Parishes: Otford

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.

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Edward Hasted, 'Parishes: Otford', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3, (Canterbury, 1797), pp. 19-31. British History Online [accessed 19 June 2024].

Edward Hasted. "Parishes: Otford", in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3, (Canterbury, 1797) 19-31. British History Online, accessed June 19, 2024,

Hasted, Edward. "Parishes: Otford", The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3, (Canterbury, 1797). 19-31. British History Online. Web. 19 June 2024,

In this section


NEXT to Shoreham southward lies OTFORD, called in Saxon, OTTANFORD, in the book of Domesday, OTEFORT, and in the Textus Roffensis, OTTEFORD; for it is observable, that the syllable an, when it is the second in the Saxon name of a place, is generally left out in our modern pronunciation. (fn. 1)

OTFORD PARISH is about nine miles in circumference, and contains about two thousand four hundred acres of land, of which about seventy are woodland. It lies for the greatest part of it in a low damp situation, which makes it far from being pleasant, and gives it a lonely and gloomy appearance, and in all probability it would have been but little known had it not been for the residence of the archbishops at it for such a length of time. In the valley much of it is meadow land, and though the rivulets and springs throughout it render it very moist and marshy, yet it is here rather fertile. Towards Sevenoke the soil becomes sandy, and on the eastern and western hills it is entirely chalk mixed with flint stones, and is in general very barren. The river Darent runs through it northward, and it is otherwise watered by two other streams which join the river here. Hence the chalk hills rise on each side towards the east and west. The high road from Dartford to Sevenoke goes through the village of Otford, which stands at the foot of the chalk hills in the valley, not far from the eastern banks of the Darent, across which another road branches off from the village towards Chevening. At the entrance of the village from Eynsford, stood till lately, an antient seat, seemingly of the time of queen Elizabeth, which carried with it the appearance of its former opulence.

It seems formerly to have been known by the name of Colletwell, and to have been for many years the residence of the Petty's; several of whom lie buried in this church, after which it for some time remained uninhabited and dropping into ruin. From the heirs of the above family it passed at length by sale to George Lake, esq. whose sister Mary, about 1790; sold it to Mr. James Martyr, who pulled the whole of it down, and built a good genteel house on the scite of it, in which he now resides. On the opposite or southern side are the ruins of the archiepiscopal palace, and near them the church. Here was a seat inhabited for many years by a branch of the family of Petley, and another by a branch of the Polhill family. David Polhill, esq. the last of that name, began to rebuild this house, intending to reside in it, but he again pulled it down before it was quite finished. The scite of it, with a considerable estate in this parish, is now in the possession of his son Charles Polhill, esq. of Chepsted.

The liberty of the duchy of Lancaster claims over a part of this parish. A fair is held here on the 24th of August, for pedlary ware, &c.

Antient history makes mention of two famous battles fought at Otford, one of which happened among the Saxons themselves, contending for glory and supreme sovereignty, the other between the Danes and Saxons, for their lands, lives, and liberties.

The first of these was fought in the year 773, when Offa, king of Mercia, having already joined to his dominion most part of Wessex and Northumberland; and perceiving the weak estate of the kingdom of Kent, thought it a fair opportunity to subdue it, and add it to his own domains. In consequence of which he invaded it, and fought a famous battle with Aldric, king of Kent, at this place; and though Offa gained the victory, yet it was not without great slaughter on both sides. (fn. 2)

The other battle was fought in 1016, when king Edmund, surnamed Ironside, passing the river Thames with his army, marched after Canute, the Danish king, through Surry, into Kent, and encountering the Danes at this place, made a great slaughter of them; after which he pursued them as far as Aylesford, in their rout to the Isle of Shepey, and had he not desisted from the pursuit there, through the treacherous advice which was given him, he would, in all probability, in the compass of that day, have made the victory compleat over their whole army.

The fields here are full of the remains of those slain in these battles; bones are continually discovered in them, particularly when the new turnpike road which leads from Eynsford, through Otford, to Sevenoke, was widened in 1767, many skeletons were found in the chalk banks on each side of it.

Mr. Polhill has a field in this parish, called Dane Field, which most probably was the spot on which the last-mentioned battle with the Danes was fought.

IN THE YEAR 791, Offa, king of Mercia, whose gifts to the British churches and monasteries in general were great and munificent, gave Otteford to the church of Canterbury; (fn. 3) soon after which one Werhard, a powerful priest, and kinsman to archbishop Wlfred, found means to gain the possession of it; but, at the command of the archbishop in 830, he by his last will, restored this place, then estimated at ten hides, again to the church of Canterbury; part of the possessions of which it remained at the coming of Lanfranc to that see, in the 4th year of the Conqueror's reign, anno 1070; who, when he divided the manors and possessions belonging to his church, (fn. 4) reserved Otford to the use of himself and his successors, and it remained in the archbishop's possession at the taking the survey of Domesday, in which record it is thus entered, under the title of Terra Archiepi Cantuariensis, i. e. the land of the archbishop of Canterbury.

The archbishop himself holds Otefort in demesne. It was taxed at 8 sulings. The arable land is 42 carucates; in demesne there are 6 carucates. There are 100 and one villein, with 18 borderers, having 45 carucates; there are 8 servants, and 6 mills of 72 shillings, and 50 acres of meadow. There is wood for the pannage of 150 hogs.

Of this manor three Thaines (fn. 5) hold 1 suling and an half, and there they have in demesne 3 carucates, and 16 villeins, with 11 borderers, having 4 carucates. There are 5 servants, and 2 mills of 24 shillings, and 28 acres of meadow, wood for the pannage of 30 hogs. The whole value of it, in the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, was . . . . Now the demesne of the archbishop is rated at 60 pounds, of the Thaines 12 pounds; what Richard de Tonbridge holds in his lowy is rated at 10 pounds.

From this period of time Otford continued part of the possessions of the see of Canterbury, till archbishop Cranmer, in the 29th year of king Henry VIII. conveyed the manor, lordship, and seignory of Otford, and the manor of Otford Stuyens, alias Sergeants Otford, with the chapel of Otford annexed to the parsonage of Shoreham, and all other his estates in Otford, among other premises, in exchange to that king.

This manor, lordship, and seignory of Otford coming thus into the king's possessions, appears thenceforth to have been stiled the HONOR OF OTFORD, having a high steward appointed to preside over it, and it remained with the view of frank-pledge, and the courts and law days of it, in the hands of the crown at the death of king Charles I. in 1648. After which the powers then in being seized on the royal estates; and passed an ordinance to vest them in trustees, in order to their being surveyed, and sold to supply the necessities of the state.

Accordingly, in 1650, the honour of Otford was surveyed, when it was returned, that there belonged to it several court leets, within the hundreds of Codsheath, Sommerdenne, Sherborne Borough, and Kingsborough; all adjacent hundreds to this honour.

That there belonged to it a three weeks court held at Otford, wherein actions not above forty shillings were tried and determined. (fn. 6)

After the above survey, the honour of Otford was sold by the state to Edward Sexby, and Samuel Clerke, with whom it remained till the restoration of king Charles II. when the possession of it again returned to the crown, where it continues at this time.

The high stewardship of the honour of Otford has been from time to time granted by the crown to divers of the nobility and gentry of this county. John-Frederick, duke of Dorset, is the present high steward of it.

The archbishops of Canterbury had, from the earliest accounts, a HOUSE Or PALACE here, in which they resided from time to time, as appears by their frequent mandates, dated from their manor house of Otford, being a most commodious and favorite retirement for them; adjoining to which they had two large parks, extensive woods, and other lands for their pleasure and convenience, in their own possession.

Archbishop Thomas Becket seems to have been greatly pleased with the retired situation of this palace, and several tales are told of the miracles he wrought whilst at it; among others, that the archbishop finding the house wanted a fit spring to water it, stuck his staff into the dry ground, and that water immediately burst forth, where the well called from thence St. Thomas's Well, now is, which afterwards plentifully supplied the palace.

Here that great prelate archbishop Robert Winchelsea entertained king Edward I. in his 29th year, anno 1300, (fn. 7) and he resided here at the time of his death in the 6th year of king Edward II. anno 1313, (fn. 8) at which time it appears that there was a park here, which extended into Sevenoke parish, for four years afterwards the succeeding archbishop, Walter Reynolds, had the king's licence to purchase lands in that parish towards the enlarging of it, (fn. 9) but this afterwards not being thought by one of his successors, archbishop Simon Islip, sufficient for his accommodation, he with the king's licence purchased lands and meadows here, in the 33d and 34th years of king Edward III's reign, in order to be inclosed with other lands by the archbishop, and for another park to be made here, since known by the name of the Lesser or Little Park. (fn. 10)

Archbishop Deane, who came to the see in the 16th year of king Henry VII. rebuilt great part of this house; notwithstanding which, his immediate successor, (fn. 11) archbishop Warham, thinking the house too mean for him to reside in, as he intended to do, on account of his quarrel with the citizens of Canterbury, rebuilt the whole of it, excepting the hall and the chapel, at the expence of 33,000l. a large sum at that time, and here he entertained that splendid prince king Henry VIII. who rested with the archbishop at it several times both in the 1st and 7th years of his reign. (fn. 12) His next successor, archbishop Cranmer, observing that this stately palace excited the envy of the courtiers, passed it away, with his other estates in this parish, in exchange, in the 29th year of that reign, to the king, as has been already mentioned.

After this palace, with its parks and appurtenances, had thus come into the king's possessions, he kept the mansion with the two parks, called the Greater and Lesser, or Little Park, and the woods and lands belonging to this estate in his own hands, and soon afterwards purchased of a descendant of Sir Edward Bo rough, the manor of Danehull, in this parish, formerly possessed by the Cobhams of Sterborough, which he laid into his park here, all which continued pretty entire in the crown till king Edward VI. in his last year, and queen Elizabeth, afterwards made several grants of different parts of it. But the former in that year granted the little park of Otford, then lately disparked, to Sir Henry Sidney, as will be further mentioned below, and the latter in her 34th year granted to his son, Sir Robert Sidney, the scite of the honour of Otford, the archbishop's house commonly called the Castle, and the greater park, containing seven hundred acres, lying in Otford, Seal, and Kemsing; in the 15th year of king James I. bearing then the title of lord Sidney, he was created lord viscount Lisle, and that same year, with Barbara his wife, Sir Robert Sidney his son, and others his trustees, conveyed the whole of the above mentioned premises to Sir Thomas Smith, second son of Customer Smith, in whose descendants they continued down to Sir Sidney Stafford Smythe, chief baron of the exchequer, who died in 1778, as did his widow lady Sarah Smythe, in 1790, and by her will devised this estate, consisting of the ruins of the palace, and three farms, called the Place, Great Lodge, and Greatness farms, containing about eight hundred and sixty acres of land, in trust, to be sold for the benefit of her nephews and nieces, which they were accordingly, next year, to Robert Parker, esq. of Maidstone, in which situation they still continue.

Most probably the palace was demolished, and the lands of the Greater Park disparked soon after the grant of them to Sir Thomas Smith. It stood behind the present ruins more to the south. There is nothing left of the mansion itself, but vast heaps of rubbish and foundations, which cover near an acre of ground. The present ruins were part of the outer court, the two remaining towers of which were not many years ago two stories higher, but the roof of the largest which was covered with lead falling in, the uppermost story of each was taken down.

THE MANOR OF SERJEANTS OTFORD, with the LITTLE PARK, part of those possessions likewise granted by the archbishop to king Henry VIII. as mentioned before, remained in the crown till king Edward VI. in the 7th year of his reign, granted to Sir Henry Sidney, his park, called the Little Park of Otford, lately disparked, and his lands, meadows, &c. inclosed within it, parcel of the honour of Otford, for the term of thirty years, which lease was renewed anno 10 queen Elizabeth. After his death, his eldest surviving son, Sir Robert Sidney, by letters patent, in the 44th year of that reign, had a grant in see of the manor of Otford Stuyens, alias Sergeants Otford, the little park, and other premises here, late belonging to the see of Canterbury, at the yearly rent of thirty pounds. (fn. 13) This manor came afterwards to be possessed in undivided thirds, by Mompesson, Hyde, and Wall. The two former sold their shares to Sir Thomas Farnaby, bart. of Kippington, in Sevenoke, whose son, Sir Charles Farnaby Radcliffe, bart. is the present possessor of them. The other third part of this manor descended from the Rev. Dr. William Wall, vicar of Shoreham, whose only daughter and heir, Catherine, married Mr. Waring, and had by him eight sons and eight daughters, to his grandson, Mr. Sampson Waring, of Rochester, who, some few years ago, sold it to Sir Jeffry Amherst, K.B. since created lord Amherst, baron of Holmsdale, and he is the present owner of it. By the name of Park-fields, which several lands, now belonging to Charles Polhill, esq. between the village and the river Darent, have immemorially been called by, it should seem that he is owner of some part of the lands formerly inclosed within these parks of Otford.

But the little or Lesser Park, lying on the north side of this parish, and parted on the west side by the river from that of Shoreham, now claims the reputation of a manor, and is called OTFORD NEW PARK. It has been for some years possessed by the family of Bostock, and is now the property of the Rev. Stillman Bostock, of East Grinsted, in Sussex.

RYE-HOUSE is an estate here, which was formerly accounted a manor, and seems in the reign of king Edward III. to have been owned by John At-Welle and Robert William; for they had, in the 46th year of it, the king's licence to assign four marcs yearly rent, issuing out of certain tenements, called Le Rye, in Otford, held of the archbishop, to Adam Fleming, chaplain, and his successors, celebrating divine offices in the chapel of Apuldrefelde, for the good state of the king whilst he lived, and for his foul afterwards. (fn. 14)

This estate afterwards came into the name of Palmer, ancestors to those of Bekesborne, who bore for their arms, Argent, a chevron sable, between three palmers scrips or purses of the second, stringed and tasselled or

One of this family, John Palmer, died possessed of the manor of Le Rye, in Otford, in the second year of king Richard III. his descendant, of the same name, conveyed it by sale to king Henry VIII. in the 30th year of his reign; (fn. 15) who, in his 33d year, demised it to John Walker, yeoman, for a term of years; after which the family of Bosville had the see of this estate, in which name it continued down to Henry Bosville, esq. of Bradborne, in Sevenoke, who dying without issue, in 1761, devised this estate, among others, to his kinsman, Sir Richard Betenson, bart who dying, without issue, it came by the limitation of the same will to Thomas Lane, esq. who is the present possessor of it. (fn. 16)

Sir George Harper, anno 33 king Henry VIII. conveyed to that king a messuage, called BROUGHTON'S, and other premises in Otford, in exchange for lands in Essex; (fn. 17) all which were granted in the 1st and 2d of king Philip and queen Mary, (fn. 18) to Humphrey Colwych, to hold in capite by knights service.

The Polhills afterwards became owners of this estate; David Polhill levied a fine of it in the 16th year of queen Elizabeth, in whose descendants this estate has continued down to Charles Polhill, esq. the present owner of it.


In the rolls of the 13th of king Henry III. there is mention made of an hospital, or house of leprous persons here. (fn. 19)

SIR THOMAS SMITH, gave by will, in 1625, to six poor persons who do not receive alms, and frequent divine service, bread to be delivered to them weekly, to be paid out of land, vested in the Skinners company, now of the annual produce of 5l. 10s.

ONE OF THE FAMILY OF POLHILL gave by will, 20s. yearly, to be distributed among the poor, at the discretion of the trust, parish officers, to be paid out of land vested in Mr. Polhill, and now of that annual produce.

JOHN CHARMAN by will, gave 20s. yearly, for the like purpose, to be paid out of land, vested in Mr. Amhurst, as trustee of the children of Mr. Richard Round, deceased, and of that annual produce.

OTFROD is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and being a chapel to Shoreham, is a peculiar of the archbishop of Canterbury, and consequently in that deanry.

The church, which is situated at the east end of the village, near the palace, is dedicated to St. Bartholomew, a saint of great credit here for the gift of curing barrenness in women, which caused great resort of people to his image and shrine in this church; and a fair was held at Otford on his anniversary. It consists of two isles and one chancel, having a pointed steeple at the west end, in which are two bells.

Among other monuments and memorials in this church, in the south isle, on the south side, is a mural monument, of elegant sculpture, with a busto of statuary marble, and inscription, for David Polhill, esq. of Cheapstead, son of Thomas Polhill, esq. of Otford, by Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Ireton, by Bridget, daughter of Oliver Cromwell; he was one of the Kentish petitioners in king William III.'s reign, obt. M.P. for Rochester, and keeper of the records in the Tower, in 1754, æt. 80; he married three wives, first Elizabeth, daughter of Thomas Trevor, esq. of Glynd, in Sussex; secondly Gertrude, sister of Thomas Holles, duke of Newcastle, who both died, s. p. thirdly, Elizabeth, daughter of John Borret, esq. of Shoreham, by whom he had four sons and one daughter; he left surviving Charles and Elizabeth; arms at top, Polhill with impalements; several memorials for the Rounds and Mainards. In the south chancel, a memorial for William Sidney and Alice his wife, descended from William Sydney lord of Kingsham, by Chichester, and of Isabella St. John, daughter of lord St. John, obt 1625; arms, a pheon; memorials for the Everests and Pettys. In the great chancel, on the north side, a magnificent monument, with the statue of a gentleman, as large as life, standing and leaning on an urn, over him is the head of a lady, in profile, with figures of statuary marble on each side, most beautifully executed; and a memorial for Charles Polhill, esq. youngest son of Thomas Polhill, esq. by Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Ireton, ob. 1755; he married Martha, daughter of Thomas Streatfield, esq. of Sevenoke, by whom he had no issue. Memorials for Bostock and Brasiers; a memorial on the south side of the altar for Robert Polhill, gent. of Otford, son of John and Jane, of Otford, obt. 1699, æt. 57; arms, Polhill. On the north side of the altar is an antient altar tomb, with an arch in the wall, ornamented with Gothic carved work, but the inscription is lost. In the east window is a shield of arms, Lennard, in stained glass, being or on a sess gules, three fleurs de lis of the field, with quarterings, in the middle a mullet for difference. At the end of the chancel a mural monument for George Petty and Anne his wife, daughter of John Polhill, esq. of Otford, he died 1719, and for Robert their eldest son, obt. 1727.

The chapel of Otford, annexed to the parsonage of Shoreham, was part of the antient possessions of the see of Canterbury, and continued so till the same was exchanged by archbishop Cranmer with Henry VIII. in the 29th year of his reign, as has been mentioned before.

King Edward VI. in his 1st year, granted the parsonage and advowson of Shoreham, with this chapel of Otford, to Sir Anthony Denny, to hold in capite by knights service, who presently exchanged the same with the dean and chapter of St. Peter's, Westminster, for the advowson and patronage of Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire. (fn. 20)

By virtue of the commission of enquiry into the value of church livings, in 1650, issuing out of chancery, it was returned, that Otford was a parsonage, rented at one hundred pounds per annum, the house and glebe of which was worth fourteen pounds per annum beyond that sum. (fn. 21)

It is an appropriation, now belonging to the dean and chapter of Westminster, the present lessee being the Right Hon. the lord Willoughby de Brooke.

The curate of this church, in 1719, had a stipend of twenty pounds per annum. In 1724, the dean and chapter of Westminster augmented this curacy with two hundred pounds. (fn. 22)

Church Of Otford.

Or by whom presented.
Haddock, in 1680.
Hunter, in 1687.
William Smith, 1690.
Hugh Pugh, 1719. (fn. 23)
Thomas Norbury, obt. 1741.
William Winder, A. M. 1741, obt. Oct. 30, 1790.
George Nathaniel Woodross, 1790.
Present curate.


  • 1. Camd. Brit. p. 128, 223.
  • 2. Camd. Brit. p. 223. Lamb. Peramb. p. 563.
  • 3. Dugd. Mon. vol. i. p. 19.
  • 4. See above, vol. ii. p. 99.
  • 5. These were knights who owed military service.
  • 6. Parl. Surv. Aug. Off. Box A 21. Roll of Partic. H. 22.
  • 7. Prynne's Records, p. 883.
  • 8. Weever, p. 221.
  • 9. Tan. Mon. p. 199.
  • 10. Ibid. p. 200.
  • 11. Weever, p. 231. Lamb. Peramb. p. 566, 568.
  • 12. Rym. Fæd. vol. xiii. p. 259, 263, and 516.
  • 13. Rolls of Patric. temp. interregni.
  • 14. Pat. 46 Edw. III. ps. 2, m. 19. See Reg. Ross. p. 513.
  • 15. Rot. Esch. Aug. Off. inrol. Box. B. 39.
  • 16. See Bradborne in Sevenoke, for a farther account of the families of Bosville and Betenson.
  • 17. Aug. Off. Box C. 25. Rot. Esch. ejus an. pt. 12.
  • 18. Camb. Brit. p. 223. Lamb. Peramb. p. 563.
  • 19. Tan. Mon. p. 222.
  • 20. Chauncy's Hertfordsh. p. 299.
  • 21. Parl. Surv. Lam. lib. vol. xix.
  • 22. Ect. Thes. p. 387.
  • 23. Also vicar of Birling.