Parishes: Bersted

Pages 505-513

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

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BERSTED lies the next parish north-westward from Leeds. It was antiently written Bergestede, and most probably took its name from its situation, Berg, in Saxon, signifying a hill, and stede, a place or village.

THE PARISH lies mostly on what may be called high ground, a pleasant, and the greatest part of it a dry situation; the soil is in general a deep sand, though towards the south-west part it partakes of the quarry rock, and on the south side of the Lenham river a black moorish soil of fertile meadow ground. This river parts it towards the south from Osham, another smaller stream, which rises near Boxley, separates it on the western side from that parish and Maidstone, leaving within the bounds of it a part of the hamlet of Maginford. Besides the above, this parish is watered by two or three other smaller rivulets, which rise northward, and run here into the Lenham river, the easternmost of them separating it from Hollingborne and Leeds. The high road from Ashford and Lenham towards Maidstone, runs along the northern boundaries of it, passing over Bersted-green, the houses round which form the parish village, near it stands the church; besides this there are two other hamlets, called Ware and Roseacre-streets. In the south-east part of the parish is the seat of Milgate, pleasantly situated and wellcloathed with trees, at the back of which the ground descends to the river, and at a small distance that of Lower Milgate, so called from its lower situation still nearer the river.

A fair used to be held here on Holy Cross day, September 14, now by the alteration of the style, changed to Sept. 25, for pedlary, toys, &c.

The noble family of Bertie own this parish to have been their most antient habitation in this kingdom, for they are said to have possessed lands in it near the parsonage, at Strutton-street, and elsewhere in this neighbourhood, as early as the reign of king Henry II. and among the Harleian MSS. there is a grant of arms, anno 2 Henry VI. to Bartie, of Berested, in Kent; they continued here in king Henry the VIIth.'s reign, as appears by an antient rental of that time, and there are still lands, called Barty lands, in this parish and Thurnham; and from those of this name settled here, in a direct line was descended the dukes of Ancaster, now extinct, and from them the lady Willbughbye, of Eresbye; the earls of Abingdon, and other distinguished branches of this family claim their descent.

The manors of Leeds, Moathall, and Thurnham, extend over this parish, in which there is an estate belonging to the former of them, which has constantly passed through the same succession of owners, from the family of Crevequer, who were proprietors of it in the reign of William the Conqueror, to the Rev. Dr. Denny Martin Fairfax, of Leeds-castle, who is at present in the possession of it.

MILGATE is an eminent seat, situated in the southeast part of this parish, which was formerly esteemed a manor, though it has long since lost the reputation of ever having been one.

The family of Coloigne antiently possessed this estate; one of whom, Robert de Coloigne, died possessed of it in the 35th year of king Edward III. In process of time, his descendants came to be called Coluney; one of whom, Thomas Coluney, as appears by an old survey of Bersted, possessed it in the 14th year of Edward IV. Soon after which, that is, in the beginning of king Henry VII.'s reign, it was become the property of the family of Stonehouse, whose antient seat was at Haslewood, in Boughton Malherbe.

Robert Stonehouse, esq. was of Bersted, at the latter end of king Henry VIII.'s reign. His son, George Stonehouse, esq. was clerk of the green cloth to queen Elizabeth, and resided at West Peckham, where he died in 1575, whose eldest son William was created a baronet anno 4 Charles I. and Nicholas, the second, was of Boxley, in this county. He bore for his arms, Argent, on a fess sable, between three hawks volant, azure, a leopard's face, between two mullets, or. (fn. 1) In the beginning of the reign of queen Elizabeth he alienated this seat to Thomas Fludd, esq. afterwards knighted, who was son of John Fludd, esq. of Morton, in Shropshire, and bore for his arms, Vert, a chevron between three wolves heads, erased, argent; which coat, with his quarterings, was confirmed to him by Robert Cook, clarencieux, in 1572. He resided at Milgate, where he died in 1607, and was buried in this church, having considerably improved and augmented this seat. His son Thomas Fludd, esq. afterwards of Otham, succeeded him in this estate, which he alienated in 1624, to William Cage, of Farringdon, in Hampshire, barrister-at law, who resided here. He was bred at Lincoln's-inn, an utter barrister, and was descended from Richard Cage, of Packenham, in Suffolk. He bore for his arms, Per pale, gules and azure, a saltier, or, and a chief, ermine, which was an alteration from the antient arms of this family, viz. Azure and gules, over all a saltier, or; and, together with an addition to the crest, was granted to him by St. George, clarencieux, in 1624, (fn. 2) and in his descendants it continued down to Wm. Cage, esq. who was likewise of Milgate, and was sheriff in 1695, and represented the city of Rochester in several parliaments during queen Anne's reign. Of his sons, William died s. p. Lewis will be mentioned hereafter; and John was of Lower Milgate, esq. Lewis Cage, the second son, became at length possessed of Milgate, where he resided, and left one son Lewis, and a daughter Catherine, who married first, Mr. George Eastchurch, of Maidstone; and secondly Christopher Hull, esq. but died s. p. On his death, Lewis Cage, esq. his son, succeeded him in this seat, where he now resides.

He married Annetta, second daughter and coheir of Edward Coke, esq. of the White Friars, in Canterbury, by whom he had four sons; Lewis Cage, esq. of Lower Milgate, who married Fanny, eldest daughter of Sir Brook Bridges, bart. the Rev. Edward Cage, rector of Easling, who married Jane, second daughter of Charles Van, esq. of Monmouthshire; John, who died in the West-Indies unmarried in 1789, and the Rev. Charles Cage, of Cristmell, vicar of Bersted, who married Elizabeth, daughter of colonel Graham, and one daughter Catherine, as yet unmarried.

AT A SMALL DISTANCE westward from Milgate, there is a good house, called COMBES, alias LOWER MILGATE, which on the death of William Cage, esq. came to his youngest son John Cage, as before-mentioned, who died s. p. It is now the property of Mrs. Brander, the widow of Gustavus Brander, esq. and daughter of Francis Gulston, esq. by a daughter of William Cage, esq. Lewis Cage, esq. junior, at present resides in it.

MOAT-HALL is a manor in this parish, the mansion of which, from the materials with which it was built, was called Stonehouse. It antiently belonged to the neighbouring priory of Leeds, as appears by several old boundaries and papers, and was most probably part of those demesnes given to it at its first foundation, by Robert de Crevequer, in the reign of king Henry I. These demesnes appear by a rental of the time of king Henry VII. to have been held of the manor of Leeds, though they have been long since accounted parcel of this manor of Moat-hall.

On the dissolution of the priory in the reign of king Henry VIII. this manor, among the rest of the possessions of it, was surrendered into the king's hands, who afterwards, by his dotation-charter, in his 33d year, settled this manor, among other premises, on his new founded dean and chapter of Rochester, with whom it remains at this time.

The present lessee of it, under the dean and chapter, is Mr. William Usborne. There is a court baron held for this manor.

AT A SMALL DISTANCE southward from the church lies an estate called OTTERIDGE, formerly Oterashe, which in the reign of king Henry VIII. belonged to Simon Bertyn, one of the brethren of St. Bartholomew's hospital, beside Sandwich, who by will in 1530, devised it to Jeffry Merchant, of Rainham.

It afterwards came into the possession of the family of Munns, who continued possessors of it for several generations, till at length one of them sold it, with Aldington, in the adjoining parish of Thurnham, to William Sheldon, esq. whose descendant Richard Sheldon, esq. at his death, bequeathed it to his widow, and she re-marrying with William Jones, M. D. entitled him to it. He died in 1780, leaving by her two daughters; Mary, married to Lock Rollinson, esq. of Oxfordshire, and Anne, to Thomas Russell, esq. and they in right of their wives, are respectively entitled to it.


SIMON BERTYN, one of the brethren of St. Bartholomew's hospital, near Sandwich, owner of Otteridge, in this parish, which he devised, together with his messuage called Buds, with its lands and appurtenances, in Allyngton, beside Thurnham, by his will in 1530, to Jeffry Marchant, ordered that the said Jeffry and his heirs male, should for ever yearly distribute, on the first Sunday of Lent, in the church of Berghsted, to the parish clerk there, and to other poor people, four bushels of green peas; that is to say, to every one of them, one peck.

EDWARD GODFREY, gent. of Thurnham, gave by his will in 1709, thirty shillings yearly out of lands in this parish, called Crouch field, for the schooling of poor children; half of them to be of this parish, and half of that of Thurnham. And he left 30s. yearly for the same use, to be paid out of an house called Rose acre, in this parish; the payment of which has been constantly refused, upon pretence, that he had no right to devise that charge on it.

The poor constantly relieved are about forty-five; casually twenty five.

BERSTED is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and deanry of Sutton.

The church is situated on high ground, at a small distance southward of Bersted-green. It is dedicated to the Holy Cross, and is a handsome building, consisting of two isles and two chancels, with a square beacon tower at the west end of it. On three corners of the summit of the tower, are the figures of three dogs, or bears sejant, for they are so defaced by great length of time, that they can but be guessed at. If they represent the latter, they might have been placed there in allusion to the name of this parish: if not, these figures might perhaps be the crest of the founder of the church. In this church in the Milgate chancel, are monuments for the Cage family, and for Robert Fludd, M. D. A memorial for William Godfrey, jun. in 1690; and for Elizabeth, daughter of Henry Bosvile, esq. of Bradburne, justice and clerk of the court of wards, married first to Edward Mabb, gent. of this parish; and secondly, to William Godfrey, of Bersted, yeoman, obt. 1614. In the porch, against the east wall, is a small monument for Stephen Mason, of Boxley, citizen and vintner of London, obt. 1560, arms, A thevron, between three tuns, or barrels.

There were some lands and tenements in this parish, given by several persons, who stiled themselves the fraternity of the Holy Cross of Bersted, for a priest to sing mass yearly for one quarter of a year, in this church.

The church of Bergnestede, with all its rights and appurtenances, was given in the reign of Henry I. by Robert de Crevequer, son of Hamo de Crevequer, junior, to the priory of Leeds, then founded by him; which gift was confirmed by Baldwin, archbishop of Canterbury, in the reign of Henry II. who then appropriated this church to the canons there, towards the finding of lights and ornaments in their church. Archbishops Theobald and Hubert confirmed it likewise, as did John, prior, and the convent of Christ-church, in 1278, by the description of the church of Berghestede, with the tithes of Strutton. King Edward III. likewise confirmed it by his charter of inspeximus in his 41st year.

This church, together with the advowson of the vicarage, remained part of the possessions of the priory of Leeds till the dissolution of it, in the reign of king Henry VIII. when it was surrendered up into the king's hands, among other estates belonging to it.

After which, the king, by his dotation charter, in his 33d year, settled both the parsonage and advowson of the vicarage of this church on his new-founded dean and chapter of Rochester, with whom they now remain.

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 was returned, that the parsonage or rectory of Bersted consisted of a messuage, barns, &c. which, with the tithes and glebe land of forty acres, were of the improved rent of 46l. 8s. per annum, which were let anno 13 Charles I. at the yearly rent of 9l. 13s. 4d. and four bushels of malt, for the term of twenty-one years; and the lessee covenanted to discharge the pension of forty shillings to the vicar, and to repair the chancel of the church. Out of which lease was excepted, the advowson of the vicarage, and the portion of tithes called Vintners Portion.

The vicarage is a discharged living in the king's books, of the clear yearly certified value of thirty pounds, the yearly tenths of which are 12s. 9d.

In 1649, the vicarage was valued in the abovementioned survey at twenty pounds per annum.

The parsonage is leased out by the dean and chapter to Mr. John Packman, but the advowson of the vicarage they reserve in their own hands.

The vicarage is endowed with all manner of tithes, except grain, and the vicar now enjoys the abovementioned pension of forty shillings from the lessee of the dean and chapter.

Church of Bersted.

Or by whom presented.
Richard Sheldon, S. T. P. in 1613.
Henry Pawson, A. M. April 22, 1614, resigned 1616.
Thomas Ingood, A. M. June 27, 1616, resigned 1624.
Richard Sheldon, S. T. P. Nov. 8, 1624.
Francis Drayton, resig. 1667.
John Collins, A. M. March 10, 1667, obt. 1677.
Thomas Gregory, A. B. Sept. 18, 1677, obt. 1685.
Francis Smith, A. M. Sept. 22, 1685.
Thomas Woodhouse, April 24, 1691, obt. 1693.
Henry Dering, A. M. Dec. 16, 1693, obt. 1720. (fn. 3)
Thomas Price, clerk, Dec. 21, 1720, obt. 1724.
Samuel Hales, 1724, resigned 1733. (fn. 4)
Henry Rand, A. M. July 1733, obt. 1765.
Samuel Markham, LL. B. December 12, 1765, resigned 1767.
Henry Jones, A. M. 1767, resig. 1773. (fn. 5)
Arnold Carter, A. M. presented 1773 resig. 1783 (fn. 6)
Richard Jacobs, A. M. 1783, obt. Aug. 11, 1794.
Charles Cage, A. M. presented 1794, the present vicar. (fn. 7)

Master Freeman Sonds, second son of Sir George Sonds, of Lees-court, having been executed at Pinenden heath, on August 21, 1655, for the unhappy murder of his elder brother, was brought that day to Bersted church, and interred in it.


  • 1. Vistn. co. Kent, 1619. Coll. Bar. vol. ii. p. 81.
  • 2. See Harl. MSS. No. 1470-24, 96, and 1507-70.
  • 3. He was also vicar of Thurnham, where he lies buried.
  • 4. He was presented to Chart Sutton in 1733.
  • 5. A minor canon of Rochester.—And he exchanged this vicarage with Mr. Carter, for the vicarage of Chart Sutton.
  • 6. A minor canon of Rochester.—Before vicar of Chart Sutton. He resigned this vicarage for W. Peckham.
  • 7. And vicar of Bredgar.