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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'Plumstead', in The Environs of London: Volume 4, Counties of Herts, Essex and Kent, (London, 1796) pp. 537-545. British History Online [accessed 19 April 2024]




Quantity of land, and how occupied.



This village lies in the hundred of Little and Lesnes, at the distance of ten miles from London, and one from Woolwich. The parish is bounded by Woolwich, Eltham, East-Wickham, Erith, and by the river Thames. It contains about 2380 acres of land; of which about 510 are arable, about 400 woodland, about 980 marsh (fn. 1), 100 upland pasture; about 90 market gardens, (including about 50 usually cultivated for green peas,) about 100 acres in orchards (fn. 2), and about 200 waste. The soil is various; but in the uplands principally gravel: there are some chalk-pits. This parish pays the sum of 418l. to the land-tax, which is at the rate of about 1s. 9d. in the pound.

Market and fair.

Plumstead had formerly a market on Tuesdays, and an annual fair for three days, on the eve and festival of St. Nicholas, and the day after (fn. 3).

The manor.

King Edgar, in the year 960, gave the manor of Plumstead to the abbot and convent of St. Augustine in Canterbury (fn. 4). It was taken from them by Godwin Earl of Kent, who gave it to his son Tostan. Edward the Confessor restored it to the monastery (fn. 5); but on his death, in 1066, it was again seized by Tostan; who was afterwards slain in rebellion against his brother Harold, and all his estates seized. King William gave this manor to Odo Bishop of Baieux and Earl of Kent; who was persuaded, through the intercession of Archbishop Lanfranc, to restore a moiety of it to the abbot and convent of St. Augustine, which grant of the Bishop's was confirmed by the Conqueror's charter (fn. 6). In 1074, he gave the other moiety (fn. 7) to the monastery; from which time the monks continued in uninterrupted possession of both till the dissolution of their convent. King Henry VIII. granted it, in 1539, to Sir Edward Boughton (fn. 8); of whose descendants it was purchased, in 1685, by John Michel, Esq. of Richmond in Surrey (fn. 9); who, by his will, bearing date 1736, devised this manor, with other estates, to the provost and scholars of Queen's College in Oxford, for the purpose of maintaining eight master fellows and four bachelor scholars, to which were added in 1769, by an Act of Parliament, four undergraduate exhibitioners.

The abbey of St. Augustine had a grant from King John of very extensive liberties and privileges within this manor, which have been confirmed and enlarged by the charters of succeeding monarchs (fn. 10). The manor of Plumstead, for which a court-leet and court-baron are held, extends over this parish and a part of East-Wickham. The feefarm rent of 4l. to which it has been subject since the grant of Henry VIII. is now, in consequence of alienations of lands, parcel of the manor, by the Boughtons, paid partly by Queen's College, and partly by other land-owners (fn. 11). Sir Edward Boughton, in 1540, procured and Act of Parliament for disgavelling his lands at Plumstead and elsewhere (fn. 12).

Manor of Borwash, or Burwash-Court.

Bartholomew Lord Burgherst, who died in 1355, was seised of an estate called in the inquisition then taken, the manor of Plumstead (fn. 13), since the manor of Borwash, or Burwash-Court. His son sold it, in 1369, to Sir Walter Paveley, K. G. (fn. 14) After this it passed, in the same manner as Foxgrove in Beckenham, to the families of Vaux and Grene (fn. 15). Sir Thomas Grene died seised of it in 1465 (fn. 16). Thomas Grene, Esq. sold it, in the reign of Henry VIII. to Sir Edward Boughton (fn. 17); whose descendants, about the middle of the last century, aliened it to Mr. Rowland Wilson (fn. 18); Mr. Wilson's daughter married, first, Dr. Crisp (fn. 19), and afterwards Colonel Rowe (fn. 20) of Hackney. The daughter and heir of Sir Rowland Crisp, in whom this estate became vested, married Nathaniel Macey, Esq. who left a daughter and heir, married to James Pattison, Esq. The present proprietor of the manor of Burwash is John Martin, Esq. who married a daughter of the late Nathaniel Pattison, Esq. The manor-house is situated in the western part of the parish, adjoining to Woolwich, and has an avenue of trees leading up to it.

Manor of Borstall, Borstall, or Boston.

The manor of Borstall, or Bostall, now called Boston (fn. 21), was, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the property of John Cutte, who, in 1504, sold it to the abbot and convent of Westminster (fn. 22). It was afterwards, when the convent was dissolved, made parcel of the possessions of the Dean and Chapter (fn. 23), who leased it to Sir Edward Peckham; but, in the year 1545, in consideration of their being discharged from the maintenance of certain students in the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, they conveyed this manor to the King (fn. 24); who, the same year, granted it to John Wilkinson (fn. 25). In 1546, she obtained a licence to alien it to Thomas Bowes, Gent. and the heirs of Martin Bowes his father (fn. 26). In the year 1567, it was aliened by Thomas Bowes to George and John Barne (fn. 27). Elizabeth, daughter of the latter, having, in 1578, married Edward Altham, Esq. this manor was settled on them and their issue. (fn. 28). It was afterwards sold (but by whom or at what period I have not been able to learn) to the Clothworkers' Company, in whom it is now vested.

Manor of Plumstead Upland, or Acon.

In the year 1461, Richard Bond, clerk, and others, conveyed to the master and brethren of the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, a messuage, ninety acres of marsh land, sixty of arable, and fifty of wood, with certain rents and services, lately the property of John Erith, Gent. (fn. 29) This estate was purchased by Erith and his ancestors of various persons, principally by Robert Erith, in 1366, of Edmund Lambyn (fn. 30). After the surrender of the Hospital it was granted, by the name of the manor of Plumstead-Upland, late parcel of the possessions of the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, to Martin Bowes. (fn. 31). It was included in the alienation from Thomas Bowes to the Barnes. The subsequent descent I have not been able to learn, but it is probable that it passed with the manor of Bostall to the Clothworkers' Company.

Suffolk place-farm.

Suffolk-place-farm was sold, in 1535, by Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, to Sir Martin Bowes. It passed with Bostall to the Barnes and Althams. James (son of Sir Edward Altham, by his second wife Joan, daughter of Sir John Leventhorp, and grandson of Elizabeth Barne) sold it, in 1650, to Sir Robert Josselyn, Knt.; by whom it was conveyed, in 1665, to the Company for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England and parts adjacent (fn. 32); in which Company it is now vested.

Sir John Pulteney had an estate in this parish, called, in the inquisition taken after his death, (anno 1349,) the manor of Plumstead, which seems to have been the property of the Lambyns (fn. 33).

Plumstead-park-farm, a considerable estate in this parish, was purchased of the heirs of Mr. Joshua Lomax by —Derbyshire, who, in 1765, sold it to Mr. Curtis (fn. 34). It is now the property of Mr. Bouzer, of Fair-street in the Borough.

The church.


The parish church, dedicated to St. Nicholas, exhibits the architecture of various ages. The south wall, which is the most ancient, has some narrow, pointed windows. In the early part of the last century the roof fell in, and the church lay in a state of dilapidation for nearly twenty years; till at length it was repaired through the care and industry of Mr. John Gossage (fn. 35). The north aisle, which is of flint and stone, still continues in ruins. At the west end of this aisle stands a lofty tower, built of brick, and embattled. On the east wall of what is now the chancel (for the old chancel became dilapidated, and was never rebuilt) is the monument of Peter Denham, Esq. 1736: on the floor are the tombs of Anne, daughter of George Garth, Esq. of Morden, wife, first of Robert Grenewell, merchant, afterwards of Anthony Errington of Newcastle, merchant, ob. 1667; Mr. John Gossage, 1672; Helen, his wife, daughter of Robert Grenewell, 1668; Susanna, wife of Lieutenant Richard Somerfield of the Royal Artillery, daughter of Gabriel Rogers of Shrewsbury, 1719; Mrs. Mary Jones, daughter of Captain Edward Jones, 1719; and Mrs. Catherine Jones, her sister, 1721. On the east wall of the south aisle is the monument of John Denham (fn. 36), Esq. 1760: on the floor is an inscription, in Sexon characters, much worn, and the tombs of Benjamin Barnett, D. D. prebendary of Gloucester, and vicar of Plumstead, 1707; and Margaret, wife of Thomas Nugent, Esq. daughter of Hugh Parker, Esq. (eldest son of Sir Henry Parker, Bart.) 1748. On the north wall of the nave is an elegant monument to the memory of John Lidgbird, Esq. (fn. 37), of Shooter's-hill, 1771: on the floor are the tombs of Martha, wife of William Lord, 1741; Ellinor Feuilleteau, 1781; Mary Mac-dougal, 1787; Neil Campbell, Esq. 1790; and John Willett Stanley, 1793.

Tombs in the church yard.

In the churchyard are the tombs of John Withers, 1731; Susanna, wife of Thomas Stevens, Esq. 1738; John Hayward, Esq. her brother, 1741; John Hayward, Esq. 1745; Anne, wife of the Rev. Mr. Green, 1765; Thomas Ord, Esq. Colonel in the Royal Artillery, 1777; Mrs. Anne Edwards, 1781; the Rev. Beveridge Clendon, curate, 1781; Mr. Francis Bradley, 1783; John Innes, Colonel in the Artillery, 1783; General Goodwin of the Artillery, 1786; Mr. Humphrey Hayward, 1788; Griffith Williams, Esq. Colonel in the Artillery, 1790; Jane, his daughter, wife of Capt. George Lewis of the Artillery, 1792; Dodo Ecken, surgeon to the first battalion of Artillery, 1792; Mrs. Margaret Macleod, daughter of Colonel Angus Macleod, 1792; Captain Michael Dorset, 1792; Mrs. Burslem, wife of Captain Burslem of the Artillery, 1793; and Colonel Williamson of the Artillery, 1794.

Rectory and vicarage.

Plumstead is a vicarage in the diocese of Rochester, and in the deanery of Dartford. The great tithes were appropriated to the monastery of St. Augustine, near Canterbury, about the year 1260, for the use of their almonry (fn. 38). Long before this period the rectors of Plumstead had paid a pension of 10s. per annum to the convent for the same purpose; which pension, in 1236, was increased to 10l. or a certain equivalent portion of the great tithes (fn. 39). After the dissolution of monasteries the appropriated rectory, and the advowson of the vicarage, were granted to Sir Edward Boughton with the manor (fn. 40); from which, having been afterwards (about the year 1633 or 1634) separated (fn. 41), they were both (anno 1650) vested in the representatives of—Poole, then lately deceased.

At what time they became separated I have not been able to find. The tithes of corn and grain since the beginning of this century, or perhaps earlier, have been vested in the family of Denham, and are now, in right of his wife, the property of the Rev. Thomas Cookes, who married Anne, daughter of John Denham, Esq. The advowson of the vicarage was for some time the property of John Michel, Esq. who purchased the manor in 1685. It was sold by him some years before his death, and was afterwards in the families of Hodgson and Farr. It was purchased, in 1763, of Mrs. Abbott, daughter and heir of Mr. Farr, by Henry Kipling, Esq. (fn. 42), whose son, the Rev. Henry Kipling, is the present proprietor.

The vicarage was endowed in the year 1292, by a deed (fn. 43) enrolled in the Register-book of the monastery of St. Augustine, now in the library of Sir John Sebright, Bart.

The rectory of Plumstead was taxed at 44 marks in 1287; the vicarage at ten marks (fn. 44). In the King's books the vicarage is rated at 61. 18s. 4d. In 1650, it was valued at 140l. per annum (fn. 45).

The present vicar is the Rev. Henry Kipling, M. A. who succeeded Jukes Egerton in 1772.

Parish register.

The earliest date of any register of baptisms, burials, and marriages now extant, is 1654.

Comparative state of population.

Average of Baptisms. Average of Burials.
1680–9 11 16½
1730–9 19 1/10 282/5
1780–9 253/5 373/5
1790–4 314/5 382/5
1795 32 44

The disproportion of burials arises from the number of persons brought hither to be interred from other parishes, principally from Woolwich.

The present number of houses at Plumstead is about 120.

No burials are entered in 1665.

Extracts from the Register.

A dwarf.

"William Butler, a dwarf, two feet and a half in length, aged 40 years, buried July 25, 1737."

Instances of longevity.


"James Irwin, aged 94, buried Feb. 23, 1794; John Horton, aged 94, Mar. 26, 1794; John Roberts, aged 90, Feb. 1, 1796."

Jeffery Smith, in 1611, gave 40s. per annum to the poor of this parish. Mr. John Gossage, in 1672, gave 2l. 12s. per annum to be distributed in bread. Mrs. Hannah Scot, in 1677, gave to the poor of this parish the sum of 100l., to which her executor John Scot added 10l., which, with a small sum added by the parish, purchased a tenement with some land near Bromley, now let at 10l. per annum.


  • 1. In the year 1279, the abbot and convent of Lesnes inclosed the great marsh at Plumstead; and fourteen years afterwards, the smaller marsh. (Stow's Survey, 4to. p. 307.) From this time frequent commissions were issued by the Crown for viewing and repairing of the banks; notwithstanding which, in 1527, two great breaches were made by the river, the one at Plumstead, and the other at Erith; and it appears that, in 1563, there were above 2000 acres inundated in these two parishes. One Jacob Acontius, an Italian, undertook at that time to recover them, upon the terms of having half the lands so recovered. An Act of Parliament passed accordingly for that purpose; and a commission being appointed, a few years afterwards, to inquire into the progress of the work, it was found that, in 1566, 600 acres had been recovered. In 1587, the undertaking having meanwhile been in various hands, 1000 acres more had been secured; but still 500 remained under water. In 1606, an Act passed for vesting William Burrell with power for recovering these, on the same terms. Plumstead, and the other marshes in this neighbourhood, have long been under the direction of a Commission of Sewers, extending from Lumbard's wall, near Greenwich, to Gravesend.
  • 2. Principally cherry orchards.
  • 3. Cart. 54 Hen. III. m. 10.
  • 4. Regist Rossens. p. 520, 521.
  • 5. Ibid. 521.
  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. The two moieties are thus described in the survey of Doomsday:—The abbot has a manor named Plumstead, which was taxed at two fulings and one yoke. The arable land is . . . . On the demesne lands there is one plough. There are seventeen villans, and six cottars, who have six ploughs. There is pannage for five hogs. In the time of King Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, this manor was valued at 10l. It is now valued only at 12l. yet it yields 14l. 8s. 3d. The abbot of St. Augustine holds, under the Bishop of Baieux, Plumstead, which was taxed at two sulings and one yoke. The arable land is five carucates. There is one plough on the demesnes. There are seventeen villans and three cottars, who employ four ploughs. In King Edward's time this manor was valued at 10l. when it came into the possession of the convent at 8l., yet the tenant pays 12l. Brixi Cilt held it of King Edward.
  • 8. Pat. 30 Hen. VIII. pt. 6. Mar. 13.
  • 9. From the information of the Rev.—Thompson, Fellow of Queen's College.
  • 10. See Cart. 54 Hen. III. m. 10. Pat. 6 Edw. II. pt. 1. m. 10; and Cl 19 Edw. II. m. 15. King John's charter is recited in one of Edward the Second's grants. The principal rights and privileges granted by these charters, are the cognizance of all breaches of the peace; power of taking up and imprisoning thieves; toll on land and water; free-warren, view of frank-plege; a market and fair; the chattels of felons; the waif and wreck of the river, &c.
  • 11. See Hasted's Kent, vol. i. p. 181.
  • 12. Ibid. p. 180.
  • 13. Esch. 29 Edw. III. N°44.
  • 14. Philipott, p. 277.
  • 15. See Hasted; and p. 293 of this volume.
  • 16. Esch. 4 Edw. IV. N° 21.
  • 17. Hasted.
  • 18. Philipott, p. 277.
  • 19. Philipott, p. 277; most probably Dr. Tobias Crisp, D.D. who died in 1643, æt. 42.
  • 20. Philipott.—This I suppose was Colonel Owen Rowe, one of the regicides, who died in the Tower, and was buried at Hackney in 1661.
  • 21. Boston, or Bostall, is a hamlet of Plumstead, containing several houses.
  • 22. Pat. 18 Hen. VII. pt. 1. July 20. See also a very beautiful MS. in the British Museum, being an Indenture between the King and the Abbot and Convent of Westminster. Harl. MSS. N° 1498. fol. 54. b.
  • 23. Pat. 34 Hen. VIII. pt. 5. Aug. 5.
  • 24. Records in the Augmentation-office.
  • 25. Pat. 36 Hen. VIII. pt. 20. April 2.
  • 26. Pat. 37 Hen. VIII. pt. 8. July 5.
  • 27. Cl. 9 Eliz. pt. 10.
  • 28. Pat. 20 Eliz. pt. 3. Nov. 20.
  • 29. Register of the Hospital of St. Thomas of Acon, Cotton MSS. Brit. Mus. Tiberius, v. 4.
  • 30. Ibid.
  • 31. Pat. 31 Hen. VIII. pt. 5. Ap. 16.
  • 32. From an abstract of the title, obligingly communicated by Benjamin Way, Esq.
  • 33. See Cl. 15 Edw. III. pt. 3. m. 22.; and Esch. 23 Edw. III. N° 45.
  • 34. Hasted.
  • 35. It is so recorded on his tomb in Plumstead church.
  • 36. Arms—1 and 4. G. five lozenges conjoined in fesse Erm. 2 and 3. Quarterly, per fesse indented A. and S. in the first and fourth quarter a bugle-horn stringed of the second—Forster, impaling, A. a fesse checkey A. and G. between three falcons' heads erased of the last ducally gorged O.—Willyams. Mr. Denham married Jane daughter of Thomas Willyams, Esq. of Plaistow in Essex.
  • 37. Arms—Quarterly, G. and Az. a chevron Erm. in chief two eagles displayed Arg. in base a lion ramp. O. impaling Denham. He married Elizabeth, daughter of Peter Denham, Esq. Mr. Lidgbird built a handsome seat on the south side of Shooter'shill, in this parish, which still belongs to his family, and is in the occupation of John Stanley, Esq.
  • 38. Regist. Roffens. p. 522, 523. There appears to have been a rector as late as 1254.
  • 39. Regist. Roffens. 524, 525.
  • 40. William Boughton presented to the vicarage in 1619. Regist. Lambeth. Abbot, pt. 2. fol. 313, b. Edward Boughton was instituted to the vicarage in 1632. (Hasted). William Clapham was presented by William Clapham, sen. in 1635. Regist. Lamb. Laud, f. 231. a.
  • 41. Parliamentary Surveys, Lambeth.
  • 42. From the information of the Rev. Mr. Kipling.
  • 43. It is printed in the Decem Scriptores, fol. 2100.
  • 44. Hasted, vol. i. p. 189.
  • 45. Parliamentary Surveys.