Parishes: Thurnham

Pages 520-532

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

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LIES the adjoining parish northward from Bersted. It is written in Domesday, Turneham, and is supposed to take its name from the antient castle situated in it, Thurn in Saxon signifying a tower, and ham a village.

THE PARISH of Thurnham, though healthy, is yet from the nature of its soil an unpleasant situation, and is rather an unfrequented place, of but little thoroughfare; the high ridge of chalk hills cross it, close to the foot of which is the church with the court-lodge and parsonage, and at a small distance eastward Aldington court, having a double avenue of trees leading from it, almost to Bersted-green, to which this parish joins southward, near which the soil partakes of the sand; near the foot of the hills, the soil approaches the chalk, where the inclosures are large and open, having but few trees in the hedge-rows to shelter them, and the land poor and slinty; on the edge of the summit of the hill are the remains of Thurnham castle, an account of which will be given hereaster. From hence, on the hill northward, the country is wild and dreary, lying high, and much exposed to the bleak northern aspect; the soil here is very poor and wet, a heavy tillage land of a kind of red earth, covered with quantities of slints, mostly low rented, at five shillings an acre, or rather less; the hedge rows here are broad, and the fields large. In the north-east part is a large quantity of wood-land, called Binbury wood, near which the high road from Maidstone through Detling leads on towards Stockbury valiey and Key-street, through this part of Thurnham, on the west side of this road; just before you descend to the low country is Binbury manor pound, and at a field or two distance behind it, the house itself.

In the south part of this parish, where it joins to Bersted, there is a vein of white sand, which upon alderman Lewin and lady Mantle's laying the soundation for the improvement of the glass-works in this kingdom, and the sending over Michael Racket, and other Italians, to carry on that manusacture, was found to be of the greastest use in their composition for making glass, and is now well known among the glass-workers, by the name of Maidstone sand, and the pits themselves are become noted, for their vast caverns arched underground.

THURNHAM was given by William the Conqueror to Odo, bishop of Baieux, his half-brother, of whom it was held by Ralph de Curva Spina, or Crookthorne, as the name was called in English, as appears by the following entry in the book of Domesday, under the general title of the bishop's lands:

Ralf Curbespine holds of the bishop (of Baieux) Turneham. It was taxed at three sulings. The arable land is eight carucates. In demesne there is one, and sixteen villeins, with eighteen borderers, having four carucates. There is a church, and six servants, and one mill of six shillings, and four acres of meadow. Wood for the pannage of forty bogs. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth ten pounds, now twelve pounds, and yet it pays fourteen. Sbern Biga held it of king Edward.

On the disgrace of the bishop of Baieux, in the 19th year of the Conqueror's reign, this place was seized into the king's hands, among the rest of his estates, and was afterwards granted to Gilbert Magminot; being held of the king in capite by barony, by the tenure of maintaining a certain number of soldiers, from time to time, for the desence of Dover castle. This manor and Binbury, in this parish, together with Kersony, in River, parcel of the twenty-four knight's sees, (fn. 1) which made up the barony of Magminot, of which Deptford was the head or chief.

Of the family of Magminot, and of their heirs the Says, Thurnham was held by a family which took their name from their possessions in it. Robert de Turnham held this estate in the reign of king Henry II. and was the founder of the priory of Combwell, in Goudhurst, to which he gave part of his possessions in this parish. He left two sons, Robert and Stephen; the former of whom attended king Richard I. in his noted expedition to the holy land, and he died in the 13th year of king John's reign, without issue male, and was succeeded by his brother Stephen de Turnham, who having ratisied his father's grants to the priory of Combwell, died before the 16th year of that reign, as it should seem s. p.

In the beginning of the reign of king Edward I. Sir Roger de Northwood, of Northwood, in the Isle of Shepey, possessed the manor of Thurnham, with Binbury, and other estates in this parish, and died in the 13th year of that reign, in whose descendants, who had summons to parliament, among the barons of this realm, they continued down to Roger de Northwood, who on his father, Sir John de Northwood's death, anno 2 Richard II. succeeded to them. (fn. 2)

He alienated the manor of Thurnham to Robert Corbie, esq. of Boughton Malherb, whose sole daughter and heir Joane carried it in marriage to Sir Nicholas Wotton, who anno 3 Henry V. was lordmayor. His descendant Sir Edward Wotton, procured his lands in this county to be disgavelled by the acts both of 31 king Henry VIII. and 2 and 3 king Edward VI. and from him this manor descended to his grandson Sir Edward Wotton, of Boughton Malherb, created lord Wotton, baron of Marley, whose son Thomas, lord Wotton, dying in the 6th year of Charles I. without male issue, Catherine, his eldest daughter and coheir, carried this manor in marriage to Henry, lord Stanhope, son and heir to Philip, earl of Chesterfield, who died in his father's life-time. Upon which, his widow Catherine, lady Stanhope, became again possessed of it, and quickly after transferred it by sale to Mr. John Godden, of London, whose son William Godden, esq. of Westwell, alienated it, in 1694, to William Cage, esq. of Bersted, and his descendant John Cage, esq. youngest son of William Cage, esq. of Milgate, sold this manor, together with the parsonage or rectory impropriate of Thurnham, to Sir Edward Dering, bart. who died possessed of them in 1762, and his son Sir Edward Dering, bart. of Surrenden, in this county, is the present owner of them, together with the manors of Newnham, alias the Rectory, and Castle Godard, in this parish. A court leet and court baron is held for the manor of Thurnham.

BINBURY, antiently written Bingebery, is an eminent manor in this parish, lying on the summit of the chalk-hills at the north-west extremity of it.

This manor is included in the description in Domesday recited before, as part of the bishop of Baieux's possessions, and coming into the king's hands, was granted to Gilbert Magminot, to hold as beforementioned in capite, by barony. After which it passed with the manor of Thurnham, to the family of that name, and afterwards to the Northwoods; during the time of its continuance in which family, in king Edward the IIId.'s reign, a melancholy accident happened at Binbury as appeared by the old evidences of the lord Wotton's family: the lady Northwood standing on a precipice of the hill, to see a fox dug out, the earth, being loose and sandy, sunk under her, and the hanging hill shooting down upon her, she was stisled to death with the pressure, before any assistance could be given to her. In this name of Northwood this manor continued down to Roger de Northwood, who died possessed of it in the last year of Henry V. His heirs, in the beginning of the next reign, passed it away to Thomas Thwaits, who in the 8th year of it, conveyed his interest in it to William Gascoigne, of the family of Gascoigne, of Gawthorpe, in Yorkshire, who bore for their arms, Argent, on'a pale sable, a demi lucy, or, in whose name it continued till the beginning of king Edward IV.'s reign, and then it was alienated to Cutt, or Cutts, for the name was spelt both ways, whose descendant Sir John Cutt, possessed this manor in the reign of king Henry VIII. He was treasurer of the houshold, and resided at Horeham hall, at Thaxsted, in Essex, which house he had built. He had a younger brother Richard, from whom descended John Cutt, created in 1690 lord Cutt, of Gowran, in Ireland, and died s. p. They bore for their arms, Argent, on a bend ingrailed, sable, three plates, in each a martlet of the second; those of this county bore this coat within a bordure, argent, and gules. (fn. 3) He died in 1520. Sir Henry Cutt, his grandson, was of Cambridgeshire, and died in 1603 s. p. very soon after which, his heirs alienated this manor to Sir Samuel Lennard, of West Wickham, in this county, who died possessed of it in 1618, and was succeeded in it by his eldest son, Sir Stephen Lennard, created a baronet in 1642 After which this manor passed in his descendants in like manner as that of West Wickham described in the second volume of this history, down to Miss Mary Lennard, who marrying John Farnaby, esq. he became in her right possessed of it. They joined in the sale of it in 1785, to authorize which an act passed that year, to James Whatman, esq. of Boxley, who exchanged it for other lands elsewhere, with Heneage, earl of Aylesford, and he is the present owner of it.

ALDINGTON, usually called Addington, and now comprehended within the bounds of this parish, was formerly a distinct parish of itself. It was, as well as Thurnham, part of those possessions given by William the Conqueror to his half-brother Odo, bishop of Baieux, under the general title of whose lands it is thus entered in the survey of Domesday, taken about the year 1080:

Ansgotus of Rochester holds of the bishop (of Baieux) Audintone. It was taxed at two sulings. The arable land is three carucates and an half. In demesne there are two, and seven villeins, with five borderers having one carucate and an half. There is a church and four servants, and six acres of meadow, and one mill of four shillings and two pence. Wood for the pannage of ten hogs. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth four pounds, now seven pounds. Goduin and Alunin held it of king Edward for two manors.

These two manors continued afterwards as such, ONE OF WHICH, from its situation, and from the noble family which possessed it, was called ALDINGTON COBHAM, alias EAST-COURT.

Henry de Cobham, of Cobham, was possessed of this manor in the reign of king John, and his eldest son John de Cobham, of Cobham likewise, died in the 28th year of king Edward I. possessed of it, holding it in capite by the service of one knight's see. He seems to have been succeeded in it by his next brother William, usually afterwards stiled of Aldington, who was a justice itinerant, both in the reigns of king Henry III. and Edward I. and died, far advanced in years, anno 14 Edward II. s. p. being succeeded in this manor by Reginald his nephew, stiled likewise Cobham, of Aldington, son of his eldest brother John de Cobham, by his second wife. His son, Reginald de Cobham, in the 14th year of Edward III. procured a charter of free-warren in all the demesne lands within his manor of Aldington by Thornham, among others. He died in the 35th year of that reign, possessed of this manor, held of the king in capite, as of the castle of Rochester, then in the king's hands, by the service of paying to the ward of that castle, in lieu of all service. In whose descendants, of the name of Reginald, seated at Sterborough-castle, in Surry, whence his descendants were called Cobhams, of Sterborough, it continued down to Reginald de Cobham, who dying in the 24th year of Henry VI. was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Sir Thomas Cobham, (fn. 4) whose only daughter and heir Anne, carried it in marriage to Sir Edward Borough, of Gainsborough, in Lincolnshire. His descendant, William, lord Borough, in the 12th year of queen Elizabeth, sold this manor of Aldington East-court, to Henry Brockhull, who was likewise possessed of the other part of Aldington, called from its situation, and the family which possessed it ALDINGTON SEPTVANS, alias WESTCOURT. Of this family of Septvans, was Roger de Septvans, who possessed this manor in the reign of Richard I. and was with that king at the siege of Acon, in Palestine, and it remained in his descendants down to William Septvans, who died in the 25th year of Edward III. holding this estate, then called Westcourt, alias Septvans, as the moiety of the manor of Aldington, in manner as above-mentioned. After which it did not remain long in this name, for John Gower died possessed of it in the 39th year of that reign; and from thence, not many years afterwards, it was alienated to Sir John Brockhull, in whose descendants resident here it continued down to Henry Brockhill, esq. of Aldington, who in the 12th year of queen Elizabeth, purchased of William, lord Burgh, the other moiety of Aldington, by the name of the manor of Aldington East-court, as has been already related. He died in 1596, and was buried in Bersted church, and bore for his arms, Gules, a cross engrailed between twelve cross-croslets sitchee argent; quartered with those of Criol. He left two daughters his coheirs, Anne and Martha, the former of whom, by the death of her sister, became at length his sole heir, and marrying Mr. John Taylor, gent. entitled him to these estates, on which he afterwards resided, being the grandson of William Taylor, of Shadoxhurst, he alienated them to Sir Richard Smith, of Leeds-castle, who died in 1628, and his heirs soon afterwards alienated them to Ralph Freke, esq. descended from those of Dorsetshire, who having married Cecilie, fifth daughter of Sir Thomas Culpeper, of Hollingborne, fixed his residence at Aldington West-court. She died in 1650, after which he soldthem to Mr. John Munns, of Bersted, in which name they remained till they were conveyed by sale to William Sheldon, esq. His grandson Richard Sheldon, esq. resided at Aldington, where he kept his shrievalty in 1717, bearing for his arms, Sable, a fess between three sheldrakes, argent, and dying in 1736, was buried in Thurnham church, having by his will given these manors to his widow, who in 1738, remarrying with William Jones, esq. M. D. entitled him to this seat, and the manors of Aldington Cobham and Westcourt, at the latter of which he resided. He died in 1780, leaving two daughters his coheirs, Mary, married to Lock Rollinson, esq. of Oxfordshire, and Anne, to Thomas Russell, esq. who, in right of their wives, became respectively entitled to these manors, which they afterwards joined in the sale of to the hon. Rev. Jacob Marsham, LL. D. second surviving son of the late lord Romney, who is the present possessor of them and resides at Aldington-court.

THE CHURCH of Aldington was dedicated to St. Peter, and continued a separate parish church from that of Thurnham, (fn. 5) till it was united to it by agreement made in 1583, between Henry Brockhull, esq. lord of the manor and patron of it, and William Merrick, vicar of Thurnham, which was confirmed sede vacante by master William Aubrey, L. D. guardian of the see of Canterbury, and ordinary pro tempore. Since which it has been accounted as a chapel to that church. In this church was buried Nicholas Brockhull, esq. lord of Aldington Westcourt, anno 2 Edward IV.

ON THE VERY BROW of the chalk hill, are the remains of an antient fortification, now called THURNHAM CASTLE, but formerly Godard's-castle, and the hill on which it stands, from thence, Godard's-hill.

Darell, in his treatise De Castellis Cantii, affirms, that this castle was founded by Godardus, a Saxon, from whom it took its name. Leland calls it the castle of Thorne, and says, it was in his time entirely a ruin. He says, "Sir John Cutte, under treasurer of England, bought of one Savelle, a main of fair lands in Yorkshire, then being in trouble, the lordship of Godhurste, with the ruins of a castle, (meaning this of Thurnham) standing about two miles from the banks of the Medway, and the like distance from Maidstone.

"This lordship at that time was partly a ground much overgrown with thornes and bushes, and was worth but xx markes by the year, then it was cleared, and the value much enhansed, and much goodly wood was then about it."

Sir John Cutte was then lord of the adjoining manor of Binbury, as has been already mentioned; but the scite of the castle has been long since alienated from the possessors of that manor.

The scite of Thurnham-castle is on the brow of the great chalk-hill, about half a mile northward of the church, and as much eastward from the high road on the top of Detling-hill. The walls which remain are built of rude flint, honey-combed and almost eaten up by the weather and length of time. That part which is now standing of them is on the north side of the area of the castle: they are about fourteen seet high, and near three broad. The rest of the walls are demolished to the foundations, which are, notwithstanding, mostly visible. The area contains about a quarter of an acre of ground. On the east side of it was the keep, being an artificial mount, in the middle of which there is an hollow, as if the ground had fallen in and filled a cavity underneath. It appears to have been walled round, especially towards the south, where the chalk below having been dug away perpendicularly up to the bottom of the foundations, they have most part of them tumbled down into the chalkpit underneath, where large fragments of them lie. The entrance seems to have been from the north.

It is very probable, from the Roman urns, and other remains of that nation, found about this hill, that it was first erected by them, and was possibly one of their speculatory stations or watch-towers, as well to secure this pass, as to overlook the approaches of their enemies through the valley below.


FOUR HOUSES, known by the name of Church-houses, now let to the overseers of the poor for 40s. per annum, and four acres of land, called Church-lands, let at three guineas per annum, were given to the poor of this parish by persons now unknown.

EDWARD GODFREY, of this parish, gent. gave by will in 1709, twenty shillings yearly, out of lands in Bersted, called Crouch-field, to be distributed yearly among the poor of this parish not receiving alms, vested in Mr. Watts, of Gravesend, and the vicar of this parish. He likewise gave by his will 30s. yearly out of the same lands, for the schooling of poor children; half of them to be of this parish, and half of that of Bersted. And he left 30s. more by his will for the like use, to be paid out of an house called Roseacre, in Bersted; the payment of which has been constantly refused, on pretence that he had no right to devise such charge on it.

MRS. MARY DERING, daughter of Henry Dering, vicar of this parish, by her will in 1725, gave to the poor of this parish twenty-six penny loaves, to be distributed yearly on Christmas day for ever; and for that purpose, she deposited 10l. in the minister's and churchwarden's hands, to be put out to use, which was accordingly done, but the money is now lost by the persons being in indigent circumstances.

The poor constantly relieved are about forty-two; casually, about eighteen.

THURNHAM is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Sutton.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, is a small building, consisting of one isle and two chancels, having a low pointed steeple at the west end, in which hang three bells. In it are monuments for the Sheldons, several of whom lie buried here, as does Sir Henry Cutt, in the chancel founded in honor of him by lady Barbara his wife, who afterwards married William Covert, esq. of Boxley, and dying in 1618, was buried here likewise.

This church, with its appurtenances and lands, called Hoch and Casteye, were given, among other premises in the reign of king Henry II. by Robert de Thurnham to the priory of Combwell, at Goudhurst, at that time founded by him; which gift was confirmed by his son, Stephen de Thurnham, and by king Henry III. by his charter of inspeximus in his 11th year.

The church of Thurnham was, within a few years afterwards, appropriated to the above-mentioned priory, with the consent of Richard, archbishop of Canterbury, who likewise granted a confirmation of it to them. To the rectory belonged a manor, called NEWENHAM, alias THE RECTORY OF THURNHAM, which, with its appurtenances, consisting of certain premises and lands, called Howe-court and Canons-barns, part of the gift of Robert de Thurnham, as before-mentioned, remained in the possession of the priory till the 27th year of king Henry VIII. when by the act for the suppression of all such religious houses, whose revenues did not amount to the clear yearly value of two hundred pounds, and for giving the same to the king; this priory was next year surrendered up into the king's hands. These premises in the parish of Thurnham remained but a small time in the crown, for the king in his 29th year granted them to Thomas Culpeper, to hold in capite by knight's service, but he did not possess them long, for it appears by the escheat-rolls, that they were again in the crown in the 34th year of that reign, for that year the king granted the rectory of Thurnham, with its appurtenances, among other premises, to Sir John Gage, comptroller of his household, to hold in like manner, (fn. 6) and he alienated it to Sir Edward Wotton, who died in the 6th year of Edward VI. possessed of the manor and rectory of How-court and Canonsbarns, and the advowson of the vicarage of Thurnham. From him they descended down in like manner as the manor of Thurnham above-described, till they came with it into the possession of John Cage, esq. of Combe, who sold the parsonage or rectory impropriate, with the manor and lands belonging to it, and all its appurtenances, to Sir Edward Dering, bart. whose son of the same name is now possessed of it, as has been already mentioned before, but the advowson of the vicarage, with the rectory of Aldington annexed, was sold by him in 1740 to Mr. Joseph Smallwell, of Maidstone, who in 1753 conveyed it to Mr. Henry Hodson, whose son the Rev. Henry Hodson, vicar of this parish, is now entitled to it.

In the 8th year of king Richard II. the church of Thurnham with Aldington was valued at 33l. 6s. 8d. In 1640 it was valued at forty pounds per annum. Communicants one hundred and fifty-seven. This vicarage is valued in the king's books at 8l. 0s. 10d. and the yearly tenths at 16s. 1d.

The vicarage of Thurnham, with the church of Aldington annexed to it, is endowed with all kind of vicarial tithe in the former, and all manner of tithes in the latter.

Church of Thurnham, with the Church of Aldington annexed.

Or by whom presented.
Priory of Combwell. Thomas Reynolds, S. T. B. July 25, 1597, obt. 1600.
Benjamin Carrier, S. T. B. March 27, 1600, resigned 1613.
John Crompe, A. M. July 8, 1614, obt. 1641. (fn. 7)
William Sutton, Nov. 6, 1661, obt. Nov. 28, 1673. (fn. 8)
Henry Dering, A. M. 1673, ob. Dec. 26, 1720. (fn. 9)
Jonathan Soan, 1720, obt. Jan. 14, 1768. (fn. 10)
Henry Hodson, A. M. presented Feb. 10, 1768, the present vicar. (fn. 11)

HAVING NOW DESCRIBED the southern part of this hundred, lying below the chalk hills, I shall proceed to the remaining part of it, lying above or on the northern side of them, beginning with the parish of Otterden, which lies almost on the summit of them.


  • 1. See Deptford, and Cowdham, vol. i. of this history, p. 346. vol. ii. p. 60.
  • 2. See Dugd. Bar. vol. i. p. 662. vol. ii. p. 270. See more of this family under Northwood manor, in Milton, hereaster.
  • 3. See Morant's Essex, vol. ii. p. 590.
  • 4. See more of the Cobhams of Sterborough, vol. iii. of this history, p. 211.
  • 5. William Pope, vicar of the church of Aldington in 1464, was buried in the church-yard, close to the south-west corner of the steeple. Wills, Prerog. off. Cant.
  • 6. Rot. Esch. ejus an. pt. 3. Ibid. anno 38 Hen. VIII. pt. 13. See Combwell in Goudhurst.
  • 7. He was of C.C.C. college, Cambridge, and wrote several religious tracts.
  • 8. He lies buried in this church.
  • 9. Ibid.
  • 10. And master of the king's school, in Rochester. He was likewise vicar of Woodnesborough.
  • 11. He is also rector of Sandhurst by disponsation, dated 1768.