The ville of the hundred of Westgate

Pages 2-7

The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 9. Originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1800.

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FORMERLY the king's antient forest of Blean, is a large district, consisting, almost all of it, of large tracts of coppice woods, mostly of oak, having great quantities of that timber growing over the whole of them. It extends from the bottom of Boughton-hill in length eastward almost as far as the Harbledowne turnpike, on the London road, about two miles and a quarter, and across from Whitstaple and Seasalter parishes southward as far as that of Chartham, about four miles, besides the manor, and large wood of Thornden, which lies detached from the north-east corner of it, and contains in the whole about 5000 acres of land, having many houses and cottages interspersed throughout in different places of it.

The forests of this realm were antiently waste grounds belonging to the kings of it, in which there were all beasts of chase, which were under their royal protection, for their pleasure and recreation. And so late as king Henry VI.'s reign, there were wild boars, which were hunted in these woods. And in the 15th year of queen Elizabeth, it appears there was then a patent subsisting, granted by the crown, of the office of keeper of the Blean, and the woods contained within it. (fn. 1) This forest seems to have been formerly of much greater extent, for in king Henry I.'s reign, it reached as far, and partly encircled the hospital of Harbledowne, then called from it, the hospital of Blean wood. And from the name of the parish of St. Cosmus and Damian in the Blean, it seems probable that it was once likewise, or the greatest part of it, within the bounds of this district. But before the Norman conquest, as well as afterwards, the several kings made grants at different times of large tracts of lands within it, especially to the neighbouring religious houses, till at length almost the whole of it was separated from the crown, and became the property of the subject, by which means it entirely lost all privileges of a forest, and even the name of being one, and in the room acquired that of the Blean, without any further distinction, which name continued till within memory; but several houses having been built within the bounds of it, many especially on the south side of the common, at the bottom of Boughton-hill, which were inhabited by low persons of suspicious characters, who sheltered themselves there, this being a place exempt from the jurisdiction of either hundred or parish, as in a free port, which receives all who enter it without distinction, the whole district from hence gained the name of Dunkirk. But the neighbouring parishes complaining of the burthens they were continually subject to, occasioned by the casual support of the poor resorting hither, and other inconveniences arising from it, procured it, though not without great opposition from the inhabitants, to be made a ville, by the name of the ville of the hundred of Westgate, alias Dunkirk, and the jurisdiction over it was annexed to the upper division of justices acting for the lath of Scray.

The high road from London to Canterbury croffes the whole length of this ville, from the bottom of Boughton-hill eastward. This part of the road being in neither hundred or parish, was always neglected, and left in a ruinous state, the only method taken to repair it being by presentment at the affizes, as a common county charge, (fn. 2) and it continued so till the beginning of the present century, ever since which, by an agreement entered into by the two divisions of East and West Kent, it has been repaired wholly out of the county-stock of the eastern division.

King Offa, in 791, granted to the priory of Christchurch, in Canterbury, lands in the woods, called Bocholt and Blean Heanric; after which Richard I. in his first year, gave his whole wood of Blean, with all assarts, lands and rents belonging to it, to the monks of that priory, to hold by the payment of one pair of gloves; excepting that portion of it which his father had given to the priory of St. Gregory; which gift was renewed by him under his great seal in his 9th year. One of the above grants was certainly the MANOR OF THORNDEN, with the wood belonging to it, which lies adjoining to the parishes of Whitstaple, Swaycliffe, and Bleane, but detached at near three miles distance from the rest of this district north-eastward; and in the register of Christ-church are the deeds of gift of several persons, of premises at Thorndenne, to the priory, a witness to one of which was William de Wygge, then forester of Thorndenne. This manor and estate continued part of the possessions of the priory of Christ-church till the dissolution of it, in the 30th year of king Henry VIII. when it came into the king's hands, and was, in his 33d year, settled by him on his new-founded dean and chapter of Christ-church, in Canterbury, part of whose possessions it continues at this time, Mr. James Lypeatt, of Swaycliffe, was lessee of it at his death in 1790, and his interest in it is now possessed by his three nephews, William, James and Thomas Foord.

BESIDES THE above-mentioned manor and wood, the priory of Christ-church was possessed of a very large tract of woodland in this district, contained in one of the grants above-mentioned, which woods lay on the north side of the high London road.

After the dissolution of the priory in the 30th year of king Henry VIII. it came into the king's hands, and was by him settled by his dotation-charter, on his new-founded dean and chapter of Canterbury, part of whose possessions it now continues. It contains upwards of one thousand acres of woodland, and is now in their own occupation.

THE ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY has upwards of three hundred acres of woodland within this district, called North and South Bishopsdenne, and Hurste woods; which seem to have been granted by Henry II. at the latter part of his reign, to the see of Canterbury.

THE MANOR OF BOSENDENNE, with its appurtenances, is situated likewise in this forest of Blean, being purchased by Clarembald, the first abbot of Faversham, for the use of his abbey in king Stephen's reign, of Fulco Fitz-Richard. And it was confirmed to that abbey, among the rest of the possessions of it, by king Henry II. king John, and king Henry III. After the dissolution of the abbey in king Henry VIII.'s reign, it came, with the rest of the revenues of it, into the king's hands. At which time there was an officer appointed by the abbot, for the management of this manor and their woods here, stiled the chief forester of the Blean. Whom it was first granted to afterwards, I have not found, but about the middle of the reign of queen Elizabeth, it was become the property of a family named Lewes, who then resided at it. They bore for their arms, Argent, a chevron, gules, between three beavers tails erected, proper; as exemplified by William Camden, clarencieux, at the request of Robert and Bevel Lewes, gents. of Bossenden, in Blean. After which it became the estate of the Kingsfords, from whom it passed in marriage to Venner, in which it continued till Kingsford Venner, esq. of Chelsea, in Middlesex, in the year 1786, alienated it to George Gipps, esq. and he is now the owner of it.

THE ABBOT AND CONVENT of Faversham was likewise possessed of a large tract of woodland in this forest, adjoining to the above-mentioned manor of Bosendenne westward, which perhaps might once have been esteemed part of it, and as such bought by abbot Clarembald of Fulco Fitz-Richard. It consisted of upwards of 1100 acres, and was from its situation at first called Northblean, and afterwards Feversham, alias Abbots Blean. After the dissolution of that abbey, it came, with the rest of the revenues of it, into the hands of the crown, and was granted by king Edward VI. to William Herbert, earl of Pembroke, to hold in capite, (fn. 3) and he, about the beginning of queen Elizabeth's reign, alienated it to William Lovelace, esq. sergeant-at-law, whose son Sir William Lovelace, of Bethersden, afterwards possessed it, and he having sold certain parcels of it to Sondes and Hawkins, (now possessed by lord Sondes and Mr. Hawkins, of Nash), died possessed of the remainder of it, then estimated to contain about 1100 acres. His heirs afterwards sold it to Sir William Thomas, bart. from which name it passed into that of Aucher, and thence again to Sir Henry Furnese, bart. of Waldershare; by a female coheir of whose grandson, of the same name, this, on a partition of the rest of his estates, was allotted to Selina, the youngest of them, who afterwards married Edward Dering, esq. son of Sir Edward Dering, bart. whose son of the same name, now of Surrenden, bart. is the present owner of it.


  • 1. See the will of Robert Sethe, of Herne, in Prerog. office, Cant. anno 1572.
  • 2. From Judge Twysden's papers, which have been esten mentioned in this history, and are still preserved in the family.
  • 3. Rot. Esch. an. 7 Edward VI. pt. 8. Augtn. off. deeds of purchase and exchange, box Kent, H. 16.