Parishes: Wittersham

Pages 486-493

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

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section


LIES the next parish westward from Stone, being usually called Witsham.

THIS PARISH, which partakes of the gross unhealthy air of the adjoining marshes, is a lonely unsrequented place; it is about two miles and an half acros each way. The village, with the church and parsonage, stand nearly in the middle of it, upon high ground, the ridge of which runs through the centre of it, surrounded, excepting on the east, where it joins Stone, by a large tract of marsh-lands, which reach to the extremity of the island, excepting where they join the parish of Ebeney towards the north-east. At the west end of the high ground is a hamlet, called Pinyon Quarter, in which stands Palstre-court, and there are several other houses interspersed over it. The soil is a kind of loam, which in some places has the quarry or sand stone mixed with it. There are some small pieces of coppice wood in the different parts of the upland of it.

A fair is held here yearly, on the seast of St. Philip and James, May 1, for toys and pedlary.

THE MANOR OF ALDINGTON claims over the greatest part of this parish, as does the manor of Lambin, in Rolvenden, over a small district in it; subordinate to the former is the manor of Wittersham.

WITTERSHAM was given, in the year 1032, to Christ church, in Canterbury, for fosterland, that is, for the food and sustenance of the monks, by Eadsy a priest, with the consent of king Canute and Elfgive his queen, but there is no mention made any where of that church's having ever been in possession of it. But in later times this manor appears to have become a lay fee; for king Henry IV. in his 8th year, granted licence to Richard Lentwardyn and John Hurleigh, clerks, to give and assign to the master and fellows of All Saints college, in Maidstone, founded by archbishop Courtney in king Richard the IId.'s reign, the manor of Wyghtresham, among other premises in this county, which were not held of him. After which, this manor continued part of the possessions of the college till the suppression of it, in the 1st year of king Edward VI. anno 1546, at which time it was let to Sir Thomas Wyatt, at the yearly rent of fourteen pounds, (fn. 1) when the manor-house or court-lodge of it, from its belonging to the above foundation, had acquired the name it still goes by, of Wittersham college. This manor coming thus into the hands of the crown, was afterwards granted to Sir Henry Crispe, of Quekes, who settled it on his son Nicholas Crispe, esq. of Grimgill, in Whitstaple, who had been sheriff at the latter part of the first year of queen Elizabeth. He possessed it only for his life, during which there appears to have been a suit at law concerning the title to it, and on his death in 1564 it came to Thomas Parrot and Thomas Shirley, who were by inquisition found to be the two coheirs of his daughter Dorothy, and they held their separate moieties of the queen in capite, both which were afterwards alienated before the end of that reign to Thomas Bishop, esq. of Sussex, afterwards knighted, and anno 19 James I. created a baronet, who bore for his arms, Argent,on a bend,cotized,three bezants. He lived to a great age, and left surviving one son Sir Edward, his successor in title and estate, and two daughters, on the youngest of whom, Frances, he had settled this manor, anno 18 James I. on her marriage with John Alford, son of Edward, of Offington, in Sussex, esq. whose youngest daughter and coheir Elizabeth, married in the year 1659, Charles Bickerstaffe, esq. afterwards knighted, and of Wilderness, in Seale, whom she survived, and afterwards, with her only daughter and heir Frances, an act having been obtained for the purpose anno 2 queen Anne, alienated it to Mr. William Blackmore, gent. of Tenterden, who in 1707 gave it by will to his nephew John, son of his brother James Blackmore, deceased, and his descendant Thomas Blackmore, esq. of Briggins, in Hertfordshire, is the present owner of this manor.

THE MANOR OF PALSTER, or Palstre, called in antient writings, the denne of Palstre, is situated in the western part of this parish, though it extends into the parish of Ebene. This manor, at the time of taking the survey of Domesday, was part of the possessions of the bishop of Baieux, under the general title of whose lands it is thus entered in it.

In Oxenai hundred, Osbn Paisfor holds of the bishop of Baieux, Palestrei. It was taxed at three yokes. The arable land is two carucates. In demesne there is one, and nine borderers having half a carucate. There is a church, and two servants, and ten acres of meadow, and five fisheries of twelve pence. Wood for the pannage of ten hogs. In the time of king Edwards the Consessor, and afterwards, it was worth forty shillings, now sixty shillings. Eduui the priest held it of king Edward.

On the disgrace of the bishop of Baieux, four years afterwards, the seignory paramount of this manor was granted to the family of Crevequer, of whom it was held by a family who assumed their name from it, one of whom, Philip de Palstre, held it by knight's service in Henry III.'s reign, as did his descendant Thomas de Palstre in the 20th year of king Edward III. Soon after which, it came into the family of Basing, who held it, together with a moiety of the passage of Smallhythe ferry, adjoining to it. From which name it quickly after passed into that of Charles, and Richard Charles, as appears by the inquisition taken after his death, anno 1 Richard II. died possessed of this manor, with the moiety of the above passage annexed to it, held in capite, as did his nephew Richard Charles, who on his death, s.p. became his heir, in the 11th year of that reign. His son Robert dying likewise s.p. his two sisters became his coheirs, of whom Alice entitled her husband William Snaith, esq. of Addington, to it, in whose descendants it continued till the reign of king Edward IV. in the 11th year of which, Robert Wotton, esq. of Addington, died possessed of it, holding it as above-mentioned. (fn. 2) How it passed from his heirs. I have not found; but it went soon afterwards into the possession of the family of Peckham, and in the 7th year of king Henry VII. Katherine, widow of James Peckham, esq. died possessed of it, as did their son Thomas in the 7th year of king Henry VIII. holding it in capite. He left one son, and a daughter, who married Sir George Harpur, who in her right became, by her father's will, possessed of it. He presently afterwards alienated it to Sir Thomas Wyatt, as he did to Robert Rudston, esq. who in the 2d and 3d of king Edward VI. had his lands in this county disgavelled, by the general act then passed, but being attainted for his concern in Sir Thomas Wyatt's rebellion, in the first year of queen Mary this manor became vested in the crown, where it remained till the first year of the reign of queen Elizabeth, when an act having passed for restoring him in blood as well as to his estates, it came again into his possession, and he, anno 18 Elizabeth, levied a fine of it. At length his grandson Robert Rudston, in king Charles I.'s reign, alie nated it to Sir Edward Henden, one of the barons of the exchequer, who by will in 1662 gave it to his nephew Sir John Henden, (fn. 3) in whose descendants it continued till it was at length sold, in king George I.'s reign, to Thomas May, esq. of Godmersham, afterwards Knight, who died possessed of it in 1781, as did his only son and heir Thomas Knight, esq. of Godmersham, in 1794, s.p. and by will devised it to his wife Mrs. Katherine Knight for life, remainder to Edward Austen, esq. of Rolling, and she is now in the possession of it. (fn. 4)

OWLIE, antiently written Oveley, is another manor in this parish, which had once owners of that surname, in which it remained till the beginning of Richard II.'s reign, when the family of Odiarne, who were of good note in this county, became possessed of it, who bore for their arms, Sable, a chevron,between three covered cups,or; as they were formerly painted in the window at the entrance of the north chancel of this church; in whom it remained till the latter end of Henry VIII.'s reign, in the 36th year of which Thomas Odyarne appears by his will to have died possessed of it. He resided at his mansion-house of Acteden, now called Acton, in this parish, which Thomas Rayfield, of Wittersham, brother of Robert Rayfield, abbot of Boxley, had died possessed of anno 1494, and by his will had ordered it to be sold, and which, with the manor of it, as well as this of Owlie, he devised to his two sons Thomas and John Odiarne, and they soon afterwards sold the latter to John Maney, esq. of Biddenden, whose descendant Sir John Maney, bart. of Linton, in king Charles I.'s reign, passed it away by sale to Peter Ricaut, esq. afterwards knighted, who sold it to Mr. Menell, of London. At length after some intermediate owners, it became by purchase the property of Thomas May, esq. afterwards Knight, and he died possessed of it in 1781, as did his only son and heir Thomas Knight, esq. of that place, in 1794, s.p. His widow Mrs. Katherine Knight is now by his will become possessed of it.


THOMAS BEWFRERE, by will in 1463, ordered that his feoffees should make over to the churchwardens of Wittrisham, for ever, a parcel of land, called Ruffins land, containing five acres, in that parish, within the manor of Palstre, to be applied to the church when there was most need of it.

THOMAS BEREDG, of Wittersham, by will in 1578, devised to the poor of this parish yearly, out of his lands for ever, 3s. 4d. to be given to the collectors on the Friday before Easter, under the thorne in the church-yard, to the maintaining and keeping up of which, he gave the like yearly sum, to be paid out of his lands.

JOHN TRUELOVE, of Wittersham, by will in 1597, gave to the collectors of the poor, 20l. to be employed to the use of the poor people of it, and he ordered his tenement and garden to be sold, and the money that should arise therefrom to be employed to the use of the poor, so that order should be taken that it might yield a perpetual annuity to the poor man's box.

The poor constantly maintained are about thirty, casually twenty-five.

WITTERSHAM is within the WCCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Limne.

The church, which is exempt from the jurisdiction of the archdeacon, is dedicated to St. John Baptist. It is a handsome building, consisting of two isles and two chancels, having a tower steeple at the west end, built in the beginning of king Henry the VIIIth.'s reign, in which hangs a peal of bells. The north chancel, formerly called St. Mary's chapel, is now called Acton chancel, as having belonged to that manor. In the east window of it were formerly the arms of Watton. In the first of the windows on the north side, is a legend, with the name of Pitlisden, which family once owned lands in this parish. And near the entrance were the arms and the name of Odiarne, in the window of it.

The church of Wittersham is parcel of the antient possessions of the see of Canterbury, and continues so at this time, his grace the archbishop being the present patron of it.

The rectory of Wittersham is valued in the king's books at 15l. 8s. 6½d. and the yearly tenths at 1l. 10s. 10¼d. In 1588 it was valued at one hundred and sixty pounds, communicants two hundred and fifteen. There are ten acres of glebe land.

Church of Wittersham.

Or by whom presented.
The Archbishop. Thomas Bradock, obt. 1608.
Anthony Murray Ack, inducted January 1608.
Thomas Tournay, inducted 1640, sequestered 1644. (fn. 5) Crosswell.
Francis Drayton, A. M. inducted 1668, obt. 1697. (fn. 6)
Edward Tenison, LL. B. May 1697, resigned 1698. (fn. 7)
Theophilus Dorrington, inducted Nov. 1698, obt. 1715. (fn. 8)
Richard Mayo, A.M. May 1715, resigned 1723.
Thomas Rymer, S. T. P. ind. July 1723, obt. March 23, 1761. (fn. 9)
Thomas Wray, A. M. 1761, resigned 1762. (fn. 10)
Bielby Porteus, A. M. 1762, re. signed 1765. (fn. 11)
George Stinton, S. T. P. August 1765, resigned 1767. (fn. 12)
Thomas Wintle, A. M. Sept. 1767, resigned March 1774. (fn. 13)
Stanhope Ellison, A. M. April 1774, obt. Jan. 6, 1778. (fn. 14)
William Cornwallis, A. M. April 1778, the present rector. (fn. 15)


  • 1. Book of sale of colleges, &c. in Augtn. off. vol. i.
  • 2. See more of the families of Charles and Wotton, v. iv. p. 545.
  • 3. See more of the Hendens, vol. vii. of this history, p. 132.
  • 4. See Godmersham, vol. vii. p. 324.
  • 5. Walker's Suff. of Clergy, pt. ii. p. 378. On his being sequestered, one Balam was put in his stead.
  • 6. See Apledore before.
  • 7. Prebendaru of Canterbury, and held this rectory with that of Sundridge, both which he vacated on being made bishop of Ossory, in Ireland.
  • 8. He published several religious tracts and discourses.
  • 9. He held this rectory with that of Acrise by dispensation.
  • 10. He held this rectory with that of Great Chart by dispensation, and resigned both for the rectory of Rochdale, in Lancashire.
  • 11. Now lord bishop of London. See Rucking before.
  • 12. Afterwards rector and vicar of Wrotham, and vicar of Alhallows Barking, in London, chancellor of the church of Lincoln and prebendary of Peterborough. He had been chaplain to Abp. Secker.
  • 13. He resigned this rectory on being presented to that of Brightwell, in Oxfordshire. He has been BramptonLecturer at Oxford, and has published a vol. of sermons in consequence. He has likewise published a new translation of the Prophet Daniel.
  • 14. He before held the vicarage of Thorpe, in Surry, with the rectory of St. Bennet's Paul's Wharf, and afterwards held the former with this rectory by dispensation, till he resigned it for the vicarage of Boughton Blean.
  • 15. And vicar of Eleham by dispensation.