Parishes: West Malling

Pages 518-533

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


WESTWARD from East Malling lies the town and parish of West Malling, now most commonly called Town Malling.

It is written in Domesday, MALLENGETIS, and in the Textus Roffensis, MELLINGES. In many deeds after the conquest, it is stiled MILLINGES PARVA, to distinguish it from East Malling, then the larger and more noted village of the two.

The town and parish of West Malling, excepting the borough of St. Leonard, which is under the jurisdiction of the constables of the hundred of Larkfield, is under the jurisdiction of its own constables, of which there are two chosen yearly.

THE PARISH of Town Malling, as it is usually called, is situated equally pleasant and healthy. It lies on high ground, and though dry is well watered, the soil of it being in the northern part a sand, the rest of it a loam, covering the quarry rock, which is very fertile, as has been frequently noticed before in the like situations. The high road from London through Wrotham to Maidstone, at the twenty-ninth mile stone leads along the northern boundaries of the parish, being called in king Edmund's grant of this place to the bishop of Rochester, the military way, no doubt from its having been used as such by the Romans, southward of it the ground gently rising; at less than a quarter of a mile's distance is the town of Malling, which is well built, having many genteel houses in it, the streets of a handsome width, and well paved. At the east end of it is the abbey, to which the approach is by a venerable antient gateway. Although the house itself was almost all of it pulled down and rebuilt by Mr. Honywood, yet many of the antient buildings and offices be longing to it are still remaining, and are made use of as such at present. A handsome tower of the church, the front of which is decorated with intersecting arches and zig-zag ornaments, similar to those on the west front of Rochester cathedral, built by the same founder, bishop Gundulph, is still remaining, as is an antient chapel or oratory, now made use of as a dwellinghouse.

From the foundations discovered in levelling the ground by Mr. Honywood, it appears, that this abbey consisted of two quadrangles or courts, with cloysters, and a spacious hall; and that the church had another tower, of the like size to that now standing. The burying-place seems to have been on the south side of the church, as in digging there, great quantities of human bones have been thrown up, and two stone coffins with skeletons in them, the lids of them had no inscriptions on them, but were ornamented each with a cross, having a quaterfoil pierced at the upper end, the stem of which was crossed more than once with foliage, several rings and trinkets, and some old coins have likewise been found at different times in cleaning away the rubbish.

Over the west end of the grand gateway, which stands at the entrance into the precinct of the abbey from the town, at the west end of the building, there is carved in stone, a heart distilling drops of blood, and on the other side, in a shield, Ermine, a crozier in bend sinister, on a chief three annulets.

In the meadows above the gardens, are large square excavations still visible, where the fish ponds of the aunnery formerly were.

The precinct of this monastery is washed by a rivulet of excellent clear water, which rising in the hamlet of St. Leonard, runs by the house, and through the gardens of it, whence gushing through the wall with a cascade, it crosses the road towards the Rev. Mr. Brooke's gardens. There is a view of this abbey in its present state published by Mr. Grose, in his Antiquities of England.

Near the abbey gate there is a good house, with a large garden, canal, and pleasure grounds, behind it, reaching down to the London road. It has been many years the residence of the Brooke's, from whom it passed by the will of Joseph Brooke, esq. who died in 1792, after the decease of his widow in 1796, to the Rev. John Kenward Shaw, brother of Sir John Gregory Shaw, bart. who has since, in pursuance of the above will, and by the king's licence, taken the name of Brooke, and now resides in it. A little further westward there is a very antient stone building, called the Old Gaol, having narrow gothic windows, and the walls of great thickness. It is reported to have been the prison belonging to the abbey, and is now used as an oast for the drying of hops. About the middle of the street stands the church, and a little distance from it a good house, late the residence of Benjamin Hubble, esq. whose family have been inhabitants of this town for some length of time, several of them lying buried in this church. He died in 1780, leaving his widow, sister of Richard Savage, esq. of Boughton Monchelsea, surviving, and two daughters, his coheirs, one of whom having married Thomas Augustus Douce, esq. he now resides in it; further southward is the hamlet of St. Leonard, now making part of the town, and called St. Leonard's-street, in which is an antient seat, some years ago the residence of Charles Stewart, esq. whose father admiral Stewart purchased it of judge Twisden. This district had once a cell in it, belonging to the abbey, with a chapel. It was given at the time the manor and church was to it, as has been already mentioned. The whole of it has been long since desecrated, and in ruins; the square tower of the chapel which stands in the next field south-west from the late Mr. Stewart's house, is all that remains of it. It was purchased by him some years ago, of Sir John Honywood, in exchange for other premises near the abbey, and is now made use of as a stowage for hops. Mr. Stewart died in 1780, and was buried near his father in this church, and he was succeeded here by the hon. admiral John Forbes, who lately died posfessed of it. A market is held in the principal highstreet every Saturday, which is plentifully supplied and well frequented. There are three fairs, which are held by the alteration of the stile on August 12, October 2, and November 17, yearly, for horses, cattle, toys, &c. The whole town is excellently well watered with fine springs, which having supplied the town and abbey, collect themselves into one stream, and passing northward through Mr. Brooke's grounds, cross the high Maidstone road, and runs from thence into the Addington brook, just above Leyborne mill.

About half a mile south-east from the abbey there is a good modern-built house, called New Barne, which formerly belonged to Mr. Alchin, from whom it passed to Graham, the present possessor, who resides in it.

Above St. Leonard's street is the high road from Teston over East-Malling-heath, and through this parish to Offham, southward of which this parish extends into the large tract of coppice woods which reach to West Peckham and Mereworth.

Dr. William Briggs, an eminent physician, resided at the latter end of the last century at Town Malling, where he died, Sept. 1704, æt. 64, and was buried in this church, He was a great traveller into foreign countries, and was greatly esteemed for his skill in his profession, as well as for his learning, of which the several writings he published are sufficient testimonies. He was physician in ordinary to king William, and to St. Thomas's hospital, and bore his arms, Gules, three bars gemelles, or, a canton sable. (fn. 1)

THIS PLACE was given, about the year 945, by Edmund, king of the Angles and of Mercia, to Burhric, bishop of Rochester, by the description of a small portion of his land, called Meallingas, containing three plough lands; and he granted it to him, for the good of his soul, in perpetual inheritance, in augmentation of the revenues of his monastery of St. Andrew, with all its rights, liberties, members, and appurtenances, and this he did with the consent of his nobles and princes, whose names were subscribed to it. After the names of king Edmund, Edred his brother, and Eadgife his mother, are those of the archbishops and bishops, and then that of Ælgifu, the king's concubine, Ego Ælgifu Concubina Regis affui, and after her the dukes, &c. The bounds of this land are thus described in Saxon, viz. from the south part of it to the king's plaine, and from thence to the bounds of the parish of Offaham, and thence to the military way, and so along the said way over Lilleburne to the bounds of the parish of Est Meallinges, and so directly southward from the east of the cross or gallows to the broad way towards the south, in a direct line along the said way to the king's plaine. To which the king added certain denberies for the pannage of hogs.

This land did not continue long in the possession of the church of Rochester, being wrested from it in the time of the Danish wars; and when William the Conqueror had attained the crown, he gave it to Odo, bishop of Baieux, his half brother, from whom it was recovered, together with the church of Mallinges, in the solemn assembly of the whole county held on this occasion, by the king's command, at Pinenden heath, in 1076, by archbishop Lanfrance, who afterward restored it to bishop Gundulph, and the church of St. Andrew; which gift was confirmed by archbishops Anselm and Boniface. (fn. 2)

In the survey of Domesday, taken about four years afterwards, this manor is thus described, under the general title of the bishop of Rochester's lands:

The same bishop (of Rochester) holds Mellingetes, it was taxed, in the time of king Edward the Confessor, at three sulings, and now at one and an half. The arable land is three carucates. In demesne there is one, and five villeins, with fix borderers, having two carucates. There is a church, and one mill of two shillings, wood for the pannage of twenty hogs. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth forty shillings, and now four pounds.

Bishop Gundulph, in the 4th year of the reign of king William Rufus, anno 1090, having founded an abbey of Benedictine nuns in this parish, to the honor of the Virgin Mary, gave this manor and church to it, with other possessions for the endowment of it; (fn. 3) and although it was, about one hundred years after its being first erected, with the adjoining village, destroyed by fire, yet it was again soon afterwards re-edified, and continued to increase in a flourishing state.

In the 7th year of king Edward I. anno 1278, the abbess of Malling claimed sundry liberties in this parish, by grant from king Henry III. and a market weekly throughout the year on a Saturday and Wednesday; and she claimed by grant from king John to have warren in all her lands at Malling, by grant from king Henry, from time beyond memory; and to have fairs in the parish on the eve, day, and morrow of St. Matthew the apostle, and the like on the eve, and day of St. Leonard, and the like on the eve, and day of St. Peter, ad vincula.

By which, and such like favours granted to it, this place, which at the first foundation of the monastery was plain fields, and almost without an inhabitant, became notwithstanding its former calamity mentioned before, exceedingly populous from the numbers who flocked to it from all parts, who building themselves houses here, increased the village to a large size, well suited for trade, to the no small emolument of the nuns; whence it soon lost its name of Malling Parva, which was for some time transferred to the neighbouring parish of East Malling, as appears by some grants, &c. of this time, and king Edward III. (fn. 4)

In the 15th year of king Edward I. the temporalities of the abbess of Malling in this parish and East Malling were valued at forty-five pounds.

There was an annual pension of ten pounds of wax, and one boar, paid by the abbess to the bishop of Rochester, as an acknowledgment of her subjection to that see.

In the year 1321, the bishop of Rochester, at the king's request, to whom the nuns had made a complaint, that their monastery was ruined by the bad management of their abbess, sister of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, visited it, and heard the complaints against her; in consequence of which she resigned, and the lady Agnes de Leyborne, was chosen in her room. Three years after which she died, and the bishop, at the unanimous request of the nuns, appointed Lora de Retling abbess here, though much against his will, knowing her to be very ignorant, and unfit for the office. However, he inhibited her giving a corredy to her maid servant, as had been the custom, and sequestered their common seal, inhibiting her from using it without his licence.

A great pestilence raging in the year 1348, the bishop made two abbesses here, who presently died; nor were there more than four nuns professed, and four not professed, remaining in this monastery; and he com mitted the custody of the spirituals and temporals to two of them, as there was not a proper person for the office of abbess.

In the year 1493, anno 9 Henry VII. Joane Moone was abbess of this monastery. (fn. 5)

This abbey was surrendered into the king's hands, with all its possessions, (fn. 6) among which were the manors of East and West Malling, with the precincts of Ewell and Parrock annexed to the latter, by Margaret Vernon, abbess, and the convent of it, in the 30th year of king Henry VIII. at which time it was valued at 245l. 10s. 2½d. annual rent, according to Speed, and 218l. 4s. 2½d. clear value, according to Dugdale, and there was granted to the abbess a pension of forty pounds yearly, and to eleven nuns from 31. 6s. 8d. down to 2l. 13s. 4d. yearly pensions, each for their lives.

After which that king, by his letters patent, in his 31st year, granted and sold, in exchange, among other premises, to Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, the scite of the abbey, with the precinct and circuit of it, and the manors of West Malling, Ewell, and Parocke, and the parsonage of West Malling, late appropriate to it, excepting to the king all advowsons, presentations, &c. to hold by knight's service, at the yearly rent therein mentioned; and as the king was entitled to the tenths of these premises, he discharged the archbishop of them, and all other outgoings whatsoever, except the rent therein mentioned. Which grant was in consequence of an indenture made between the king and the archbishop, inrolled in the Augmentation-office.

These manors and premises were again exchanged with the crown in the beginning of the reign of queen Elizabeth, in the 12th year of which she granted them in lease to Sir Henry Brooke, alias Cobham, fifth son of Sir George Brooke, lord Cobham; after which they were held by the same possessors, as the manor of East Malling before described, till at length, after the death of Sir Robert Brett, anno 1621, king James granted the manor of West, alias Town Malling, with the precinct of Ewell annexed, the scite of the late monastery, with the house, buildings, and ground within the precinct of it with all their appurtenances, late parcel of the possessions of the late monastery, in fee, to John Rayney, esq. which was further confirmed to Sir John Rayney, his eldest son, in the 2d year of king Charles I. He was of Wrothamplace, in this neighbourhood, and was created a baronet of Nova Scotia, in 1641, and his son of the same name, about the time of the restoration, conveyed these premises to Isaac Honywood, gent. of Hampsted, Middlesex, who was the only son of Edward, third son of Sir Thomas Honywood, of Elmsted, ancestor likewise of the present Sir John Honywood, of Elmsted, baronet, and he continued to bear the same coat of arms; whose second son, Isaac Honywood, esq. of Hampsted, succeeded him in this manor and estate. Frazer Honywood, esq. of Hampsted and London, his only son and heir, rebuilt the abbey house of Malling in the antient gothic taste, at a very great expence, making it one of the seats of his residence, and having thus greatly improved it, he died possessed of this seat and manor, with the estate belonging to it, in 1764, leaving no issue by his wife, the daughter of Abraham Atkins, of Clapham. He gave them, as well as the rest of his estates here and elsewhere, by will, to his kinsman, Sir John Honywood, bart. of Elmsted, and his heirs male, with divers remainders over to the family of Honywood. Sir John Honywood, bart. is since deceased, and his grandson of the same name is the present owner of this manor, with the precinct of Ewell annexed, and the seat of Malling abbey, with the lands and appurtenances in this parish belonging to it, but Mr. Foote resides in it.

The family of Say antiently possessed THE MANOR of CLEMENTS IN EWELL, in this parish. Geoffry de Say held it in the 7th year of king Edward II. as half a knight's fee. His son, Geoffry de Say, paid aid for it in the 20th year of king Edward III. as half a knight's fee, which John at Forde held before in Ewell, in Malling, of the bishop of Rochester. This manor was afterwards in the name of Coveney, (fn. 7) and in the latter end of king Henry VIII. it was in the possession of Mr. William Fowle. Since which it has sunk into such obscurity, that neither the scite nor the owners of it can be traced out even by the most diligent enquiries.


THERE is a lecture founded in this church of a sermon every fortnight, on the Saturday; two of the preachers to be the ministers of East and West Malling, who are to be paid 10s. for every sermon they preach; the other preachers are appointed at the will of the trustees.

FRANCIS TRESSE, gent. of this town, who died in 1632, by his will gave a piece of land, and 40l. towards the building of a free school in this parish; and he charged one of his houses in Town Malling with the sum of 13s. 4d. per annum, for the keeping of it in repair; and appointed that four principal freeholders of this parish should be trustees for the execution of this part of his will for ever. This school was accordingly erected, and was made use of for the teaching of boys writing and arithmetic. The charity is veisted in the minister and tour substantial freehold inhabitants, and the estate out of which it is paid in Mr. Robert Sutton, of this parish, but there being no master, the school-house is at present let to the late master's widow at 2gs. perannum, which with the 13s. 4d. is applied towards the maintaining of the building. He also gave two silver cups for the use of the holy communion, and 6s. 8d. payable yearly out of a piece of land, called Cousin's Plat, now vested in Mary Brome, widow.

SIR ROBERT BRETT, by will in 1620, gave land sufficient to pay yearly 10s. per week, to be bestowed in bread and meat to twenty poor persons, or else to be distributed in money to them. His executors accordingly conveyed lands in Tewksbury, in Gloucestershire, for this purpose, which is now vested in lord Romney, and twenty-three others, trustees, of the annual produce of 26l. but of late years the annual produce has been but 19l. 14s.

TOWN MALLING is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURIDISCTION of the diocese of Rochester, and gives name to the deanry of Malling, in which it is situated.

The church, which is a handsome building, with an elegant spire steeple, is dedicated to St. Mary.

At the latter end of the year 1778, some of the main pillars of the body of it giving way, the whole roof of it fell in, leaving only the steeple and chancel at the two extremities of it standing. It has since been repaired, and thoroughly finished by a brief, which was obtained for that purpose.

The church of West Malling was given, with the manor, to the church of Rochester, by king Edmund, in 945; and having afterwards been taken from it, was again restored by archbishop Lanfranc to bishop Gundulph, in the time of the Conqueror, who gave it to the monastery here, at his foundation of it, and this gift was confirmed by several succeeding kings, archbishops of Canterbury, bishops of Rochester, &c. as has been already mentioned.

It was appropriated to the abbess and convent by bishop Gundulph, at the time it was given to them; which appropriation was specially confirmed by Simon, archbishop of Canterbury, in the year 1351.

In the reign of king Edward III. great discutes arising between the abbess and nuns of this monastery, and Robert de Beulton, perpetual vicar of this church, especially concerning the receiving of the tithes of flax and hemp, and the payment of archidiaconal procurations, they were at last settled by Hamo, bishop of Rochester, who in the year 1339, decreed, that, saving the due and accustomed portion of the prebend of the great mass in the conventual church of Malling, and the portion of the vicar, as undermentioned, the religious should take all tithes of corn within the parish, and all oblations and obventions belonging to their conventual church, and the cell of St. Leonard; and that they should not be bound to pay to the vicar the tithes of their hay, woods, or mills. And whereas the bishop was informed, and it was allowed, that the above-mentioned prebendary, and other domestics, serving in the monastery, or in the houses of the prebendary, or perpetual chaplain, celebrating for the dead, as also the brothers and sisters, and other persons dwelling in the monastery, or house of the prebendary, who, when they were without the monastery and houses, were not housekeepers in the parish, were wont to receive the sacraments and sacramentals, in life and in death, and to be buried there, if they happened to die within the monastery or houses, unless by chance they chose to be buried elsewhere; in which case, the religious had the first mass for the body before them, in their monastery, and received all the oblations then and there made, so that no portion was left for the vicar of the parish church. And further, that the prebendary for the time being had been used to receive antiently, and to that time, in part of the portion due to him, all the great and small tithes of the demesne lands of the religious, and of the food of their cattle, and also the great tithes arising from many of the crofts of their tenants situated in the said parish, and also the small tithes of his house, and of the house and land of the perpetual chaplain aforesaid, and all the predial tithes arising from the houses or messuages, curtilages and gardens, late of Thomas atte Shoppe and William Cake, in the street, called Holirode-strete, of this parish of Malling, situated above the house of the prebendary; and of all the houses, messuages, curtilages, and gardens whatsoever, from thence towards the east and north in Holirode-street, and in the street, called Tan-street, as far as the end of the parish of Malling on that side; and that the religious and prebendary had possessed all and singular the premises aforesaid, in certain distinct portions, peaceably and without contradiction, from the time beyond memory. (fn. 8)

The bishop, therefore, that none of the premises should be altered, decreed, saving all and every matter as aforesaid, that the vicar should receive for his portion all other small tithes, oblations, obventions and profits belonging to the parish church more especially, viz. the tithe of herbage, silva cedua, apples, pears, flax, hemp, wool, milk, cheese, calves, lambs, pigs, pidgeons, geese, ducks, bees, eggs, merchandizings, fowlings, fishings, swans, pulse, and other fruits, and also of corn growing in orchards or gardens, as he had-been accustomed to receive them.

And that the vicar should also receive the personal tithes of the inhabitants of the houses or messuages of Thomas atte Shoppe and William Cake, and of others, inhabiting in the houses or messuages situated in the streets, called Holirode-strete and Tan-strete, and the oblations due and accustomed to the parish church, and should administer ecclesiastical rights to them, and should have the burial of them in the parish church; and that the vicar should have for his habitation, as assigned to him by the religious, the dwelling with its precinct, which the vicar then inhabited, and his predecessors used to inhabit, which he should repair at his own expence, and preserve in a decent state, and should pay the yearly rents and services, due and accustomed from thence; all which the bishop adjudged to be a sufficient portion for the vicar for the time being. And he further decreed, that the vicar should cause the books to be bound, the vestments to be washed; and the same, and the rest of the ornaments of the parish church, which belonged to the religious to find, as often as need should require, to be repaired, and should cause them to be safely and honestly kept; and that he should provide and find bread, wine, processional tapers, and other lights necessary and accustomed in the chancel, the necessary and accustomed ministers, rochets, surplices, napkins, unconsecrated vessels, basons, and also green rushes to strow the church, if they had been so accustomed, and did not belong to the parishioners to find; and that he should pay the dues to the bishop, and the archidiaconal procurations, and that the vicar should acknowledge and undergo, according to the rate of the taxation of his portion as under-mentioned, all ordinaries and extraordinaries, which, although it might amount to five marcs, being near the moiety of the value of the whole church, according to the estimation then had, he decreed should remain according to the antient taxation of it, as often as burthens of this kind were to be borne, and paid from small benefices. And he decreed, that the religious should acknowledge and undergo all and singular other burthens happening to the parish church, by reason of their portion, which he estimated at twelve marcs, according to the antient taxation of it, notwithstanding this assignation, which was made with the consent of both parties, and which by his episcopal authority, he corroborated and confirmed, &c. and that it might not be called in doubt in future times, or be litigated, he had caused it to be entered in his register, and to be reduced into three different writings, of which he decreed one to remain in the hands of the religious, another in the hands of the vicar, and the third in the hands of the prebendary aforesaid, to perpetuate the memory of it, and had caused it to be authenticated with his seal, &c.

This parsonage, prebend, and the advowson of the vicarage, were, on the dissolution of the abbey in the 30th year of king Henry VIII. surrendered into the king's hands. After which the king, next year, granted this parsonage, with the manor of West Malling, and other premises, to Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, to hold by knight's service, at the yearly rent therein mentioned. After which it passed, with the manor of West Malling, in a like succession of ownership, down to Sir John Rayney, bart. who sold these premises, about the time of the restoration, to judge Twisden, and his descendant, Sir John Papillon Twisden, bart. is the present possessor of this parsonage, and the advowson of the vicarage of West or Town Malling.

The vicarage is valued in the king's books at ten pounds, and the yearly tenths at one pound.


PATRONS, Or by whom presented. VICARS.
Abbess and convent of Malling Robert Beultone, in 1339. (fn. 9)
John Rose, S. T. B. obt. Oct. 10, 1452, (fn. 10)
Robert Throgmorton, about 1630. (fn. 11)
Twisden's, of Bradbourn. Samuel French, ejected 1662. (fn. 12)
Joshua Allard.
Abraham Lord.
Thomas Pyke, 1716.
Robert Skudamore, obt. 1718.
Simon Babb, obt. Nov. 1730. (fn. 13)
Charles Brown, A. M. 1730. (fn. 14)
James Webb, A. M. 1748, ob. 1768. (fn. 15)
Twisden's, of Bradbourn. Robert Style, A. M. resigned 1770. (fn. 16)
Richard Husband, 1770, the present vicar. (fn. 17)


  • 1. General Dictionary, vol. iii. p. 592.
  • 2. Reg. Roff. p. 442. Dugd. Mon. vol. iii. p. 2.
  • 3. Tan. Mon. p. 211. See the several confirmations of this gift of Mallinges Parva, with the market, the church of St. Leonarde and of St. Mary of Mallinges, &c. in Reg. Roff. p 480 to 486.
  • 4. Wharton's Ang. Sacr. vol. ii. p. 288.
  • 5. Wharton's Ang. Sacr. vol. i. p. 364. Reg. Roff. p. 489.
  • 6. The surrendry is in the Augmentation-other.
  • 7. Mr. Petyt's Fœdary, his Book of Kent.
  • 8. Registrum Roffense, p. 489, 490.
  • 9. Reg. Roff. p. 484.
  • 10. He lies buried in the vestry of this church.
  • 11. No graduate. MSS. Twysden.
  • 12. Calamy's Life of Baxter. Kennet's Register.
  • 13. He was suspended for three years, for incontinency.
  • 14. He was also vicar of Cheshunt by dispensation, in 1734.
  • 15. And rector of Trottesclive.
  • 16. Third son of the late Sir Thomas Style, bart. of Watringbury. He resigned this with the present vicar for Watringbury.
  • 17. And late minor canon of Rochester.