Hinxhill is a small village in the shadow of Wye down. I say a village, its a couple of houses and the Hinxhill Estate, which you can’t see from the road.
St Mary has been a church I have wanted to see inside for many years, and I have never found it open. But for this Heritage weekend, I had high hopes.
And I wasn’t disappointed.
Remote and peaceful Hinxhill is the archetypal country church. Almost all dating from the 13th century, the narrow north aisle is a typical give way – designed to be used as a processional space without benches. The lovely lancet windows, with trefoil headed tops are small and low whilst the north chapel has one with a rere-arch, a sign of wealth in the latter 13th century. The odd chancel screen is dated to the 17th century and the woodwork of the pulpit is probably of that date too. The stained glass is Victorian and mostly by the Scottish firm of Ballantyne – a catalogue of changing fashion. The south chancel window of Christ weeping is particularly good. The fine Royal Arms is one of several in Kent by Marten of Tenterden and well worth a look. To the north of the chancel is a seventeenth century tomb with good effigies and skulls beneath – which legend says was walled up with plaster for two hundred years before being re displayed by the Victorians. In the vestry is a delightful piece of continental glass of probable seventeenth century date.
USUALLY called Hinexsell, and in very antient times written Hengestelle, is the next parish eastward from Kennington. The manor of Bilsington claims over a great part of this parish.
HINXHILL is an obscure parish, but little known, and having very little traffic through it. The village consists of only four or five houses, one of which, is the principal farm-house of Sir John Honywood’s estate here, and another the parsonage. It stands on high ground, with the church on the west side of it. The antient mansion stood close to the south-west corner of the church-yard, having a fine prospect over the adjoining country. The kitchen is all that remains of it now, being made use of as an oast and stowages for hops. Not far from the church, northward, are Great and Little Plumpton, the former was for some time the residence of the Andrew’s, the latter of the Whitwick’s. Below the hill from the village to the north and west, it is a deep and most unpleasant country, the soil a stiff clay, with much boggy ground, especially westward, where it is joined by the river Stour. About the village it it tolerable fertile land, but southward there is much sand, mixed with the quarry or rag stone.
A fair is held here yearly on the Saturday in Whitsun-week, for toys and pedlary.
In the year 1727, a species of subterraneous fire was taken notice of in the valley between Goodcheape in this parish and Wye. This fire began in a marshy field, on the side of a little brook, near the water, and continued to burn along its bank without spreading much for some days; afterwards it appeared on the other side, and extended itself for the space of some acres over the field, consuming all the earth where it burnt into red ashes, quite down to the springs, which in most places lay four feet and more deep. In the space of about six weeks it had consumed about three acres of ground, at which time it burnt in many places, and sent forth a great smoak and a strong smell very like that of a brick-kiln; but it never flamed, except when the earth was turned and stirred up. For some space where it was burnt the ground felt hot, though the grass seemed no more parched than might be reasonably expected from the dryness and heat of the season. In several places where the earth was turned up, it was found to be hot and wet near four feet deep, and much hotter about two feet deep than nearer the surface; and when this earth was exposed to the air, though it was very moist, and not hotter than might be easily borne by the hand, yet the heat of it increased so fast, that in a few minutes it was all over on fire, like phosphorus made with allum and flour. The soil of the field is of the same nature with that the turs is made of in Holland. The surface of it is always wet, except in extreme dry seasons; but this season it was somewhat more parched and harder than usual. It was difficult to carry any of this away, on account of its firing; one piece in particular firing in the pocket of one who was bringing it away, had almost burnt its way through before it was perceived. (fn. 1)
In the stone-quarry by Swatfield-bridge, at the southern boundary of this parish, as well as in many of the rag-stones about the adjoining parishes of Sevington and Willesborough, is found the ostracites stone, very large; and on a rag-stone at Lacton, in the latter parish, the flat shell of one measured eight inches diameter; and the late Mr. Thorpe, of Bexley, had two in his possession, very large and fair, with the convex parts entirely filled up with solid stone, which were given to his father, Dr. Thorpe, by the earl of Winchelsea.
ONE ÆTHELFERH, a servant of the abbot of St. Augustine’s monastery, about the year 864, by will gave the land of Hengesteselle, which was a parish, as Thorne says in his Chronicle, contiguous to that of Willesborough northward, to that monastery; but Hugo de Montfort, in the time of the Conqueror, got possession of it, in spite of all the efforts of the monks to oppose it: and accordingly this estate seems to have been thus entered in the survey of Domesday as follows, among his possessions:
In Langebrige hundred, Gislebert holds of Hugo one yoke, which a certain Sochman held of king Edward. It is and was worth four shillings. There was nothing there nor is.
Of Etwelle, which Herbert the son of Ivo, holds without the division of Hugo, he himself holds fourteen acres of land within his division, and it is worth two shillings.
And still further in the same record, under the like title, is the following entry, which evidently relates to his possessions, part of, or at least adjoining to those before-mentioned:
In Langebrige hundred. In the same hundred, is one rood of land in Suestone, which one Sochman held of king Edward. There is now one borderer paying twelve pence. In the time of king Edward the Confessor it was worth thirty pence, and afterwards eighteen, now three shillings.
Robert de Montfort, grandson of Hugo above-mentioned, having afterwards incurred the displeasure of king Henry II. all his estates, and these among them, them, came into the king’s hands, after which it appears that THE MANOR OF HINXHILL, with that of SWATFORD, alias SWATFIELD, was afterwards held by the family of Strabolgie, earls of Athol; but Alexander Baliol, lord of Chilham, became possessed of them at the latter end of king Henry III.’s reign, in right of Isabel his wife, widow of David de Strabolgie, earl of Athol, and held them, by the courtesy of England, during her life, she having been, on the death of her brother Richard de Dover, s.p. become entitled to them for her life, the inheritance of them belonging to John, earl of Athol, her son by her former husband, as heir to her brother before-mentioned. At length they descended down to David, earl of Athol, who died in the 49th year of king Edward III. leaving two daughters his coheirs, Elizabeth, the eldest, married to Sir Thomas Percy, a younger son of Henry, lord Percy, and Philippa to John Halsham, of Halsham, in Sussex; the latter of whom, by her father’s will, became entitled to these manors. At length her grandson Sir Hugh Halsham, in the beginning of king Henry VI.’s reign, passed them away, in the 3d year of that reign, to Sir Robert Scott, lieutenant of the tower of London, brother of Sir William Scott, of Braborne, and afterwards of Scotts-hall, whose only daughter and heir Alice, marrying William Kempe, nephew to cardinal archbishop Kempe, he, in her right, became entitled to them; but his grandson Sir William Kempe, about the latter end of king Henry VIII.’s reign, alienated them to Browning; from which family, about the reign of queen Elizabeth, they were alienated to Robt. Edolph, esq. son of Robert Edolph, of Brenset, and brother of Simon Edolph, of St. Radigunds, who bore for his arms, Ermine, on a bend, sable, three cinquesoils, argent, (fn. 2) who afterwards resided at Hinshill court, as did his son Sir Robert Edolph, who kept his shrievalty here in the 6th year of king James I. but his son Robert Edolph, esq. dying s.p. in 1631, gave these manors of Hinxhill and Swatford, together with the court leet of the half hundred of Longbridge, by will to Cecilia his wife, for her life, or so long as she continued unmarried; but she afterwards remarrying Sir Francis Knolles, of Reading, forfeited her interest in them, upon which they came to Mr. Samuel Edolph, her former husband’s next brother, who some years afterwards conveyed them to his brother in-law Mr. John Angel, of Surry, for the more effectual performance of his will; and he, sometime after the death of king Charles I. passed them away to Edward Choute, esq. of Bethersden, who afterwards resided at Hinxhill-court, as did his son Sir George Choute likewise, who was succeeded in them by his son George Choute, esq. who was created a baronet in 1684. He pulled down this mansion, and removed to Bethersden, where he died s.p. in 1721, (fn. 3) having devised these manors by will to Edward Austen, esq. of Tenterden, afterwards baronet, who sold them not long afterwards to Sir William Honywood, bart. of Evington, who died possessed of them in 1748, and his direct descendant Sir John Honywood, bart. of Evington, is the present possessor of these manors.
The courts baron for the manors of Hinxhill and Swatford, have been for some time disused; and the court leet for the half hundred of Longbridge has been for several years past held by the constable of it, solely for the appointment of a successor in his office, as will be further taken notice of hereafter.
WALTHAM is a place here, which was once accounted a manor, and antiently belonged to the family of Criol, from whom it went by marriage into that of Rokesle, and thence again in like manner to the family of Poynings, in which it continued till Sir Edward Poynings, governor of Dover castle, and lord warden, dying possessed of it anno 14 Henry VIII. 1522, not only without legitimate issue, but even without any collateral kindred, who could make claim to his estates, this manor, among others, escheated to the crown, whence it was immediately afterwards granted to Sir Richard Damsell, who not long after passed it away to Goldhill; as he did about the latter end of queen Elizabeth’s reign, to Mr. Robert Edolph, of Hinxhillcourt; since which it has passed in like manner as the manor of Hinxhill before-described, down to Sir John Honywood, bart. who is the present possessor of it.
GOODCHEAPES, as it is now called, but more properly Godchepes, is an estate in the northern part of this parish, which for a series of many generations had owners of that surname, one of whom, Thomas Godchepe, as appears by the inquisition taken after his death, died possessed of it in the 31st year of king Edward I. and in his name and descendants it remained fixed until the latter end of king Henry VIII.’s reign, and then it came by the will of one of them, named also Thomas Godchepe, after the limitation of it, to several different persons, who were become extinct without issue, to the last person mentioned in remainder in the will, Mr. John Barrow. The circumstances of which bequest is thus related: Mr. John Barrow, being an attorney, was called upon to make the will of Thomas Godchepe, and by his direction inserted the names of eight persons, who were to succeed each other in the inheritance of this estate in tail, and being asked by Barrow, whom he should add more, he was answered by the testator, that as there had been a reciprocal friendship between them, he should place his own name next after them all; and they all deceasing in course of time s.p. this estate in the end devolved to him and his heirs. Circumstances similar to the above have happened in relation to other estates in this county, particularly to the Leeds abbey estate, by Sir Roger Meredith’s will, who died in 1742, s.p. who having sent for Mr. Walter Hooper, an attorney, to make his will, after having devised his estates to several different persons successively in tail, seemed at a loss who to name next in the entail, when Mr. Hooper mentioned himself and his nephew; and all the prior remainders having ceased, they both successively enjoyed that estate by the will. (fn. 4) Mr. Barrow, who bore for his arms, Lozengy, or, and azure, a grissin, salient, ermine, resided afterwards here, and died in 1578, leaving two daughters his coheirs, whose eldest daughter and coheir Elizabeth, marrying Mr. Robert Edolph, the purchaser of Hinxhill-court as before-mentioned, he became entitled to it sometime about the latter end of queen Elizabeth’s reign; since which it has passed in like succession of ownership as the manors of Hinxhill and Waltham before-mentioned, down to Sir John Honywood, bart. who is the present possessor of them.
MARTHA WADE, by will in 1722, gave an annuity of forty shillings, out of lands in this parish and Wye, to the use of the poor not receiving alms, vested in the churchwardens and overseers.
The poor constantly relieved are about twelve, casually eight.
THIS PARISH is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURIADICTION of the diocese of Canterbury, and deanry of Limne.
The church, which is dedicated to St. Mary, is a small building, consisting of two isles and two chancels, having a low spire steeple at the west end, in which are three bells. In the high chancel, on the north side, there is a handsome monument, well preserved, for Robert Edolph, esq. and Cicely Browne his wife, having their effigies kneeling on it. He died in 1631. In the south isle are memorials for Coveney, arms, On a bend, three trefoils slipt. The north isle is very narrow indeed; in it is a memorial for Kennet Backe, gent. captain of the train-bands, obt. 1687. On the south side, in the church-yard, are several memorials for the Wightwicks, and a very antient stone, coffinshaped, with a cross story on it. It appears by the parish register, that many of the Edolphs are buried in this church, from the year 1588, when Mr. Robt. Edolph, sen. gent. was buried in it, to the present century. Mr. John Barrow in 1578, Sir Edward Chute in 1634, and others of some note in life, appear likewise to have been buried in it, for whom there are not any memorials.
¶The church of Hinxhill was antiently appendant to the manor, and continued with it till Robert Edolph, esq. by will in 1631, gave the manor of Hinxhill to his wife Cecilie, for her life, or until she remarried, and the advowson and patronage of this church to her and her heirs for ever. By which means the advowson being separated from the manor, became an advowson in gross, and though it afterwards was possessed by the same owners as the manor, yet having been once separated it could never afterwards be appendant to it again. (fn. 5) She soon afterwards remarrying Sir Francis Knolles, forfeited her life-estate in the manor to her late husband’s next heir and brother, Mr. Sam. Edolph, and some years afterwards alienated the reversion of the advowson, (for she appears to have presented to the Rectory in 1666) to him. Since which it has continued, in like succession of ownership with the manor of Hinxhill, and his other estates in this parish, to Angel, Choute, and Austen, and from the latter to Sir William Honywood, bart. whose descendant Sir John Honywood, bart. is the present owner and patron of this church.
This rectory is valued in the king’s books at 7l. 16s. 8d. It is now a discharged living, of the clear yearly certified value of thirty-four pounds. In 1578 here were communicants seventy-one. In 1640 it was valued at sixty pounds, communicants seventy. There are ten acres of glebe.
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