The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 9. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.
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THIS PARISH lies very high on the hills, and much exposed; it is partly inclosed and partly open, arable and pasture downs; it extends to the high chalk cliffs on the sea shore, and the South Foreland on them, where the light-house stands. The high road from Dover to Deal leads through it. Its greatest extent is from north to south, in the middle of which stands the church, and village adjoining to it. As well as the adjoining parishes it is exceedingly dry and healthy, the soil is mostly chalk, notwithstanding which there is some good and fertile land in it. The height and continuance of the hills, and the depth and spacious width of the valleys, added to a wildness of nature, which is a leading feature throughout this part of the country, contribute altogether to its pleasantness; and the variety of propects, as well over the adjoining country, as the sea, and the coast of France beyond it, are very beautiful.
THE MANOR OF WEST CLIFFE, alias WALLETTSCOURT, was, in the time of the Conqueror, part of those possessions with which he enriched his halfbrother Odo, bishop of Baieux, and earl of Kent, under the general title of whose lands it is thus entered in the survey of Domesday, taken in the 15th year of that reign:
Hugo (de Montfort) holds of the bishop, Westclive. It was taxed at two sulings. The arable land is. . . . . In demesne is one carucate, and seventeen villeins, having two carucates. In the time of king Edward the Con sessor it was worth eight pounds, when he received it six pounds, now eight pounds. Of this manor Hugo de Montfort holds two mills of twenty-eight shilings. Edric held it of king Edward.
Four years afterwards the bishop was disgraced, and all his possessions were confiscated to the crown, upon which this manor was granted to Hamon de Crevequer, a man of much note at that time, who was succeeded in it by the eminent family of Criol, and they continued in the possession of it in the reign of king Henry III. in the 48th year of which, John de Criol, younger son of Bertram, died possessed of it, leaving Bertram his son and heir, and he alienated it to Sir Gilbert Peche. He soon afterwards conveyed it to king Edward I. and Eleanor his queen, for the use of the latter, who died possessed of it in the 19th year of that reign. How long it afterwards continued in the crown I have not found; but in the 20th year of king Edward III. Gawin Corder held it by knight's service of the honor of Perch, viz. of the constabularie of Dover castle.
Sir Gawin Corder possessed this manor only for life, for the next year the king granted the reversion of it to Reginald de Cobham for his services, especially in France, being the son of John de Cobham, of Cobham, by his second wife Joane, daughter of Hugh de Nevill. (fn. 1) His son Reginald was of Sterborough castle, whence all his descendants were called of that place.
Reginald de Cobham, his son, possessed this manor, whose eldest surviving son Sir Thomas Cobham died possessed of this manor held in capite, in the 11th year of king Edward IV. leaving an only daughter and sole heir Anne, who carried it in marriage to Sir Edward Borough, of Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire, (fn. 2) the lands of whose grandson Thomas, lord Burgh, were disgavelled by the act passed in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. His son William, lord Burgh, succeeded to it, holding it in capite, and in the 15th year of queen Elizabeth alienated it to Mr. Thomas Gibbon, who resided here; and it should be observed that though the coat of arms assigned to the Gibbons, of Westcliffe, by Sir William Segar, Sable, a lion rampant, guardant, or, between three escallops, argent—bears a strong resemblance to that assigned by him to the Gibbons, of Rolvenden, and is identically the same as those allowed to the Gibbons of Frid, in Bethersden, who were undoubtedly a branch of those of Rolvenden, yet I do not find any affinity between them; but I should rather suppose, these of Westcliffe were descended of the same branch as those of Castleacre abbey, in Norfolk; Matthew, the eldest son of Thomas Gibbon, the purchaser of this manor, rebuilt this seat in 1627, as the date still remaining on it shews. He resided in it, as did his several descendants afterwards down to Tho. Gibbon, gent. (fn. 3) who in 1660 sold it to Streynsham Master, esq. and he alienated it to admiral Matthew Aylmer, afterwards in 1718 created lord Aylmer, of the kingdom of Ireland, whose descendant Henry, lord Aylmer, devised it to his youngest son the Hon. and Rev. John Aylmer, and he alienated it to George Leith, esq. of Deal, who passed it away by sale to the two daughters and coheirs of Mr. Thomas Peck, surgeon, of Deal; they married two brothers, viz. James Methurst Pointer, and Ambrose Lyon Pointer, gentlemen, of London, and they are now, in right of their wives, jointly entitled to this manor.
BERE, or BYER-COURT, as it is sometimes written, situated in the southern part of this parish, was once accounted a manor, and was parcel of the demesnes of a family of the same name; one of whom, William de Bere, was bailiff of Dover in the 2d and 4th years of king Edward I. After this name was extinct here, this manor passed into the name of Brockman, and from thence into that of Toke, a family who seem before this to have been for some time resident in Westcliffe, (fn. 4) and bore for their arms, Parted per chevron, sable and argent, three griffins heads, erased and counterchanged. John Toke, a descendant of the purchaser of this manor in the fourth generation, lived here in the reigns of king Henry V. and VI. as did his eldest son Thomas Toke, esq. who by Joane, daughter of William Goldwell, esq. of Godington, in Great Chart, whose heir-general she at length was, had three sons, Ralph, who succeeded him in the family seat of Bere; Richard, who died s. p. and John, the youngest, who had the seat and estate of Godington, where his descendants remain at this time. Ralph Toke, esq. the eldest son above-mentioned, resided at Bere in king Henry VIII.'s time, in whose descendants this manor continued till the latter end of the last century, when Nicholas Tooke, or Tuck, as the name came then to be spelt, dying possessed of it, his heirs conveyed it afterwards by sale to the trustees of George Rooke, esq. of St. Laurence, who died possessed of this estate, which had long before this lost all the rights of having ever been a manor, in 1739, s. p. leaving it to his widow Mrs. Frances Rooke, (fn. 5) who alienated it to Thomas Barrett, esq. of Lee, who died in 1757, and his only son and heir Thomas Barrett, esq. of Lee, is the present owner of it. (fn. 6)
SOLTON is an estate in the northern part of this parish, which was once accounted a manor; it was part of the possessions of Odo, bishop of Baieux, under the general title of whose lands it is entered in the survey of Domesday, as follows:
Hugo (de Montfort) holds Soltone of the bishop. It was taxed at one suling. The arable land is . . . . . In demesne there is one carucate, and three villeins, with one borderer, paying four shillings and seven pence. In the time of king Edward the Consessor, it was worth fifteen ponnds, and afterwards and now thirty shillings. In this manor Godric dwelt, and holds twenty acres as his own fee simple.
Soon after which this manor was granted to Jeffry de Peverel, and together with other lands elsewhere, made up the barony of Peverel, as it was then called, being held of the king in capite by barony, for the defence of Dover castle, to which it owed ward and service. Of the heirs of Jeffery de Peverel, this manor was again held by the family of Cramaville, by knight's service, and it appears by the escheat rolls, that Henry de Cramaville held it in capite at his death, in the 54th year of king Henry III. by yearly rent and ward to the castle of Dover; after which, though part of this estate came into the possession of the Maison Dieu hospital, in Dover, yet the manor and mansion of Solton became the property of the family of Holand, who bore for their arms, Parted per fess, sable and argent, three fleurs de lis, counterchanged. Henry Holand died possessed of this part of it in the 35th year of king Edward I. holding it in capite, as of the honor of Peverel, and it continued in that name till Henry Holand dying anno 10 Richard II. his daughter and heir Jane became possessed of it; after which it passed into the name of Frakners, and then again into that of Laurence, from whom it was conveyed to Finet, and Robert Finet resided here in queen Elizabeth's reign, being descended from John Finet, of Sienne, in Italy, of an antient family of that name there, who came into England with cardinal Campejus, anno 10 Henry VIII. They bore for their arms, Argent, on a cross engrailed, gules, five fleurs de lis of the field. His son Sir John Finet, master of the ceremonies to king James and king Charles I. likewise resided here, and died in 1641. He left by Jane his wife, daughter of Henry, lord Wentworth, two daughters and coheirs, Lucia and Finette, who became entitled to this manor, which at length was afterwards alienated to Matson, whose descendant Henry Matson, about the year 1720, devised it by his will, with other estates, to the value of one hundred and fifty pounds per annum, to the trustees of Dover harbour, for the use, benefit, and repair of it for ever, but the discharging of the trust in Mr. Matson's will being attended with many difficulties, his affairs were put into the court of chancery, and a decree was made, that the commissioners of Dover harbour should have Diggs-place, Solton, Singledge, and other lands, to make up the one hundred and fifty pounds per annum, they paying forty pounds a year out of these estates to the poor relations of his family, as long as any such of the name should remain according to the devise in his will, and the trustees above-mentioned, are at this time entitled to the fee of it.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, is small, consisting of only one isle and a chancel. In the chancel is a stone, about one foot square, (not the original one, I apprehend) to the memory of Matthew Gibbon the elder, son of Thomas Gibbon, who built Westcliffe house, and dying in 1629, was buried here. Service being performed in it only once a month, little care is taken of it. This church was given by queen Alianor, wife to king Edward I. together with one acre of land, and the advowson, with the chapels, tithes and appurtenances, to the prior and convent of Christ-church, in pure and perpetual alms, free from all secular service, among other premises, in exchange for the port of Sandwich, which was confirmed by king Edward I. After which, in 1327, anno 2 king Edward III. the parsonage of this church was appropriated to the almnery of the priory, for the sustaining of the chantry founded there by prior Henry de Estry. In which situation it remained till the dissolution of the priory, in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. when it was surrendered, among the other possessions of it; after which, this appropriation and the advowson of the vicarage were settled by the king in his 33d year, among other lands, on his new-erected dean and chapter of Canterbury, part of whose possessions they remain at this time.
On the sequestration of the possessions of deans and chapters, after the death of king Charles I. this parsonage was valued in 1650, by order of the state, when it appeared to consist of the parsonage-house, a large barn and yard, with the parsonage close, of three acres, and four acres lying in Westcliffe common field, together with the tithes of corn and grass, and all other small tithes within the parish, of the improved yearly value of sixty-two pounds. (fn. 7) The lessee repairs the chancel of the parsonage. Thomas Barrett, esq. of Lee, is the present lessee, on a beneficial lease.
The vicarage of Westcliffe is not valued in the king's books. In 1640 it was valued at ten pounds, communicants twenty. It is now of the clear yearly value of twenty-four pounds per annum, which is the augmented pension paid by the dean and chapter, the vicar not being entitled to any tithes whatever, nor even to the profits of the church-yard, all which are demised by the dean and chapter as part of the parsonage.
Church of West Cliffe.
|Or by whom presented.|
|Griffin Higgs, S. T. P. about 1636, sequestered. (fn. 8)|
|Edmund Tanner, obt. (fn. 9)|
|Dean and Chapter of Canterbury.||William Barney, A. M. Oct. 24, 1662, obt. 1700.|
|Richard Marsh, A. M. ob. Dec. 24, 1732.|
|John Marsh, A. M. inducted July 9, 1733, obt. September 1773. (fn. 10)|
|John Bearblock, A. M. inducted December 28, 1773, obt. May, 1784. (fn. 11)|
|Robert Pitman, A. M. 1784, the present vicar. (fn. 12)|