The island of Graine

Pages 250-258

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

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THE island of Graine, though on the opposite side of the river Medway, and at some miles distance from the rest of this hundred, yet being within the manor of Gillingham, has always been esteemed as a part of it.

It is written in the Textus Roffensis, and other antient manuscripts, Grean, Gryen, and Gren, and lies next to the hundred of Hoo, from which it is separated by a small stream; the south and east sides of it adjoin to the river Medway, the latter of them being opposite to Sheerness; the north side of it joins to the Thames, forming that land where those two rivers meet. It is in size about three miles and a half long, and two miles and a half wide, and contains only one parish, called St. James.

The water, which separates it from the hundred of Hoo, is called the Stray; the northern mouth of which, next the Thames, is called the North Yenlet, as that next the Medway is called Colemouth, though the whole of it formerly went by the name of Yenlet, or Yenlade, and in very antient times was no doubt, as well as that of the same name between the isle of Thanet and the main land, of much larger size than it has been for a long time past; for even in the time of king Henry VIII. this island appears only to have been encompassed at flood. (fn. 1) This water of Yenlet seems once to have been the usual passage for all vessels from and to London, which thereby avoided the more exposed and longer navigation round the outside of this island, as they did likewise that round the isle of Shepey, by going through the Swale between that and the main land, both which waters are mentioned in several old writings as part of the river Thames. So late as the reign of king Edward III. this seems to have been the most accustomed passage, for in the 11th year of, the strict ward and watch being set, according to old custom, along the sea coast of this county, one of them appears to have been set at La Yenlade in Hoo, and to have consisted of twelve men at arms and six hobelers; which latter were a kind of light horse, who rode about from place to place in the night, to gain intelligence of the landing of boats, men, &c. and were probably so called from the hobbies, or small horses, on which they rode.

The island of Graine is in shape nearly an oblong square; it lies very flat and low; the greatest part of it consists of pasture and marshes, the vast tracts of the latter, in the neighbourhood of it, and the badness of the water, makes it as unwholesome as it is unpleasant; so that the inhabitants mostly consist of a few lookers or bailiffs, and of those who work at the salt works, and such like, who have not wherewithal to seek a residence elsewhere. The entrance into this island, from the hundred of Hoo, is on the south side of it, over a causeway across Stoke marshes. The church of St. James, the only one in it, is situated at the northern part of the island, about a quarter of a mile from the shore. There is no village, the few houses stand dispersed, the farthest not more than a mile's distance southward from the church. There are two sets of saltworks, or saltpans as they are called, the one situated close to the water, at the southern boundary of the island, the other on Mr. Davenport's estate of Wall-end, on the eastern boundary of the island close to the Medway. In short, I cannot give a better description of it than in Mr. Johnson's words, in his little book of Kentish plants, intitled, Iter Plantarum Investigationis ergo susceptum, where he gives an account of his journey, July 13, 1629, in search of simples to this island. He says, "Having left our small boat we walked five or six miles, seeing nothing which could afford us any pleasure; upon the walls we were tormented, for it was in the middle of the day, on account of the heat, with an intolerable thirst, Tantalus like, in the midst of waters (for they were salt); nor were we less oppressed with hunger in this barbarous country, where there was not a village near, nor the smoke of a chimney in sight, nor the barking of a dog within hearing, those usual signs of inhabitants, to raise our languid minds to any kind of hope."

The commission of sewers, which extends from Gravesend to Sheerness, and up the river Medway to Penshurst, takes charge of the sea walls round this island, excepting those adjoining to Mr. Davenport's estate, which are repaired at no small expence by the proprietor; they are divided into two levels, called the South-west and North-west levels.

THE MANOR of Graine was antiently part of the possessions of the archbishopric of Canterbury, where it remained till the reign of king Henry VIII. in the 37th year of which archbishop Cranmer, conveyed all his estates in this parish, together with his right to wreck of the sea to that king. (fn. 2)

King Edward VI. in the 5th year of his reign, granted this manor of Graine to his beloved and faithful counsellor, Sir George Broke, lord Cobham, late belonging to the archbishop, to hold in capite, by knights service, his grandson, Henry lord Cobham, being convicted of high treason in the 1st year of king James I. it became forfeited to the crown, and was confirmed to it by an act passed in the 3d year of that reign, (fn. 3) from which time it seems to have remained in the crown till the death of king Charles I. when it appears to have been esteemed as part of the manor of Gillingham, the quit rents of which in this island then amounted to 24l. 10s. 10¼. from the freeholders in free socage tenure; since the Restoration it has been granted as an appendage to that manor, in which state it continues at present, being as such now possessed by Multon Lambard, esq. of Sevenoke.

THERE is another manor here, called the MANOR of GRAINE, alias ROSE-COURT, which in the reign of king Edward III. was the estate of the family of Cobham of Cobham, in this county. Sir John de Cobham died possessed of it in that reign, and his son of the same name having together, with Sir Robert Knolys, built the new bridge at Rochester, amortized his two manors of Graine and Tilbury, worth forty marcs yearly above all reprises, to the support of it for ever, (fn. 4) and it continues at this time part of the possessions of the wardens and commonalty of that bridge, for the purposes above mentioned.

THERE is a good estate in that part of this island next the river Medway, which consists of several farms, lands, and salt works, the principal of which is called, from its situation, WALL-END FARM.

This estate has, from the earliest accounts of time, had the same owners as the manor of Malmains in Stoke, in this neighbourhood. In the reign of king Edward III. it was in the possession of the family of Malmains, from whom it passed into the name of Filiot, and thence into that of Carew, of Beddington, in Surry; and from that family, in the reign of Henry V. to Iden; from which name it was alienated at the latter end of king Henry VIII. to John Parke, whose sole daughter and heir, Elizabeth, carried it in marriage to John Roper, esq. of Linsted, in this county, who, in the 14th year of king James I. was created baron of Teynham, in this county. His son, Chris topher Roper, lord Teynham, (fn. 5) succeeded him in his estate here, which he increased by obtaining a grant of lands in this island, formerly belonging to the nunnery of Minster in Shepey, which were given to it by archbishop Corboil; all which continued in his descendants to Henry lord Teynham, who, on his marriage with the lady Anne, daughter and coheir of Thomas Lennard, earl of Sussex, and widow of Rich. Barrett Lennard, esq. of Belhouse, in Essex, afterwards baroness Dacre, settled this estate, after her life therein, on the issue of that marriage. Lady Dacre afterwards married the Hon. Robert Moore, and died possessed of it in 1755; (fn. 6) on which the fee became vested in Trevor Charles Roper and Henry Roper, the infant sons and coheirs in gavelkind of the Hon. Charles Roper, her eldest son by lord Teynham; but by a decree of the court of chancery, for the sale of this estate to satisfy incumbrances, and an act having been obtained for that purpose, in 1765, it was conveyed to the Rev. Fr. H. Foote, of Charlton, in Bishopsbourne, whose eldest son, John Foote, esq. afterwards succeeding to it, passed it away by sale to Mr. Thomas Lovett, who at his decease devised it to his son of the same name, on whose death it descended to his sister, now the wife of Mr. Davenport, of London, who in her right is at this time entitled to it.

The priory of Rochester was in very early times possessed of lands in this island. In 1076, archbishop Lanfranc, in the solemn assembly of the whole county, held by the Conqueror's command at Pinenden heath, recovered from Ralph de Curva Spina, or Crookthorne, sixty shillings rent of pasture (fn. 7) in Grean, which had been taken from that church, and which he immediately restored to it. There were several gifts af towards made to the priory of marshes in this island, as may be seen throughout the Textus and Registrum Roffense; and king Henry I. confirmed to it a fishery in Grean, afterwards called the Niwewere, for which they paid the archbishops five shillings yearly; which rent archbishop Ralf released to them for ever; and he likewise, by his charter, prohibited all persons from fishing in the Thames, before the fishery of the monks of Niwewere, under pain of forfeiture to him if they should be found fishing beyond.

Archbishop Baldwin, in the 1st year of king Richard I. intending to erect a chapel and other buildings within the manor of Lambeth, which then belonged to the monks of Rochester, granted to them, in lieu of the land there belonging to the manor, on which the chapel was to be built, and the area lying round it, one bercary or sheep-cote in the isle of Gren, with all its appurtenances, in marsh, lands, wreck, and in all other matters belonging to it, to hold to them as the demesnes of the said manor, free from all service and demand; and he made a further addition, by granting to them the services yearly due to him and his successors for those bercaries or sheep-cotes, which the monks held of him in Gren, which their tenants at all times in future should pay and be answerable for to them. These premises in Gren were particularly excepted out of the exchange made between archbishop Hubert and the monks of Rochester, of the manors of Lambeth and Darent, in the 7th year of king Richard I. (fn. 8) In the 21st year of king Edward I. upon a Quo warranto, the prior of Rochester claimed to have wreck of the sea in the above marsh, which was adjoining to it, for that archbishop Baldwin, at the time he possessed it, and the prior and his predecessors from the time of the said exchange, had beyond memory possessed that liberty without interruption; and the same was allowed him by the jury.

All these marshes, lands, and rents, with their appurtenances, which had been given to the priory of Rochester, remained part of its possessions at the dissolution of it in the 32d year of king Henry VIII. when they were surrendered into the king's hands; who, by his dotation charter, in the 32d year of his reign settled them, together with other premises here, (fn. 9) late belonging to the dissolved priory of Leeds, on his new erected dean and chapter of Rochester, with whom the inheritance of them now continues.

THE ISLAND OF GRAINE is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and being one of the archbishop's peculiars, is as such within the deanry of Shoreham. The church, which is dedicated to St. James, consists of three isles and a chancel.

In it are the following memorials and inscriptions—In the middle isle, a brass for William Hykks, and Joan his wife; another for Jonathan Hykks and Agnes his wife; he died in 1494. Memorial for the Godfreys. In the chancel, a brass for John Cardys, who made the pavement, obt. 1452. (fn. 10)

This church antiently belonged to the nunnery at Minster in Shepey, (fn. 11) to which it was appropriated before the reign of king Edward I. It continued part of the possessions of that monastery till the dissolution of it, which happened soon after the act passed, in the 27th year of king Henry VIII. for the suppression of those religious houses which had not 200l. per annum clear income; of which number this was one. The church thus coming into the hands of the crown, king Henry VIII. in his 36th year, granted among other premises the rectory of St. James, in the isle of Graine, with the advowson, to John Fynch, to hold in capite by knight's service. He died possessed of them, together with five hundred acres of arable, pasture, and salt marsh, in this island; all which he held as above mentioned, in the 4th year of Edward VI. His son, Clement Finch, at length became possessed of the whole of this estate, which he, in the eighteenth year of queen Elizabeth, alienated to Wm. Brooke, lord Cobham; whose descendant, Henry Brooke, lord Cobham, being attainted of high treason, in the 1st year of king James I. forfeited this, among the rest of his estates, to the crown, to which they were confirmed by an act passed for that purpose two years afterwards; (fn. 12) soon after which this rectory, with the advowson of the vicarage, was granted to Sir Edward Hales, bart. who died possessed of it in 1654.

How this rectory impropriate passed from his descendants I do not find; but Mr. John Page, of Rochester, possessed it for many years, and at his death, not long since, by his last will devised it to his kinsman, the Rev. Edmund Faunce, of Sutton-at-Hone, whose son of the same name is the present proprietor of it. This rectory is held of the crown, by the yearly fee farm rent of 1l. 2s. 10½d.

The advowson of the vicarage of this church passed with the rectory, through the same chain of ownership to Sir Edward Hales, bart. who died possessed of both in 1654; soon after which they seem to have had separate owners, and to have continued so till this time, the late proprietor of the advowson being Mr. Walter Nynn, since whose decease without issue, Mrs. Rachel Ray, widow, his sister and heir, is become intitled to it. It is valued in the king's books at 9l. 11s. 8d. per annum, and the yearly tenths at 19s. 2d.

In a taxation made in the reign of Edward III. it appears, that the church of Graine was then endowed with ten acres of arable and two of pasture, worth per annum, 4l. 3s. 4d. and of rents of assise to the amount of 48s. per annum. (fn. 13)

In the survey, taken after the death of Charles I. in 1650, of the several parsonages, vicarages, &c. in this diocese, it was returned, that there was in this parish a vicarage presentative, worth 50l. per annum, Sir Edward Hales, patron; incumbent, Mr. Edward Sparke; the parsonage an impropriation, worth 50l. per annum, Sir Edward Hales owner thereof. (fn. 14)

Dr. Plume, archdeacon of Rochester, who died in 1704, bequeathed five pounds per annum, towards teaching the poor children of this parish to read. (fn. 15)


PATRONS, Or by whom presented. VICARS.
Sir Edward Hales, bart. Edward Sparke, in 1650. (fn. 16)
Edward Turner, B.A. in 1710. (fn. 17)
Charles Soan, A. M. obt. Sep. 5, 1755. (fn. 18)
Francis Ireland, A. M.
John Dolman, A. M. ob. 1774. (fn. 19)
Mr. Nynn Luke Philips, A. M. 1774. Present vicar. (fn. 20)


  • 1. Lamb. Peramb. p. 275. Leland's Itinerary, vol. vii. p. 128.
  • 2. Deeds of Purchase and Exchange, Augm. Off. Box D. 75.
  • 3. See Cobham, vol. ii. of this History.
  • 4. Archives in the Bridge chamber.
  • 5. See Malmain's in Stoke, vol. iii. of this History.
  • 6. See more of this branch of the Ropers, under Ashford.
  • 7. Sexaginta solidatas terræ.
  • 8. Reg. Roff. p. 434. Rymer's Fœd, vol. i. p. 89, 90.
  • 9. Regist. Priorat de Ledes, fol. 2, p. 2, l. i.
  • 10. See the mon. and inscrip. in this church, in Reg. Roff. p. 963.
  • 11. Leland's Coll. vol. i. p. 89. Stev. Mon. vol. i. p. 456.
  • 12. See Cobham, vol. ii. p. 412.
  • 13. Folio Christ church, MSS.
  • 14. Lamb. Surv. vol. xix.
  • 15. Harris's Hist. Kent, p. 160.
  • 16. Lamb. Surv. vol. xix.
  • 17. Also vicar of Stoke.
  • 18. And vicar of Hartlip.
  • 19. Also vicar of Chalk.
  • 20. And lecturer of Gravesend.