The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 3. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1797.
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EASTWARD from Denton lies Merston, written in the Textus Roffensis, Merestune. This place takes its name from its situation, being flat and low, where the soil is naturally marshy. It is now grown so obscure as hardly to be known to any one to have been a parish.
THE PARISH of Merston is now esteemed as part of the parish of Shorne, as to its civil jurisdication, though as to its ecclesiastical state it still continues a separate parish. It has been assessed as part of Shorne, to the maintenance of the poor there, from the time of queen Elizabeth, as appears by the parish books. It lies at a small distance northward from the high London road at Gadshill, in the flat vale below it, and contains only one hundred and fifty acres of land, the soil of which is very fertile. As early as king Henry VI.'s reign this little parish seems to have been entirely destitute of inhabitants. The state of it, at the latter end of the last century, and even at this time, for it continues much the same, may be seen from the following description of it, taken mostly from the registers of the bishops of Rochester.
The parish of Merston contains about one hundred and fifty acres, and bounds to the parish of Shorne on three sides, and to that of Higham on the fourth. The place where the church once stood is now a wood, containing four or five acres, called Chapel wood, belonging to Green farm, situated almost in a direct line between the churches of Shorne and Higham, and not far westward from Shorne-green. Within this wood is a deep ditch or intrenchment, which seems to have been antiently a fortification; it is a square, containing about three acres, the sides of which lie according to the cardinal points of the compass; within it are many risings and inequalities, which might perhaps have been the foundations of buildings. In the eastern part of it, about fifteen paces from the ditch, seems to have been the scite of the church, some ruins of which are still remaining, by which it appears to have been fifteen paces long and seven broad; about ten rods southward from the west end of this scite is a very deep draw well. There is now no way or path remaining leading to this place but over the ploughed or pasture grounds.
MERSTON, alias GREEN MANOR, in the reign of king Henry III. was the property of John de Banstede, (fn. 1) but in the next reign of king Edward I. it was come into the possession of Robert de Sancto Claro, or St. Clere, who held it as one knight's see of Warine de Montchensie. (fn. 2)
In the reign of Edward III. the manor of Mereston was the estate of Sir Hugh Fitzsymond, who, in the 20th year of that reign, paid respective aid for it, as one knight's see, which Robert de St. Clere held here of Warine de Montchensie. After this family was extinct here, this manor came into the name of Smith, in which it remained till the beginning of the reign of king Henry VIII. when it was alienated to John Jor den, (fn. 3) who conveyed it by sale to Anthony Tuitysham, esq. and he sold it in that reign to George Brooke, lord Cobham, whose grandson, Sir John Brooke, (second son of Sir Henry Brooke, alias Cobham, fifth son of the above George lord Cobham) afterwards became possessed of it, and was, by king Charles I. in his 20th year, created baron of Cobham, in consideration of his loyalty and sufferings. He alienated this manor by the name of the manor of Green, alias Merston, to James Stuart, duke of Richmond, who died possessed of it in 1655, in whose family it continued down to Charles duke of Richmond, who died possessed of it in 1672, without issue, leaving Catherine, his only sister, his next heir, who married first Henry lord Obrien; and secondly Sir Joseph Williamson. Soon after which, in 1695, this among the rest of the late duke of Richmond's estates, was sold to pay his debts, and for other purposes; at which time this estate, which had lost even the reputation of being a manor, and was commonly known by the name of Green-farm, was purchased by Sir Joseph Williamson, since which it has passed, in the same succession of owners, in like manner as Cobham-hall, to the Right Hon. John earl of Darnley, the present owner of it.
THOMAS DANYE, of Shorne, by will in 1493, gave ten acres of land, lying together in the parish of Merston, to trustees, for the distribution of herrings, white and red, for ever in Lent.
MERSTON is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and being a peculiar of the archbishop, is as such in the deanry of Shoreham.
The church, which was dedicated to St. Giles, was formerly esteemed but as a chapel to the church of Shorne, as appears by the Textus Roffensis.
It has been long in ruins, probably soon after the reign of king Henry VI. The scite of it is still visible, and has been already described before. In the year 1455 there were no inhabitants remaining here, and as it was probable the church would in future continue without parishioners, and the income of this benefice being worth no more than thirty shillings coibs. annis, which was not a sufficient maintenance for any chaplain, and there having been no parsonage house, or manor house of the patron, or any other for a number of years before, therefore John, then bishop of Rochester, granted his licence to John Hedon, chaplain, rector of this church, that he for the furture should not be obliged to reside or exercise the cure of souls here, till parishioners should resort hither to dwell, who would most likely be willing and able to provide a sufficient maintenance for him; and further, that he might freely and lawfully receive, posses, and retain for his maintenance any ecclesiastical stipend, service, or salary, either for a certain time, or perpetual, with cure or without. But as the church was then standing, the bishop injoined, that he, or some one for him, should celebrate mass and other divine offices yearly in it, on the feast of St. Giles, confessor and abbot, in whose honor it was dedicated, and in the mean time, that he should cause it to be decently repaired.
This church, as a chapel, antiently paid nine-pence chrism-rent to the mother church of the diocese. In 1650, the rectory of it was valued at fourteen pounds per annum. (fn. 4)
It is valued in the king's books at 2l. 13s. 4d. and the yearly tenths at 5s. 4d.
The patronage of this rectory has been many years in the crown.