Taylors, of Shadoxhurst, resided here in the same reign, and were ancestors of the Taylors, of Maidstone, baronets; and Sir John James, in king Charles the IId's reign, resided here likewise, descended of a family who came out of Cleve, in Germany, in king Henry the VIIIth.'s reign, and bore for their arms the same as those of Ightham, in this county. At a small distance southward from Lacton green, on higher rising ground, stands the church, and Wilsborough-street, adjoining to it; a little beyond which the stream runs which rises at Braborne and Hinxhill, and having crossed the high road at Swatfield bridge, goes on through this parish, and falls into the river Stour just above Ashford. Just within the southern bounds of the parish is a large handsome house, well timbered, standing on high ground, built by Thomas Boys, esq. of Sevington, in 1616, with the materials of their more antient seat of the Moat, in that adjoining parish, at a very small distance from it, who named his new mansion Boys Hall. His descendants continued to reside in it till Edward Boys, gent. the late possessor of it, removed to a smaller house near the church, which his father had begun to build, but died before he had finished it, since which Boys-hall has been inhabited only by cottagers. He died in 1796, leaving by Sarah his wife, daughter of Mr. John Collington, two sons, Edward and William, his coheirs in gavelkind, and on a partition of their estates, this seat became the sole property of the eldest son Mr. Edward Boys, who now resides in it. This branch of Boys is descended from those of Bonnington, in Goodnestone, and bear for their arms, Or, a griffin segreant, sable, a bordure, gules. From the Ashford road at Lacton green, on the north side, a road branches off to Longbridge or Willesborough lees, where there is a hamlet of houses, one of which is a modern built one, which formerly belonged to the Whightwicks, several of whom lie buried in Hinxhill church-yard, by a daughter of whom it came by marriage to Mr. Richard Goodwin, who now lives in it; across these lees, and the river Stour, which runs near the lower end of the lees, the road leads to Kennington, and towards Faversham and Canterbury.
This parish is about two miles across each way. The land is nearly half arable and half pasture, the rents of it amounting to about 1200l. per annum. The upland part of it has much quarry or rag stone in it, mixed with sand, and towards Ashford a good deal of gravel.
The court leet for the half hundred of Longbridge, which used to be held by the Edolphs, and afterwards by the Honywoods, at Hinxhill, has been disclaimed by them for some years past, and the constable of the half hundred now holds it annually, for the purpose of chusing a successor in his office, at this parish and Kennington alternately.
THE PLANT gale frutex odoratus septentrionalium, sweet willow goule, or Dutch myrtle, grows plentifully in a boggy ground joining to a small farm called Coombs-hole, on Wilesborough-lees; and on the road side near Ousley farm, is the tanacetum vulgare luteum, common tansey.
THIS PARISH is not particularly mentioned in the record of Domesday. The manor of Wye claims over such part of it as in the borough of Henwood, alias Hewet, but the manor of Kennington, alias Coningsbrooke claims over the greatest part of it, subordinate to which is The Manor Of Sothertons, alias WILLESBOROUGH, which, by the description of the lands of Wyvelesbery, in very early times belonged to the abbot and convent of St. Augustine, being about the year 866 purchased of one Eadulph, son of Edwold, for two thousand pence. At the same time one æthelserth bequeathed, in his testament, to that monastery, land in this parish called Atelesworthe, which was geldable; and there is still in this parish a green, called Atelworth-green, which points out where this land lay.
In after times this manor was held of the abbot, by the family of Elys, or Ellis, as they were sometimes spelt, whose principal residence was at Burton, in Kennington; one of whom, Thomas Elys, held it anno 44 Edward III. as appears by a deed in the Surrenden library. His descendant John Elys, of Willisberg, died possessed of this manor of Sotherton, together with a house and lands at Lacton, a principal house at Swatford, and other lands in this parish, in the 7th year of Edward IV. as did Richard his son in the 12th year of it. (fn. 2) Soon after which the manor of Sothertons went by sale into the family of Brent; and Philipott says, that the noted Falcatius de Brent was of this family; but they could gain no credit from this relationship; for Camden calls him a desperate fellow; and Dugdale says, he was a bastard by birth, of mean extraction, who had come out of the Low Countries with other freebooters, to king John's assistance against his barons. (fn. 3) But Weever says much more to their credit; that they were branched out of the antient stock of Brent, in Somersetshire; of whom Sir Robert de Brent was a baron in parliament in the reign of king Edward I. which makes it wholly improbable they could have any relationship to this Falcatius before-mentioned. They had before this purchase been for many generations settled at Wickins, in Charing; for Robert, second son of Hugh Brent, of Charing, resided at Willesborough, and, as appears by his will, died possessed of this manor in the 7th year of king Henry VII. anno 1491. At length his grandson Robert Brent, of Willesborough, dying s.p. in the 12th year of queen Elizabeth, devised it by will to Thomas Brent, esq. of Charing, who removed hither, and dying in 1612, was likewise buried in this church. By his will he gave this manor of Sothertons, alias Willesborough, to his nephew Richard Dering, esq. of Pluckley, by Margaret his sister, wife of John Dering, esq. late of Surrenden, deceased, in whose descendants it continued down to Sir Edward Dering, knight and baronet, so created anno 2 Charles I. who in 1635 alienated it to Robert Scott, esq. of Mersham, afterwards of Canterbury, the youngest son of Sir Thomas Scott, of Scott's hall, in whose descendants it continued down to Thomas Scott, gent. of Liminge, (fn. 4) who died possessed of it in 1711, leaving two daughters, Elizabeth and Bridget, his coheirs, who by his will became entitled to this manor; whence it was soon afterwards alienated to Terry, in which name it continued till Mr. Henry Terry, of Canterbury, gave it by will to his nephew Mr. Thomas Perkins, of Dover, since deceased, whose heirs are now intitled to it. There is no court held for this manor.
STREETEND was once a house of good account in this parish, as having been the residence of the family of Master for several generations; it stood at the east corner of the lane turning down from the Ashford road to Willesborough church. The house itself has been pulled down some years; but the garden-walls and some of the out-buildings remain, and there is now a smaller house on the scite of it. The first of them, who came into this county in the reign of Henry VIII. was Richard Master, whose son Robert was settled at this seat of Streetend, in Willesborough. He left two sons, the eldest of whom, Edward, succeeded him here; and Richard was physician to queen Elizabeth, and ancestor to the masters of Cirencester, in Gloucestershire. Michael Master, gent. the grandson of Edward abovementioned, resided here, and died possessed of this seat, with an upper house and land here, called Sprotts, in 1632, leaving by his wife Elizabeth, daughter of John Hall, esq. of this parish, four sons and two daughters, of whom Edward, the eldest son, succeeded him here, and William, the second son, at the age of twentyeight years, anno 1634, was, as as the tradition of the country goes, on his wedding-day whilst at dinner, murdered by his younger brother Robert, who was in love with the bride, and whom his father stiles in his will his disobedient son, and was buried under a tomb in this church-yard, a few feet distant from the church porch, on the south side of it. The greatest part of the inscription, though now wholly obliterated, was remaining within these few years. The murderer immediately fled, and was never afterwards heard of; but is supposed to have secretly returned, and to have tried to efface the inscripition, as there appeared several words erased of it, and was prevented doing it further by some people's going through the church-yard whilst he was employed about it. The hint of the plot of Otway's tragedy of the Orphan is said to have been taken from this unhappy event. They bore for their arms, Gules, a lion rampant-guardant, double tailed, or; which is the coat allotted to this branch in the Visitation of Kent, 1619; the branch at Cirencester bearing the like coat, with the addition of the lion, supporting between his paws a rose of the field, stalked and leaved, vert, as a distinction; which last coat is, by mistake, put on the gravestone of Robert Master, father of Michael before-mentioned, who died in 1616, in this church. (fn. 5) Edward, the eldest son of Michael, succeeded his father in this seat of Streetend, and the rest of his property in this parish, and married Elizabeth, daughter of Edward Choute, esq. of Hinxhill, who after his death joined with Elizabeth, her daughter and heir, in the sale of it to Nicholas Carter, M. D. whose heirs afterwards in 1725, alienated two thirds of this estate to William Tournay, gent. of Ashford, and the other third of it to his son Mr. Robert Tournay, of Hythe, and he sold the whole of it to Mr. Thomas Barker, whose son of the same name, on his death, succeeded to it, and having made the house exceedingly neat now resides in it.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, is a very neat building, consisting of two isles and two chancels, having a slim spire steeple shingled at the west end, in which are five bells. In the high chancel there are some good remains of painted glass, particularly the figure of a king sitting. On the south side is a confessionary, and on the same side a monument for John Boys, esq. and Frances his wife; in it are memorials for Robert Master and Margaret his wife, and several of the family of Boys; one for Thomas Norcross, A. B. son of John Norcross, vicar, obt. 1752; one for the said John Norcross, vicar here and rector of Hothfield, obt. 1773. The north chancel belongs to Willesborough-court, in which are several stones without inscriptions; there is here too good painted glass in the window at the east end, and in the lower part of it, two figures kneeling, and this legend, Or a p aibs Thome Ellis & ux. ejus; and two others with this legend, Or a p aibs Thome Elys & Thomasine ux. ejus; and in Weever's time there was a legend for William, son of George Barre, of the Moat, in Sevington parish, anno 1463. In the north isle is a stone with these arms, A fess, between six billets, the inscription obliterated; another with an inscription in brass, the figure gone, for John Gore, sen. obt. 1506; one with an inscription in brass for John Hall and Joane his wife, ob. 1605; at the bottom of it is added a memorial for William Brooke, gent. of this parish, obt. 1707. Another stone for Edward, son of William Brooke, and Susan his wife, obt. 1717; an inscription in brass for Thomas Watte, obt. 1528. In the church-yard is a tomb over John Norcross, gent. son of John Norcross, vicar, obt. 1778, unmarried. The family of Master lie buried in the east corner of the churchyard behind the church porch, where their tombs yet remain.
The church of Willesborough was part of the antient possesions of the monastery of St. Augustine, to which it was appropriated by pope Clement V. in the reign of Edward II. but the abbot, for certain reasons, then declined putting the bull for this purpose in force. At length John, abbot of St. Augustine in the year 1347, anno 22 Edward III. obtained another bull for the appropriation of it, and three years afterwards the king granted his licence for this purpose, with the condition of an adequate portion being allotted out of the profits of it to the perpetual vicars in it; (fn. 6) all which was confirmed by archbishop Islip in the year 1359. And the next year the vicarage of this church was endowed by the archbishop, who decreed, that the perpetual vicar should receive for his portion, all the fruits, rents, and income to the church, by whatever means soever arising then or in future, the tithes of sheaves or corn not growing within orchards and gardens, and of hay arising from the meadows extending themselves from Esschetesfordisbregge through the northern part of this parish only excepted, which tithes should wholly belong to the religious and their monastery; that the vicar should have a house within the rectory of the church, to be built at the expence of the religious, and to be repaired from that time by the vicar, together with a garden and croft, and one rood of land for a curtelage adjoining to the rectory; the court, and the barns of the rectory adjoining and contiguous to it, being reserved for the use of the religious; and that the vicar should have two acres of arable land of the endowment to himself, of the glebe of the church, lying close to it, which, together with the above-mentioned crost and rood of land the religious should cause to be amortised to the vicarage at their own costs and expences, or should prepare some other sufficient security for it; but that the vicar should undergo the burthens of officiating in the divine services for ever in this church, either by himself or some other fit priest, and likewise of administering or finding of lights in the chancel, of bread and wine for the celebrating of masses, the reparation of books, vestments, and other ecclesiastical ornaments, and should likewise sustain the episcopal rights, the procuration likewise due to the archdeacon, and other archidiaconal rights, but that the religious should bear the rest of the burthens not expressed before, which used to be incumbent on the rectors of the church in past times.
The church and advowson of the vicarage of Willesborough remained part of the possessions, of the monastery till the final dissolution of it, in the 30th year of king Henry VIII. when it was, with all its revenues, surrendered into the king's hands, where this rectory and advowson staid but a short time; for the king, by his dotation-charter, in the 33d year of his reign, settled it on his new-erected dean and chapter of Canterbury, part of whose possessions they continue at this time.
The vicarage is valued in the king's books at 8l. 16s. 8d. and the yearly tenths at 17s. 8d. In 1587 here were communicants two hundred. In 1640 it was valued at sixty pounds, communicants two hundred and forty. There are four acres of glebe land belonging to the vicarage.
On a survey of this parsonage in 1650, it appears that it then consisted of the parsonage-barn, with a field of arable, containing fourteen acres, lying near it, and the tithes of corn and hay arising within the parish; all which were valued at fifty pounds per annum, and were demised by the late dean and chapter to Edward Master, gent. of Hinxhill. (fn. 7) Dr. Carter, by his will, gave his interest in the lease of this parsonage, he being the lessee of it, to the vicar of this parish, with due care and restrictions for the renewing of the term of it, intending this bequest for the vicar and his successors, as an augmentation to this vicarage; but Mr. Norcross, the vicar, determined it otherwise, and having renewed it in his own name from time to time, at his death in 1773 left it by his will, as his own property, to his widow; since whose decease, their three daughters, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah, all of them unmarried, are now entitled to the interest of it.
Church of Willesborough.
|Or by whom presented.|
|Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.||Thomas Duncombe, A. M. May 27, 1592, obt. 1608.|
|Richard Hayes, Feb. 11, 1608, obt. 1613.|
|George May, A. M. Sept. 7, 1613, obt. 1671.|
|John Warly, A. M. March 21, 1671, obt. 1679.|
|Edward Burges, clerk, Aug. 6, 1679, obt. 1681.|
|Henry Walker, clerk, Jan. 10, 1681, obt. 1695.|
|William Martinant Nevar, Oct. 10, 1695, obt. April 29, 1729.|
|John Norcross, A.M. Sept. 23, 1729. obt. 1773. (fn. 8)|
|Robert Stedman, A. M. induct. Oct. 23, 1773. (fn. 9)|
|John Francis, A. M. induct. Jan. 9, 1790, present vicar. (fn. 10)|