Parishes: Bekesborne

Pages 266-276

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

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The PARISH OF BEKESBORNE lies adjoining to Adisham, heretofore described, westward, being a member or limb of the town and port of Hastings, in Sussex, and as such within the liberty and jurisdiction of the cinque ports, which it has been time out of mind. (fn. 1) It is called in antient writings, Livingsborne, alias Bekesborne, but for a long time since Bekesborne only.

The PARISH is a far different situation from those last-described, lying great part of it pleasantly among small inclosures, and sheltered with trees and woodlands, especially in the western part of it, and stretching eastward up to the high downy country. It is but small, being about a mile and an half in length, and not more than half a mile broad. The village, with the church, is situated in the valley among the meadows, on the bank of the Lesser Stour river, which runs through the parish, and abounds with good trout. There are but five houses in it, viz. the parsonage; the seat to which the Hales's removed when Howlets fell down, and from that time resided in; it was in queen Elizabeth's reign sold to archbishop Parker, who gave it to his son to reside in, as being near his palace here, and John Parker, esq. sold it to Fogge, whence it passed by sale to the Hales's, it now belongs to Mr. Baugh; the vicarage; the remains of the archbishop's palace; and Cobham-court; the latter situated on a rise close to the church. Further on, towards Littleborne, in the vale facing the downs, is the scite of Old Howlets; at a small distance above which, on the high ground, Mr.Baugh has built a seat for his residence, commanding a beautiful view of the neighbouring country and the sea, with Ramsgate cliffs beyond it. It stands among a beautiful scenery of park grounds, of hill and dale, well cloathed with trees and adjoining woodland, having the river running in the vale beneath. The soil is mostly fertile near the valley, and very kindly for hops, of which there are several plantations. In the last century, and before, there were several families of good account resident in it, as the Parkers, Contrys, (fn. 2) Savins, (fn. 3) and Boys's. (fn. 4) There are three small parcels of land which lie separated from the rest of it, the parish of Adisham intervening.

This parish being within the liberty of the town and port of Hastings, which it is said in the most antient charters of the cinque ports to have been a member of time out of mind, is exempt from the jurisdiction of the justices of the county, and subject only to those of that town and port, and till within these few years the mayor of Hastings appointed one of the principal inhabitants of this parish his deputy, who being sworn into his office, acted for him here to the great comfort of the inhabitants, but since that has been omitted, the inhabitants of this parish have upwards of fifty miles to apply for redress upon every occasion whatsoever, the inconvenience of which has made this at present an ungovernable and lawless place.

The MANOR OF BEKESBORNE, antiently called Livingsborne, from one Levine, a Saxon, who held it in the time of king Edward the Confessor, and from the small bourn or stream which runs through it, came, after the Norman conquest, into the possession of Odo, bishop of Baieux, under the general title of of whose lands it is thus entered in the survey of Domesday:

The same bishop of Baieux holds in demesne Burnes. It was taxed at two sulings. The arable land is six carucates. In demesne there are two, and twenty-five villeins, with four borderers having seven carucates. There is a church and six servants, and one mill of thirty-eight pence, and one saltpit of thirty pence, and half a fishery, of four pence. Of pasture forty pence. Wood for the pannage of six hogs and an half. —Levine held it of king Edward.— In the time of king Edward the Confessor it was worth twelve pounds, and afterwards seven pounds, now twelve pounds, and yet it pays eighteen pounds. What Hugo de Montfort holds is worth five shillings. These three manors (viz. this manor, and Hardres and Stelling, both immediately before described) Rannulf (de Columbels) holds to ferme of the bishop of Baieux.

Four years after this, the bishop being disgraced, this manor, among the rest of his possessions, became confiscated to the crown, of which it was afterwards held by a family of the name of Beke, whence it acquired the name of Bekesborne likewise, and in king Henry III.'s reign William de Beke appears by the Testa de Nevil to have held this place, called in it, Bernes, then valued at ten pounds, in grand sergeantry, by the service of finding one ship for the king, when he passed the seas, and a present to him of three marcs. From this name it passed into that of Bourne; for I find that Walter de Bourne was possessed of it in the 37th year of king Edward III. and he sold it to Walter Doget, whose son John passed it away to John Cornwallis, John Weston, and Thomas Thornbury, and they anno 5 Henry IV. joined in the sale of this manor, and the advowson of the chantry adjoining to the lands of it, called Bourne's chantry, to John Browne, plumber, of Canterbury, who in the 1st year of king Henry VI. alienated it to William Bennet and Thomas Cadbury, and they again joined in the sale of this manor to archbishop Chicheley, and his trustees, and they in the 22d year of that reign conveyed it to the priory of Christ-church, in Canterbury, and prior Goldston, in king Henry VII.'s reign, rebuilt the prior's apartment here, and the chapel adjoining, dedicating it to the Annunciation and the patron of this church. He likewise built the hall adjoining to the prior's dormitory, and all the other buildings there, except the lodge and the two barns. And in this state it continued till the suppression of the priory in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. when it came into the king's hands, who, in his 32d year, granted it, with the prior's house, called Christchurch-house, and all other his estates in this parish, (except advowsons) in exchange, to Thomas Colepeper, senior, esq. of Bedgbury, to hold in capite by knight's service, (fn. 5) and he, by an act passed in the 35th year of that reign, specially for the purpose, exchanged it for the manor of Bishopsborne, and other premises, with archbishop Cranmer, to hold in free, pure, and perpetual alms. After which the archbishop made this house one of his palaces for his retirement, for which purpose he made considerable buildings at it, and probably would have done more, had he continued in the prelacy; (fn. 6) and archbishop Parker, who took great delight in the situation, intended further to enlarge it, but he died before he began his purpose of it. After which, in the time of the civil wars, in Charles I.'s reign, this palace was not only pillaged, but almost the whole of it pulled down by the fanatics of that time, so that the gatehouse and a few of the offices on each side of it, were all that were left remaining, which after the restoration were converted into a dwelling, and demised by the archbishop, with the demesnes of the manor, on a beneficial lease, Robert Peckham, esq being the present lessee, and residing in it. The house has lately been much modernized. But the manor of Bekesborne itself, his grace the archbishop retains in his own hands.

The gateway of the palace, which has been pulled down within these few years, through very narrow and sordid motives, was built of brick, and had in the middle of the front of it, the arms of Cranmer. On the inside of the gateway was a stone, on which was A D—T C—1552, and underneath the archbishop's motto, Nosce Teipsum. On the gates were the arms of Parker, and of the see of Canterbury impaling Parker.

HOWLETS, or Owlets, as it was formerly called, was an antient seat in this parish, which was formerly the inheritance of the family of Isaac, of the adjoining parish of Patrixborne, but how long they continued owners of it, I have not found; but that they had quitted the possession of it before the reign of queen Elizabeth, is very certain, for in the 1st year of that reign, John Dorante, of this parish, who was a good benefactor to the poor of Littleborne, was possessed of it, and his descendant, of the same name, alienated it to Sir Henry Palmer, whose family was originally of Snodland, near Rocherster, whence they branched off to Tottington, in Aylesford, and to this parish of Bekesborne. (fn. 7) He afterwards resided here, where he died in 1611, and by his will gave it to his son in-law Sir Isaac Sidley, bart. who conveyed his right in it to his brother-in law Sir Henry Palmer, and he about the year 1620, alienated it to Sir Charles Hales, of Thanington. The original of this family of Hales has been already related before, in vol. vi. p. 88, down to Thomas, second son of John Hales, of the Dungeon, one of the barons of the exchequer, who was seated at Thanington, where he died, and was buried in 1583, whose son Sir Charles Hales purchased Howlets as before-mentioned, and removed thither before his death in 1623. (fn. 8) His grandson Sir Robert Hales was created a baronet on July 12, anno 12 Charles II. 1660, during the time of whose grandson Sir Thomas this seat sell down, and the family removed to another house nearer the church in this parish, where they afterwards resided. At length his descendant Sir Philip Hales, bart. in 1787 alienated the scite of it, with the gardens and offices remaining, and belonging to it, to Isaac Baugh, esq. who is the present possessor of them, and who having entirely pulled down the old seat, has built for his residence a mansion on these grounds, on the hill, at a small distance from the scite of the antient house, but within the precinct of Well, in Ickham parish.

COBHAM-COURT is a manor, situated near the church in this parish, which was once part of the possessions of the eminent family of Cobham, of Cobham, in this country, from whom it assumed its name of Cobham-court. John, son of Henry de Cobham, of Cobham, by Joane, daughter of Robert de Septvans, was possessed of it in the beginning of Edward III.'s reign, in the 17th year of which he obtained a grant of free-warren for this manor. His son John de Cobham, lord Cobham, died anno 9 Henry IV. whose only daughter and heir Joane died in his life-time, leaving by her husband Sir John de Poole, an only daughter and heir, named Joane likewise, who on the death of her grandfather John, lord Cobham, abovementioned, became heir to his estates. She left an only daughter and heir Joane, by her second husband Sir Reginald Braybrooke, (fn. 9) who becoming heir to her estates, as well as to the barony of Cobham, entitled her husband Sir Thomas Brooke, of Somersetshire, to them, in whose descendants, lords Cobham, it continued till Henry, lord Cobham, being attainted in the 1st year of king James I.'s reign, this manor, among the rest of his estates, became forfeited to the crown. How it passed afterwards, I have not found, but that being granted from it, after some intermediate owners, it passed from the family of Palmer into that of Hales, of Bekesborne, in which it has continued, in like manner as Howlets before-mentioned, till it was, with that estate, sold among others, by Sir Philip Hales, bart. in 1787, to Isaac Baugh, esq. the present owner of it.


SIR HENRY PALMER, of Bekesborne, by will in 1611, gave the sum of 10s. to be yearly paid out of his manor of Well-court, to the minister and churchwardens, towards the relief of the poor of this parish.

BEKESBORNE, alias Livingsborne, is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Bridge.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Peter, consists of one isle, a high chancel, and a small south sept or cross chancel, having a low roofed tower at the west end, in which are two bells. The building seems to be very antient; it is long and narrow, and from the smallness of the few windows in it, is very obscure, even in the middle of the day. In the high chancel is a monument, with the figure of a knight in armour, kneeling, for Sir Henry Palmer, obt. 1611. A small one for Capt. Richard Fogge, of the royal navy, obt. 1681; arms, Fogge, with a crescent for difference. A hatchment, and under it an inscription for Edward Ladbrook, rector of Ivychurch, and vicar here, obt. August 17, 1676. In the isle are memorials for the Porredge's. A monument for Mary, wife of the Rev. Philip Brandon, obt. 1780; another for William Bedford, vicar of this parish and of Smarden, obt. 1783. A memorial for Nicholas Battely, A. M. vicar here, and rector of Ivychurch, obt. May 19, 1704; and a monument and several memorials for others of the same name. In the north window are these arms: of Sidley, per pale, azure and gules, a fess, chequy, or, and gules, between three goats heads erased, argent. In the north sept, or cross chancel, a monument for Sir Thomas Pym Hales, bart. obt. 1773, leaving by his wife Mary, daughter of Gervas Hayward, esq. five daughters. There is a vault underneath for this family.

The church of Bekesborne belonged to the priory of St. Gregory, perhaps part of its original endowment by archbishop Lanfranc in the reign of the Conqueror. It was very early appropriated to it, and was confirmed to the priory by archbishop Hubert, among its other possessions, about king Richard I. 's reign, by the name of the church of St. Peter of Lyvyngsborne. (fn. 10) The appropriation of it continued part of the possessions of the above priory till the dissolution of it in king Henry VIII.'s reign, when it was surrendered into the king's hands, where this appropriation remained but a small time, before it was granted, with the scite and other possessions of the priory, in exchange, a special act having passed for the purpose, to the archbishop, part of the revenues of whose see it continues at this time, George Gipps, esq. of Harbledown, being the present lessee of it.

But the vicarage of this church seems never to have belonged to the priory, and in the 8th year of king Richard II. appears to have belonged to the abbot of Pontiniac. How long it staid there I have not found; but it became afterwards part of the possessions of the see of Canterbury, and remains so at this time, his grace the archbishop being the present patron of it.

This vicarage is valued in the king's books at six pounds, and the yearly tenths at twelve shillings. It is now of the clearyearly certified value of 69l. 12s. 8½d. Archbishop Parker augmented this vicarage, by increasing the vicar's stipend to ten pounds per annum, and with four quarters of wheat, and eighteen quarters of barley, to be paid yearly by the lessee of the parsonage. In 1588 here were communicants eighty; in 1640, one hundred, and it was then valued at sixtyeight pounds. It is now of the yearly value of about eighty pounds.

THERE WAS A CHANTRY, dedicated to St. Mary, founded in this church anno 1314, by James de Bourne, owner of the manor of Livingsborne, alias Bekesborne, whence it came to be called Bourne's chantry, the revenues of which were given in 1362, by his successor Bartholomew de Bourne, then patron of it, to the hospital of Eastbridge, in Canterbury; and the same were confirmed to it by archbishop Sudbury in the year 1375, under the description of which hospital more of it may be seen. It was suppressed, among other foundations of the like sort, in the first year of king Edward VI.

Church of Bekesborne.

Or by whom presented.
The Archbishop . . . . John Edmunds, 1660, obt. 1666.
Edward Ladbrooke, A. M. Dec. 14, 1666, obt. 1676.
Obadiah Brokesby, A. M. Feb. 23, 1676, obt. 1685.
Nicholas Battely, A. M. August 24, 1685, obt. May 19, 1704. (fn. 11)
John Paris, A. M. June 9, 1704, obt. Nov. 9, 1709.
Charles Bean, A. M. March 3, 1709, resigned 1711. (fn. 12)
Thomas Wise, S. T. P. Sept. 27, 1711, obt. July 24, 1726. (fn. 13)
William Bedford, A. M. August 6, 1726, obt. October 11, 1783. (fn. 14)
Robert Philips, A. M. 1784, obt. January 1798. (fn. 15)
John Toke, A. M. Feb. 1798, the present vicar.


  • 1. See Jeake's Charters of the Cinque Ports, p. 25, 26–120, 124.
  • 2. Anno 1623, Prerog. off. Canterbury, Vistn. co. Kent, anno 1619, pedigree Contrie.
  • 3. John Savin, M. D. of Bekesborne, had a grant of arms in 1663. Harl. MSS. No. 1470-75. Guillim. Herald, p. 242.
  • 4. Anno 1593, Vistn. co. Kent, 1619, pedigree Boys.
  • 5. Augtn. off. box A. 56, inrolled March 15th following. See likewise Rot. Esch. ejus an. pt. 8.
  • 6. See Strype's Life of Cranmer, p. 93.
  • 7. See vol. iv. of this history, p. 467.
  • 8. See vol. vi. p. 88. vol. viii. p. 23. There is a pedigree of this family in Vistn. co. Kent, 1619. See likewise Kimber's Baronetage, vol. ii. p. 60.
  • 9. She had five husbands, but left issue only by her second, as above-mentioned. See more of her, and of the family of Cobham, vol. iii. of this history, p. 407.
  • 10. See Dugdale's Monasticon, vol. ii. p. 374.
  • 11. Likewise rector of Ivychurch, and lies buried in this church.
  • 12. He resigned this vicarage for that of Lid.
  • 13. Likewise rector of St. Alphage, in Canterbury, prebendary of Lincoln, and one of the six preachers of Canterbury cathedral. He lies buried in the chancel of St. Alphage church.
  • 14. He held this vicarage with the rectory of Smarden by dispensation.
  • 15. He resigned the curacy of Ash on being presented to this vicarage. He was also curate of Walmer.