Parishes: Swingfield

Pages 120-126

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1799.

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WRITTEN in antient deeds both Swynefelde and Swinfield, lies the next adjoining parish eastward from Acrise.

THIS PARISH lies in a very lonely and unfrequented country, most of it is upon high ground. The church stands in the north-east part of it, having a small village near it. On the eastern side of the minnis is Foxhole, late belonging to Mr. James Hammond, of Dover; and Smersole, formerly belonging to a family of the same name, afterwards to the Simmons's then to Mr. George Rigden, of Wingham, who sold it a few years ago to the Rev. Edward Timewell Brydges, of Wotton, the present owner of it. At the west end of the minnis is the hamlet of Selsted, the principal farm in which belongs to Mr. Brydges, of Denton. There are several coppice woods in this parish, the largest of which are at the north and southern extremities of it; the former of which is called Swingfield park, consisting of 185 acres. It formerly belonged to the Strangford family, afterwards to the famous Algernon Sidney, who mortgaged it to one of the family of Rushout, who purchased and then sold their interest in it to Edw. Brydges, esq. and it now belongs to his eldest son, the Rev. Mr. Bridges, of Wotton. The soil is much better than most on these hills, especially adjoining to St. John's, where it is less covered with flints, and the fields are more level, larger, and more open. In the western part of this parish is the large common, called Swingfieldminnis, which lies, the greatest part, within it, and the remainder in Acrise and Eleham. It is about two miles and an half long, and not quite half a mile wide, consisting of about 550 acres of land. The property of this minnis was always supposed to belong to the crown, accordingly after the death of Charles I. when the royal lands were surveyed, in order to their being sold for the public use, it was returned, that this minnis contained 540 acres, of the annual improved rent of two hundred and sixteen pounds, which they finding to lie in common, imagined it to belong to the crown; but Colonel Dixwell, owner of the barony and hundred of Folkestone, claimed it as paramount, as lying within it, alledging, that the seeding and commonage thereupon was enjoyed by the inhabitants of the parishes before-mentioned, with all such other persons bordering thereto; and who had any lands adjoining, on paying to him some small acknowledgment for the same, as lord paramount, which he said had been enjoyed by him and his ancestors for many generations; and the earl of Radnor, now lord paramount, and owner of the barony and hundred of Folkestone, claims as such a like right to it.

In 1745 there was a large assembly of the noblemen, gentry, and commonalty of the eastern parts of this county, to the number of four thousand, who met here accoutred with arms and ammunition, to oppose any invasion which might be made on these coasts, of which there was then great apprehension in this county.

THIS PARISH was part of those lands which made up the barony of Averenches, or Folkestone as it was afterwards called. The manors of Folkestone and Tirlingbam claim paramount over it, subordinate to which are THE MANORS OF NORTH, alias HALL-COURT, and Boynton, alias BONNINGTON, which were the two moieties of which the manor of Swingfield once consisted; the former of which appears by antient records to have been held by a family of the name of Swynefeld, and the latter by that of Bonnington; both being held by the performance of ward to the castle of Dover.

John de Criol, younger son of Bertram, died possessed of the manor of Boyton anno 48 Henry III. whose descendant Nocholas Criol, in the 3d year of king Richard II. gave it to John Fineaux, esq. in gratitude for his having saved his life at the battle of Poictiers, and he seems to have been possessed of both Boynton and North-court; but whether the latter came to him by the above gift, or by descent, I am not certain, only that they both continued in his descendants till John Fineux, esq. of Herne, the grandson of Sir John Fineux, chief justice of the king's bench, who was born here and afterwards resided at Herne, (fn. 1) leaving an only daughter and heir Elizabeth. She entitled her husband Sir John Smythe, of Westenhanger, to the possession of them, whose grandson Philip, viscount Strangford, conveyed them to trustees for the payment of his debts; and they, at the latter end of king Charles II.'s reign, alienated them to William Gomeldon, esq. of Sellindge, whose son Richard, anno 10 queen Anne, obtained an act for the sale of the manors of Northcourt and Bointon, for the discharging of his incumbrances, and immediately afterwards passed them away by sale to Sir Henry Furnese, bart. of Waldershare, whose grand-daughter Catherine, countess of Guildford, at her death in 1767, devised them by will to her husband Francis, earl of Guildford, whose grandson the right hon. George Augustus, earl of Guildford, is the present possessor of them.

ST. JOHN'S, as it is now usually called, was formerly a preceptory, appertaining to the order of the knights of St. John of Jerusalem, to whom it belonged in king Henry II.'s reign. A preceptory was a mansion, of which sort they had several in different places, in which some of their brethren were placed, to take care of their lands and estates in the neighbourhood of them. This preceptory appears to have had several benefactions of lands made to it. This preceptory, with the lands belonging to it, continued as such till the general dissolution of this order of knights, in the 33d year of king Henry VIII when they were suppressed by an act then specially passed for that purpose, and all their lands and revenues given to the king; this preceptory being then valued at 87l. 3s. 3½d. clear, and 111l. 12s. 8d. total annual revenue. But it did not remain long in the hands of the crown; for the king, in his 33d year, granted it to Sir Anthony Aucher, of Orterden, by the description of the late monastery of Swynfield, and the rectory of the same, to hold in capite by knight's service, and he, anno 5 Edward VI. passed it away to Sir Henry Palmer, of Wingham, whose son of the same name was created a baronet, and in his descendants it continued down to Sir Thomas Palmer, bart. who died in 1723, and by will bequeathed it to his natural son Herbert Palmer, esq. who died likewise s. p. in 1760, and by his will devised it first to trustees for the payment of his debts, and lastly to his sister Mrs. Frances Palmer, in tail. These trustees refusing to accept the trust, the court of chancery decreed, this estate among others to be sold for that purpose, for the term of ninety-nine years, to commence from his death; which it accordingly was, in 1777, to the Rev. Dr. Thomas Hey, of Wickhambreux, who likewise became entitled to the fee of it by the will of Mrs. Frances Palmer abovementioned, who having suffered a recovery of it, and barred the entails, had devised it to him at her death in 1770. He sold it in 1792 to Samuel Egerton Bridges, esq. of Denton, the present possessor of it.

There is much remaining of this antient building of the preceptory, now made use of as the farm-house of the estate, particularly the east end, which is lofty and handsome, in which are three narrow lancet windows with pointed arches, and three circular ones above them. This remains in its original state, and seems to have been part of the chapel, which no doubt adjoined to the mansion of it.

Richard de Swinfield, S. T. P. a native of this parish, was bishop of Hereford. He died anno 1316, and was buried in his own cathedral. He filled all the dignities of his church with Kentish men, of which two were likewise of the name of this parish.

SWINGFIELD is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Dover.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, consists of one isle and one chancel, having a square tower, with a beacon turret at the west end, in which is one bell. In the chancel are several memorials for the Pilchers, tenants of St. John's. In the isle are memorials for the Simmons's, of Smersall; arms, parted per fess and pale, three trefoils slipt. One of them, John Simmons, gent. obt. 1677, was great-grandfather of James Simmons, esq. alderman of Canterbury; memorials for the Pilchers; against the north wall is a monument for Mary, widow of Richard Pilcher, gent. of Barham, obt. 1775; arms, Pilcher, argent, on a fess dancette, gules, a fleur de lis, between three torteauxes. In the south-west window is this legend, Ora p aiabs Willi Smersolle & Margarete uxon is sue & paia Saundir Goldfiynch; above were formerly these arms, A cross impaling on a bend, cotized, a mullet between six martlets. Weever says, p. 274, there was an antient faire monument, whereon the portraiture of an armed knight, crosse legged, was to be seen, and only His jacet remaining of the inscription, and that there was this legend in a window: Orate p aia Willi Tonge & Johannis filii ejus qui banc fenestram fieri fecerunt; he died in 1478, and was buried here. And there was formerly in the windows, a figure of a knight of St. John's, habited in his furcoat of arms, a plain cross, and having his sword and spurs, and kneeling on a cushion, in a praying posture, and in one of the windows were these arms, Quarterly, first and fourth, Azure, a square castle, sable; second and third, Or, on a chevron, vert, three bawks heads erased, argent; on a chief, gules, a cross, argent; but there is nothing of these remaining now.

The rectory of this church was early appropriated to the hospital of St. John, which continued in the possessions of all the profits of it, till the dissolution of the hospital in the 32d year of king Henry VIII. After which it was granted, with the preceptory here, to Sir Anthony Aucher, who sold it to Sir Henry Palmer, in whose descendants it continued down to Sir Thomas Palmer, bart. after whose death in 1725 it passed, in manner as before-mentioned, to the Rev. Dr. Thomas Hey, of Wickham, who sold it, with St. John's, and the rectory as before-mentioned, to Mr. Brydges, of Denton, the present owner of it.

This church is now a perpetual curacy, of the yearly certified value of twenty pounds, which stipend is paid by the owner of the rectory, who has the nomination of the curate. In 1640 here were communicants one hundred and twenty-seven.

Church of Swingfield.

Or by whom presented.
Sir T. Palmer, bart. Henry Hunt, obt. 1618. (fn. 2)
Sir Henry Palmer, knight and bart. William Lunn, A. M. admitted 1675, resigned —
William Hunt, A. M. admitted June 1698, resigned 1707. (fn. 4)
Sir Thomas Palmer, bart. Thomas Rymer, D. D. admitted April 1708, obt. March 23, 1761. (fn. 5)
John Cosnan, esq. John Hardy Franklyn, A.M. admitted April 1761, ob. 1782. (fn. 6)
Rev. Thomas Hey. William Swanne, adm. 1782. (fn. 7)
Philip Papillon, admitted 1785, the present curate. (fn. 8)


  • 1. Rot. Esch. anno 17 and 18 Henry VIII. His will, proved anno 1557, is in the Prerogative-office, Canterbury.
  • 2. Wills, prerog. off. Cant.
  • 3. Afterwards rector of Denton.
  • 4. And vicar of Eleham.
  • 5. He was rector both of Acrise and Wittersham.
  • 6. Likewise rector of Wickhambreaux and of Eastchurch.
  • 7. And rector of Acrise.
  • 8. Likewise rector of Eythorne, and vicar of Kennington.