Parishes: Watringbury

Pages 106-118

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.

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NORTH-EASTWARD from East or Great Peckham lies Watringbury, called in Domesday, OTRINGEBERGE, and in the Textus Roffensis, WOTRINGABERIA. It is supposed to have taken its name from its low and watry situation.

THE PARISH of Watringbury is almost square, about a mile and a quarter each way, and contains about eighty-three families.

So much of it as lies southward of the quarry hills, which cross the northern part of it, is within the district of the Weald. beyond which there are some coppice woods adjoining to East-Malling heath. The soil is exceedingly fruitful for corn, fruit and hops, being a loam thinly covering the rock stone. The village, which stands on the high road from Maidstone towards Mereworth and Tunbridge, is both healthy and pleasant; in it is the vicarage, a neat genteel house, almost rebuilt by Mr. Charlton, a late vicar, since much improved, and the ground round it laid out in the modern taste by the Rev. Mr. Style, the present vicar, who for some time resided in it; and at the west end of it is Watringbury-place, a handsome brick mansion; at the east end of the village is Watringbury-cross, whence the road leads down to the river Medway, at the south east boundary of this parish. It is well watered by several springs of sweet clear water, which rise near the place house, and run into the stream which comes from Mereworth, and turning a mill, goes on south-eastward towards the Medway, which it joins near Bow-bridge.

There is a vill or boroughin this parish, containing the west division of it, the hamlet of which is situated on the Maidstone road, adjoining to Mereworth parish, being called Pizein-well, from one Pizein, who owned the well here.

Lilly is another hamletbelonging to this parish, which lies about five miles to the south of it, and is surrounded by the parishes of Yalding, East Peckham, and Tudeley. It is a low wet place, containing but one house, which, with the greatest part of the land here, was in the possession of Mr. Henry Simmonds, who in 1764 alienated his interest in it to Alexander Courthorpe, esq. of Horsemonden, who died a few years ago, and by will gave this among his other estates to his nephew John Cole, esq. of Horsemonden, the present owner of it.

There was till of late years, a singular, though a very antient custom, kept up, of electing a deputy to the dumb borsholder of Chart, as it was called, claiming liberty over fifteen houses in the precinct of Pizein-well; every housholder of which was formerly obliged to pay the keeper of this borsholder one penny yearly. This dumb borsholder was always first called at the court leet holden for the hundred of Twyford; when its keeper, who was yearly appointed by that court, held it up to his call, with a neckcloth or handkerchief put through the iron ring fixed at the top, and answered for it. This borsholder of Chart, and the court leet, has been discontinued about sixty years; and the borsholder, who is put in by the quarter sessions for Watringbury, claims over the whole parish.

This dumb borsholder was made of wood, about three feet and half an inch long, with an iron ring at the top, and four more by the sides, near the bottom, where it had a square iron spike fixed, four inches and an half long, to fix it in the ground, or on occasion to break open doors, &c. which was used to be done, without a warrant of any justice, on suspicion of goods having been unlawfully come by, and concealed in any of these fifteen houses.

It is not easy at this distance of time to ascertain the origin of this dumb officer. Perhaps it might have been made use of as a badge or ensign, by the officer of the market here. The last person who acted as deputy to it, was one Thomas Clampard, a blacksmith, whose heirs have it now in their possession.

The market granted in king Edward IId.'s time as above-mentioned, is reported by tradition to have continued to be held here in a place called Chart-garden, now a wood near Pizein well, in the south-west part of this parish, in which wood there are to be seen foundations of walls and houses, and in it and the neighbouring lands are several draw wells.

Watringbury, with other places in this neighbourhood, was bound antiently to contribute to the repair of the fifth pier of Rochester bridge. (fn. 1)

THIS PLACE, at the time of taking the survey of Domesday, in the reign of William the Conqueror, was part of the possessions of Odo, the great bishop of Baieux and earl of Kent, half-brother to that king; and it is accordingly entered, under the general title of his lands, in that survey as follows:

Ralph Fitz Turald bolds of the bishop (of Baieux) Otringeberge. It was taxed at two sulings. The arable land is five carucates. In demesne there are two, and six villeins, with eight borderers, having three carucates. There is a church, and two mills of three shillings, and two acres of meadow, and a fishery of thirty eels; wood for the pannage of two bogs. In the time of king Ed ward the Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth forty shillings, now six pounds. Leveva held it of king Edward.

To this manor belong four houses in the city, paying three shillings.

Hugo de Braiboue holds of the bishop Otringberge. It was taxed at two sulings. The arable land is four carucates. In demesne there is one, and nine villeins, with four borderers, having two carucates. There are three servants, and one mill of sixteen pence, and three acres of meadow; wood for the pannage of two bogs. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth four pounds, now one hundred shillings. Godil held it of king Edward.

Leuric de Otringeberge, at the time above-mentioned, is recorded in the same survey, to have had the liberties of sacand soc for his lands within the lath of Aylesford.

In the reign of king Henry II. Richard de Otringeberge appears to have held two knights's fees in Watringbury of Walter de Meduana, who held the same of the king in capite; which were held in like manner of king Henry I. by Jeffry Talbot. (fn. 2)

In the reign of king Henry III. this place continued in the possession of the same family, Gilbert de Watringberi, who bore for his arms, Argent, six lioncels rampant, sable, held this estate as one knight's see and an half, of Warine de Montchensie. (fn. 3)

Soon after which it came into the family of Leyborne, of Leyborne-castle, in this neighbourhood. Henry de Leyborne held it in the reign of king Edward II. in the 4th year of which he obtained for his manor of Wateringbury a market there on a Wednesday, and one fair on the feast of St. John the Baptist, and free warren in the lands of it. He died without issue, leaving his niece Juliana his heir, who was likewife heir to her father Thomas de Leyborne, and likewife to her grandfather William; and from the greatness of her possessions in this county was called the Infanta of Kent.

On her death in the 41st year of king Edward III. without issue by either of her husbands, this manor, with the appendant ones of Chart, in this parish, and of Fowkes, in Mereworth, escheated to the crown for want of heirs; for it appears by the inquisition taken in the 43d year of the above reign, that there was then no one who could make claim to her estates, either by direct, or even collateral alliance. (fn. 4)

After which the king, by his charter, in the 50th year of his reign, granted these manors, among other premises, to seoffees, for the endowment of his newlyfounded Cistertian abbey, called St. Mary Graces, near the Tower of London, and king Richard II. by his letters patent, in his 22d year, granted them to that abbey, in pure and perpetual alms, for the performance of certain religious purposes therein mentioned; and he gave licence to the surviving feoffees to release these premises to the abbot and his successors for ever.

This manor, with its appendages above mentioned, remained part of the possessions of the above monastery till the dissolution of it in the 30th year of king Henry VIII. when they were surrendered into the king's hands, who in the 36th year of his reign granted them to Giles Bridges, citizen and baker of London, and Robert Harris, to hold in capite by knight's service. Notwithstanding which, Giles Bridges appears to have had the sole interest in them, and he that year passed these manors, with woods called Baldinge, Selwood, and Abbots-thorpe, to Sir Robert Southwell, of Mereworth, who two years afterwards had a confirmation of these manors. He quickly after alienated them to Sir Edward North, chancellor of the court of augmentation, and of the privy council, who in the 6th year of king Edward VI. passed them away by sale to Sir Martin Bowes, and he alienated them quickly afterwards to Sir John Baker, of Sifinghurst, who died in the 5th and 6th year of Philip and Mary, and was succeeded in them by his eldest son, Sir Richard Baker, who in the 1st year of queen Elizabeth had possession granted of them, but his grandson John Baker, esq. in the 17th year of that reign, alienated them to Nevill de la Hay, son of Hugh de la Hay, by Anne, daughter and coheir of Thomas Roydon, of East Peckham, whose son, George de la Hay, in the latter end of that reign, conveyed the manor of Chart to Roger Twysden, esq. of East Peckham, whose descendant, Sir William Jarvis Twysden, bart. of Roydon-hall, is the present possessor of it.

BUT THE MANOR of Watringbury, with that of Foulkes, was conveyed by George de la Hay to Mr. Wilkinson, of Lenham, who bore for his arms, Gules, a fess vaire between three unicorns passant or; which coat was confirmed to Richard Wilkinson, of this place, one of the clerks in chancery, by William Camden, clarencieux, in 1605. He alienated them to Oliver Style, esq. second son of Sir Humphry Style, of Langley, in Beckenham. (fn. 5)

He served the office of sheriff of London, and on purchasing this manor retired to the mansion of it, called Watringbury-place, where he died in 1622, bearing for his arms, as did his several descendants, sable, a fess or, fretted of the field, between three fleurs de lis, and within a bordure of the second.

He was succeeded in this estate by Thomas, his only surviving child, who resided here, and was created a baronet on April 21, 1627, being the third year of king Charles I.

His grandson, Sir Thomas Style, bart. of Watringbury-place, married first Elizabeth, daughter of Sir William Armine, bart. of Osgodby, in Lincolnshire, by whom he had Oliver, his only surviving son, and four daughters, of whom Mary was married to Sir Felix Wild, bart. of Malling, and Susan to Thomas Dalyson, esq. of Hamptons. By his second wife, Margaret, daughter of Sir Thomas Twisden, bart. of Bradborne, he had a son Thomas, who survived him; and Margaret, married to Robert Viner, esq.

Sir Thomas Style died in 1702, in his 78th year, and was buried in this church. He was succeeded by his only surviving son, by his first marriage, Sir Oliver Style, bart. who died without issue the same year, and lies buried under a handsome monument, in the south part of this church-yard. (fn. 6) On which the title and estate descended to his half brother Thomas, above mentioned, who in 1707 pulled down the mansion of Watringbury-place, a very antient building, moated round, and erected the present seat more to the westward of the other, in which he kept his shrievalty in the 8th year of queen Anne, anno 1710, and resided to the time of his death in 1768. He lies buried in this church, as does Elizabeth his wife, eldest daughter of Sir Charles Hotham, bart. by whom he had four sons, Thomas who died in 1741, and lies buried at Ormskirk, in Lancashire; Charles, who succeeded him in title and estate: Robert, now vicar of this parish, and rector of Mereworth, who married Priscilla, daughter of the Rev. John Davis, late rector of Mereworth; and William, late a major-general, who married Catherine, sister and coheir of John Long Bateman, esq. of Ireland; and also two daughters, Elizabeth and Charlotte, who both died un married, the latter at Canons, in this parish in 1795. Sir Charles Style, bart. of Watringbury-place, married Miss Isabella Wingfield, sister to the lord viscount Powerscourt, and dying in London in 1774, was buried in this church, leaving one son and one daughter, the former is the present Sir Charles Style, bart. of Watringbury place, who married in 1795 the eldest daughter of James Whatman. esq. of Vinters, in Boxley, and he is the present possessor of the manors of Watringbury and Fowkes.

WESTBERY is a manor in this parish, which in the reign of king Henry III. was held by Peter Fitz. Robert, of Simon Fitz Adam, as the twentieth part of one knight's fee; after which it came into the possession of a family, who took their surname from it. (fn. 7) Robert de Westbery was owner of it in the reign of king Edward II. and his descendant, Thomas de Westbery, paid aid for it in the 20th year of king Edward III.

The last of this name, who owned this place, was John de Westbery, who in the beginning of the reign of king Henry VI. dying without issue, gave it by will to Agnes Ellis, his niece, and she in the 23d year of that reign, alienated it to Richard Fishborne, who in the 33d year of it conveyed it by sale to Sir Thomas Browne, of Beechworth-castle, treasurer of the houshold, and privy counsellor to king Henry VI. whose descendant Sir Thomas Browne, of the same place, in the 25th year of queen Elizabeth, passed it away by sale to Roger Twysden, esq. of East Peckham, (fn. 8) whose descendant Sir Wm. Jarvis Twysden, bart. of Roydon-hall, is the present possessor of it.

CANONS-COURT is a manor here, which acquired that name from its being part of the possessions of the prior and canons of Leeds.

This place, in the reign of king Henry III. was in the tenure of Gilbert de Watringbury, who then held it as one 4th part of a knight's see, of Simon Fitz Adam, and gave it in pure and perpetual alms to that priory; which gift was confirmed by Bartholomew, his son.

It continued part of the possessions of the priory of Leeds till the dissolution of it, in the reign of king Henry VIII. when it was, together with all its revenues, surrendered into the king's hands, who by his dotation charter, under his great seal, in his 33d year, settled it on his new-erected dean and chapter of Rochester, where the inheritance of it still remains.

Mr. Robert Scoles was lessee of this manor, as well as the parsonage, in 1649, and resided here, and his son, Jaiper Scoles, esq. died lessee of both. Since which the family of Style have been for many years tenants to the dean and chapter for both. Sir Charles Style, bart. is the present lessee.

There is a court baron held for this manor.

THE CODDS were an antient family in this parish, and had their seat in it, called PELICANS, to which belonged a large tract of land. William Codd, esq. died possessed of it in the reign of king William and queen Mary, and was buried in this church, leaving by Deborah his wife an only son and heir, James Codd, esq. who resided at Pelicans, and died whilst sheriff in 1708, and was buried here, bearing for his arms, Argent a fess embattled sable, between six pellets. He died without issue and intestate; so that his estate became divided among several claimants; one of whom, Thomas Kirby, gent. enjoyed the family seat, as part of the share which fell to his lot, and his heirs conveyed it to Sir Thomas Style, bart. in whose great grandson, Sir Charles Style, bart. of this parish, the present inheritance is now vested.

WARDENS is an estate in this parish, which was the antient seat of the Woods, who bore for their arms, Argent, on a fess ragule azure, three fleurs de lis or; which coat was confirmed, or assigned by patent, by Segar to Henry Wood, of London and Watringbury, and to Robert Wood, his brother, the last of this name who resided in it, alienated it, about 1674, to Sir Thomas Style, bart. whose son of the same name, conveyed it to William Burleston, clerk, rector of Warehorne, in whose family it remained till about thirty years ago, when it was sold to Mr. John Whitaker, gent. of Barming, whose nephew, Thomas Whitaker, esq. of Trottesclive, is the present owner of it.


HENRY WOOD, citizen and haberdasher of London, a native of this parish, gave, in the year 1630, 40s. per annum to the poor of it for ever; and 8s. per annum for a sermon to be preached yearly on the Sunday next after Candlemas-day in the afternoon; when the distribution of the money is to be made.

OLIVER STYLE, ESQ. in 1632, gave the weekly sum of 1s. to be distributed in bread in the church, every Sunday, to six poor persons for ever.

THE LADY of Sir Thomas Style, bart. in 1737, gave the silver slaggon and plate, for the altar.

MRS. CHARLTOS, relict of the late Mr. George Charlton, the vicar, was a benefactor to this church, by giving the pul pit cloth and cushion, and other things to it, at different times.

There has been A SCHOOL in this parish at times for teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic, for near 100 years; but as there is neither house nor salary for the master, the number of scholars is very uncertain.

WATRINGBURY is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and deanry of Malling.

The church, which is dedicated to St. John Baptist, stands at the west end of the village, It is an antient gothic building, with a high spire steeple, in which hang three bells, it was repaired at a great expence in 1745; the church is handsomely pewed and wainscotted. There are some remains of good painted glass in the windows, particularly of king Edward III. and his queen, and before the late great hail storm, there was in the south window the history of the decollation of St. John Baptist, pretty entire; but it was then part of it broke to pieces.

This church, which was antiently appendant to the manor of Canons-court, was given in the reign of king Henry II. by Hamo, son of Richard de Watringbury, lord of this parish, to the prior and canons of Leeds, and it was confirmed to it by Walter, then bishop of Rochester, who, on the resignation of Walter, then parson of it, admitted the prior, in the name of his convent, into the actual possession of it. (fn. 9)

It was some time after this appropriated to that priory; in which situation it continued till the dissolution of it in the reign of king Henry VIII. when it was, among the other possessions of the priory, surrendered up to the king, who by his dotation charter, in his 33d year, settled both the parsonage, and advowson of the vicarage, on his new-erected dean and chapter of Rochester, with whom they now remain. The lessee of the parsonage has always been the same as of Canon-court, the present lessee being Sir Charles Style, bart. but the dean and chapter retain the advowson in their own hands.

On the intended dissolution of deans and chapters, after the death of king Charles I. the possessions of the dean and chapter of Rochester, in this parish, were surveyed in 1649, by order of the state; when it appeared, that they consisted of the manor of Canon-court, together with the rectory or parsonage of Watringbury appendant to that manor, and certain woodlands there. That the parsonage consisted of all the tithes, and tithe-corn, annually coming, aris ing, and growing out of all the lands and fields within the precincts and extreme bounds of this parish, with all commodities and appurtenances belonging to them, which premises were valued at the annual sum of sixty pounds, and were let by the late dean and chapter, in the 15th year of the late king Charles, to Robert Scoles, for twenty-one years, at the yearly rent of 13l. 6s. 8d. and six capons, valued at twelve shillings, which rent was apportioned, 5l. 6s. 8d. to the manor of Canon-court, the same being worth 36l. 2s. 7d. yearly, over and above the said rent; and the remainder of the rent, being 8l. 12s. was apportioned to the parsonage, which was worth yearly, over and above the same, 51l. 8s. That the lessee was bound to repair the premises, and the chancel of the church, and that he was immediate tenant of these premises. That the advowson, or right of patronage to the vicarage, belonged to the lord of the abovementioned manor, which vicarage was then worth 30l. per annum. (fn. 10)

The vicarage of Watringbury is a discharged living in the king's books, of the clear yearly certified value of forty-eight pounds, the yearly tenths of which are ten shillings.

Mr. George Charlton, vicar of this place, rebuilt the vicarage-house in 1731, at the expence of 400l. and having obtained 100l. of Sir William Langhorne's legacy, and 15l. 15s. from the dean and chapter of Rochester, he added the residue to make it the sum of 200l. and thereby entitled this vicarage to queen Anne's bounty of the further sum of 200l. with which it was augmented about the year 1732.

Church of Wateringbury

Or by whom presented.
Family of Watringbury. Walter, temp. Henry II. resigned. (fn. 11)
Prior and convent of Leeds. Averell, in 1486. (fn. 12)
Dean and Chapter of Rochester. Ralph Calverly, obt. 1587.
Thomas Brand, obt. 1620.
Thomas Warrel, obt. 1652.
Benjamin Cutler, obt. 1693.
James Hunter, obt. Sept. 1729. (fn. 13)
George Charlton, A. M. instit. Dec. 22, 1729. obt. 1734.
Hodges, obt. 1736.
John Butler, A. M. 1737, obt. 1747. (fn. 14)
John Upton, A. M. resigned 1752. (fn. 15)
Richard Husband, A. M. 1752, resigned 1770. (fn. 16)
Robert Style, 1770, the present vicar. (fn. 17)


  • 1. Lambarde's Perambulation, p. 422.
  • 2. Libr. Robr. Scac. f. 84. Philipott, p 352.
  • 3. Book of Knights fees in the Exchequer.
  • 4. Philipott, p. 353. Rot. Esch. N. 57.
  • 5. See vol. i. of this history, p. 542.
  • 6. Kimber's Baronetage, vol. i. p. 268, and monumental inscriptions in this church.
  • 7. Book of Knights Fees in the Exchequer.
  • 8. Philipott, p. 353. See more of the Brownes under Lenham.
  • 9. Reg. Roff. p. 313, 676. See the confirmations of this gift, ibid. p. 211.
  • 10. Parl. Surveys, Lambeth. libr. vol. xiv.
  • 11. Reg. Roff. p. 213.
  • 12. Ibid. p. 166.
  • 13. He lies buried in this church, as does his successor.
  • 14. Also vicar of Stockbury by dispensation in 1737.
  • 15. And prebendary of Rochester.
  • 16. Minor canon of Rochester.
  • 17. He exchanged Town Malling with his predecessor for this vicarage, being likewife rector of Mereworth by dispensation. He was third son of the late Sir Thomas Style.