Parishes: Teston

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

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'Parishes: Teston', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5, (Canterbury, 1798) pp. 126-136. British History Online [accessed 1 March 2024]

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LIES the next parish eastward from Watringbury. It is vulgarly called Teeson. In the book of Domes day it is written TESTAN, and in the Textus Roffensis, TERSTANA.

This parish is a borough, and has a court leet of itself, where the borsholder is chosen, and the inhabitants of it owe no service to the court leet holden for the hundred of Twyford; but a constable for that hundred may be chosen there out of this borough.

TESTON is beautifully situated on the side of a hill, declining southward towards the river Medway, which is its southern boundary opposite to West Farleigh. The soil is in general a fertile loam, covering the quarry rock, which at the same time that it is dry and healthy, is exceeding kindly for corn, fruit and hop plantations. The high road from Maidstone towards Watringbury and Tunbridge, leads along the lower part of this parish, between which and the river the neat kept grass lands, separated from the road by a handsome white railed sence, have a very pleasing effect. Hence the road branches off, to the right to Ofham and Town Malling, and to the left to Cocks heath, Yalding, and the Weald, across the river, over which there is here a losty stone bridge of seven arches, which, notwithstanding its height, is frequently rendered impassable from the sudden overflowings of the river, which here at times frequently rises near eighteen feet above its usual surface, in the space of twenty-four hours, and as quickly falls again, unless it is again augmented by repeated rains. Teston park pales adjoin the northern side of the Maidstone road, hence the park rises to Teston-house, which being of white stucco, is a conspicuous object to the neighbouring country, and with the adjoining grounds, some years since, were greatly ornamented and laid out in the modern taste by Mrs. Bouverie; at the back of the house the ground keeps rising, and the park which is well covered with fine large trees, as well as modern plantations of various sorts, extends to the woods, which are remarkably well filled with large oak trees, and to East-Malling heath, but in these parts it is a more wet and deeper soil, and less fertile than the more southern parts of this parish. From Teston house there is a most beautiful view, having in front the river Medway, the bridge, the cascades at Tutsham, and the lock below them, with the pretty village of West Farleigh, and its church, on the opposite hill. South-westward the prospect extends along the valley, where nature and art combine their powers to render the scene more delightful, having the river Medway meandring its silver stream through part of it, the elegant mansion and church of Mereworth beyond, and at the extremity the losty woods on the range of hills, above the town of Tunbridge. The village, with the church and the vicarage, a neat modern built sashed house stand mostly within the western pales of the park, at no great distance from Teston house, close to the front of which the high Maidstone road passed, till not many years since the late Sir Philip Boteler procured it to be altered to its present situation, at a greater distance, where it now forms a kind of half circle midway, between the house and the river.

The western extremity of this parish is the boundary of the Weald, that is from the hill above Watringbury, across the river, towards the hill above Burston in Hunton, excluding Teston from its district.

Dr. Plott mentions his having discovered a piece of a Roman way, which seemed to have passed the Medway about Teston, and which he thought crossed Cocks-heath, and pointed towards Lenham, but I believe it was merely founded on his own conjecture.

Willow weed, or lysamacbia, grows much on each side of the highway near Teston-bridge.

Tanacetum, or garden tansey, grows in great plenty in the meadows on the bank of the Medway, between Teston and Barming.

TESTON was part of those vast possessions with which William the Conqueror enriched his half-brother, Odo, bishop of Baieux, whom he afterwards made earl of Kent, and it is accordingly thus entered in the survey of Domesday, under the general title of that prelate's lands:

Adeold held Testan of the bishop (of Baieux) and Robert now holds it to ferme. It was taxed at one suling. The arable land is . . . In demesne there are two carucates and an half, and seven villeins, with three borderers having one carucate. There are twelve servants, and one mill of three shillings, and eight acres of meadow. Wood for the pannage of twenty bogs.

In the time of king Edward the Confessor, it was worth one hundred shillings, and afterwards sixty shillings, now one hundred shillings. Edward held it of king Edward.

On the disgrace of the bishop of Baieux, about four years after taking the above survey, this estate, among the rest of his possessions, became consiscated to the crown, whence it seems to have been granted by the Conqueror to Robert, son of Hamon de Crevequer; whose descendant, Hamon de Crevequer, died possessed of it in the 47th year of king Henry III. holding it in capite, as a member of the manor of Chat ham, which was held of the king in capite by barony. (fn. 1) He left Robert, his grandson, his heir, who afterwards took part with the discontented barons against the king; upon which this manor was seized on, among the rest of his estates; and it seems to have remained in the hands of the crown till king Edward I. gave it to Eleanor his queen, who in the 18th year of that reign, made a donation of it, with other premises, to the priory of Christ-church, in Canterbury, in exchange for the port of Sandwich, which gift king Edward I. confirmed that year. (fn. 2) King Edward II. by his charter, in his 10th year, granted to the prior of Christ-church, free warren in all the demesne lands which the priory possessed here in the time of his grandfather, or at any time since.

The manor of Teston continued part of the possessions of the priory of Christ-church till the dissolution of it in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. when it was, together with all its lands and revenues, surrendered up to the king, who that year granted this manor, among other premises, to Sir Thomas Wyatt, to hold in capite, whose son of the same name having raised a rebellion in the 1st year of queen Mary, was attainted, and his estates forfeited to the crown; and the queen next year granted this manor to Sir John Baker, her attorney general, (fn. 3) to hold in capite, and in his descendants it continued down to Sir John Baker, bart. of Sisinghurst, who after the death of Charles I. alienated it to Mr. Jasper Cleyton, of London, and he passed it away by sale in the reign of king Charles II. to Sir Oliver Boteler, bart. of Berham-court, in this parish, whose grandson, Sir Philip Boteler, bart. of the same place, died possessed of it in 1772, without issue, and by will devised one moiety of his estates to Mrs. Elizabeth Bouverie, of Chart Sutton, and the other to Elizabeth, viscountess dowager Folkestone; and William Bouverie, earl of Radnor, both since deceased, and on a partition of his estates, this manor was, among others, allotted to Mrs. Elizabeth Bouverie, now of Berham-court, alias Teston-house, in this parish, the present possessor of it.

TESTON-HOUSE, formerly known by the name of Berham-court, was once the mansion or residence of the family of Berham, usually called Barham, whose original name was Fitz Urse.

Randal Fitz Urse was one of those four knights, (the other three were, William Tracy, Richard Britton, and Hugh Morvill) belonging to Henry II.'s houshold, men said by historians to have been eminent for their birth, who undertook to murder archbishop Thomas Becket, which they accomplished in the cathedral church of Canterbury, on December 30, anno 1170. (fn. 4)

After this Randal Fitz Urse fled into Ireland, and there altered his name to Mac-Mahon, which in the Irish tongue signifies as much as, the son of a bear; upon his flight Robert de Berham, his kinsman, entered on his estate in this parish, and from him it descended to John de Berham, who was by Henry, prior of Christ-church, created a public notary of the diocese of Canterbury, in the year 1309, an office at that time of much trust and eminence, which the prior was impowered to invest any person with, by a commission granted to him by Bassianus de Alliate, count palatine of Milan, who had received such power originally from the emperor. The family of Berham bore for their arms, Argent, three bears passant sable, muzzled or. There was a branch of this family settled at Wadhurst, in Suffex, of which was Nicholas Berham, sergeant at law; and another branch was of Boughton Monchelsea, in this county, of which was Robert Berham, who was comptroller of the pipe. Both of these bore the above coat of arms, with a fess gules, and on it a fleur de lis, between two martlets or. (fn. 5)

In the descendants of John de Berham abovementioned, this seat continued down to Thomas Berham, esq. of Berham-court, who left one daughter and heir Anne, who carried this estate of Berhamcourt in marriage to Sir Oliver Boteler, of Shambrooke, in Bedfordshire, on which he removed hither, and was knighted by king James I. at Whitehall, in 1604. This family is descended from Thomas Pincerna, who lived in the reign of king John, and sealed with a covered cup, with this inscription, as appears by the old deeds of the family, encircling the seal, Sigillum Thoma Pincerne, probably from his being chief butler to that prince, whence his successors assumed the name of Butler or Boteler. His descendant was Robert le Boteler, called in a Latin deed without date, Robertus Pinceruna, as is supposed, likewise from his office; and he left issue three sons, Robert, called in a Latin deed without date, Le Boteler; Thomas; and William, who was a priest. The descendants of Robert le Boteler, who afterwards wrote themselves Boteler only, settled first at Yatton, and afterwards at Droitwich, in Worcestershire, when they altered their name to Butteler, after which about king Henry VIIIth.'s reign, George Butteler, esq. removed his residence to Sharnbrooke, in Bedfordshire. His descendant, Oliver Butteler, esq. of Sharnbrooke, first changed the spelling of his name again to Boteler, and having married Anne, daughter and sole heir of Thomas Berham, esq. of Berham-place, removed hither as has been already mentioned. He bore for his arms, first, Boteler, argent on a chief sable, three cups or; secondly, Boteler again, Gules, a chevron between three cups, or, quartered with Wibbe, Froxmore, Bachecott, and Berham. He died in London, in 1632, and was buried at Teston, whose eldest son, Sir John Boteler, of Berham-court, dying without issue, was succeeded by his next surviving brother William, who during his eldest brother's life resided at Saltwood, and on his death became his heir, and removed to Berham-court. He was a man of exemplary loyalty, and firm in his attachment to his royal master king Charles I. by whom he was first knighted, and afterwards, in 1641, created a baronet, and became one of the gentlemen pensioners. In 1642 he joined with the neighbouring gentry in presenting a petition to the house of commons for a peace, which was delivered by captain Richard Lovelace, for which by order of the house, Sir William was imprisoned in the Fleet for seven weeks, whence he was released on giving 20,000l. bail.

He afterwards suffered greatly; his house of Berham-court being broken open, robbed and plundered of almost every thing valuable in it, and the rest destroyed, and he himself, with his son, forced to compound for his estate for 3011l. and upwards.

Sir William Boteler afterwards raised and armed a regiment, at his own expence, for the king's service, at the head of which he was slain, together with Sir John Clerke, of Ford, in this county, in the fight between the king's forces and those of the parliament, under Sir William Waller, at Cropredy bridge, in 1644. (fn. 6)

His only son and heir Sir Oliver, bart. was of Berham-court, and left a son Philip, and a daughter Joane, who married Christopher Rhodes, esq.

Sir Philip Boteler, bart. the son, resided at Berhamcourt, and married in 1690 Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Desbouverie, of Cheshunt, in Hertfordshire, by whom he had one son and heir, Sir Philip Boteler, bart. of Berham-court, which afterwards dropped that name, and acquired the name of Teston-house. He was a gentleman of a most amiable disposition and politeness of manners, whose benevolence and goodness of heart made him universally respected and beloved by all who knew him. He died at Teston in 1772, where he was buried. He married Elizabeth, only daughter and heir of Thomas Williams, esq. of Cabalva, in Radnorshire, by whom he had an only daughter Elizabeth, who died unmarried in his life-time, æt. 15. By his will he gave one moiety of all his estates, both real and personal, without any specific allotment, to Mrs. Elizabeth Bouverie, of Chart Sutton, and the other moiety to Elizabeth, viscountess dowager Folkestone, and William Bouverie, earl of Radnor, since deceased. They by private agreement made a partition of these estates, in which Teston manor and advowson, and the house, formerly called Berham-place, were, among others allotted to Mrs. Elizabeth Bouverie, of Chart Sutton above-mentioned, who is the present possessor of Teston-house, with the park, gardens and lands belonging to it, which by her improvements has become a most elegant residence, and an ornament to the adjacent country.

Mrs. Elizabeth Bouverie is descended from Laurence de Bouverie, or Des Bouveries, of an antient extraction in Flanders, who renouncing the Romish religion, came into England in 1567. His grandson, Edward Desbouverie, was knighted in 1684, and died at his feat at Cheshunt, in 1694, leaving by Anne his wife, daughter and coheir of Jacob de la Forterie, of London, several sons and daughters. Of whom William, the eldest son, was created a baronet in 1713, and was ancestor to the present earl of Radnor; and Christopher, the youngest son was knighted, and was of Chart Sutton, in this county, and left by Elizabeth his wife, daughter and heir of Ralph Freeman, esq. of Beechworth, in Surry, two sons; Freeman, who died s.p. in 1734, æt. 20, and John, heir to his brother, who died on his travels in Asia, s.p. in 1750, æt. 29, and two daughters; Anne, married to John Harvey, esq. of Beechworth, and Elizabeth, devisee of the moiety of Sir Philip Boteler's estates. Of Sir Edward Desbouverie's daughters, Anne married Sir Philip Boteler, bart. and was aunt to Mrs. Elizabeth Bouverie abovementioned. Mrs. Bouverie bears for her arms, first, Bouverie, party per fess or and argent, an Imperial eagle sable; second, Bouverie again, gules, a bend vaire quar tered with Forterie, Frebody, Marsh, Laurence, and others. (fn. 7)

There are no parochial charities.

This parish is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester and deanry of Malling.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, is a small, but neat building, with a square tower at the west end. In it are several monuments of the family of Boteler.

Robert de Crevequer, at the time of his founding the priory of Leeds, in 1119, gave to it all the churches of his estates, among which was this of Teston, with sixteen acres of land in the parish, together with all their customs, goods, liberties and privileges. (fn. 8)

Walter, bishop of Rochester, in the reign of king Stephen, appropriated this church, and Lamberhurst, to the above-mentioned priory, on the petition of Daniel de Crevequer; and he received the prior and canons into the parsonages, and instituted the canons parsons canonically in those churches.

After which a vicarage was endowed here by the prior and convent, with a reservation of twenty shillings yearly pension to themselves out of it; which pension, on the dissolution of the priory in the reign of king Henry VIII. came into the hands of the crown, and was soon afterwards granted by that king, by his dotation charter, in his 33d year, to his new-erected dean and chapter of Rochester, who are now entitled to it.

But the parsonage, together with the advowson of the vicarage, remained in the hands of the crown in the reign of king Charles I whence the same was granted to Sir William Boteler, bart. from whom it descended to Sir Philip Boteler, bart. who died possessed of it in 1772, since which it has passed by his will, in like manner as Teston manor and house, to Mrs. Elizabeth Bouverie, the present possessor of the parsonage and advowson of the vicarage of Teston.

This vicarage is now a discharged living in the king's books, of the clear yearly certified value of forty-seven pounds, the yearly tenths of which are thirteen shillings.

Church of Teston.

Or by whom presented.
Sir William Boteler, bart. Frost, in 1630. (fn. 9)
Oliver North, A.M. 1642, resigned 1663. (fn. 10)
Roger Bankes, in 1682.
Henry Cornwallis, in 1683.
John Richards, A. M. (fn. 11)
William Johnson, obt. 1761.
Duncan Menzies, A. M. instit. 1761, obt. Sept. 27, 1781. (fn. 12)
James Ramsey, obt. 1789. (fn. 13)
John Kennedy, 1789, the present vicar.


  • 1. Rot. Esch. ejus an. N. 33. See more of the Crevequers, under Chatham, vol. iv. p. 205.
  • 2. Tan. Mon. p. 201. Rot. Cart. ejus an. No. 37.
  • 3. See more of the Wyatts, vol. 4. p. 339. 451.
  • 4. Brompt. p. 1063. Hoveden, p. 521. R. de Diceto, p. 555.
  • 5. Vistn. co. Kent, 1619. Pedigree Berham.
  • 6. Clarendon's Hist. of Rebellion, vol. ii. p. 386.
  • 7. Pedigree of Desbouverie, in the possession of the earl of Radnor.
  • 8. See the confirmations of it in Regist. of Leeds priory. Dugd. Mon. vol. ii. p. 140, &c. Reg. Roff. p. 211.
  • 9. He was no graduate.
  • 10. He resigned this vicarage for that of Yalding, and dying in 1765, was buried in Yalding church.
  • 11. And rector of Nettlested. He afterwards went distracted.
  • 12. At the same time he was presented to the rectory of Nettlested.
  • 13. Rector of Nettlested likewise by dispensation as is his successor. See his life in Encyclopaedia Brit. drawn up by his nephew Mr. Walker.