The town and parish of Fordwich

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

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'The town and parish of Fordwich', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 9, (Canterbury, 1800) pp. 56-67. British History Online [accessed 25 April 2024]

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LIES at no great distance from St. Stephen's, a small part of the parish of Sturry only intervening, and about two miles north-eastward from Canterbury. It takes its name from the ford or pass, at the crooked winding of the river Stour, close to which it is situated. The liberty of the cinque ports claims over the whole of this parish, the town of which is a subordinate member to the principal cinque port of Sandwich, and in the survey of Domesday is said to lie within a hundred of its own name, (fn. 1) being called in the records of that time, Burgum de Fordwyc.

King Edward the Confessor, in the year 1055, gave all his lands in Fordwych to the abbot and convent of St. Augustine, who were possessed of some property here before; but soon after the conquest, Egelsin, then abbot, to gain the favour of the powerful Normans, granted away several of the estates of his monastery to them, and among others this of Fordwych to Hamo de Crevequer, surnamed Vicecomes. But the king afterwards, at the instance of abbot Scotland, put him again in possession of this borough, which Hamo the sheriff then held, as well as the other estates which had been given away. And at the same time Odo, bishop of Baieux, the king's half-brother, gave to the abbot all the houses he had here. Soon after this, anno 1080, the survey of Domesday was taken, in which, under the general title of the lands of that abbey, it is thus entered:

In Forewic hundred, the abbot himself holds one small borough, which is called Forewic. Two parts of this borough king Edward the Confessor gave to St. Augustine, but the third part, which was earl Goduin's the bishop of Baieux granted to the same saint, with the consent of king William. It was taxed at one yoke. There were one hundred plats of land, all but four, paying thirteen shillings, now there are seventy-three plats, paying as much. In the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth one hundred shillings, now eleven pounds and two shillings. There are twenty four acres of land, which St. Augustine had separate where there were, and there are six burgesses, paying twentytwo shillings.

In this borough archbishop Lanfranc has seven plats of land, which in the time of king Edward the Confessor performed their service to St. Augustine, now the archbishop takes away the service to himself.

Night to the city of Canterbury, St. Augustine has half a suling, which was separately acquitted; and there is one carucate in demesne, with fifteen borderers, and seven acres of meadow; and there are four acres of arable land, which four nuns hold in alms of the abbot, and pay two shillings, and one seam of meal flour. The whole of this, in the time of king Edward the Confessor, and afterwards, and now, was and is worth four pounds.

This manor was confirmed to the abbot and convent by inspeximus, by king Edward III. in his 36th year, at which time it appears that the abbot had a prison here, and held land then called a park in his demesne in this parish. After which it remained part of the possessions of the monastery till its dissolution, anno 30 Henry VIII. when it was surrendered into the king's hands, where the manor of Fordwich remained till king Edward VI. in his 7th year, granted it, with the advowson of the church, to Sir Thomas Cheney, to hold in capite, who in the Ist year of queen Mary alienated both manor and advowson to Mr. John Johnson, gent. of St. Laurence, whose grandson Timothy Johnson, gent. of Fordwich, about the latter end of that reign alienated them to Thomas Paramour, gent. descended from those of Paramourstreet, in Ash, who resided here, (fn. 2) and in James I.'s reign sold them to the lady Elizabeth Finch, widow of Sir Moile Finch, of Eastwell, afterwards created viscountess Maidstone and countess of Winchelsea, whose surviving son and heir Sir Thomas Finch, earl of Winchelsea, in the beginning of king Charles I.'s reign, passed them away to his relation Sir J. Finch, afterwards a justice of the common pleas, keeper of the great seal, and in 1630 created lord Finch, baron of Fordwich, who at his death in 1660 devised this manor and advowson by his will to his kinsman Heneage, earl of Winchelsea, whose grandson Charles, earl of Winchelsea, alienated them to William, lord Cowper, afterwards created earl Cowper and viscount Fordwich, whose great-grandson the right hon. Peter-Lewis-Francis, earl Cowper, is the present owner of the manor and advowson of the church of Fordwich. (fn. 3) A court baron is held for this manor.

THERE is an estate in this parish, called TANCREY ISLAND, which, in king Edward I.'s reign, was the property of the family of Marins, called in old deeds de Marinis, one of whom, John de Maryns, had a grant of free-warren for his lands here in the 1st year of king Edward III. but in the next reign of king Richard II. it was the property of a family who took their name from it, when Bertram de Tancrey stiled himself lord of it, in whose descendants it continued down to king Henry IV.'s reign, when it passed to the Beverleys, of Beverley, in Harbledowne, who afterwards quitted that seat and resided here, in whom it continued till William Beverley leaving an only daughter and heir Beatrix, she carried it in marriage, about king Henry VIII.'s reign, to William Norton, of Faversham, second son of Reginald Norton, esq. of Sheldwich; and it appears by the arms on a gravestone in this church, that this branch of the family of Norton bore for their arms, Three swords, jointed at the pomels in triangle, on a chief, three maunches; and that the Beverleys bore, Barry, on a chief, two pales, over all, an escutcheon, a crescent for difference; by which correct the arms of Beverley, in Harbledowne. He afterwards removed hither, and in his descendants it continued till at length it became the property of Mr. George Upton, gent. of Canterbury. After which it passed by his will to his relations, the Jennings's, with whom it continued down to Anthony Jennings, who resided here, and died possessed of it in 1771, leaving his widow Mrs. Martha Jennings surviving, who is now possessed of it, and resides here.

THE TOWN of Fordwich was in antient time of much greater account than it has been for a long time past, for Leland, who lived in Henry the VIIIth.'s reign, mentions it as then having in it a poor mayor. During the time that Reculver continued one of the mouths of the Portus Rhutupinus, and the sea flowed up from thence as far as Fordwich, it continued the great resort for the shipping, which then frequented in abundance the river Stour, the navigation of which extended as high as the key of this town, where the ships were moored, and where all goods were laded and unladed; and in the time of the Saxons there was here a public collector of the customs and droits arising from thence, appointed by the king; which duties, after the gift of the manor of Fordwich by king Edward the Confessor, belonged to the abbot of St. Augustine, and continued so till the dissolution of that monastery in king Henry VIII.'s reign. But the prior and convent of the Holy Trinity, afterwards Christ-church, in Canterbury, claimed the privilege of a key here likewise, for the use of which they built a house in a meadow close to the town, which the abbot of St. Augustine's repeatedly threw down; but this produced continual controversies between them, which at last, in 1285, was settled by a composition made between them, by the justices itinerant, appointed by the king for that purpose. (fn. 4)

The town of Fordwich lies very low and unhealthy, close to the marshes, on the southern bank of the river Stour, a lonely place, of little or no thoroughfare. It is but small and mean, consisting of about thirty houses and cottages. The only remains of antiquity, of its having belonged to the abbey of St. Augustine for a great length of time past, was a losty arched gateway, built of brick, at the entrance to their wharf here, lately pulled down, and a small length of flint wall close to the river. Near which is a large handsome house, belonging to the Blaxlands, and now made use of as a soap manufactory. This house is known by the name of Hemphall, and was formerly part of the possessions of St. Augustine's monastery, parcel of their manor here, probably their manorhouse, and the same in which the Johnsons and Paramours, who afterwards had the grant of the manor, resided. Not long after which it seems to have been separated from the manor, and come into the possession of the Crispes, in which it continued, till at length Mrs. Eleanor-Anne, daughter of Henry Crispe, esq. of Quekes, carried it in marriage to Robert Darell, esq. who resided here, whose first wife she was; and afterwards, in like manner, to the Shorts, several of whom, as well as the Darells, lie buried in the chancel of this church, the last of whom, Samuel Short, esq. of this town, died in 1716. After which it was alienated to the Turners, and thence to the Blaxlands. Close to the above-mentioned house is the court-hall, or sessions-house, and the prison underneath it. In the southern part of it is an antient brick house, formerly of some note, and much larger, seemingly of the time of queen Elizabeth, and no doubt once a gentleman's habitation, now belonging to the Graydons; a little above which is a seat, called Hermesland, once belonging to the family of Harlestone, descended out of Suffolk, and bore for their arms, Paly, or, and sable, (fn. 5) one of whom, Simon Harlestone, resided here in queen Elizabeth's reign. After which it was purchased by the Osbornes, and was afterwards alienated by William Osbornes, A. M. rector of Fordwich, to John Graydon, esq. afterwards vice-admiral of the royal navy, who rebuilt it, and resided here at his death in 1727. He married Mary, grand daughter of Sir Edward Gregory, commissioner of Chatham dock, and dying in his eighth mayoralty of this town, was buried in Westbere church. John, his eldest son, succeeded him in this seat, and died s.p. Benjamin, his second son, was of Rochester, and left a son Benjamin, now of Fordwich, and owner of this seat; and Gregory, his third son, was of Canterbury, gent. and married a daughter of William Hougham, esq. of that city. They bore for their arms, Azure, three otters, each holding in its mouth a fish, argent. Mr. Ben jamin Graydon, of Fordwich, a descendant of him before-mentioned, is owner of this seat, which is at present untenanted. The church stands close to the east end of the town, and the parsonage-house at some distance southward of it, in the road leading to Stodmarsh, The river Stour, and the small spot of Tancrey island, over which the high road leads from Sturry to Fordwich, bound the north part of this parish, which extends about a mile southward up the hill, as far as the road next to the wall of the Moat park.

THE CORPORATION of the town of Fordwich and its liberties, extend over the town and the whole of this parish, and over part of the parishes of Westbere, Sturry, Northgate, and St. Martin's, in Canterbury, and likewise down the river Stour to Grove ferry, and thence as far as Plucks gutter, just below the Wingham water, opposite to the Isle of Thanet. It is a corporation by prescription, the members of which were at first stiled barons; but it is now governed by a mayor, jurats, and commonalty, of freemen, to which is added a high steward, treasurer, and town-clerk. The mayor, who is coroner by virtue of his office, is chosen yearly on the first Monday after the feast of St. Andrew, and with the jurats, who are justices within these liberties exclusive of all others, hold a general sessions of the peace and gaol delivery, (fn. 6) together with a court of record, the same as at Sandwich, and it has other privileges, mostly the same as the other corporations within the liberties of the cinque ports; and there was a gallows erected just below the key, for the execution of criminals, which has been down but a few years. It has a mace belonging to it, which is very handsome, of silver gilt, and given to the corporation by admiral Graydon; and the mayor, the same as at Sandwich, bears in his hand, when exercising his office, a black wand. The river Stour is still navigable for lighters and barges as far as the bridge just above the town, for the passage of carriages, over which the corporation exact a toll. The droits and duties arising from the coals and other ladings brought up the river and landed at the town-key, belong to the corporation, who likewise receive twenty shillings yearly from the dean and chapter of Canterbury, for the use of the crane and wharf here. There is a particular species of trout, which frequents the river Stour, and being for the most part caught within these liberties, is from thence known by the name of Fordwich trout; being esteemed of a superior flavour to most others, and there being but few of them taken in a year, they bear a high price, and are much sought after as a delicacy throughout the neighbourhood. They are of a silver colour, speckled with black spots, and the flesh of them is of a yellowish colour; they weigh from four to ten or twelve pounds. They are a very shy fish, insomuch that they are not often taken with a drag net, and seldom or never with a hook. It is supposed they never breed in the river, no small ones being ever found in it, nor large ones with any spawn in them, but that they come from the sea, many of them being taken without the mouth of the river, particularly in the set-nets in Pegwell bay, at the entrance of Sandwich harbour. There are not more than thirty caught here yearly on an average, though they were more caught formerly than for several years past.

SIR JOHN FINCH, (son and heir of Sir Henry Finch, younger brother of Sir Moile Finch, of Eastwell, ancestor of the earls of Winchelsea and Nottingham) who was speaker of the house of commons, and afterwards made chief justice of the common pleas, was in 1639, anno 15 Charles I. made lord keeper of the great seal, and created lord Finch, baron of Ford wich. He died in 1661, without male issue, and the title became extinct. (fn. 7)

WILLIAM COWPER, ESQ. son of Sir Wm. Cowper, bart. of Ratling-court, in Nonington, having been made lord keeper of the great seal in 1705, was on December 14, 1706, anno 5 queen Anne, created lord Cowper, baron Cowper, of Wingham, in Kent, and in 1707 made lord chancellor; and on March 18, 1718, anno 4 George I. he was further advanced to the dignity of earl Cowper, and viscount Fordwich. He died in 1723, and was buried at Hertingfordbury, being succeeded by his eldest son William, second earl Cowper, and viscount Fordwich, who died in 1764, having some time before prefixed the surname and arms of Clavering to his own, according to the will of his mother's brother. He was succeeded by his only son George Clavering, the third earl Cowper, and viscount Fordwich, who residing at Florence, was created a count of the sacred Roman empire, which title was confirmed by king George III. He died in 1789, having married Anne, daughter of Francis Gore, esq. of Southampton, and was succeeded by his eldest son George-Augustus, earl Cowper, and viscount Fordwich, who dying unmarried in February, 1799, was succeeded by the right hon. Peter-LewisFrancis, the fifth and present earl Cowper, and viscount Fordwich, who is at present unmarried. He bears for his arms, quarterly, Clavering, or, and gules, surmounted with a bend, sable; and Cowper, argent, three martlets, a chief engrailed, gules, on the latter as many annulets, or; supporters, Two bay horses, with tails docked, proper. Crest, On a wreath, a lion's gamb, erected and erased, or, holding a branch vert, sructed, gules.


WALTER BIGG, jurat, by his will in 1631, gave three pieces of land, containing nine acres, for the relief of poor aged people, to be distributed by the mayor and jurats yearly on Good-Friday, and on the Friday before Christmas-day.

STEPHEN BIGG, of Fordwich, by will in 1646, gave the rent of 20 acres of land in Romney Marsh, to be distributed yearly to six poor housekeepers, and the like number of Sturry, 20s. to each; the remainder to put out poor boys and girls of each parish apprentices, and to remain in stock in for that use for ever.

THOMAS BIGG, by will in 1669, gave 50s. per annum, to be paid weekly to the overseers, to be distributed to the poor at their discretion. Which money is given away weekly in bread.

THERE ARE nine acres of meadow in this parish, late in the possession of Anthony Jennings, into which the resident freemen of this corporation have the liberty of turning any kind of cattle, except hogs, between the months of September and May.

FORDWICH is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of the same.

The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, consists of two isles and a chancel, having a tall spire steeple at the west end, in which are four bells. It is situated so close to the river, and so much on a level with it, that it is sometimes overflowed, and always exceedingly wet and damp. There seems to have been some good painted glass in the windows, of which there are but few remains. In the south isle is a stone, with the figure of a woman, and inscription in brass, for Afra, wife of Henry Hawkins, gent. daughter of Thomas Norton, esq. obt. 1655; arms, Hawkins, of Nash, impaling Norton; with the quarterings of Martyn, Beverley, and Hide. Several memorials for the Jennings's, of Tancrey island, and the Nortons. In the chancel are several memorials and hatchments of the Darells and Shortes, of this parish; the latter bore, Azure, a griffin passant, between three stars of six points, or. In the church-yard is a memorial for John Graydon, esq. obt. 1774. In the west part of the body of this church, was placed a very antient stone shrine against the wall, which having been removed some years since, was cast out in the church-yard, where being soon likely to perish, by being exposed to the weather, it was purchased by the editor of this history, and brought to the precincts of the cathedral of Canterbury, where it now lies. It is one solid stone, Sculptured only on one side; the back part having two hollows, as if made to fasten it to the wall. There is no conjecture to be formed on whose account it was made and placed there. (fn. 8)

The church of Fordwich is a rectory, and was always an appendage to the manor, and as such is now of the patronage of the right hon. earl Cowper, the present lord of the manor of Fordwich. It is valued in the king's books at 5l. 15s. 2d. and is now of the clear yearly certified value of forty-two pounds. In 1588. it was valued at thirty pounds, communicants one hundred and forty. In 1640 it was valued at forty pounds, communicants one hundred. It is now of about the yearly value of one hundred and twenty pounds. There are three acres of glebe land.

The rector for some length of time received of the corporation, in lieu of tithes of the merchandize of the key here, by composition, five pounds, by the name of crane duties, which has not been paid since the year 1733.

Church of Fordwich.

Or by whom presented.
William Tasnell, obt. 1619.
Elizabeth, widow of Sir M. Finch. George Kennard, A. M. Sept. 14, 1619, obt. 1627.
Elizabeth, viscountess Maidstone. Reginald Angell, A. M. Nov. 18, 1630.
Nathaniel Hill, resigned 1663.
Lady Mabella, baroness Fordwich. William Osborne, A. M. August 17, 1663, obt. 1693.
Charles, earl of Winchelsea. Robert Cumberland, A. M. Oct. 6, 1693, resigned 1710. (fn. 9)
John Hayman, A. M. March 25, 1710.
Samuel Markham, A. M.
The Queen, by lapse. John Nicholls, April 30, 1714, obt. March 20, 1742.
William, earl Cowper. Hon. Spencer Cowper, A. M. April 15, 1742, obt. March 18, 1774. (fn. 10)
J. Deason, 1774, resig. 1787. (fn. 11)
William Stephenson, 1787, obt. March 31, 1799.


  • 1. See Decem. Scriptores, col. 1828.
  • 2. There is a pedigree of this branch of the Paramours, in Vistn. co. Kent, anno 1619.
  • 3. In 1735 an act passed for settling the estate of William, late earl Cowper, deceased, and inter alia of the manor of Fordwich.
  • 4. See Decem. Scriptores, col. 1940.
  • 5. There is a pedigree of them in Vistn. co. Kent, anno 1619.
  • 6. In the register of St. Augustine's abbey, cart. 90, in the Surrenden library, is inserted a custumal of Fordwich.
  • 7. His will is in the Prerogrative-office, Canterbury.
  • 8. See a representation of it at p. 56 of this volume.
  • 9. He was afterwards rector of St. Andrew's Canterbury, and then of Hasting leigh.
  • 10. Brother of earl Cowper and dean of Durham.
  • 11. Minor canon of Canterbury.