The Environs of London: Volume 4, Counties of Herts, Essex and Kent. Originally published by T Cadell and W Davies, London, 1796.
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This place is supposed to derive its name from the Saxon words bec, a brook, and ham, a dwelling. A small stream, which falls into the Ravensbourn, passes through the parish.
Extent and nature of the land, and how occupied.
Beckenham lies in the hundred of Bromley and Beckenham, at the distance of nine miles and a quarter from London-bridge. The parish is bounded by Lewisham, Bromley, Hayes, and West Wickham, in Kent; and by Croydon, a small portion of Camberwell, and Penge, (a detached hamlet of Battersea,) in Surrey. It contains about 3170 acres of land, of which, in the year 1793, about 1850 were arable, 1080 meadow and pasture, and about 240 wood and orchards. A considerable quantity has since been laid down to grass. The waste land does not exceed 30 or 40 acres. The soil is for the most part clay and gravel; in some parts loam. This parish pays the sum of 241l. 4s. to the land-tax, which is at the rate of about 2s. in the pound.
The manor of Beckenham was held of King Edward the Consessor, by Anschil. When the survey of Doomsday was taken (fn. 1), Ansgot, of Rochester, held it under Odo, Bishop of Baieux. Richard de la Rokele died seised of it in 1276 (fn. 2). His son Philip left a daughter and sole heir, Isolda (fn. 3), married to Sir William Bruyn; from whom this manor descended (fn. 4) to Sir Henry Bruyn, who died in 1461, leaving two daughters, coheirs (fn. 5). Alice the eldest had, by her first husband John Berners, Esq. a son, who died without issue; upon which, a moiety of this manor was inherited by John Harlefton, son of her second husband (fn. 6). Clement Harleston sold it, in 1530, to Robert Legh, Esq. (fn. 7), whose descendant of the same name, in 1610, aliened it to Henry Snelgar, or Snelgrave, Esq. (fn. 8) (afterwards knighted). About the year 1650, it was sold, by his grandson Henry Snelgrave, Esq. to Walter St. John, Esq. (fn. 9), in whose family the manor became again united.—Elizabeth, second daughter of Sir Henry Bruyn, married, to her first husband (fn. 10), Thomas Tyrrell, Esq. whose descendants inherited the other moiety of this manor; one of them, whose name also was Thomas, left a daughter and sole heir, married to Sir John Dalston, by whom she had two daughters. Catherine, one of these coheirs, married Sir Henry Curwen (fn. 11). About the year 1650, Sir Patrick Curwen, his son, sold a moiety of the manor of Beckenham to Oliver St. John, Esq. (fn. 12); from whom it came to Sir Walter St. John, Bart. already possessed of the other moiety. The manor, thus united, continued in the St. John family till the year 1773, when Frederick, the late Viscount Bolingbroke, sold it to John Cator, Esq. (fn. 13), the present proprietor, who resides in an elegant mansion, which he built soon after his purchase of the estate, and called Beckenham-place. It stands on an eminence, and commands a beautiful, though not a very extensive prospect.
Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk.
Philipott informs us, that Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, son of Elizabeth Bruyn, before mentioned, by her second husband, resided in the manor-house of Beckenham as lessee; and that he entertained Henry VIII. there, "with all the cunning pompe of magnificence, as he went to bestow a visit, at Hever, on his discarded and repudiated wife, Anne of Cleve (fn. 14)."
Foxgrove-farm belonged, at a very early period, to a family of that name (fn. 15). Bartholomew de Burghersh died seised of it in 1354 (fn. 16). His son Bartholomew aliened it, in 1369, to Sir Walter de Pavely (fn. 17). About the end of the same century, it passed from the Pavelys to the family of Vaux, of Northamptonshire (fn. 18). Sir Thomas Grene, who had purchased it of the Vaux's, died seised of it in 1465 (fn. 19). About the year 1510, it came into the family of Baversea. Hum phrey Baversea aliened it to Luke Hollingworth, who, about the year 1547, sold it to Sir John Olyffe (fn. 20), whose only daughter and heir married John Leigh, Esq. of Addington, in Surrey. From him, it descended to Sir Francis Leigh, who died in 1711 (fn. 21), having directed this and other estates to be sold. This farm was purchased, in 1716, by Mr. John Tolson, and descended to Lancelot Tolson Tilly, who devised it to Timewell Brydges, Esq. for his life, with remainder to John and Edward Brydges, of Wotton. In 1765, it was sold by the Brydges's to Jones Raymond, Esq. who died in 1768, having left this estate between Amy his sister, relict of Peter Burrell, Esq. and William and George Evelyn Glanville, Esqrs. the sons of Bridget, another sister. Mrs. Burrell, having purchased their share, became possessed of the whole. She died in 1789, when this estate devolved upon her son, the late Sir William Burrell, Bart. who sold it to his nephew, Sir Peter (now Lord Gwedir). Sir Peter Burrell exchanged it, in 1793, for other lands, with John Cator, Esq. who is the present proprietor.
Kelseys, a considerable estate in this parish, belonged to a family of that name (fn. 22). In the latter part of the fourteenth century it came, by purchase, to the Brograves. In 1479, William Brograve had a licence for an oratory at Kelseys (fn. 23). A descendant of the Brograves sold it, about the year 1688, to Peter Burrell, Esq. (fn. 24), ancestor of the Right Honourable Lord Gwedir, who is the present proprietor.
Hasted supposes the manor of Lasela, described in Doomsday, to be the same estate which is now called Langley-park (fn. 25). I think that the orthography seems too remote, even had the name of Langley been more ancient; but it appears that it derived its present name from a family who purchased lands in Beckenham of Henry de Cliffe, about the year 1350 (fn. 26). Ralph Langley, who died in 1451, directed this estate to be sold: the purchaser was John Violett (fn. 27), whose descendants enjoyed it till about the year 1510, when it was conveyed to John Style, Esq. (fn. 28) Elizabeth, the daughter and sole heir of Humphrey Style, the last heir-male of that family, married Sir John Elwill, Bart. who died in 1727. His brother, Sir Edmund, sold Langley-park to Hugh Raymond, Esq. who settled it on his only son Jones Raymond, with remainder to his eldest daughter Amy and her issue. Jones Raymond, Esq. died without issue in 1768; his sister Amy married Peter Burrell, Esq. whose grandson, the Right Hon. Lord Gwedir, is the present proprietor of Langleypark, where he resides in the summer season.
Kent-house, in this parish, was for several generations the property and residence of the Lethieulliers. John Greene Lethieullier, Esq. sold it, in 1776, to Thomas Lucas, Esq. of Lee (fn. 29). The present proprietor is John Julius Angerstein, Esq. in right of his wife, who was relict of Mr. Lucas. It is now occupied as a farm.
Among the principal seats at Beckenham, are those of the Right Hon. Lord Auckland (purchased of J. A. Rucker, Esq.); Joseph Cator, Esq. (formerly Sir Piercy Brett's); Richard Henry Alexander Bennet, Esq.; and Edward King, Esq. F. R. A. S. author of Morsels of Criticism, tending to illustrate the Scriptures; and Dissertations on ancient Castles.
The parish church, dedicated to St. George, is a neat structure, consisting of a chancel, nave, and two aisles, both of which were built by Oliver Style, Esq. about the beginning of the last century. At the west end is a handsome spire, which was rebuilt a few years ago, having received great damage by lightning, on the 24th of December 1790.
Against the north wall of the chancel stands a table tomb, ornamented with lozenges, quatresoils, and foliage, in memory of Sir Humphrey Style and his wife Bridget, (daughter of Sir Thomas Bauldrey, Lord Mayor of London,) whose essigies in brass are fixed on the wall above, together with that of Elizabeth, second wife and relict of the deceased (daughter of George Peryn, Esq.). They are all habited in surcoats, on which are the arms of their families (fn. 30). Bridget Style died in 1548; Sir Humphrey, in 1552. On the same wall are the monuments of Benjamin Burdett (fn. 31), merchant, son of Robert Burdett, Esq. (second son of Sir Thomas Burdett, Bart.) by Mary, daughter of Nathan Wright, merchant, 1710; Ellen, daughter of George Fairclough, merchant, 1746; St. John Hare, Esq. 1750; and Mrs. Jane Clerke (fn. 32), 1757.—On the south wall are monuments in memory of Richard Acland (fn. 33), Esq. (brother of Sir Hugh Acland, Bart.), 1735; Ann, his wife, daughter of Peter Burrell, Esq. 1771; Stephen Holland, Esq. 1768; and Sir Piercy Brett, Admiral of the Blue, who died Oct. 14, 1781, in the seventy-second year of his age. On the floor, are the tombs of William Danyell, alias Malham, rector, 1458 (the inscription is on a brass plate with a Gothic canopy, but the effigies of the deceased has been removed); Dame Margaret, wife of Sir William Damsell, Knt. (with the effigies of the deceased in brass), 1563; Ellen Berney, her sister, daughter of John Berney, Esq. of Redham, Norfolk, (by his first wife Margaret, daughter of William Reade, Esq. of Beccles,) 1609; Elizabeth, wife of John Christmas (fn. 34), citizen of London, 1653; Richard Hale, and Sarah his wife, 1678; and —— Clarke, Esq. Elder Brother of the Trinity-house, 1769.
Under the south aisle (built by Oliver Style), is the burial-place belonging to Langley-house. On the north wall of this aisle, are the monuments of Sir Humphrey Style, Knt. and Bart. of England and Ireland, 1659; Thomas Style, LL. D. 1677; William Style, Esq. barrister at law (fn. 35), 1679; Humphrey Style, Esq. (fn. 36), 1718; Sir John Elwill (fn. 37), Bart. 1727; Elizabeth, his relict, only daughter and heir of Humphrey Style, 1731; (her monument was erected, pursuant to the will of Henry Bartelot, Esq. who died at Paris, in 1732). On the south wall is the monument of Hugh Raymond, Esq. (with a medallion of the deceased), 1737: on the east wall, that of Jones Raymond, Esq. 1768; and a very handsome monument, of various kinds of marble, (by Hickey,) erected by the late Sir William Burrell, Bart. in memory of his mother, Amy, widow of Peter Burrell, Esq. who died in 1789, aged 89. The bas-relief, in front of the sarcophagus, represents the deceased in the act of administering charity to the poor (fn. 38).
In the north aisle (built also by Oliver Style) is a handsome monument of veined marble, with a medallion of the deceased, in memory of Peter Burrell, Esq. 1756 (fn. 39) : there are monuments also of Peter Burrell, Esq. 1775; Sir Merrik Burrell, Bart. (fourth son of Peter Burrell, by Isabella, second daughter of John Merrik, Esq.), 1787; and Dudley Baxter, Esq. 1766. In the nave are monuments of Peter Burrell, Esq. (fn. 40), (ninth son of Walter Burrell, of Holmstead, in the parish of Cuckfield, Sussex,) 1718; Isabella his wife, daughter of John Merrik, Esq. 1725; and Osgood Gee, Esq. 1766. On the floor are the tombs of Arthur Heywood, 1617; Captain Leonard Bower, 1712; Captain Leonard Bower, 1717; Mrs. Ann Gater, 1745; and Mr. James Pillener, 1792.
Tombs in the churchyard.
Against the south wall of the chancel, on the outside, is a monument in memory of John Crane (no date), and Phœbe Blondel, wife of his son Stafford Crane, surgeon, (daughter of John Freke, surgeon,) 1745. In the churchyard are the tombs of Henry King, of Beckenham, Gent. 1520; Robert King, his son, 1555; Rose, wife of Captain Peter Renouf, 1719; Captain Stephen Jerom, 1723; the Rev. Epiphanius Holland, 1730; John Shish, Esq. 1732; Mary, wife of Samuel Wragg, merchant, 1737; Richard Holden, of Lincoln's-Inn, 1737; Captain Zachary Tovey, 1740; Benjamin Turton, 1747; Elizabeth, his daughter, wife of the Rev. Robert Nicholas, 1791; Mary, wife of Thomas Peache, 1751; John Peache, 1771; Mr. John Warriner, apothecary, 1753; Jefferson Miles, Esq. 1763; Edward Miles, Esq. 1777; Elizabeth, relict of Edward Miles, afterwards wife of Richard Forman, Esq. 1795; St. John Humphrey, 1764; John Willis, Esq. of Beddington-hall, Suffolk, 1764; Temperance, his wife, (only daughter and heir of Sir Edward Hannes, M. D. physician to Queen Anne,) 1765; Anne Isted, a child, "killed by the careless discharge of a pistol, at the distance of 337 yards," Aug. 25, 1766; Captain Thomas Motley, 1770; Anne, wife of Richard Neave, of London, merchant, 1776; the Rev. James Hales, rector of St. Anne, Limehouse, 1780; William Devisme, Esq. 1781; Elizabeth, his daughter, wife of the Rev. Edward Auriol Hay Drummond, 1790; Mrs. Alice Venables, 1789; and William Watson, Esq. 1795.
The church of Beckenham is a rectory in the diocese of Rochester, and in the deanery of Dartford. In the reign of Edward I. it was valued at 25 marks; in the King's books it is rated at 16l. 18s. 9d. The commissioners appointed to inquire into the state of ecclesiastical benefices, in 1650, found by their inquest, that the glebe belonging to this rectory was then worth 30l. per annum, and the tithes 110l. (fn. 41) The advowson of this benefice descended with the manor of Beckenham, till the year 1773, when Lord Bolingbroke sold the manor to Mr. Cator, reserving the advowson, which he afterwards alienated to Mr. Rose. It is now vested in his son, who is the present rector.
William Assheton, rector.
William Assheton, D. D. instituted to this rectory in 1676, was fellow of Brazen Nose College in Oxford. He published some practical and devotional tracts; several pamphlets against the Papists and diffenters, and some single sermons. He was the first projector of a scheme for providing a maintenance for widows by the benefit of survivorship (fn. 42). Dr. Assheton died at Beckenham in September 1711, and was there buried. A life of him was published by Mr. Watts, vicar of Orpington.
The present rector is the Rev. William Rose, M. A.; who, in 1778, succeeded William Fraigneau, Greek professor in the University of Cambridge; and vicar of Battersea.
The register of baptisms, burials, and marriages, begins in 1538.
Comparative state of population.
|Average of Baptisms.||Average of Burials.|
|1730–9||17 1/10||27 3/10|
The present number of houses is about 140.
In 1603, there were 24 burials; in 1625, one only is entered; in 1665, there were 18.
Extracts from the Register.
Family of Style.
"Bridget, daughter of Humphrey Style, baptized March 4, 1538–9; John, son of Sr Humphrey, Dec. 24, 1540; Oliver, Dec. 25, 1542; Nicholas, Jan. 12, 1545–6; Edward, Jan. 21, 1546–7; Bridget, wife of Sr Humphrey Style, buried June 9, 1548; Humphrey, son of Sr Humphrey, baptized July 11, 1550; Maria, his daughter, Mar. 19, 1551–2; Sr Humphrey Style, buried Apl 7, 1552. Mr. Thomas Townesend and the Lady Elizabeth Style, (widow of Sr Humphrey,) married June 27, 1558."
"Elizabeth, wife of Sr Humphrey Style, Knt and Bart, buried Dec. 27, 1641; Charles, his son (fn. 43), Feb. 6, 1653–4."
"Christian, daughter of Sr Henry Snelgar, Knt, buried Dec. 14, 1623; Chancy, his son, Decr 1624; Lettice, his wife, Jan. 9, 1624–5; Sr Henry Snelgrave (fn. 44), Knt, Mar. 11, 1638–9; Robert, his son, Apl 20, 1639."
"Nicholas Carew (fn. 45) of Beddington, and Ann Lennard, married Oct. 5, 1710."
Margaret Finch, Queen of the Gipsies.
Anecdotes relating to the Gipsies.
"Margaret Finch, buried Oct. 24, 1740." This remarkable person lived to the age of 109 years. She was one of the people called Gipsies, and had the title of their Queen. After travelling over various parts of the kingdom, during the greater part of a century, she settled at Norwood; whither her great age, and the same of her fortune-telling, attracted numerous visitors. From a habit of sitting on the ground, with her chin resting on her knees, the sinews at length became so contracted, that she could not rise from that posture; after her death they were obliged to inclose her body in a deep square box. Her funeral was attended by two mourning coaches; a sermon was preached upon the occasion, and a great concourse of people attended the ceremony. There is an engraved portrait of Margaret Finch, from a drawing made in 1739. Her picture adorns the sign-post of a house of public entertainment in Norwood, called the Gipsy-house (fn. 46). In an adjoining cottage lives an old woman, grandaughter of Queen Margaret, who inherits her title. She is niece of Queen Bridget, who was buried at Dulwich in 1768 (fn. 47). Her rank seems to be merely titular; I do not find that the Gipsies pay her any particular respect; or that she differs in any other respect, than that of being a householder, from the rest of her tribe. A few leading facts relating to this extraordinary race of people, who are scattered over most parts of Europe, Asia, and America, will, it is presumed, not be unacceptable in this place to my readers. The Gipsies are called, on most parts of the Continent, Cingari, or Zingari; the Spaniards call them Gitanos. It is not certain when they first appeared in Europe; but mention is made of them in Hungary and Germany, so early as the year 1417. Within ten years afterwards, we hear of them in France, Switzerland, and Italy (fn. 48). The date of their arrival in England is more uncertain; it is most probable, that it was not till nearly a century afterwards. In the year 1530, they are thus spoken of in the penal statutes: Forasmuch as before this time, divers and many outlandish people, calling themselves Egyptians, using no craft nor feat of merchandize, have come into this realm, and gone from shire to shire, and place to place, in great company, and used great subtil and crafty means to deceive the people; bearing them in hand that they, by palmistry, could tell men's and women's fortunes; and so, many times, by craft and subtilty, have deceived the people of their money; and also have committed many heinous selonies and robberies, to the great hurt and deceit of the people they have come among," &c. This is the preamble to an act, by which the Gipsies were ordered to quit the realm under heavy penalties. Two subsequent acts, passed in 1555 and 1563, made it death for them to remain in the kingdom; and it remains on record, that thirteen were executed under these acts, at the assizes for the county of Suffolk, a few years before the Restoration. It was not till about the year 1783 that they were repealed. The Gipsies were expelled France in 1560; and Spain in 1591: but it does not appear that they have been extirpated in any country. Their collective numbers, in every quarter of the globe, have been calculated at 7 or 800,000 (fn. 49). They are most numerous in Asia, and in the northern parts of Europe. Various have been the opinions relating to their origin. That they came from Egypt, has been the most prevalent: this opinion (which has procured them here the name of Gipsies, and in Spain that of Gitanos) arose from some of the first who arrived in Europe pretending that they came from that country; which they did, perhaps, to heighten their reputation for skill in palmistry and the occult sciences. It is now, I believe, pretty generally agreed, that they came originally from Hindostan (fn. 50); since their language so far coincides with the Hindostanic, that even now, after a lapse of more than three centuries, during which they have been dispersed in various foreign countries, nearly one-half of their words are precisely those of Hindostan; and scarcely any variation is to be found in vocabularies procured from the Gipsies in Turkey, Hungary, Germany, and those in England (fn. 51). Their manners, for the most part, coincide, as well as their language, in every quarter of the globe where they are found; being the same idle, wandering set of beings, and seldom professing any ostensible mode of livelihood, except that of fortune-telling. Their religion is always that of the country in which they reside; and though they are no great frequenters either of mosques or churches, they generally conform to rites and ceremonies as they find them established (fn. 52). Upon the whole, we may certainly, as Grellman says (fn. 53), "regard the Gipsies as a singular phenomenon in Europe; for the space of between three and four hundred years they have gone wandering about like pilgrims and strangers, yet neither time nor example has made in them any alteration; they remain ever, and every where, what their fathers were; Africa makes them no blacker, nor does Europe make them whiter."
"Mr. Richard Hoare (afterwards Sr Richard Hoare, Bart.) and Frances Ann Acland, married May 7, 1761."
Sir Piercy Brett.
"Sr Piercy Brett, Knt, buried Oct. 25, 1781." This brave officer was son of Mr. Piercy Brett, master attendant, successively, of the dockyards at Sheerness and Chatham. He served as Lieutenant on board the Centurion in Lord Anson's voyage; and commanded the detachment which took Payta, Nov. 10, 1741. He was made a Post-Captain before his return home. The drawings referred to in the printed narrative of that voyage, were taken by him. When commander of the Lion, he had a memorable engagement with the Elizabeth, which was convoying the young Pretender to Scotland, and obliged her to return to Brest totally disabled. He was knighted in 1753, and made a Rear Admiral in 1761; but was never in any active service after he became a flag-officer. Sir Piercy Brett was for some time representative in parliament for Queenborough in Kent. He married Henrietta, daughter of Thomas Colby, Esq. clerk of the Cheque at Chatham, by whom he had two sons, who died young, and one daughter, Henrietta. Lady Brett was buried at Beckenham Aug. 31, 1788. Sir Piercy Brett resided, during the latter part of his life, at the house which is now the seat of Joseph Cator, Esq.
Family of Eden, Lord Aukland.
"George, son of William Eden, Esq. (now Ld Aukland) and Eleanor, born Aug. 25, 1784; Mary Dulcibella, daughter of the Rt Hon. Wm Ld Aukland and Eleanor his Lady, born Sep. 2, 1793; Henry Eden, aged 8 years, buried June 16, 1794."
"Sr John Edward Swinburne of Capheaton, Northumberland, Bart, and Emilia Elizabeth Bennet (fn. 54), married July 13, 1787."
"Robert Fox, aged 55 years, Thomas Fox, aged 7 years, and Robert Fox, aged 6 years, buried Jany 2d, 1794. N. B. These three persons were suffocated by wood-ashes being placed in their bed-rooms to dry the walls, which were new."
Instances of longevity.
"Old Elizabeth Prowden, aged, as is reported, nigh 100 years, buried Augst 10, 1678; Richard Easland, parish clerk, aged 90, Feb. 20, 1699–700; Frances Dean, from the workhouse, aged 93 years, Jany 24, 1793; Nathaniel Hinge, aged 91, July 13, 1794."
At the south-east corner of the churchyard are three small almshouses, erected by Anthony Rawlins, Esq. in 1694, for the use of the poor; they have no endowment.
Charity for the education of children.
Capt. Leonard Bower (fn. 55) gave the sum of 100l. for the education of poor children. There has been no other benefaction for this purpose; nor is there any public subscription or collection for a school, but most of the children of the poor, to the number of three-score and upward, are educated by private charity.
Benefaction to the poor.
Mrs. Mary Wragg, who died in 1737, about ten years before her death, purchased an annuity of 15l. per annum, which she directed to be thus appropriated:
To the curate, on condition that he fees her tomb kept clean, 1l. 1s.
The same sum for an annual dinner for the curate, clerk, and parish officers.
The sum of 12l. 10s. when not wanted for the repairs of her vault, to be divided between 20 poor persons, and thus distributed in equal proportions to each:—Eighteen pennyworth of good bread; five shillings worth of coals, and 4s. 6d. in money. If a part of the said sum should be wanted for repairs, the remainder to be distributed among poor persons as far as it will go, in like manner.
The residue of the 15l. above mentioned, being 8s. to the clerk, to keep the vault clean, and to repair the rails and the door.