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 is so very obscurely situated among the hills, as to have escaped the notice of all our historians. It is very small, consisting of only the manor farms of Polton and St. Radigund's, of about forty acres of land, owned by different persons, and one cottage besides. It is long and irregularly narrow, containing about seven hundred acres. The country and soil of it is much the same as that of Hougham, which it adjoins, excepting that it is still more wild, dreary and romantic, indeed the most so of any in this county. The manor-house of Polton stands in a deep and lonely valley, it is a small modern farm-house, all that remains of the antient mansion being a part of the walls of it, built of flints. On the hills adjoining to it, towards Dover, it is uninclosed downs, a chalky barren soil.
Herfrid held of Hugo, Poltone. Uluuin held it of king Edward, and it was taxed for one suling. The arable land is two carucates. There are three villeins, and a little church. In the time of king Edward the Confessor it was worth forty shillings, afterwards fifteen shillings, now thirty shillings.
On the voluntary exile of Robert de Montfort, grandson of Hugh above-mentioned, in the reign of king Henry I. his estates in this parish, among the rest of his possessions, came into the king's hands, whence the seignory of it was granted to Geoffry, earl of Perch, of whom THE MANOR OF POLTON was held by a family who took their surname from it, and bore for their arms, Argent, on a fess, sable, three bezants, between three mullets, sable. William de Polton and Sir Stephen de Polton, are mentioned as owners of it in the register of St. Radigund's abbey, as is their descendant Robert de Polton, who in king Henry III.'s reign gave it to the abbey of St. Radigund, at Bradsole, in this parish, to hold in pure and perpetual alms. And it appears by the book of Dover castle, that the abbot afterwards held it by knight's service of that castle, being part of those fees which made up the barony called the constabularie, by the performance of ward for the defence of it. In which state it remained till the dissolution of the abbey in the 27th year of king Henry VIII. when it came into the king's hands, who in his 29th year granted the scite of it, with all its lands and possessions, excepting the advowsons of certain churches, to archbishop Cranmer, who quickly afterwards exchanged it again with the king, by an act passed specially for the purpose, and to give it to his secretary Thomas Cromwell, afterwards earl of Essex, by whose attaint in the 32d year of that reign, all his estates were forfeited to the crown, where this manor lay till the reign of Philip and Mary, when it was granted to Edward Fynes, lord Clinton and Saye, who soon afterwards sold it to Mr. Henry Herdson, and it afterwards continued in like manner as Folkestone, and his other estates in this neighbourhood, down to Sir Basill Dixwell, bart. of Brome, who about the end of king Charles II.'s reign, passed it away to Sir Cloudesley Shovel, admiral of the navy, who was shipwrecked in 1707, after which it descended to his two daughters and coheirs; (fn. 1)and on the division of their inheritance, this manor was allotted to the youngest, Anne, wife of John Blackwood, esq. He died possessed of it in 1777, on which it descended to his son Shovel Blackwood, esq. whose trustees in 1779, being enabled so to do by act of parliament, conveyed it by sale to Mr. John Cunnick, of London, from whom it has since passed to G.C. Wilson, esq. the present owner of it. There is not any court held for this manor.
THE MANOR OF BRADSOLE, which lies in the north-east part of this parish, was given by Walter Hacket and Emma his wife, with the consent of Richard I. and of Walter de Polton, then mesne lord of the fee, and Stephen his son and heir, to the canons of the church of St. Radigund of Bradsole, who had settled there in the year 1191, being the 3d of that prince's reign, which gift was confirmed by king John in his 1st year. (fn. 2) This abbey was of the Præmonstratensian order of white canons; and though there was a design, anno 9 king John, of translating it, probably on account of the inconvenience of its situation, to the church of River, yet it never took place; and the revenues of it were at different times increased by succeeding benefactors, and by the cell of Blakewose, in this neighbourhood, (which was a cell to the priory of the same order at Lavendene, in Buckinghamshire) being united to it at the instance of the barons of Hythe, on account of its poverty and ruinated state. Being thus enriched, the abbots became of sufficient consequence to receive summons to parliament, at the latter end of the reign of king Edward I. and the reputation of its sanctity occasioned many noble and eminent persons to be buried in the chapel of it. Among many others buried here, were several of the Criols, lords of Westenhanger; and of the Malmayns, lords of Waldershare; Thomas, lord Poynings, anno 49 Edward III. was buried in the midst of the choir of it (of his own patronage) before the high altar, appointing a fair tomb to be placed over him, with the image of a knight on it; Sir Nicholas Evering, of Evering, and John Kyryel, gent. of Lympne, in 1504, was buried in this church, next to the sepulchre of Bartraham Kyriel, and gave money by his will for eight priests to bring his body from Bellavowe hither. (fn. 3)
In which situation this abbey remained till the 27th year of king Henry VIII. when by the act then passed, it was suppressed, as not having the clear yearly income of two hundred pounds, (thence called the lesser monasteries) the revenues of it amounting to no more than 98l. 9s. 2½d. clear, and 142l 8s. 9d. total value, and was surrendered by Thomas Dale, then prior of it, into the king's hands; for although this monastery is in most records stiled an abbey, and the superiors of it abbots, yet I find by several gifts to it at different periods, that it was stiled a priory, and the superiors of it priors. Henry, prior of St. Radigund, is said to have been baron of the exchequer, anno 49 Henry III. (fn. 4)and so late as the reign of king Henry VIII. it is frequently mentioned as a priory; and so cautious were they at that time of misnaming it, that it was usually afterwards, in the records relating to it, described only by the name of the monastery or house of St. Radigund, lately dissolved. The scite of this dissolved monastery and its possessions did not remain long in the crown, for the king, in his 29th year, granted them with certain exceptions, to archbishop Cranmer, who quickly afterwards exchanged it again with the king, an act of parliament having passed specially for the purpose, and to give it, with other premises therein-mentioned, to his secretary Thomas Cromwell, afterwards earl of Essex, who being attainted in the 32d year of that reign, all his estates became forfeited to the crown; whence this manor of St. Radigund's, alias Bradsole, together with the scite of the dissolved monastery, was granted, in the reign of Philip and Mary, to Edward, lord Clinton and Saye, and he, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, sold it to Simon Edolph, esq. who having repaired the mansion of it, afterwards resided in it. He died in 1597, and was succeeded in it by his eldest son Sir Thomas Edolph, of St. Radigund's, who died in 1645. After which it passed into the name of Chandler, of the kingdom of Ireland, the last of whom devised it to Richard Chandler, esq. son and heir of Edward, bishop of Durham, in tail, with remainder to the heirs male of Mary, wife of George Sayer, esq. of Charing, whose mother's maiden name was Chandler. Richard Chandler, esq. married Elizabeth, daughter and surviving heir of lord James Cavendish, third son of William, duke of Devonshire, and took the name of Cavendish. He died in 1769, s.p. on which this manor, with the scite of the abbey, came, by the entail above-mentioned, to George and John Sayer, the two sons of Mary, wife of George Sayer, esq. of Charing, and on a partition of their estates in 1786, this manor, with the scite of the abbey, was allotted to the youngest, John Sayer, esq. who is now possessed of the whole of it.
The scite of the abbey is on an hill, about two miles and an half south-west from Dover; a most retired and unfrequented situation. The ruins, which are venerably overgrown with ivy, cover a large space of ground, and shew it to have been not only of great extent, but handsomely built; the walls of the front gateway, which are of great thickness and strength, yet remain entire. The opposite or east side of the quadrangle next to the farm-yard was kept, after the dissolution, as a dwelling-house, and was inhabited by the Edolphs, owners of it, by whom it was much altered, the door and windows being of the time of queen Elizabeth. On the door of the porch, at the entrance into it, in the inner side of the quadrangle, is a shield, being Five lozenges, three, two, and one, on a chief, a rose; and over the inner door, another, being seemingly, a scroll of three wreaths, lessening downwards, and twisted round an upright staff. Leland, in his Itinerary, vol. vii. p. 127, gives a very good description of it as in his time, "S. Radegundis, he says, standeth on the toppe of a hille iii litle myles by west and sumwhat by sowth from Dovar. There be white chanons and the quier of the chyrche is large and fayr. The monaster ys at this time netely mayntayned, but yt appereth that yn tymes past the buildinges have bene ther more ample then they be now. There ys on the hille fayre wood, but fresch water laketh sumtyme." Since the time of the Edolphs, the small part remaining as a dwelling, has been made use of as a farm house. The barn and offices of the farm-yard are well built of stone, with arched door-ways, as in their original state. In the farm-yard is a large broad pond, of distinguished use in this dry barren spot, whence probably this manor took its name of Bradsole.
The church, which was dedicated to St. Mary, was standing in 1523. There are now no remains of it; but on the scite of it, in the bottom, about half a mile south from the abbey, there is a stone set up with an inscription, to perpetuate the memory of it, and the place where it once stood.
The church was so very small as to be named in Domesday, Æcclesiola. It continued appendant to the manor of Polton, till Stephen de Polton, with the consent of Matthew de Polton, clerk, gave it to the prior and convent of St. Radigund. (fn. 5)There is no mention of it in any valuation of the churches and ecclesiastical benefices; and the abbot and convent of St. Radigund, who were of the Præmonstratensian order, one of the four privileged orders, who were exempted from tithes, possessing the whole parish, there could be hardly any profits belonging to it, there being only two houses in the parish besides; so that the patronage of it being theirs, one of the canons most probably administered the sacraments, the only duty performed in it, to the few inhabitants of this parish; for the burials, most likely, were within the precinct of their own monastery; which occasioned this little church or chapel to be from time to time so entirely unnoticed. However, the exemption of their lands from the payment of tithes in this parish does not depend at all on the above privilege of their order, but from the dilapidated church of it, and there not having been any parson presented, or incumbent of it, since the dissolution of the abbey, who could of right demand any tithes within it.