Parishes: Bilsington

Pages 344-352

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

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THE remaining parishes in this hundred lie for the most part on the clay-hills above the Marsh. The next of which, adjoining to Newchurch northward, is Bilsington, called in Domesday, Bilsvitone. The upper part of it on the hill, together with the church; is within the jurisdiction of the justices of the county; and the lower or southern part, which is below the hill, within the level of Romney Marsh, and the liberty and jurisdiction of the justices of it.

THIS PARISH is mostly situated on the clay hills, on the side of which the road leads from Limne through Bonnington hither, and so on to Ruckinge and Warehorne. The village stands on it, at a place called Bilsington cross, below which southward there is near half a mile plough-land down to the Marsh, a very little distance from which, near the foot of the hill, is the church. Close to the west end of the church-yard is the court lodge of Bilsington inferior manor, having a deep moat round it, filled with water. The remains of the priory are near half a mile northward of the above road, pleasantly situated, having a fine view over the Marsh southward. The house of the farm is formed out of the ruins of the priory. There is the stone work of a large window over the porch at the west end, and another at the east end, and two more on the south side. At the south east corner is a higher building, of three stories, with very small windows, and a circular stone stair case. Adjoining to it there seem to have been other buildings contiguous on the north side, and many foundations have been dug up thereabout. Near it there is a piece of land, called the church-yard, but there are no bones, not any figns of a burial place. It is all built of stone. Mr. Blechinden, the tenant, who lives in it, is descended from those of Aldington, where several of his family lie buried. If the church stands due east and west, the priory house stands seemingly south-southeast and north-north-west, I should otherwise think the present house was the chapel of the priory. There is much wood northward above the priory, belonging to that estate, and more eastward nearer to Bonnington. The soil is in general a very stiff clay, but towards Bonnington there is some little sand at different places. From Bilsington-cross northward by Broadoak and Mersham, is the high frequented road, and the only tolerable one from thence and this part of the county to Ashford. The upper or southern part of this parish is in the district of the Weald.

A fair is kept here yearly on July 5, which, before the alteration of the stile, was on Midsummer-day. It was formerly called Woodcock fair.

BILSINGTON, at the time of taking the survey of Domesday, in 1080, was part of the possessions of Odo, the great bishop of Baieux, the Conqueror's half-brother, under the generaltitle of which it is entered there, as follows:

In Limowart left, in Neucerce, the bishop of Baieux holds in demesue Bilsvitune. It was taxed at four sulings. The arable land is fifteen carucates. In demesne there are five, and forty seven villeins, with twenty-seven borderers having fourteen carucates. There is a church, and ten sa'tpits of one hundred pence, and ten acres of meadow, Wood for the pannage of fifty hogs, and two fisheries of five pence. In the time of king Edward the Confessor it was worth ten pounds, and afterwards thirty pounds, now fifty pounds, and yet yields of ferme seventy pounds. Alnod Cilt held it. In this manor the bishop has alienated three dennes, which remained without the division of the Earl of Ewe.

Four years after the taking of the above survey, the bishop of Baieux was disgraced, and all his possessions were consiscated to the crown. After which this manor appears to have come into the family of Albeni. William de Albeni, son of William, who had come over with the Conqueror, and was surnamed Pincerna, from his being chief butler to king Henry I. seems to have held it in sergeantry in that reign, by the service of performing that office at the king's coronation. He was earl of Arundel and Sussex, (fn. 1) in whose descendants it continued down to Hugh, earl of Arundel and Sussex, who died in the prime of his youth in 1243, in the 43d year of king Henry III. s. p. and his great inheritance was dispersed among his four sisters, of whom Maud, the eldest, married Robert de Tatteshal; Isa bell to John Fitzalan, lord of Clun and Oswaltre; Nicholea, to Roger de Somery; and Cicely, to Roger de Montholt. Upon the division of their inheritance, John Fitzalan, lord of Clun and Oswaltre, had two parts of the manor of Bilsington in right of Isabel his wife, and Roger de Somery, in right of Nicholea his wise, (two of the sisters) had the other third part, and alienated it to John Mansell, clerk, as will be further mentioned hereafter, and being thus separated, it became two manors; the former, in the possession of John Fitzalan, being from its situation called the manor of Bilsington inferior, alias Bilsington court-lodge, from its comprehending the scite of the antient mansion of it; and the latter, in the possession of Roger de Somery, being called the manor of Bilsington superior, alias Bilsington priory. The whole being held as abovementioned, in sergeantry, by the service of being chief butler to the king at his coronation.

The MANOR OF BILSINGTON INFERIOR continued in the possession of the descendants of, John Fitzalan, down to his great-grandson Richard Fitzalan, who was by king Edward I. in 1289, made Earl of Arundel. His grandson Richard, earl of Arundel, in king Edward III.'s reign, alienated it to Edmund Staplegate, who died possessed of it in the 46th year of that reign, holding it in sergeantry, by the service of presenting three maple cups at the king's coronation. He was succeeded in it by his son of the same name, then a minor, between whom and Richard, earl of Arundel, whose father had alienated this manor, there arose a great contest at the coronation of king Richard II. who should perform the office of chief butler at it, but as there was not then time to examine into the merits of it, it was ordered that the earl should perform it at that time, with a saving however to the right of Staplegate, and all others. (fn. 2) In the name of Staplegate this manor continued till the beginning of Henry VI.'s reign, when it was sold to Sir John Cheney, of Shurland, who died anno 7 Edward IV. holding it in capite, together with the manor and lands called Cockride, lying in the Marsh, but within this parish and Ruckinge, formerly parcel of the manor of Kennardington, held in like manner. In his descendants it continued down to Sir T. Cheney, lord warden, &c. whose son, H. Cheney, in the very beginning of Elizabeth's reign, conveyed it to Francis Barnham, esq. then of London, but afterwards of Hollingborne. (fn. 3) His grandson Robert Barnham, esq. of Boughton Monchensie, held it at the time of the coronation of king Charles II. by the service of carrying the last dish of the second course to the king's table, and presenting him with the three maple cups, which he performed by his deputy, and three years afterwards he was created a baronet. (fn. 4). At length his grandson Sir Robert Barnham, bart. leaving an only daughter and heir Philadelphia, she carried this manor in marriage to Thomas Rider, esq. whose son Sir Barnham Rider, died possessed of it in 1728. His son Thomas Rider, esq. performed the above service for this manor at the coronation of king George III. when, as had been usual at others before, the king, on receiving the maple cups from the lord of this manor, turned to the mayor of Oxford, who stood at his right hand, and having received from him, for his tenure of that city, a gold cup and cover, gave him these cups in return. He was some time afterwards knighted, and died unmarried in 1786, and this manor, among the rest of his estates in this county, came by his will to his second cousin, and nearest heir male, Ingram Rider, esq. of Lambeth, being the son of William, Rider, of Burston, the youngest, but next surviving brother of Sir Barnham Rider be fore-mentioned. He married Margaret, daughter of Ralph Carr, esq. of Durham, by whom he has several children. He is now of Boughton Monchensie, and is the present possessor of it. A court baron is held for this manor.

The MANOR OF BILSINGTON PRIORY, otherwise called Bilsington superior, and East Bilsington, which, as has been mentioned before, was separated from the other part of Bilsington manor, by the division of it among the coheirs and sisters of Hugh Fitzalan, earl of Arundel, in king Henry III.'s reign, was sold by Roger de Somery to John Mansell, clerk, a man of much note in that time, for his great courage, wisdom, and abilities, who was in such favour with the king that he first made him his chaplain, and then his chief counsellor, and keeper of his seal, and heaped such continual preferments and offices on him besides, that at last his income amounted to more than 4000 marcs per annum, insomuch that there was not a clerk found so wealthy as himself, and as an instance of it, Matthew Paris says, that he entertained at dinner the kings of England and Scotland, a multitude of nobles and prelates, and such a number of guests, that seven hundred dishes were scarcely sufficient for the first course. (fn. 5) Some years before his death, about 1253, being then provost of Beverley, he founded here a priory for canons regular, of the order of St. Augustine, and gave this part of the manor of Bilsington, among other premises, towards the foundation and endowment of it, to hold in free, pure, and perpetual alms, and he ordered that it should be free, and not subject to any other house wharsoever. and perpetual alms, and he ordered that it should be free, and not subject to any other house what so ever.

The proiory Of Bilsington thus founded, was built on the north-east part of this manor, on the height of the clay-hills, among the woods. The priors of it, who were chosen by the convent, and presented to the patron for his confirmation, and were installed by the archdeacon, who for his perquisite had the liberty of staying at the priory two nights and a day, and receiving both victuals and drink there during the time, but nothing further; and in the 3d year of Edward I. the prior was adjudged to hold a certain part of a sergeantry, being this part of Bilsington manor, by serving the king with his cup on Whit-Sunday; and the whole of the possessions of it were confirmed to it by letters of inspeximusin the 5th year of king Edward IV. In which situation it continued till the 27th year of Henry VIII. when, on the general visitation of religious houses, it was so managed by the commissioners, that many of the religious desired to leave their possessions and habit, and some of them gave up their houses, among which was the prior and convent of Bilsington, who signed their resignation on the 28th of February that year, anno 1535. (fn. 6)

It was then valued at 69l. 8s. per annum clear, and 811. 1s. 6d. total annual revenue. John Moyse, alias Tenterden, the last prior, on the surrendry of it, had a pension of ten pounds per annum.

Two years after the surrendry of this priory, the king granted a lease of the scite of it, with the lands and possessions belonging to it, and the rectory of the church of Bilsington, to Anthony St. Leger, esq. of Ulcombe; and afterwards, in his 29th year, he granted the scite of the priory, with the lands and appurtenances belonging to it, parcel of the above premises, excepting the advowsons of churches, to archbishop Cranmer, in exchange for other premises elsewhere. In which situation they have continued to this time, being now parcel of the possessions of the see of Canterbury, the possessors of the manor of Bilsington having constantly been the lesses. Ingram Rider, esq. is the present lessee of it.

But the manor of Bilsington superior, alias priory, with the church of Bilsington, seems not to have been included in this grant to the archbishop, but to have remained in the crown, and to have been granted afterwards in fee to Anthony St. Leger, whose descendant Warham St. Leger sold it, in the 10th year of queen Elizabeth, to Francis Barnham, esq. of London. Since which this manor, with the church of Bilsington, has passed, together with the manor of Bilsington, alias Lower Bilsington, in the like succession of ownership, down to Ingram Rider, esq. the present proprietor of both of them.

There are no parochial charities. The poor constantly relieved are about twenty, casually thirty.

BILSINGTON is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Limne.

The chruch, which is dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, is a small building, of but one isle and one chancel, having a low pointed wooden turret on the roof at the west end, in which are two bells. There are no memorials in it. In the chancel there are four stalls, two on each side at the west entrance of it.

The church of Bilsington was antiently an appendage to the manor, and seems to have passed with that part of it which was sold by the heirs of Hugh de Albini to John Mansell, and settled by him on the priory of Bilsington, to which it was appropriated by the consent of archbishop Islip, about the middle of Edward III.'s reign; (fn. 7) with which it remained, together with the advowson, till the suppression of the priory in the reign of king Henry VIII. when it came into the hands of the crown, whence it was afterwards, with all its appurtenances, granted with the manor, to Anthony St. Leger, esq. and has since passed with it in like manner, down to Ingram Rider, esq. the present impropriator of it.

There does not seem to have been ever any vicarage endowed in this church, but it most probably was served by a curate at the pleasure of the prior and canons here. Since the suppression of the priory it has been esteemed as a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the owners of the impropriation, Ingram Rider, esq. being the present patron of it.

It is now of the clear yearly certified value of thirty pounds. In 1640 here were sixty-eight communicants. Great part of the wood-land in this parish pays no tithe, as lying within the bounds of the Weald.

Church of Bilsington.

Or by whom presented.
Richard Husband, A. M. resig. 1770.
Joseph Hardy, LL. B. 1770, ob. 1786. (fn. 8)
James Bond, A. M. 1787, the present curate.


  • 1. See Milles's Catal. of Honor, p. 638 et seq.
  • 2. See Lamb. Per. p. 206. Harl. MSS. No. 1309-13.
  • 3. See Rot. Esch. 3 Eliz. pt. 3, and anno 10 Eliz, and more of the Cheneys, vol. vi. of this history, p. 248.
  • 4. See more of the Barnhams, vol. v. p. 340.
  • 5. See Mat. Paris, p. 590, 598, 616, 859 and 931.
  • 6. Tan. Mon. præf. p. xxxvii. The original deed of the surrendry is in the Augmentation office.
  • 7. Battely's Somn. p. 134. Pat. 31 Edw. III. p. 2, m. 6.
  • 8. Likewise vicar of Hedcorne.