A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.
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'Parishes: Limpsfield', in A History of the County of Surrey: Volume 4, (London, 1912) pp. 297-302. British History Online https://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/surrey/vol4/pp297-302 [accessed 29 February 2024]
Limenesfeld (xi cent.); Lymenesfeld, Lemnefeld and Lymenesfeld (xiii cent.); Lymefeld, Lemnesfeld (xiv cent.); Lemnysfeld, Lempnesfeld (xv cent.).
Limpsfield is a village and large parish on the borders of Kent, a mile east of Oxted station and 3 miles west of Westerham in Kent. It measures 5 miles from north to south, 2 miles from east to west, but tapers at both extremities. It contains 4,688 acres. The parish extends over three soil areas, from the high ground of the chalk range which here forms part of Botley Hill to the north, over the Green sands and Gault to the Wealden Clay. The church and village are in the usual place, on the sand. The Kent brook bounds the parish on the southern part of its eastern side and falls into the Medway, but north of Bowling Green by the village the drainage is thrown off northward and then eastward to the head of the Darenth valley. The scenery is picturesque with the characteristics of its various soils. The abrupt slope of the chalk hills to the north gives extensive views. The Green sand forms a ridge, which though of no great height (600 ft.) is broken and well wooded. There are considerable open spaces, at Limpsfield Common south of the village, Bowling Green north of this, Chart Common on the Kent border, and Itchingwood Common in the Weald. No Inclosure Act exists, but it would seem that there must have been recent inclosures south-west of the village, where patches of land are appropriated as glebe. There was a park (see manorial account), and the name Park Farm north of the village perhaps preserves its site.
Palacolithic drift implements in a water-worn condition were found by Mr. A. M. Bell, F.G.S., in gravel below the chalk escarpment, and in a bed which is now dry but which lies apparently in the upper valley of the Darenth. (fn. 1) Upwards of 300 specimens have been found near Redland Farm on the escarpment of the Lower Green sand, on the surface (owing no doubt to a landslip) or some feet down in a layer of brick earth. (fn. 2) Neolithic flints and Roman pottery have also been found, some of which are now in the Surrey Archaeological Society's Museum at Guildford. A fine British gold coin has also been found in Limpsfield. (fn. 3)
The village of Limpsfield is situated about 3½ miles east of Godstone immediately to the north of the main road running east from the latter place through Westerham and Sevenoaks to Maidstone. The oldest part of the village lies along the road leading northwards to Warlingham, which here descends rapidly from the high level of the main road. The church is situated at the north end of the village, standing above the road in a churchyard of moderate extent, entered by a lych-gate at the north-west angle. Adjoining the churchyard to the south is the Manor House, a building of 18th and early 19th-century date (not the ancient manorhouse of Limpsfield), which has been added to within recent years to adapt it to the requirements of a school. It was once the residence of the widow of Philip Stanhope, natural son of Lord Chesterfield, to whom he addressed his well-known letters. The rectory opposite the church is a pleasant-looking Georgian house. It was damaged by lightning in 1717. South of the church, on the west side of the road, opposite the Bull Inn, is Detillens House, the residence of Mr. J. Hamilton Adams, which appears to have been built about the middle of the 15th century. The original portion of the building is of half-timber construction, consisting probably in the first instance of a hall with entrance, screens, and offices at the northern end, and private apartments on the south, extending to the rear in two projecting wings. The hall originally had a central hearth, traces of which were discovered some years since. The central roof-truss still survives. Late in the 16th century the plan was completely transformed by the addition of a fireplace and chimney-stack on the west side of the hall. At the same time the hall was divided into two stories. With the exception of the hall roof-truss above referred to, most of the internal fittings and panelling belong to the period of this remodelling. The fireplaces of the two rooms into which the hall was divided by the new floor are of stone, with moulded four-centred heads and jambs. The overmantel of the room at the south of the hall is a good piece of Elizabethan work. The brick chimney-stacks throughout are of this date. Early in the 18th century the house underwent further drastic alterations, the north wall of the hall being demolished on the ground floor, the entrance closed up, and a new and larger room formed by the addition of the space occupied by the passage and divided from the hall by a partition occupying the position of the original screens. The upper floor of the hall alone now represents its original extent. At the same time the east front was entirely rebuilt, with a doorway in the centre of the hall, and a new entrance hall formed in the middle of the south side of the house, with stairs against the south side of the central chimney-stack. In this state the house now remains, except that the 16th-century kitchen has within recent years been enlarged by the removal of the passage and converted to the drawing-room, and the original kitchen at the north-west corner has again been put to its former use. A porch has also been added to the entrance hall.
To the north of Detillens is a row of good halftimber cottages. On the same side of the road and near the southern end of the village is the house now known as White Hart Lodge, formerly an inn of the same name, a gabled 17th-century building. Opposite Detillens is an old house called Court House, now an old curiosity shop, whilst another ancient building has been lately removed for an extension of the post office. About a mile to the south-east, situated just off the road which leads over Limpsfield Common towards Edenbridge, is Limpsfield Chart, a small settlement of comparatively modern date. There is nothing of interest here with the exception of a now disused windmill. The modern church of St. Andrew stands at the east end of the hamlet. Moor House and Moat Farm are old farms.
Hookwood belonged to the Gresham family and was sold, probably by Sir Marmaduke Gresham, to John Godfrey of Limpsfield, gentleman, formerly a linendraper of Newgate Street, London. The latter by his will dated 13 March 1753–4 (fn. 4) left all his real estate to his cousin Marmaduke Hilton, a merchant of London, who succeeded him, and, dying on 3 January 1768, was buried in Limpsfield Church. (fn. 5) He devised his house and lands to his three sisters Elizabeth, Susanna and Jane for the term of their lives, with remainder to his partner Vincent Biscoe. (fn. 6) The latter was succeeded by his son Vincent Hylton Biscoe, who died in 1847. (fn. 7) He built a new house on the site of the old one and sold the property to William Leveson-Gower, of whom apparently it was leased by Mountstuart Elphinstone, Governor of Bombay and author of The History of India, who is stated to have taken a house in Surrey and died at Hookwood on 20 November 1859. (fn. 8) He was buried in Limpsfield churchyard. (fn. 9) A number of tenants followed, Mrs. Gower living here in 1862, Mr. Ernest Noel in 1870, Mr. C. N. Wilde in 1874, Lieut.-Gen. Sir Richard J. Meade in 1887, and Mr. Lancelot Fletcher in 1895, since which date the Hon. Mrs. Sophia Leveson-Gower has lived there. The house stands in a park.
The house called Tenchley or Tinsley Park was built by Thomas Antony Teulon after 1806. The estate formerly belonged to the Holmedens. Anthony Holmeden of Tenchley married Clemence daughter of John Challoner of Horsted Keynes, Sussex. (fn. 10) He died in 1607 (fn. 11) and was succeeded by his son Sir Thomas Holmeden, who married Beatrice daughter of Sir Thomas Gresham of Limpsfield in 1621. (fn. 12) He was living here in 1623. (fn. 13) John Holmeden sold it in 1674 to Mr. Raleigh, and he in 1690 to Thomas Harrison. Harrison's widow Elizabeth left it in 1738 to her sister's daughters Mrs. Hall and Mrs Teulon. It has remained in the latter's family ever since, being now the property of Mrs. Esdaile and Mrs. Sonnenschein, daughters of the late William Teulon. (fn. 14) The late Mr. Brodie Hoare lived here till his death in 1911.
Tenchley Farm, the old house of the Holmedens, (fn. 15) is a 16th-century house with later additions, now the residence of Mr. Bowen. It was L-shaped in plan, with a south wing projecting westwards. Early in the 19th century it was enlarged by the addition of a corresponding wing on the north and a modern porch at the south end of the east wall of the centre block, while in more recent years the southern wing has been extended eastwards. Alterations, however, appear to have been made to the building late in the 17th century, when practically all of the old windows were taken out and new ones substituted. The old part of the building is constructed of brick with halftimber framing, but externally the walls, as well as the roof, have now been hung with tiles. The centre block contains the hall, in the north wall of which is a large open fireplace with an original door on the west leading to the modern servants' quarters. Behind the staircase is a room panelled with a 17th-century oak dado and having in its west wall a four-centred chalk fireplace. The drawing-room has a similar fireplace and some early 17th-century oak panelling. The old building was erected on a foundation of stonework which stops under the sills of the ground-floor windows, but in the chimney is carried up end of the south block the stonework is carried up almost to the level of the eaves. At the diminution in the width of this stack immediately above the last course of stonework are shaped brick corbels surmounted by small wrought-iron finials.
Storkenden or Stockenden was the residence of a branch of the Holmeden family and was later purchased by Henry Smith, (fn. 16) who in 1624 gave the farmhouse and 100 acres of land called Storkenden alias Limpsfield, worth £50, as a benefaction to his charity in Croydon. (fn. 17) Since 1855 it has been a farm in the tenure of the local yeoman family called Young.
Trevereux, an old house which stands in a park at the south-eastern extremity of the parish, was the residence for nearly two centuries of the Burges family until 1817, when it was purchased by Mr. Cox. (fn. 18) It was in 1891 the residence of Mr. A'Court-Repington, and is now the seat of Mr. Carmichael Bruce. It is a fine late 18th-century house with a projecting east wing added later.
A house in this parish called Bolters or Bolthurst was held by Beatrice widow of William Gresham on her death in 1604 and was then worth £4. (fn. 19) In 1602 she settled this house on Gresham Woodhouse son of her daughter Cicely and Sir Henry Woodhouse. (fn. 20) In 1855 Bolters was in the possession of Robert Passenger, and in 1866 Mrs. Passenger was living there. It is now occupied as a farm-house.
Ravensbrooke is the seat of Sir T. H. Elliott, K.C.B. Hazelwood is a boys' preparatory school.
The family of Heath was settled in Limpsfield and at Edenbridge in Kent from early times. John Heath (fn. 21) died here in 1491 and left a son John. (fn. 22) A John Heath in 1590 was holding a farm called the Curtilage of Limpsfield which he had leased to Michael Heath. (fn. 23) In 1537 Richard Heath of Titsey was pardoned for the murder of Richard Aldriche at Limpsfield. (fn. 24) Robert Heath, a member of this family, was Solicitor-General to James I, Attorney-General to Charles I and Chief Justice of Common Pleas in 1631, and though dismissed from that office was Chief Justice of the King's Bench in 1642. He was very obnoxious to the Parliamentary party, was impeached and died abroad. He wrote historical memorirs with a strong partisan bias. (fn. 25)
The parish has become more residential since the railway was brought through Oxted in 1884, and some large houses have been built round Limpsfield Common. It has recently become a favourite place for schools and institutions. The Passmore Edwards Convalescent Home in connexion with Charing Cross Hospital was built by Mr. J. Passmore Edwards and opened in 1896 by King Edward VII when Prince of Wales. Previously, in 1894–5, Mr. Passmore Edwards had built the Caxton Convalescent Home, intended for members of the printing trade. There is a convalescent home for women and children on the edge of the common, and a home for boys in the village connected with Oxford House in the east of London. The home and school for the children of missionaries working under the Church Missionary Society was built in 1887, at a cost of £35,000, for 120 children. In 1901 another house was added for thirty younger children.
In 1838 there was a parish church school and infants' school at Limpsfield, and when Brayley wrote there was also 'a handsome school-house built by Mr. W. Leveson-Gower on the road to Titsey.' (fn. 26) This school, which was built to serve Titsey and Limpsfield, was presented by Mr. G. W. G. Leveson-Gower to the rector and churchwardens in 1871.
In 1850 there was a school at Chart in the parish, the present buildings of which were apparently put up in 1852.
Under a scheme sanctioned by the Charity Commissioners in 1886 the old parochial schools of 1838 were sold and the proceeds applied to Mr. Leveson-Gower's school. (fn. 27) There is now also a school on Limpsfield Common which is the private property of Mr. C. G. Leveson-Gower.
In the time of King Edward the Confessor (fn. 28) LIMPSFIELD was held by Earl Harold, and on his fall this manor, with his other possessions in Surrey, passed into the hands of William the Conqueror, (fn. 29) who gave it, with free warren, to the abbey of Battle (fn. 30) and exempted the abbot from all taxation and payment of aids. (fn. 31) His charter granting the manor and privileges was confirmed by Henry I and Henry VI. (fn. 32) In 1086 this manor, which before the Conquest had been assessed at 25 hides, was worth £24, and comprised a mill, a fishery, two stone quarries and three nests of hawks. (fn. 33) The manor continued in the possession of Battle Abbey until the Dissolution, the last abbot, John Hammond, surrendering on 27 May 1538. (fn. 34) On 1 September 1538 Henry VIII granted the manor to Sir John Gresham (fn. 35) of London, kt., and Mary his wife at an annual rental of £5 12s., to be held in chief by the twentieth part of a knight's fee. On Sir John's death in 1556 the manor descended to his son William, who bequeathed it to his wife Beatrice for life, and on her decease to his second son Thomas. (fn. 36) He excepted the capital messuage and the farm there, which he gave to his daughter Mary (fn. 37) during the minority of Thomas. The latter, who was knighted in 1603, (fn. 38) obtained permission in 1616 to inclose and impark 400 acres in the manor of Limpsfield, and to stock the same with deer. (fn. 39) The manor remained in the Gresham family (fn. 40) until Sir Marmaduke Gresham by his will (fn. 41) dated 4 June 1741 devised it with other estates to his trustees Thomas Mompesson and John Godfrey for 500 years, to mortgage or sell in payment of his debts. (fn. 42) In 1745 an Act of Parliament was passed (fn. 43) for vesting part of the estate of Sir Marmaduke Gresham, bart., in trustees for sale immediately in payment of his debts and legacies, as this course was deemed more advantageous for his heir than the sale of the term of 500 years appointed by his will. On 28 December 1750 the trustees sold the manor of Limpsfield, with all titular manors thereto appendant, the tenements called New Hall and Court Lodge, the Lodge Farm, Grants, Park Farm and the woods called Limpsfield Chart and Limpsfield Common, to Bourchier Cleeve of London, and later of Foot's Cray Place, Kent, and his heirs, for the sum of £15,800. (fn. 44) By his will dated 12 September 1759, Bourchier Cleeve devised Limpsfield to Neighbour Frith of North Cray and James Walton of Cornhill in trust for his wife Mary, and after her death to his daughter Ann Cleeve, and desired his trustees to mark 6,200 of the best timber trees on the estate, to be cut down and sold for her benefit either on her marriage or when she reached the age of twenty-one. (fn. 45) In 1765 Ann married Sir George Yonge, bart., (fn. 46) M.P. for Honiton, and later Secretary of State for War and Governor of the Cape of Good Hope. (fn. 47) The manor, however, did not remain long in their possession, as three years after their marriage it was advertised for sale as the 'manor of Limpsfield, containing the Royalties of Prinkham, Limpsfield and Crowhurst, with a Court Leet and Court Baron, demesne lands in several farms containing upwards of 1,000 acres, with near 900 acres of wood and waste land, let at an old rent of £508 19s., Quit-rents £23 11s. 11½d.' (fn. 48) In 1779, after passing through various hands, (fn. 49) it was purchased by Sir John Gresham, and was thus re-united to the family estate. (fn. 50) Sir John Gresham died in 1801, leaving Limpsfield to his wife Henrietta Maria for life, (fn. 51) with remainder to their daughter Catherine Maria, who in 1804 married William Leveson-Gower, in whose family the manor has since remained. (fn. 52)
Sir William Gresham (ob. 1578) built the manor-house of New Hall. (fn. 53) Sir Thomas Gresham, who married Mary daughter of John Leonard of Knole, Kent, and widow of Guilford Walsingham, is described as residing in New Hall. (fn. 54) In 1678 a clause was inserted in Gresham's Westerham Rectory Bill (fn. 55) forbidding Edward Gresham to demolish or deface the family seat called New Hall in the parish of Limpsfield. The Gresham family resided here until 1706, and mention is made of it in the sale of the manor to Bourchier Cleeve in 1750 (fn. 56); it was subsequently pulled down. (fn. 57) A court leet belonged to this manor, at which a constable for Limpsfield and tithingmen for Wylley, Chart, Walda, Prinkham and Horley were chosen. (fn. 58) Fines of freehold land were levied at the abbot's court. (fn. 59) The descent of freehold is according to common law, while the copyhold descent is of the nature of Borough English, descending to the youngest child. (fn. 60)
The old water mill at Limpsfield was superseded by a windmill, which was working twenty years ago, but has now been pulled down.
The church of ST. PETER consists of a chancel 18 ft. by 31 ft. 4 in., north chapel 31 ft. 10 in. by 17 ft. 5 in., tower at the south-west of the chancel 14 ft. 3 in. by 12 ft. 11 in., nave 36 ft. 3 in. by 21 ft. 7 in., modern north aisle 38 ft. 11 in. by 14 ft. 6 in., south aisle 35 ft. 5 in. by 8 ft. 3 in., and south porch 8 ft. 2 in. by 6 ft. 7 in. The measurements are all internal.
The original church, built probably about 1180, consisted apparently of a chancel, nave and tower. The tower (with the original windows in the ringing and belfry stages and the original arch opening from the chancel) and probably parts of the nave walls of this church exist. The chancel, however, was rebuilt about 1220, and about 1250 the north chapel with the chancel arcade and south aisle with its arcade were added. The south doorway and porch are of the 16th century, and a modern vestry to the east of the tower was removed at a recent restoration. The north aisle was added in 1854.
Except for three modern east lancets, replacing a 15th-century window, the chancel is wholly of the 13th century. There is an aumbry at the south end of the east wall. A doorway at the east end (originally external), and the arcade of two bays with a circular central pillar with moulded capital and base (apparently recut), in the western portion of the north wall, open to the north chapel. There is a widely splayed lowside window in the east end of the south wall, and westward from it a piscina and a sedile, both with plain two-centred heads, and a wide recess with a segmental head, possibly a double sedile. Over the piscina is a locker-recess. Above the three recesses are two widely splayed lancets, with external glassrebates. A keel-moulded string runs below them and drops over the low-side window at the east. The rest of the south wall is really the north wall of the tower, and contains a 12th-century arch, now filled by the organ. The chancel arch is of the 13th century, and like those of the north chancel arcade.
The north chapel, like the chancel, is nearly all of original 13th-century detail. The east windows are new, and the west wall contains a new arch of the date of the north aisle, to which it opens. But of the two windows in the north wall, the western, a lancet, is original, and the eastern is a 14th-century square-headed window of three ogee-lights. In the same wall are the remains of an original 13th-century doorway opposite that between the chancel and chapel. Beneath the east window is a little stone set in the wall, with a sculptured spray of foliage, of uncertain date, but probably of the 14th century.
The south aisle was built about 1250, and has an arcade of three bays, with circular columns and halfround responds and moulded capitals and bases. After its completion an arch was cut through the west wall of the tower, with boldly moulded capitals to the responds, and the tower ground-stage was fitted as a chapel, with a new plate-tracery window and a piscina with an elliptical head in the south wall. The wide pointed altar recess in the east wall of the tower is of the same date, but the window is a 15th-century insertion. The aisle has a modern west window and 15th-century south windows, at a higher level than the original windows, the jambs of the easternmost 13th-century window being visible below the present one. The west wall of the tower, within the aisle, shows the line of the steep 13th-century roof, which was removed when the walls were heightened and the new windows inserted.
In the nave wall, to the north of the chancel arch, are the south jamb and half the four-centred head of a 16th-century rood-stair entrance. The north arcade is modern, and is designed to resemble the south arcade. At about half the height of the eastern arch of the south arcade is a two-centred rood doorway with rebated jambs. The five-light west window is modern. The modern north aisle has three two-light windows in the north wall and a window of three lights in the west wall. At the eastern end, next the chapel arch, is a north doorway.
The trussed rafter roofs of the chancel and north chapel may be of original 13th-century date. The nave roof, though of a somewhat lower pitch, may possibly be of the same date. The south aisle is roofed by a plain 15th-century lean-to roof. The roofs of the chancel, north chapel and north aisle are covered with tiles, while those of the nave and south aisle, which are roofed continuously, and of the south porch have stone slates.
The font is of early 13th-century date, and has a square bowl with a moulded capping, supported by a moulded octagonal stem and circular shafts with moulded capitals and bases, all on a double plinth. The internal jambs of the lancet windows in the south wall of the chancel are pointed with a masonry pattern, probably of 13th-century date. The oakpanelled pulpit was the gift of Samuel Savage, who also presented the church with communion plate in the year 1764, but it has been cut down and placed on a stone base.
The only monument of any interest is a brass plate let into a slate slab, now detached from its original position, and leaning against the west wall of the nave. The inscription is as follows: 'Here lyeth George Elyott | Esquire and Groome of the | Privie Chamber to ye Queene | Aged 62 yeares who dyed | the 15th of February Anno | Domini 1644.'
There is a peal of six bells, the treble and second by John Warner & Sons, 1877; the third inscribed in black letter 'Sancta Mergareta Ora Pro Nobis. T.H.', and probably dating from the latter part of the 15th century; the fourth inscribed 'Bryan Eldredge Made Mee 1619'; the fifth inscribed 'Johannis in multis annis resonet campana'; and the tenor 'Sum Rosa Pulsata Mundi Maria Vocata.' The fifth and sixth have been recast within resent years, the old inscriptions being retained. They are undated. The portion of the original fifth containing the inscription has been preserved, and may be seen in the church. It is written in Lombardic capitals, and appears to be of early 15th-century date. The original tenor probably dated from the latter part of the same century.
The communion plate consists of nine pieces, a small silver paten of 1749, a silver-gilt chalice, paten, cover-paten and flagon of 1764, all inscribed 'The Gift of Samuel Savage Esqr. to the Parish of Limpsfield January 1765,' a modern silver-gilt chalice and paten of 1888, a modern silver-mounted glass flagon and a shell, 1905.
The registers previous to 1812 are in five volumes, the first containing all entries from 1539 to 1653; the second baptisms 1653 to 1733, burials 1653 to 1735, marriages 1654 to 1743; the third baptisms 1733 to 1759, burials 1735 to 1759, marriages 1744 to 1754; the fourth baptisms and burials 1759 to 1812 and marriages 1754 to 1812.
The church of ST. ANDREW ON THE CHART consists of a chancel, north transept and vestry, nave, north and south aisles, a tower and shingled spire on the south-west side of the chancel, and a south porch. The foundation stone of the church was laid in the year 1895, and the tower and spire were added in 1902. The walls are of squared rubble, and the roofs are covered with tiles.
There is a Congregational chapel on the common. The land for it was conveyed in 1822.
The advowson of the church of St. Peter, which is mentioned in 1086 in the extent of Limpsfield Manor, was, together with the manor, the property of Battle Abbey; the latter, however, did not appropriate the church. After the Dissolution the advowson was sold, together with an annual pension of 2s. which the rector had been accustomed to pay to the abbey, to Sir John Gresham. (fn. 61) It passed with the manor excepting during the years 1700 and 1728, when it was in the hands of James Brockden and John Holman, sen., (fn. 62) respectively, and is now held by the Leveson-Gower family, Mr. C. Leveson-Gower being the present patron.
Sir Marmaduke Gresham and others gave 3 acres of land and nine tenements for the poor. They were sold with the sanction of the Poor Law Commissioners, and the proceeds were devoted to the erection of the union workhouse.
One Brete in 1696 left 5s. a year from the rent of a cottage to provide bread for the poor. The benefaction has long been lost.
— Wood gave 10s. a year, secured on the rent of a farm called Plum Park, which is applied in clothing.
Smith's Charity is distributed as in other Surrey parishes.