Parishes: Godmersham

Pages 319-332

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 7. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1798.

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LIES the next parish south-westward from Chartham, and is written in antient records, Godmersham, and in Domesday, Gomersham.

IT LIES in the beautiful Stour valley, a situation healthy and pleasant to the extreme, the river Stour glides through it from Ashford, in its course towards Canterbury; Godmersham house and park are the principal objects in it, both elegant and beautiful, the Ashford high road encircles the east side of the park, along which there is a sunk sence, which affords an uninterrupted view of the whole of it, and adds greatly to the beauty of this elegant scene, and leads through the village of Godmersham close to it, the whole village which contains about twenty houses, belongs to Mrs. Knight, excepting one house, as does the greatest part of the parish, excepting the lands belonging to the dean and chapter of Canterbury. There are about twenty more houses in the parish, and about two hundred and forty inhabitants in all. The church, and vicarage, a neat dwelling, pleasantly situated, stand at a small distance from the village, on the left side of the road, with the antient manor-house near the former, close to the bank of the river; the meadows in the vale are exceeding fertile, the uplands are chalk, with some gravel among them, the hills rise high on each side, those on the west being the sheep walks belonging to Godmersham-house, the summits of which are finely cloathed with wood, at proper intervals; the opposite ones are the high range of uninclosed pasture downs of Wye and Braborne. Among these hills, in the eastern part of the parish, is the seat of Eggerton, situated in a wild and bleak country of barren lands and flints.

At the southern boundary of the parish, on the Ashford road, is the hamlet of Bilting, part of which is in Wye parish. There was a family of this name who once resided here, as appears by their wills so early as 1460. Richard Mocket, gent. of Challock, died in 1565, possessed of the manor of Biltyng-court, in Godmersham, which by his will he directed to be sold. At length this estate of Bilting came into the possession of the Carters. Thomas Carter, gent. of Bilting, second son of George Carter, gent. of Winchcombe, died possessed of it in 1707, s.p. After which it at length came to his nephew Thomas Carter, gent. of Godmersham, who dying in 1744, left two daughters his coheirs, the eldest of whom Mary, marrying Mr. Nicholas Rolfe, of Ashford, he became in her right possessed of her father's estate at Bilting. After which it became the residence of Mrs. Jane, the sister of the late Mr. Knight, and after her death in 1793, of Thomas Monypenny, esq. who afterwards removing from hence sold it in 1797, to Mr. Richard Sutton, who now resides at it.

There is no fair, nor is there any one alehouse within this parish.

From the high road above-mentioned, which runs along the lower side of the western hills there is a most pleasing view over the valley beneath, in which the various beautiful objects of both art and nature combine to make it the most delightful prospect that can be imagined.

BEORNULPH, king of Mercia, in the year 822, gave Godmersham to Christ-church, in Canterbury, to the use of their refectory and cloathing, at the request of archbishop Wlfred, L.S.A. that is, Libere sicut Adisham, endowed with the same liberties and privileges that Adisham, which had been given to that church, originally was. But it appears afterwards to have been wrested from the church, and to have been again restored to it by archbishop Egelnoth, who made a new grant of it in the year 1036, having purchased it of duke Sired, for seventy-two marcs of pure silver, for the use of the monks in Christ-church; in whose possession Godmersham remained at the taking the general survey of Domesday, in which it is entered as follows, under the general title of Terra Monachorum Archiepi, i.e. the lands of the monks of the archbishop, as all the lands belonging to the monastery of Christ-church were.

In Feleberg hundred, the archbishop himself holds Gomersham. It was taxed at eight sulings. The arable land is twelve carucates. In demesne there are two, and sixty villeins, with eight cottagers, having seventeen carucates. There is a church, and two servants, and one mill of twenty-five shillings, and twelve acres of meadow. Wood for the pannage of forty hogs. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, and when he received it, it was worth twelve pounds, now twenty pounds, and yet it pays thirty pounds.

In the 7th year of king Edward I. the prior claimed a fair here, on the day of St. Laurence, which was allowed; and king Edward III. in his 38th year granted to the prior another fair here on the Thursday and Friday in every Whitsun-week, together with a market to be held here on a Tuesday weekly. In the 10th year of king Edward II. the prior obtained a charter of free-warren for this manor; about which time it was, with its appurtenances, valued at thirty-six pounds. The priors of Canterbury frequently resided at the manor-house here, which appears by the present state of it to have been a mansion large and suitable to their dignity. Prior Chillenden, at the latter end of king Richard II.'s reign, made large additions and repairs here, as did prior Sellyng in that of Edward IV. The house is situated on the bank of the river, a small distance northward from the church. It appears to have been a very large mansion formerly. The old hall of it is yet remaining, with the windows, door-cases, and chimney of it, in the gothic stile. Over the porch, at the entrance of the house, is the effigies of the prior, curiously carved in stone, sitting richly habited, with his mitre and pall, and his crosier in his left hand, his right lifted up in the act of benediction, and his sandals on his feet. This, most probably, represents prior Chillenden, above mentioned, who had the privilege of wearing those ornaments, granted to him and his successors by pope Urban, and repaired this mansion as before related. In which state this manor continued till the dissolution of the priory in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. when it came, with the rest of the possessions of the monastery, into the king's hands, who in his 37th year, granted the manor, rectory, and advowson of Godmersham, in exchange for other premises, to the dean and chapter of Canterbury, in pure and perpetual alms, at the yearly rent of 10l. 1s. 8d. (fn. 1) being then valued at 80l. 11s. in exchange for which they gave the king seven valuable manors in this and other counties; Canterbury college, in Oxford, and other premises, a scandalous bargain of plunder, like most others of the king's making; and yet in the deed it is said to have been made through his most gracious favor. Since which this manor has remained part of their possessions to the present time.

The court-lodge, with the demesne lands of this manor, are let to Mrs. Coleman, who resides in it, on a beneficial lease, but the manor itself, with the profits of the courts, &c. the dean and chapter retain in their own hands. A court baron is regularly held for it.

THE MANORS OF FORD AND YALLANDE were antiently part of the inheritance of the family of Valoigns, one of whom, Robert de Valoigns, died possessed of them and much other land in this neighbourhood, in the 19th year of king Edward II. and in his descendants they continued till the latter end of king Edward III.'s reign, when Waretius de Valoigns leaving by his wife, daughter of Robert de Hougham, two daughters his coheirs, one of them, married to Thomas de Aldon, entitled her husband to these manors as part of her inheritance; and in this name of Aldon they continued for some space of time. At length they became the property of Austen, or Astyn, as they afterwards spelt their name, and they continued possessors of it, till Richard Astyn, gent. of West Peckham, conveyed them, with all lands and tenements called Halton, in Godmersham and other parishes, to Thomas Broadnax, gent. late of Hyth, though there were descendants of that family, who wrote themselves gentlemen, remaining here in the beginning of king George I.'s reign, as appears by their wills in the prerogative-office. He afterwards resided at Ford-place, as his descendants, possessors of these manors, afterwards did, without intermission, to Thomas Broadnax, esq. (fn. 2) who in the 13th year of king George I. anno 1727, pursuant to the will of Sir Thomas May, and under the authority of parhament, changed his name to May, and in 1729 kept his shrievalty here. In 1732 he rebuilt this seat, and in 1738, pursuant to the will of Mrs. Elizabeth Knight, widow of Bulstrode Peachy Knight, esq. (who was her second husband, her first being William Knight, esq. of Dean, in that county); and under the authority of another act, he again changed his name to Knight, and in 1742 inclosed a park round his seat here, afterwards called Ford park, which name it seems since entirely to have lost, this seat and park being now usually called Godmersham-park. Thomas May Knight, esq. beforementioned, died here, far advanced in years, in 1781, a gentleman, whose eminent worth is still remembered by many now living; whose high character for upright conduct and integrity, rendered his life as honorable as it was good, and caused his death to be lamented by every one as a public loss. He married Jane, eldest daughter and coheir of William Monk, esq. of Buckingham in Shoreham, in Sussex, by whom he had several children, of whom only four survived to maturity, Thomas, his heir, and three daughters, who died unmarried. Thomas Knight, esq. the son, succeeded his father in estates, and was of Godmersham, the seat and park of which he greatly improved. He married Catherine, daughter of Dr. Wadham Knatchbull, late prebendary of Durham, and died in 1794, s.p. leaving her surviving. He bore for his arms, the coat of Knight, vert, a bend fusilly, in base, a cinquefoil, argent, quartered with nineteen others; the second being, Broadnax, or, two chevronels, gules, on a chief of the second, three cinquefoils, argent; and the third, May, gules, a fess between three billets, or. By his will Mr. Knight gave this seat, with the park, the manors before-mentioned, and the lands belonging to it, to his widow Mrs. Catherine Knight, for her life, with remainder to Edward Austen, esq. of Rolling-place. She afterwards resided here, but removing to the White Friars, in Canterbury, she gave up the possession of Godmersham house and park to Edward Austen, esq. before-mentioned, who now resides at it.

EGGARTON is another manor, situated on the opposite side of the river, at the south-east boundaries of this parish, among the hills, near Crundal. It was antiently the estate of the noble family of Valence, earls of Pembroke. Aymer de Valence, earl of Pembroke, held this manor at his death in the 17th year of king Edward II. He died s.p. and John, son of John de Hastings, by Isabel his wife, one of the earl's sisters, and John, son of John Comyn, of Badenagh, by Joane, another of his sisters, were found to be his coheirs; and upon the division of their estates, John de Hastings the son seems to have become wholly possessed of it. He died s.p. next year, leaving Joane, wife of David de Strabolgie, earl of Athol, and Elizabeth her sister, sisters and coheirs of John Comyn, of Badenagh, his next of kin. David de Strabolgie, earl of Athol, before-mentioned, died possessed of this manor, as appears by the inquisition taken after his death, in the 1st year of Edward III. leaving it to his son of the same name, who in the 7th year of Edward III. by deed settled it on his kinsman Sir Henry de Hills; which gift was confirmed by the countess his widow, in the 20th year of that reign. Gilbert de Hills, who lies buried in this church, with the marks of his figure in armour on his grave-stone, was a person of eminence in the age in which he flourished, and from him and Sir Henry de Hills, issued many worthy successors, who were proprietors of this manor till the reign of queen Elizabeth, when it was sold to Charles Scott, esq. eldest son of Sir Reginald Scott, of Scotts-hall, by his second wife. His grandson Thomas Scott, esq. of Eggarton, left a son Thomas, who died s.p. and a daughter Dorothy, married to Mr. Daniel Gotherson, who in her right at length became possessed of this manor, (fn. 3) though not without several contests at law by some collateral claimers to it. He afterwards sold it to Sir James Rushout, bart. who had been so created in 1661, and bore for his arms, Sable, two lioncels passant, guardant, within a bordure engrailed, or. He died in 1697, and by his will devised it to trustees, to sell for payment of his debts, which they accordingly soon afterwards did, to Peter Gott, esq. of Sussex, whose arms were, Per saltier argent and sable, a bordure counterchanged. His descendant Maximilian Gott, esq. resided at Eggarton, where he died in 1735; upon which this manor, with the rest of his estates in this county and in Sussex, came to his three sisters, Elizabeth, Mary, and Sarah; and on the death of the former, the two latter became entitled to the whole fee of it, as coparceners; Mrs. Sarah Gott usually residing at this mansion of Eggarton. Mary Gott died in 1768, and by will devised her moiety of her estates to Henry Thomas Greening, gent. of Brentford, in Middlesex, who afterwards, by act of parliament, assumed the name of Gott. Sarah Gott, the other sister, died at Eggarton, in 1772, and by will devised her moiety of her estates to the children of William Western Hugessen, esq. of Provender, deceased, to be equally divided between them. (fn. 4) Mr. Hugessen left three daughters his coheirs, of whom the two surviving ones, Dorothy, was afterwards married to Sir Joseph Banks, bart. and K. B. Mary, to Edward Knatchbull, esq. now Sir Edward Knatchbull, bart. who in their wives right became entitled to one moiety of this estate, they afterwards, together with Henry-Thomas Gott, esq. before-mentioned, possessor of the other moiety, joined in the sale of the entire property of this manor to Thomas Knight, esq. of Godmersham, who purchased it for the residence of his sister Jane, since deceased. He died in 1794, s. p. and by his will gave this seat, with the estate and manor, to Edward Austen, esq. before-mentioned.


MARTIN MAYE, yeoman, of Godmersham, ordered by will in 1614, that his executors should pay to Thomas Scott, gent. and five others therein mentioned, 100l on condition that they should enter into a bond of 200l. to his executors, to settle 8l. per annum towards the maintenance of twenty of the poorest persons householders, in Godmersham, that from time to time should be there dwelling; which sum should be a perpetual payment of 8s. per annum to each of them. This charity is now vested in Mrs. Knight.

THOMAS SCOTT, ESQ. of Canterbury, by will in 1635, devised the house which he lately built in Godmersham, and ten perches of land adjoining to it, to such poor persons, born and living in Godmersham, as the heirs of his body, and for want of such heirs as the right heirs of his kinsman, Sir Edward Scott, K. B. should nominate from time to time, for ever. And if such heirs should neglect such nomination, for the space of three months, then that the churchwardens for the time being, should nominate in their room; and if they or he should fail to nominate, within one month, then that the archbishop of Canterbury should in such case nominate from time to time. And he willed one other house, with its appurtenances, which he had lately built in Godmersham, adjoining to that before limited, and 10 perches of land adjoining, in like manner as the other before-mentioned, with like nomination and limitation; and so from time to time for ever. This charity is now lost.

THOMAS CARKERIDGE. of Maidstone, by will in 1640, devised all those lands and tenements which he bought in Wye, Godmersham, and Crundal, to William Cooper and his heirs for ever, he paying out of them 6l. per annum, to the overseers of the poor of the parish of Wye, 3l. and to the overseers of the parish of Godmersham. the other 3l. for ever; and he willed that this 6l. should be every year bestowed to cloath four poor widows, two of Wye, and two of Godmersham; and if there were not such poor widows, then to cloath other poor women, each of them to have five yards and an half of good country kersey, to make a petticoat and a waistcoat, and so much lockram or other country cloth as would make every of them two smocks, and every of them a pair of hose and a pair of shoes. And he willed that this cloth and other things be given to those poor women the first Thursday in November every year; with power to distrain in any of his lands lying in Wye, Godmersham, and Crundall, &c. until the same should be paid accordingly.

JOHN FINCHE, gent. of Limne, by will in 1707, devised his messuage, tenement, and lands, containing 36 acres, in Bilting, and his messuage and tenement, and seven acres of land, and 9 acres of woodland, in Wye, Godmersham, and Crundall, and all those his six cowshares, lying in a meadow called Laines, between Ollantigh and Tremworth, in Wye and Godmersham, and a piece of meadow-ground called Temple-hope, adjoining, in Wye and Crundall, to the ministers, churchwardens, and overseers of the parishes of Wye and Godmersham, and their successors for ever, in trust, that the minister, &c. of Wye, and their successors, should dispose of the rents and profits of that land which lay in Wye, as is therein mentioned; and that the minister, &c. of Godmersham, and their successors, should dispose of the rents and profits of that land, with its appurtenances in Godmersham and Crundall, to six of the poorest and eldest people of Godmersham, or any other, half-yearly for ever. But that there should be paid out of the rents and profits of his last-mentioned lands, 40s. yearly upon Christmas-day for ever, without any deduction, to poor people of the like sort, being men; that is to say, 20s. to each of them yearly for ever. And further, that if any of the trustees, the ministers, &c. of these parishes, should at any time alter, contradict, or misapply these charities, or the rents and profits of the estates, that then the devise to such parish, the minister, &c. of which had so done, should cease and determine. And he willed that none of the said charities should be distributed to any other poor, but such as should be members of the church of England, as then by law established. This charity is now of the annual produce of 24l. 1s. 6d. and produces on an average 18l. per annum.

The present alms-houses in Godmersham-street, were erected by the father of the last Thomas Knight, esq. on the ground before devised to the parish. The building contains dwellings for eight poor people.

There is a school here, for reading and writing, supported by the voluntary benefaction of Mrs. Knight, in which about 20 children are daily taught.

The poor constantly relieved are about nineteen, casually as many.

THIS PARISH is within the ELESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Bridge.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Laurence, is a plain building, consisting of a body and a chancel, having a square low tower on the north side of the body, on which was formerly a steeple. There are five bells in it. The chancel is large and handsome. There were formerly eight stalls in it. On three of the upright end-boards of these stalls were these letters and date:P/TC An. Dom. 1409, in memory of Thomas Chillenden, prior A. D. 1409, for the use of the prior and monks of Christ church, when they came to reside at their manor here, and the other clergy who might be present at divine services, the like as they had usually in other churches where they had manors. On the south side of the church was formerly a chantry, which was dedicated to St. Mary, as appears by the will of William Geffrye, chaplain of it in 1517, who directed to be buried in it on the south side. It was suppressed in the 1st year of king Edward VI. There was a house and garden belonging to it in Godmersham-street. This chantry has been rebuilt, and is now made use of as two large pews, for the use of the owners of the mansion-houses of Ford and Eggarton. Underneath these pews, which are raised considerable higher than the level of the pavement, are vaults for the owners of these houses. In that of Eggarton lie many of the Hilles's, Scotts, and Gotts; and in that of Forde, several of the Broadnax's. The two monuments now against the south wall of the body of the church, for Thomas Carter and James Christmas, were formerly in the chantry, on the pulling down of which, they were removed hither. In the body of the church, near the steeple, is another vault for the Broadnax's, which is quite full, and the entrance closed up; and in the body of the church there are several grave-stones of them, the inscriptions of which are gone. In the church-yard, close to the wall of Mr. Knight's pew, is a small vault, built by the late Mr. Knight's father, in which he lies, with his wife and daughter Anne; and leaving only room for one more in it, in which his son was afterwards buried.

The church of Godmersham, with the chapel of Challock annexed to it, was antiently an appendage to the manor of Godmersham, and as such was part of the possessions of the priory of Christ-church, in Canterbury, to which it was appropriated in the 21st year of king Richard II. anno 1397, with the king's and pope's licence, towards the support of the fabric of their church, to which archbishop Arundel consented; for which the prior gave up to him the advowson of the two churches of St. Vedast and Amand, and St. Michael, Crooked-lane, London. (fn. 5) After which the rectory and advowson of the vicarage of this church remained with the priory of Christ church till its dissolution, in the 31st year of Henry VIII. when they were, with the manor of Godmersham, and the rest of the possessions of that priory, surrendered into the king's hands, where they remained till the 37th year of that reign, when the king granted the manor, rectory, and advowson of the vicarage of Godmersham, as has been already mentioned, to the dean and chapter of Chanterbury, in exchange for other premises, with whom the rectory remains at this time. But the advowson of the vicarage of Godmersham, with the chapel of Challock appendant to it, is now in the patronage of his grace the archbishop of Canterbury.

In the year 1254, Hugh de Mortimer, rector of this church, confirmed the exemption of the manor of Godmersham, belonging to the prior and convent of Christchurch, from the payment of small tithes arising from it; with a saving to the right of his successors.

Before the appropriation of this church archbishop Sudbury had in 1330, endowed a vicarage here, which with the chapel of Challock, is valued in the king's books at 9l. 3s. 9d. and the yearly tenths at 18s. 4¼d. It is exempt from the jurisdiction of the archdeacon.

In 1640 here were communicants two hundred and forty-three, and it was then valued at fifty pounds. In 1649 the parsonage was valued at one hundred and twenty pounds per annum.

There is a pension of ten pounds to the vicar yearly paid out of the parsonage.

Church of Godmersham.

Or by whom presented.
The Archbishop. James Vernon, obt. 1623.
Edward Wild, A.M. induscted obt. 1624.
Thomas Hull, A. M. inducted 1624.
William Branch, obt. 1625.
Tho. Pordage, esq. of Rodmersham. William 'Sewell, February 8, 1625.
Robert Ferguson, ejected 1662. (fn. 6)
John Wright, obt. 1662.
Sir Edward Hales, knt. and bart. John Whight, A. B. May 30, 1662.
John Collington, in 1664. (fn. 7)
Daniel Butler, A. B. inducted 1664.
Daniel, obt. 1675.
The Archbishop. Richard Mun, A. M. inducted July, 1675, obt. April 23, 1682. (fn. 8)
James Christmas, A. M. obt. Jan. 27, 1713. (fn. 9)
Arthur Ashley Sykes, A. M. Feb. 7, 1713, resigned 1714. (fn. 10)
John Gough, A. M. August 13, 1714, obt. Oct. 1731.
Samuel Pegge, A. M. Dec. 1731, resigned 1753.
Aden Ley, A. B. March, 1753, obt. Dec. 3, 1766. (fn. 11)
Lewis Pugh, A. B. April 1767, resigned July 1767.
Francis D' Aeth, July 1767, resigned 1771. (fn. 12)
Henry Goodrick, A. B. Jan. 1772, resigned June 1772.
Peirce Dod, A. M. July 1, 1772, resigned 1778.
Francis Whitfeld, A. M. 1778, the present vicar.


  • 1. Deeds of Purch. and Exch. Aug. off. box E. Kent 37.
  • 2. Several of their wills are in Prerog. off. Canterbury.
  • 3. See pedigree of Scott, Vistn. co. Kent, 1619.
  • 4. See the suit in chancery concerning this estate in Browne's Cases of Appeals to Parl. anno 1774, v. vii. p. 70. Filmer versus Gott and others.
  • 5. Pat. 21 Richard II. N. 9. Tan. Mon. p. 200. Battely's Somner, append. p. 24.
  • 6. He was ejected by the Bartholomew Act. Calamy's Life of Baxter, p. 286.
  • 7. He resigned this for the rectory of Kenardington.
  • 8. He lies buried in the chancel. There is a monument for him against the south wall.
  • 9. He was buried in the chantry; on the south side of this church, on the pulling down of which his monument was removed to its present place, against the south wall of the body of the church. He was likewise rector of Ulcombe.
  • 10. An account of the life and writings of this learned divine was published in 1785, by John Disney, D. D. Dr. Sykes died Nov. 23, 1756, æt. 73. and was buried in St. James's church, Wellminster.
  • 11. He lies buried in the chancel.
  • 12. He was half-brother to Sir Narborough D'Aeth, bart. He was likewise rector of Knolton, and afterwards resigned this vicarage on being presented to Eythorne.