The city and liberty of Rochester: Charities

Pages 182-191

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 4. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.

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EXCEPTING the share of Mr. Watt's charity, which this parish enjoys, the donations to it appear to have been very few.

JOHN WRYTE, clerk, vicar of this parish, by deed, anno 28th Henry VIII. invested in trustees a piece of land in this parish, called Culverhawe, containing half an acre, adjoining to the old church yard northward, and to the highway eastward, for the use of the parishioners for ever, as a place of exercise and recreation.

ROBERT GUNSLEY, clerk, by will, in 1618, bequeathed to the poor of this parish a piece of land in the parish of Hoo, containing six acres and one rood, now let at 5l. 5s. per annum.

JOHN MANLY. esq. by will, in 1687, gave to the poor widows of this parish 10s. per ann. to be given in wheaten bread.

On the east side of St. Margaret's-street is a poor house, erected in 1724, for the reception of the needy and indigent belonging to this parish; towards the building of which 200l. were appropriated, out of the 750l. given by Sir Thomas Colby and Sir John Jennings.

ROCHESTER has given TITLE to several families. Sir Robert Carr, or Kerr, K. B. the favourite of king James I. was first created by letters patent, in 1611, Viscount Rochester, afterwards installed Knight of the Garter, and created Earl of Somerset. He died in 1645, leaving an only daughter, Anne, who married William earl of Bedford, (fn. 1) so that his titles became extinct.

Henry Wilmot, only son of Charles viscount Wilmot of Athlone, in Ireland, and lieutenant general of the king's horse, was, out of regard to his military conduct, first created, by king Charles I. in 1643, Lord Wilmot of Adderbury, in Oxfordshire; and afterwards, by king Charles II. for his faithful services during those unhappy times, Earl of Rochester, by letters patent, dated at Paris, in 1652. He died at Dunkirk in 1659, and his body was brought over and buried in Spellesbury church, in Oxfordshire. He left an only surviving son, John, who succeeded his father as earl of Rochester, &c. and for his bright parts and excellent wit, was usually styled, The witty earl of Rochester. He died in 1682, leaving three daughters his coheirs, so that for want of male issue, his titles became extinct. (fn. 2)

Laurence Hyde, 2d son of the great earl of Clarendon, lord chancellor in the reign of Charles II. was a person highly favoured and honoured by that prince, who being then viscount Hyde, was, by letters patent, in 1682, further advanced to the title of Earl of Rochester; after which he was made President of the Council; and on king James's accession, Lord High Treasurer and knight of the Garter. In the last year of king William's reign, he was made Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and by queen Anne again Lord President of the Council. He died in 1711, and was buried in Westminster abbey, leaving one son, Henry, and four daughters. (fn. 3) Henry, the son, succeeded as earl of Rochester, &c. as he did to the earldom of Clarendon on the decease of his first cousin, Edward earl of Clarendon, without male issue, in 1723. He left one son, Henry, viscount Cornbury, who died but a small time before him, and both of them without male issue, in 1753; so that this title became extinct.

Our HERBALISTS have taken notice of the following RARE PLANTS in and near Rochester:

French mercury, close to the bishop's palace here. (fn. 4)Anchusa, alknot, or Spanish bugloss, found near and about Rochester.— Piperitis, pepperwort or dittander, found upon Rochester common.— Chamæpitys vulgaris, or common ground pine, found near Rochester.—Carylophyllus sylvestris flore simplici suave rubens, the single red pink, growing on the castle walls.

CHARITIES, belonging to the City of ROCHESTER.

FEW TOWNS of so small an extent have been benefitted by so many and considerable donations for the relief of the poor as have been made to this city. As early as the reign of king Edward II. SYMOND POTYN, a man of no small account, who had several times represented this city in parliament, and dwelt at the inn, called the Crown, in Rochester, by his will, in 1316, bequeathed a house for an hospital, to be called the Spital of St. Catharine of Rochester, in the suburb of Eastgate, for such poor men or women of this city, lepers, or otherwise diseased, impotent, and poor, to be received therein, and there to abide on the alms of charitable people. This hospital escaped dissolution at the Reformation, and continued to be used as such, according to the will of the founder; but towards the end of the last century, abuses having been practised in the management of it, a complaint was lodged against the persons concerned, by the churchwardens and overseers of the parish of St. Nicholas; who alledged, that this hospital was become ruinous, and likely to go to decay, from the revenue of it being reduced by the mayor of this city, and the vicar of St. Nicholas letting the leases for small sums, and for a long term of years. On this representation, a commission of enquiry was granted by the court of chancery, which was held in this city, in 1704; when full proof being made of these iniquitous practices, the commissioners decreed, that the lessees should deliver up their leases, and accept of them for a shorter term, and should pay 100l. towards putting the hospital in proper repair, and for desraying the charges of the commission; and in order to prevent such like and other abuses in the management of this charity for the future, they decreed, that all leases of the possessions belonging to the hospital should be let by the mayor and citizens, under their common seal, with the consent of the above mentioned vicar, as one of the patrons of it, for not more than twenty-one years; and that the yearly reserved rent, for the use of the hospital, should be at least two full thirds of the real and improved value of the premises demised; and further, that the dean and chapter, with the mayor and the vicar of St. Nicholas, should be the patrons and visitors of the hospital; and that the provider of the other charitable estates of this city should account for the revenue and disbursements of it. This hospital is situated in the High-street of the suburb of Eastgate, almost at the east end of it. It was rebuilt in 1717, and contains twelve apartments, which are occupied by the like number of aged people, beside their habitation, are allowed twelve chaldrons of coals and six dozen of candles yearly among them, and they are paid about 1l. 6s. a year each, out of the profits of the estates, after a deduction of the repairs of the hospital.

ALDERMAN BAILEY, of the city of Rochester, by his will, in 1579, gave 300l. in trust, for the poor of St. Catherine's, as an addition to their former allowance; which, with some further private contributions, enabled the trustees to purchase 400l. 3½ per cent. Bank annuities, the dividend arising from which is equally distributed among twelve poor inhabitants above mentioned.

MR. RICHARD WATTS, of Rochester, by his will, proved in 1579, ordered, that after the marriage or death of his wife, his principal dwelling house, called Satis, on Bully-hill, with the house adjoining the closes, orchards, and appurtenances, his plate and furniture should be sold, and after some legacies paid thereout, the residue should be placed out at interest by the mayor and citizens of Rochester, for the perpetual support of an alms-house, then erected and standing near the Market cross in Rochester, and that there should be added thereto six rooms, with a chimney in each, for the comfort and abiding of the poor within the city; and that there should be made therein convenient places for six good mattrasses or flock beds, and other good and sufficient furniture for poor travellers or wayfaring men to lodge in, being no common rogues nor proctors, for no longer time than one night, unless sickness should detain them; and that the above mentioned poor folk dwelling therein should keep the same sweet and neat, and behave themselves civilly to the said poor travellers; each of whom, at their first coming in, should have 4d. and should warm themselves at the fire of the poor dwelling in the said house, if need be. And further, to purchase flax, hemp, yarn, wool, and other necessary stuff, to set the poor of the city to work, he gave to the mayor and citizens all other his lands, tenements, and estates for ever, the annual rents of which at that time amounted to 36l. 16s. 8d. His widow and sole executrix, having married about six years afterwards, and doubts arising about the above will, it was agreed, that she should keep Satis, the furniture, &c. in consideration of which she should pay 100 marcs towards repairing the alms-house, and also all the monies bequeathed by her husband, and clear the land willed of all claims, and convey other lands of the yearly rent of 20l. and the mayor and citizens agreed to purchase hemp, &c. to set the poor to work, and to provide for travellers as directed; and it was agreed, that the succeeding mayors should provide a sufficient citizen to receive and disburse the yearly profits, under the name of PROVIDER, who should deliver an annual account to the dean and chapter or the Bridge wardens; and that the poor residing in the house should be put in by the mayor for the time being. In the above state this charity continued until the year 1672, when the parishes of St. Margaret's and Stroud exhibited a complaint in chancery, that they had no share in this charity, left to the poor of the city of Rochester, although part of their parishes was within the precincts and liberties of the same; that the estate in London was leased by Mr. Watts for ninety-nine years, at 8l. per annum, which lease expired in 1658; that by improvements it then yielded 200l. per ann. that the estates in Chatham brought in yearly 50l. above the original value, which was 20 marcs; in consequence of which a decree was made, that St. Margaret's parish should receive 30l. per annum till the lease of ninety-nine years of the estate at Chatham expired; that afterwards they should receive six parts out of thirty, which should from time to time be made by any improvements, over and above the said 30l. And that the parish of Stroud should receive 20l. on the same condition; and when the said lease expired, four parts out of thirty of the improved rents, together with the 20l. per annum; and the remaining twenty parts were decreed to the mayor and citizens of Rochester, for the relief of travellers and other charitable uses. The estates of this charity are now so much improved that they amount to near 500l. per annum. The house appointed for the reception of poor travellers is situated on the north side of the High-street, and is probably the original building. It was repaired by the mayor and citizens in 1771, at no inconsiderable expence. Agreeable to the benevolent design of the donor, six poor travellers are received into it, and have each of them lodging and entertainment for one night gratis, and 4d. a piece; and that this charity may be more generally known to such as may wish to partake of it, an inscription is placed over the door, informing them of it.

ALEXANDER READYE, of Sherborne, in Dorsetshire, minister of the word of God, by a deed of gift, in 1613, gave to the mayor and citizens the sum of 50l. to be lent by them to two decayed citizens, tradesmen, living in this city; two other antient commoners there, being householders; and two poor maidens born within the same, for the term of four years, with such security and in such manner as is therein mentioned.

ROBERT GUNSLEY, clerk, by his will, in 1618, gave in trust the rectory and parsonage of Broadhempston, in Devonshire, and all lands, tithes, and commodities thereto belonging, to the intent, that presently after his decease, a licence of mortmain should be procured, and the same should be conveyed and assured to such persons as should be thought adviseable for the relief and comfort of the poor people, inhabiting in the parishes of Maidstone and Rochester, by equal portions, to be bestowed in bread every sabbath day to feed them, and in cloaths to cover them, according as the rents would allow, every year. The licence of mortmain was afterwards procured, and the rectory, with its appurtenances, conveyed accordingly. The half part of the present rents and profits of it, amounting to 15l. 15s. is yearly distributed among the poor people of Rochester, agreeable to the will of the donor; which makes a portion of the bread distributed in St. Nicholas's church, after sermon, every Sunday in the afternoon.

The trustees of the estate of Sir JOHN HAYWARD, by the direction of his will, in 1635, settled by indenture, in 1651, 50l. per annum, for the benefit of the poor of St. Nicholas's parish, to be paid out of the manor of Minster, and certain other messuages, lands, &c. in the isle of Shepey. This was for the sole purpose of erecting a workhouse, or otherwise setting to work and employing the poor inhabitants of the said parish, and raising and continuing a stock of money and provisions for that purpose. These Shepey estates increasing in their rents and profits, Francis Barrell, esq. residuary trustee of Sir John Hayward's estates, in 1718, purchased 6361. South Sea stock, which he transferred to the mayor and citizens of Rochester, for the perpetual support of three charity schools, to be called, Sir John Hayward's charity schools. Two of these were directed to be in St. Nicholas's parish for teaching 20 poor boys of that parish; the matter to have 12l. per ann. the other for 20 poor girls of the said parish, the mistress to have 81. per ann. The other school to be in Stroud, the master or mistress to have 10l. per annum, for teaching thirty poor children of that parish and Frindsbury; and if any surplus of the dividends of the above sum should afterwards remain, he directed the same to be laid out in books or otherwise, to the advantage of the schools. The mayor, recorder, late mayor, senior alderman and town clerk, and the ministers of the respective parishes, to be perpetual governors of this charity. There are no buildings erected for these schools, but the children are taught in the respective houses of the masters and mistresses. The above mentioned 636l. has since increased to the sum of 1100l. by additions, in lieu of dividends, and by others, made by Francis Barrell, esq. above mentioned.

ARTHUR BROOKER, esq. by his will, in 1675, gave to the mayor and citizens an annuity of 4l. per annum, issuing out of a messuage and lands, in the parish of Alhallows, in the hundred of Hoo, 20s. thereof to be paid yearly to the minister of St. Nicholas, for an annual sermon in that church, on the day of his burial; the remaining 3l. to be distributed among the poor people of the same parish, 1s. per week in bread, every Sunday in the afternoon; and the residue of 8s. to be given among such poor people as should be present the day whereon the sermon should be preached.

DR. LAMPLUGH, bishop of Exeter, and sometime dean of Rochester, by a deed of gift, in 1678, gave 50l. to the mayor, the dean, and other trustees therein mentioned, for ever, in trust, to be lent to such young men, being freemen, tradesmen and inhabitants within the city of Rochester, as should be by them nominated, in sums not less than 5l. nor more than 10l. on such security as they should approve of, to be repaid within four years, according to the terms and conditions therein mentioned.

SIR RICHARD HEAD, bart. by his will, in 1689, gave several houses and lands, in the parish of Higham, to the mayor and citizens, to bestow the rents, first in keeping the premises in repair, and the residue in providing bread, to be weekly distributed on every Sunday, in the afternoon, in St. Nicholas' church, among the most necessitous poor of that parish, by 2s. per week in bread, and the overplus to be divided at the year's end, among four of the most ancient poor men, and the like number of the most ancient poor women, of the same parish. These premises now bring in a clear yearly sum of 10l.

FRANCIS BROOKE. gent. town clerk of this city in 1697, forgave the mayor and citizens a debt of 50l. owing to him, in consideration of their paying an annuity of 4l. for ever out of their estates, to be distributed by their committee of charitable uses, which sum is now annually distributed to poor persons inhabiting this city.

SIR JOSEPH WILLIAMSON, one of the representatives in parliament for this city, by his will, proved in 1701, gave 5000l. to be laid out by his executors, in purchasing lands and tenements, towards the building and perpetually maintaining of a FREE SCHOOL at Rochester, for the instructing and educating the sons of freemen of this city, in the mathematics and other things that might fit and encourage them to the sea service, or arts and callings relating thereto. This legacy was to be appropriated to the intended charity after the sale of the testator's Kentish estates, which was directed to be as soon as convenient, after his decease, before which the claimants were not entitled to any interest in the same. The mayor and citizens, on the delay of the executors to put this part of the will in execution, made many applications to them, but to no purpose, as they availed themselves of the discretionary power for the time of selling the estates vested in them, during which time the freemen's sons were in a worse situation than before Sir Joseph's decease, he having for many years employed a schoolmaster to instruct them at his own expence. In the latter end of the year 1703, the mayor and citizens exhibited their complaint in chancery against the executors for this delay. This cause was long depending in the court of chancery, but in 1708, a decree was obtained, by which it was ordered, that some small portions of Sir Joseph Williamson's estates, lying in Frindsbury, Shorne, and Higham, being appraised and valued with the approbation of both parties, should be immediately transferred to certain trustees, mentioned in the decree, and that the residue of the legacy should be paid at stated times to the said trust. This was at last complied with, but not without great trouble to those who prosecuted this affair on behalf of the city. The court of chancery likewise confirmed certain orders and con- stitutions for the settling and perpetual governing the school, wherein it is appointed, that the mayor of Rochester, the dean, the recorder, the master of the Trinity house, the commissioner of Chatham dock-yard, the two representatives for the city, the senior resident prebendary of the cathedral, the two wardens of the bridge, the late mayor, the senior aldermen, and the town clerk, should be for ever the ordinary governors of the same (five of whom at the least should be requisite to act) with power to choose the masters, and make and alter such rules, orders, and constitutions, as they should find necessary and convenient, so that the same should be approved of by the extraordinary governors, for which purpose they should have an annual meeting on the Tuesday next after Midsummer day; and that the archbishop of Canterbury, the lord high chancellor, or lord keeper, the bishop of Rochester, the lord or proprietor of Cobham-hall and park, and their successors for ever, should be the extraordinary governors and visitors of this charitable foundation, and should have power to act in any case, where the ordinary governors fail in their duty, and finally to determine any differences that might arise between the ordinary governors and other the subordinate officers of this foundation. If the revenue of the estate will permit, the upper master was to be allowed 100l. per annum, and the under master or usher, 40l. per annum. The school, with the master's house, is a handsome fashed brick building, well accommodated to the purpose. It is situated on the north side of the High-street, without the city wall, close to the spot where the east gate of the city formerly stood; but unfortunately a great part of the foundation of the building being laid in the rubbish that filled up the ditch of the city wall, the fabric from time to time gave way, which was attended with no small expence to the charity: But the estates and school are now in so flourishing a condition, that the masters receive their full salaries, and the charity is cleared of every incumbrance. Mr. JOHN COLSON, afterwards mathematical professor at Cambridge, was the first master of this school; and the celebrated actor, Mr. Garrick, whilst under his tuition here, shewed thy early dawnings of his great genius; several instances of which are still remembered by several in Rochester.

EXCLUSIVE of the above benefactions for the education of youth, there is a voluntary subscription subsisting, for the educating several children of poor parents, who are not en- titled to the above free school. The number at present, who receive the benefit of them, is twenty-two.

THOMAS PLUME, archdeacon of Rochester, by will, in 1704, gave to the city of Rochester, 50l. to be lent on good security, by the mayor and aldermen, to five poor tradesmen, for ever, gratis.


  • 1. Dugdale's Baronetage, vol. ii. p. 425, et seq.
  • 2. See his life, Biog. Brit. vol. vii. p. 193. Bolton's Peer. p. 242.
  • 3. Collins's Peerage, 2d edit. vol. ii. p. 332.
  • 4. Johnson's Gerarde's Herba, p. 332. Merrett's Pinax, p. 23.