The town and parish of Hythe

Pages 231-253

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

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THE parish of Hythe, at this time within the liberty of the Cinque Ports, and the corporation of the town of Hythe was antiently, with part of the parish of West Hythe, within an hundred of its own name.

It is called in some antient records, Hethe; in Domesday, Hede; and according to Leland, in Latin, Portus Hithinus; Hithe signifying in the Saxon, a harbour or haven. (fn. 1) In the year 1036, Halden, or Half den, as he is sometimes, and perhaps more properly written, one of the Saxon thanes, gave Hethe and Saltwood, to Christ-church, in Canterbury. After which they appear to have been held of the archbishop by knight's service, by earl Godwin; (fn. 2) and after the Norman conquest, in like manner by Hugo de Montfort, one of those who had accompanied William the Conqueror hither, at which time it was accounted only as a borough appurtenant to the manor of Saltwood, as appears by the book of Domesday, taken in the year 1080, where, under the title of lands held of the archbishop by knight's service, at the latter end of the description of that manor, it is said:

To this manor (viz. Saltwood) belong two hundred and twenty-five burgesses in the borough of Hede Between the borough and the manor, in the time of king Edward the Confessor, it was worth sixteen pounds, when he received it eight pounds, and now in the whole twenty-nine pounds and six shillings and four-pence .

Besides which, there appears in the description of the archbishop's manor of Liminge, in the same record, to have been six burgesses in Hede belonging to that manor. Hythe being thus appurtenant to Saltwood, was within the bailiwick of the archbishop, who annually appointed a bailiff, to act jointly for the government of this town and liberty, which seems to have been made a principal cinque port by the Conqueror, on the decay and in the room of the still more antient port of West Hythe, before which it had always been accounted within the liberty of those ports, which had been enfranchised with several privileges and customs, though of what antiquity they were, or when first enfranchised, has not been as yet, with any certainty, discovered; and therefore they are held to enjoy all their earliest liberties and privileges, as time out of mind by prescription. The quota which the port of Hythe was allotted to furnish towards the mutual armament of the ports, being five ships, and one hundred and five men, and five boys, called gromets. (fn. 3)

The archbishop continued in this manner to appoint his bailiff, who acted jointly with the jurats and commonalty of the town and port of Hythe, the senior jurat on the bench always sitting as president, till the 31st year of king Henry VIII. when the archbishop exchanged the manor of Saltwood, together with the bailiwick of Hythe, with the king for other estates elsewhere. After which a bailiff continued to be appointed yearly by the crown, till queen Elizabeth, in her 17th year, granted them a particular charter of incorporation, by the name of mayor, jurats, and commonalty of the town and port of Hythe, under which they continue to be governed at this time; and she likewise granted to the mayor and his successors, all that her bailiwick of Hythe, together with other premises here, to hold by the yearly fee farm of three pounds, by which they are held by the corporation at this time.

The liberty of the town and port of Hytheextends over the whole of this parish, and part of that of West Hythe, which indeed before the harbour of it failed, was the antient cinque port itself, and to which great part of what has been said above of the antient state of Hythe likewise relates, but not over the scite of that church. The corporation consists of a mayor and twelve jurats, of which he is one, and twenty-four common councilmen, together with two chamberlains and a town-clerk. The mayor, who is coroner by virtue of his office, is chosen, as well as the other officcers of the corporation, on Feb. 2d yearly, and, together with the jurats, who are justices within this liberty exclusive of all others, hold a court of general sessions of the peace and gaol delivery, together with a court of record, the same as at Dover; and it has other privileges, mostly the same as the other corporations within the liberties of the five ports. It has the privileges of two maces. The charters of this corporation, as well as those of the other cinque ports, were in 1685, by the king's command, surrendered up to colonel Strode, then governor of Dover castle, and were never returned again.

Hythe has no coat of arms; but the corporation seal represents an antique vessel, with one mast, two men in it, one blowing a horn; and two men lying on the yard arm.

The PRESENT TOWN OF HYTHE is supposed to owe its origin to the decay of the antient ports of Limne and West Hythe, successively, the harbours of which being rendered useless, by the withdrawing of the sea, and their being banked up with sand, occasioned this of Hythe to be frequented in their stead, and it continued a safe and commodious harbour for considerable length of time, till the same fate befel it likewise, and rendered it wholly useless; and whoever, as Lambarde truly observes, considers either the vicissitude of the sea in different places, and the alterations which in times past, and even now, it works on the coasts of this kingdom, will not be surprized that towns bordering upon the sea, and supported by traffic arising from it, are subject in a short time to decay, and become in a manner of little or no consequence; for as the water either flows or forsakes them, so they must of necessity flourish or decay, flowing and ebbing, as it were, with the sea itself. (fn. 4) Thus after the sea had retired from the town of West Hythe and its haven, the former fell to decay, and became but a small village of no resort, and the present town of Hythe, at two miles distance, to which it was continued by a number of straggling houses all along the shore between them, rose to prosperity, and its harbour became equally noted and frequented in the room of it; so that in a short time the houses and inhabitants increased here so greatly, that Leland says there was once a fair abbey in it, and four parishes and their churches, one of which was that of our Lady of Westhithe, which shews that West Hythe was once accounted a part of the town itself. But this must have been in very early times; for long before king Richard II.'s reign, I find it accounted but as one single parish. The town and harbour of Hythe were by their situation always liable to depredation from enemies; in particular, earl Godwin, when exiled, returned in 1052, and ravaging this coast, took away several vessels lying at anchor in this haven, and Romney; and in king Edward I.'s reign, anno 1293, the French shewed themselves with a great fleet before Hythe, and one of their ships, having two hundred soldiers on board, landed their men in the haven, which they had no sooner done, but the townsmen came upon them and slew every one of them; upon which the rest of the fleet hoisted sail, and made no further attempt. In the latter part of king Richard the IId.'s reign, a dreadful calamity happened to it, when more than two hundred houses of it were burnt down in one day; (fn. 5) and five of their ships were lost, and one hundred men drowned, by which misfortunes the inhabitants were so much impoverished and dispirited, that they had thoughts of abandoning the place, and building themselves a town elsewhere; but king Henry IV. by his timely interposition, prevented this, and by charter released them from their quota of shipping for several turns. The following is Leland's description of it, who wrote in king Henry VIII.'s reign, "Hythe hath bene a very great towne yn lenght and conteyned iiii paroches, that now be clene de stroied, that is to say, S. Nicholas paroche, our Lady paroche, S. Michael paroche, and our Lady of West Hithe, the which ys with yn less than half a myle of Lymne hill. And yt may be well supposed that after the haven of Lymne and the great old towne ther fayled that Hithe strayt therby encresed and was yn price. Finally to cownt fro Westhythe to the place wher the substan of the towne ys now ys ii good myles yn lenght al along on the shore to which the se cam ful sumtym, but now by banking of woose and great casting up of shyngel the se is sumtyme a quarter, dim. a myle fro the old shore. In the tyme of king Edw 2 ther were burned by casuelte xviii score houses and mo, and strayt followed a great pestilens, and thes ii thinges minished the towne. There remayn yet the ruines of the chyrches and chyrch yardes. It evidently appereth that wher the paroch chirch is now was sumtyme a fayr abbey, &c. In the top of the chirch yard is a fayr spring and therby ruines of howses of office of the abbey. The havyn is a prety rode and liith meatly strayt for passage owt of Boleyn; yt croketh yn so by the shore a long and is so bakked fro the mayne se with casting of shingil that smaul shippes may cum up a large myle towards Folkestan as in a sure gut." Though Leland calls it a pretty road, yet it then seems to have been in great measure destroyed by the sands and beach cast up on this shore, by the desertion of the sea, for he describes it as being at that time as only a small channel or gut left, which ran within shore for more than a mile eastward from Hythe towards Folkestone, that small vessels could come up it with safety; and the state of the town and trade of it in queen Elizabeth's time, may be seen by a survey made by her order in her 8th year, of the maritime parts of this county, in which it was returned, that there were here, a customer, controller, and searcher, their authority several; houses inhabited, 122; persons lacking habitation, 10; creeks and landing places two; th'on called the Haven, within the liberties; th'other called the Stade, without the liberties. It had of shipping, 17 tramellers of five tunne, seven shoters of 15; three crayers of 30, four crayers of 40; persons belonging to these crayers and other boats, for the most part occupied in fishing, 160.

Soon after this, even the small channel within land, above-mentioned, which served as the only remaining harbour, became likewise swarved up and lost, though it had the advantage of the Seabrook, and other streams, which came down from the down hills, as a back water, to keep it scowered and open; and though several attempts were from time to time afterwards made, at no small expence and trouble, to open it again, yet it never could be effected; and the abovementioned streams, for want of this channel, flow now towards the beach on the shore, and lose themselves imperceptibly among it.

The parish of Hythe, which is wholly within the liberty of the corporation, extends from the sea shore, the southern bounds of it, northward up the hill a very little way beyond the church, which is about half a mile, and from the bridge at the east end of the town westward, about half way up the hill towards Newingreen, being more than a mile and an half. The town, which contains about two hundred houses, is situated exceedingly pleasant and healthy, on the side as well as at the foot of the quarry-hill, where the principal street is, which is of a handsome breadth, and from the bridges at the extremities of it, about half a mile in length. It has been lately new paved, and otherwise much improved. The court-hall and market place are near the middle of it, the latter was built by Philip, viscount Strangford, who represented this port in parliament anno 12 Charles II. His arms those of the five ports; of Boteler; and of Amhurst, who served likewise in parliament for it, and repaired this building, are on the pillars of it. There are two good inns; and near the east end of it St. John's hospital. Higher up on the side of the hill, where the old town of Hythe is supposed once to have stood, are parallel streets, the houses of which are very pleasantly situated; several of them are handsome houses, occupied by genteel families of good account, the principal one of them has been the seat of the family of Deedes for several generations.

This family have resided at Hythe, in good estimation, for upwards of two hundred years; the first of them that I meet with being Thomas Deedes, who by Elizabeth his wife, sister of Robert Glover, esq. Somerset herald, a most learned and judicious antiquary, had one son Julius Deedes, whose youngest son Robert had a grant of arms confirmed to him, and Julius his nephew and their heirs, by Byshe, clarencieux, in 1653, Per fess, nebulee, gules and argent, three martlets, counter changed , which have been borne by the different branches of this family ever since. William, the youngest son but one, left a son William, the first who appears to have resided at Hythe. He died in 1653, and was buried in this church, which has ever since remained the burial place of this family. He had one only son Julius Deedes, esq. who was of Hythe, for which he was chosen in three several parliaments, and died in 1692, having had three sons, of whom William, the eldest, was ancestor to the Deedes's of Hythe, and of St. Stephen's, as will be mentioned hereafter; Henry, the second son, was of Hythe, gent. whose eldest son Julius, was of Hythe, esq. and died without surviving issue, upon which this seat, among the rest of his estates, came by the entail in his will, to his aunt Margaret Deedes, who dying unmarried, they came, by the same entail, to her cousin William Deedes, esq. late of Hythe, and of St. Stephen's, being descended from William, the eldest son of Julius, who died in 1692, and was a physician at Canterbury, whose son Julius was prebendary of Canterbury, and left one son William, of whom hereafter; and Dorothy, married to Sir John Filmer, bart. of East Sutton, by whom she had no issue. William Deedes, esq. the only surviving son before-mentioned, of Hythe and St. Stephen's, possessed this seat at Hythe, with several other estates in this neighbourhood, by the above entail. He married Mary, daughter of Thomas Bramston, esq. of Skreens, in Essex, and died in 1793, leaving surviving two sons, William, of whom hereafter; John, who married Sophia, daughter of Gen. Forbes, and one daughter Mary, unmarried. William Deedes, esq. the eldest son, is now of Hythe, and married Sophia, second daughter of Sir Brook Bridges, bart. by whom he has two sons and three daughters.

Further westward is St. Bartholomew's hospital. Opposite Mr. Deedes's house, but still higher up, with a steep ascent, is the church, the hill reaching much above it northward. On the upper part of this hill, are several springs, which gush out of the rock, and run into the streams which flow at each end of the town. All the houses situated on the side of the hill, have an uninterrupted view of the sea southward, Romney Marsh, and the adjoining country. The houses throughout it are mostly modern built, and the whole has a neat and chearful appearance. There is a boarding-school kept in the town for young ladies, and on the beach there are bathing machines for the accommodation of invalids. There was formerly a market on a Saturday, which has been long since discontinued, though the farmers have for some time held a meeting here on a Thursday, for the purpose of selling their corn; and two fairs yearly, formerly held on the seasts of St. Peter and St. Edmund the King, now, on July 10th and December 1st, for horses and cattle, very few of which are brought, and shoes and pedlary.

Here is a small fort, of six guns, for the protection of the town and fishery, which till lately belonged to the town, of which it was bought by government, but now rendered useless, by its distance from the sea, from the land continuing to gain upon it; the guns have therefore been taken out. Soon after the commencement of the war, three new forts, of eight guns each, were erected, at the distance of a mile from each other, viz. Twis, Sutherland, and Moncrief; they contain barracks for 100 men each. Every summer during the present war a park of royal artillery has been established on the beech between the forts and the town, for the practice of guns and mortars; and here is a branch of the customs, subordinate to the out port of Dover. This town is watered by two streams; one at the east end of it, being the boundary between this parish and Newington; and the other at the west end, called the Slabrooke, which comes from Saltwood, and runs from hence, by a channel lately made for that purpose, into the sea, which has now left this town somewhat more than half a mile, much the same distance as in Leland's time, the intermediate space being entirely beach and shingle-stones, (the great bank of which lines this shore for upwards of two miles in length) on which, at places, several houses and buildings have been erected, and some parts have been inclosed, with much expence, and made pasture ground of, part of which is claimed by different persons, and the rest by the corporation as their property.

The CINQUE PORTS, as well as their two antient towns of Rye and Winchelsea, have each of them the privilege of returning members, usually stiled barons to parliament; the first returns of which, that are mentioned for any of them, are in the 42d year of king Edward III.

The following is a list of such returns of the barons which have been returned to parliament for the port of Hythe, from the beginning of Elizabeth's reign.


Years of the Reign, &c. Names of the Barons in Parliament.
1st. At Westminster. Ralph Hasilherst, Ralph Hasilherst.
5th.— Edward Popham, gent. John Bridgman, gent.
13th. — William Cromer, esq. John Stephens, gent.
14th. — Thomas Honywood, esq. John Bridgman, gent.
27th. — Christopher Honywood, gent. George Moreton.
28th.— John Smith, William Dalmington, gent.
31st. — John Smith, gent. John Collins, gent.
35th. — Henry Fane, esq. John Collins, gent.
39th.— Christopher Honywood, Christopher Toldervy, esqrs.
43d. — William Knight, mayor, Christopher Toldervy, esq.


1st. — John Smith, Christopher Toldervy, esqrs.
12th. — —.
18th.— Peter Heyman, Richard Zouch, LL. D. (fn. 6)
21st. — The same.


Years of the Reign, &c. Names of the Barons in Parliament.
1st. At WestminIst. At Westmin Edward Dering, knt. Edward Clarke, esq.
1st.— Peter Heyman, knt. Basill Dixwell, esq.
3d. Peter Heyman, Edward Scot, knts.
15th. — Henry Heyman, John Wansford, esqrs.
16th. — Henry Heyman, bart. John Harvey, esq. (fn. 7)


12th. — 1660. Philip, viscount Strangford, Phineas Andrews, esq.
13th.— 1661. John Harvey, esq. Phineas Andrews, esq. (fn. 9)
31st. — 1678. Edward Dering, bart. Julius Deedes.
31st. — 1679. Edward Dering, bart. Edward Hales, esq.


1st.– 1685. Hon. Heneage Finch, Julius Deedes, esq. (fn. 10)


Years of the Reign, &c. Names of the Barons in Parliament.
1st. At Westminster, 1688. Edward Hales, Julius Deedes, esqrs.
2d. – 1690. Philip Boteler, bart. William Brockman, esq.


7th. – 1695. Philip Boteler, bart. Jacob Desbouverie, esq.
10th. – 1698. The same.
12th. – 1700. Philip Boteler, bart. John Boteler, esq.
13th. – 1701. The same.


1st. – 1702. Philip Boteler, bart. John Boteler, esq.
4th. – 1705. The same.
7th. – 1708. Hon. John Fane, (fn. 11) John Boteler, esq.
9th.– 1710. Richard, viscount Shannon, Hon. John Fane. (fn. 12)
12th. – 1713. Jacob Desbouverie, esq. John Boteler, esq.

Deedes, the mayor, is not duly elected. New writ ordered in his stead. Journals, vol. ix. William Shaw, esq. was chosen in his room.


Years of the Reign, &c. Names of the Barons in Parliament.
1st. At Westminster, 1714. Sir Samuel Lennard, bart. Jacob Desbouverie, esq.
7th. – 1722. Sir Samuel Lennard, bart. Hercules Baker, esq.


1st. – 1727. Sir S. Lennard, knt. and bart. (fn. 13) Hercules Baker, esq.
7th. – 1734. Hercules Baker, William Glanville, esqrs.
14th. – 1741. Hercules Baker, (fn. 14) William Glanville, esqrs.
21st. – 1747. William Glanville, esq. Sir Thomas Hales, bart.
28th. – 1754. The Same.


1st. – 1761. William Glanville, esq. (fn. 15) Lord George Sackville.
7th. – 1768. John Sawbridge, Wm. Glanville Evelyn, esqrs.
14th. – 1774. Sir Charles Farnaby, bart. William Evelyn, esq.
20th. – 1780. The Same.
24th. – 1784. The Same.
30th. At Westminster, 1790. Sir Charles Farnaby, bart. William Evelyn, esq.
36th. – 1796. The same. (fn. 16)

The right of election, as was determined by the house of commons in 1710, at which time the number of the electors were fifty, is in the mayor, jurats, common council, and freemen, making together in number at present in all about one hundred and thirty-six, that is mayor and jurats twelve, commoners twenty four, freemen one hundred and seventy-three, of which altogether there are only twentytwo residents.

The barons, or freemen of the cinque ports, and their two antient towns, have, time out of mind, been allowed to carry the canopy over the king and queen at their coronations, and afterwards to have the same, with their appurtenances, as their accustomed fees; and also to sit the same day at the principal table, at the right side of the hall. These fees of the canopies and bells, the barons divide equally among themselves. (fn. 17) This is called, in the charter of Edward I. their honors at court, to perform which they formerly received summons, but they have long since been used to put in their claim by petition, and at the time of a coronation, a special election is made by each port, of thirty-two of their respective barons to serve for this purpose; the number for Hythe being usually two for each canopy.

THERE ARE TWO HOSPITALS in this parish, for the maintenance of the poor; one called St. Bartholomew's, and the other St.John's. The former, now called St. Bartholomew's hospital, seems to have been that which was at first intended to be founded in this parish by Hamo, bishop of Rochester, in 1336 (fn. 18) on the spot where he and his ancestors had their origin, and was dedicated by him to St. Andrew the Apostle, the patron saint of his church of Rochester. When it first changed its name to St. Bartholomew, I have not found, but I have not met with the name of St.Andrew any where but in the bishop's charter of foundation, now how he came afterwards to alter his intention, and to found it in the parish of Saltwood instead of Hythe, but so it appears he did, for it is universally described as the hospital of St.Bartholomew of Saltwood, from whence it was not removed till after the year 1685, to its present situation in Hythe. Although the foundation was to have by the king's licence, xiii poor in it, yet the bishop, by his charter for that purpose, as may be seen hereafter, placed in it at first only ten brethren and sisters, who were to be chosen especially from such of this parish who had fallen from affluence to poverty, who were to be clothed uniformly in russet gowns, and to have four-pence each a week alms for their food. They were to attend divine service in their own chapel, if they had one, or otherwise in this parish church, and the rest of the day employ themselves in useful and honest occupations; and if the revenues should at any time be increated, the number of poor and their stipends, with the authority of the diocesan, should be augmented likewise; which seems to have happened afterwards, and the full number of xiii, mentioned above, to have been admitted, and continued in it for some length of time. In the 26th year of king Henry VIII. the revenues of it were valued in the king's books at 4l. 6s. per annum; and in the 5th year of queen Elizabeth, anno 1562, as appears by the return of archbishop Parker, at eight pounds per annum, with the charges; at which time there were xiii poor, according to the foundation, who were relieved by alms in it. This hospital is now situated in this parish of Hythe, at no great distance south-westward from the church. There are ten poor persons in it, five men and five women, who have each about nine pounds per annum in money, with an apartment, coals, and other emoluments. There are about one hundred acres of land belonging to it, which lie near it, of the yearly value of about one hundred and twenty pounds per annum. It is under the management of three trustees, now called wardens, chosen by the mayor and corporation. The owner of the manor of Postling has a nomination of one of the poor persons in this hospital, as is supposed from his having been at some time a benefactor to it. Mrs. Margaret Deedes, of Hythe, by will in 1762, left five pounds per annum to this hospital, payable out of land now in Mr. Deedes's possession.

The OTHER HOSPITAL OF ST. JOHN, is situated at the east end of the town. The founder of it, as well as the time of its foundation, is totally unknown. further than that it appears by the charter above-mentioned, of Hamo, bishop of Rochester, in 1330, to have existed at that time, and to have been founded especially for the relief of lepers, excepting that Henry Skinner of Hythe, by will anno 1461, gave to the alms house of St.John Baptist, of Hythe, a piece of land lying at St.Nicholas, and Richard Cromp, of Hythe, mercer, by will anno 1580 in that reign, gave to the alms-house of Hythe, and to the perpetual relief of the poor members of Christ there entertained, ten acres of land lying in Biddenden, both which I suppose were intended for this hospital, from which time till the reign of queen Elizabeth, I meet with nothing more concerning it; but in the account given by archbishop Parker, in the 5th year of it, anno 1562, of the state of the hospitals in his diocese, by order of the queen, he returned, that the hospital of St.John of Hythe was founded, ordered, and charitably only maintained by the jurats and commonalty of the said town; and that there were kept daily and maintained eight beds, for the needy poor people, and such as were maimed in the wars, and further, that the hospital was endowed with lands amounting to six pounds per annum, but that it was not taxed to the tenths. (fn. 19) The revenues of it at present consist of fifty-four acres of land, of the value of 57l. 16s. per annum. It is under the management of trustees, who are in general members of the corporation, and when their number is reduced to two, they are to chuse as many more as they think proper. The number and qualifications of the poor relieved is at the discretion of the trustees, and there are six apartments in it for their accommodation. It is situated on the south side of the high street; the front of it has an old gothic arch for its entrance, and over it a window of the like form. Near this, eastward, was another stone building, of like fashion, belonging to it, which has been lately pulled down, and the scite and materials converted into a tanner's barn.


THOMAS WALTON, of Hythe by will anno 1508, ordered his feoffees to enfeoffe the churchwardens of Hythe, in his piece of land called the Kowleeze, lying at Damycott, to the use and reparation of the church for ever; which land is now in two pieces, which are let together at 2l. 6s. per annum.

WILLIAM LANGDON, of Hythe, by will anno 1581, gave 12d. yearly to the reparation of the church here, to be raised out of his then dwelling house here for ever; and 6d. yearly out of his shop, called the Fordge; and 6d. likewise yearly for ever out of a garden, called Hopis-hall.

LAURENCE WELLER, of Hythe, tanner, by will anno 1663, gave to the poor of Hythe 3l. to be distributed on the day of his funeral; and he gave to the poor of this parish a parcel of meadow and pasture land, lying in Saltwood, containing two acres. And the sum of 80l. which he directed that the churchwardens, with the consent of the mayor and jurats, should lay out and secure in lands, the yearly profit to remain for ever, to be from time to time employed towards putting out apprentices, one or more poor children, whose fathers or mothers were dead, or whose mothers were widows; and in default of such poor children, whose parents were no ways able to provide for them; and on the churchwardens or overseers neglecting to observe his will in this behalf, then he wills the benefit of it to the use of the poor of Saltwood, till such time as the parish officers of Hythe should perform the same. The annual produce of which bequest is now 12l, 2s, 6d. per annum.

JOHN BROWN gave by will 20l. the interest of it to be distributed among the poor of this parish on every Easter-day.

There is a charity school in this parish, supported by voluntary contributions, to which-Dr. Tenison, bishop of Ossory, gave a piece of land at Kennington, held by lease from the dean and chapter of Canterbury, now let for 1l. 7s. per annum.

There have been several scarce plants observed in and about this parish, and among others

Papaver cornutum flore luteo, yellow horned poppy; plentifully on the beach along the sea shore here.

Behen flore albo elegantiori; all along upon the beach between this place and Romney. (fn. 20)

The PARISH OF HYTHE is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Eleham.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Leonard, is a fine handsome building, consisting of three isles, a north and south cross, and three chancels, with a tower steeple at the west end, in which are six bells and a clock. The church stands on the side of a high and steep hill, a considerable height above any of the town, having a very large church-yard adjoining, mostly on the west and north sides, in the middle of which is a large open well of water, under a cove of the quarry stone. There is a very handsome flight of many stone steps up to the church, given by William Glanville, representative in 1729. The room over the porch at the entrance, is the town-hall, where the mayor and other members of it are yearly chosen. The tower, built in the room of the old one, which suddenly fell down in 1748, was rebuilt, and the church repaired, by a brief. It is a very fine one, of excellent masonry of quarry stone, with ashlar quoins and ornaments, and has four turrets on the top. The middle isle has, not long since, been paved with Portland stone, and new pewed. There are two galleries; one built at the charge of the parish, in 1750; the other by Hercules Baker and William Glanville, representatives, in 1734. In the middle hangs a handsome brass branch. This isle has a row of small upper windows on each side, being an upper story in the choir fashion. The south cross, at the time the tower was new built, and the church repaired, was taken down by the family of Deedes and rebuilt by them, with a vault of its full size underneath, for their burial, which was finished in 1751, at their own charge; for this, and for appropriating to themselves and servants four pews in this isle, they obtained a faculty. This cross isle or chancel is paved with Portland stone, and is separated from the south isle by an iron railing. In it are several monuments of the Deedes family. On the west side of the north cross, there appears on the outside to have been an antient door-way, the arch over it being circular, with zig zag ornaments, &c. The ground on the outside is nearly up to the spring of the arch, and there are no appearances of it on the inside. The three chancels are very antient indeed, much more so than the isles, from which there is an ascent to each; the pillars in them are inclustered with small ones of Bethersden marble, and both the arches and windows very beautiful and lofty. The middle or high chancel has a grand approach, having eight steps to it from the middle isle, and three more towards the altar. The windows are very light and losty, especially the three at the east end, which are remarkably elegant. There are, round the upper part of it and on the south side, small double arches and Bethersden pillars, similar to those on the sides of the choir in Canterbury cathedral. The whole is new paved with Portland stone. The north chancel, which, as well as the opposite one, has a rise of steps from the isle, has no inscription in it. The pillars of both these chancels have an unusually large base, of near three feet high, and about five feet square, upon the surface of the pavement. The rector formerly repaired the high chancel; but on account of the smallness of his living, the parish took upon themselves the repair of it, and in lieu assessed him to a small portion of the church rate. In this church are numbers of monuments and memorials; among others, for the family of Deedes, for the Master's and Collins's. Memorials for Isaac Rutton, lieutenant of Dover castle, obt. 1683; for Henry Estday, gent. obt. 1610; for Robert Kelway, A. M. rector of Hope, &c. obt. 1759. An inscription on brass for John Bredgman, the last bailiff and the first mayor of Hythe, obt. 24 Elizabeth, 1581. For several of the Knights, arms, A chevron, between three birds ; and a monument for Robinson Bean, gent. ten times mayor here, &c. &c.

Leland says, as has been already mentioned before, that it evidently appeared, where the church now is was once an abbey, and the ruins of the offices belonging to it were in his time to be seen, near the spring in the church-yard; but there have been no traces of any such buildings for a long time, nor any mention made of such foundation by any other writer.

In the cript or vault under the east end of the middle chancel, is piled up that vast quantity of human sculls and bones, so often mentioned in this history, the pile of them being twenty-eight feet in length, and eight feet in height and breadth. They are by the most probable conjectures supposed to have been the remains of the Britons, slain in a bloody battle, fought on the shore between this place and Folkestone, with the retreating Saxons, in the year 456, and to have attained their whiteness by lying for some length of time exposed on the sea shore. Several of the sculls have deep cuts in them, as if made by some heavy weapon, most likely of the Saxons.

Leland's authority has been mentioned for there having been four parish churches, viz. St. Nicholas, Our Lady, St. Michael, and Our Lady of Westhithe, at the time this town was in its greatest prosperity, which were then clean destroyed, as he expresses it; and that there remained the ruins of them and the church-yards in his time. And though I meet with no other mention of them by other writers, yet there are probable circumstances, to think there were once more parishes and their churches here than the present parish and church of St. Leonard; for it appears by the map of the hospital lands, made in 1685, that there is a field about half a mile westward from Hythe church, called St. Nicholas's church-yard, with some ruins of a building at the south-west corner of it. Upon the side of the quarry-hills, between Hythe town and West Hythe, is another field, called St. Michael's Ash, probably from that church having been once near it. This will account for two of these churches, Our Lady of West Hythe is the third, and the fourth which he calls Our Lady, I should think means the present church, which might perhaps in early times be so called. However, I find the present one of St. Leonard, mentioned as the only parish church of Hythe as early as the 8th of Richard II. several years before the dreadful conflagration abovementioned happened, which is said to have been the ruin of the town of Hythe. This church of St. Leonard being exempt from the jurisdiction of the arch deacon, has always been accounted as a chapel of ease to the adjoining church of Saltwood, to the manor of which this borough of Hythe was ever appurtenant; accordingly it is, with that rectory, in the patronage of the archbishop, the rector of Saltwood being collated and inducted to the rectory of Saltwood, with the chapel of Hythe appurtenant to it.

It is included in the king's books in the valuation of the rectory of Saltwood. In 1588 here were communicants five hundred and sixty.

There was formerly a chantry in this church, which was suppressed with others of the same kind anno I and 2 Edward VI. when the incumbent William Decon, had a yearly pension of six pounds (fn. 21).


  • 1. Lamb. Peramb. p. 184. Spelman's Gloss. p. 277.
  • 2. Battely's Somner, pt. i. appendix, p. 49.
  • 3. Jeake's Charters of the Cinque Ports, p. 23.
  • 4. See Lambarde's Perambulation, p. 187.
  • 5. See Leland's Itinerarty, vol. vi. p. 11.
  • 6. See an account of him in Wood's Ath. vol. ii. col. 255.
  • 7. On his death Thomas Westrow, esq. was chosen.
  • 8. The year before the restoration, Sir Robert Hales, knight and baronet, and William Kenrick, esq. were chosen by this port to parliament.
  • 9. In 1672, a new writ was ordered in the room of Sir Henry Wood, deceased, petition of Edward Hales, esq. referred. Journals, vol. ix. Again in 1674 petition of Mr. Hales referred, resolved, that Sir Lioline Jenkins is duly elected. Journals, ibid.
  • 10. In 1685, information given, that the mayor had returned himself, resolved by the house of commons, that Mr. Julius.
  • 11. Afterwards earl of Westmoreland.
  • 12. They were declared unduly elected by the house of commons, on the petition of William Berners and John Boteler, esq. who were declared duly elected in their stead. Journals, vol. xvi. On William Berners's death in 1712, Richard, viscount Shannon, was elected in his room.
  • 13. He died in 1728, and William Glanville, esq. was chosen in his room.
  • 14. He died in 1744, and Thomas Hales, esq. was chosen in his room.
  • 15. He died in 1766, and Col. William Amherst, (youngest brother of Jeffry, lord Amherst) was chosen in his room.
  • 16. Sir Charles Farnaby, bart. who had taken the name of Radcliffe, died in 1798, and the hon. Charles Marsham, eldest son of lord Romney, was chosen in his room.
  • 17. See Jeake's Charter's of the Cinque Ports, p. 129.
  • 18. This charter is sealed by the bishop, and by the community of the port of Hethe, with their common seal, anno 10th Edward III. See Reg. Roff. p. 413. Dugd. Mon. vol. ii. p. 468. Rot. Pat. 10 Edward III, p. I, m. 14. Tan. Mon. p. 225.
  • 19. Strype's Life of archbishop Parker, p. 114.
  • 20. See Raii Synopsis, p. 142, 252, 337, 375, 423. Hudson, p. 186, 307, 405. Merrett's Pinax, p. 14.
  • 21. Willia's Mitred Abbeys, vol. ii. 105.