Jottings of Kent: William Miller (1864) - Cliffe History

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CLIFFE (1864)

From, ‘Jottings of Kent’ by William Miller

Our trip to Cliffe was to have been early in the day, but it rains heavily; we therefore substitute the morning paper, just sent by Mrs Isern, our obliging news-medium, which brings noon, as well as fine weather.

There is something very beautiful in a country drive after a showery morning, when nature puts forth her loveliest hues in richest foliage, and charming flowers diffuse their sweetest odours; such was the day that smiled upon us, as we journeyed to Cliffe, where we alight at the village inn, bearing the euphonic sign of the " Six Bells.”

Cliffe, anciently "Clive," or "Clives--Hoo," and sometimes "Bishops-Clive," now called " Cliffe-at-Hoo," to distinguish it from the parish of the same name near Dover, covers 7830 statute acres, of which a considerable portion is marsh land, with 205 houses and 980 inhabitants,

The ancient village, called Church Street, stands, with its church, on the northern summit of a towering chalk ridge, overhanging extensive marshes on the banks of the Thames. In remote times, it was a station for "Watch and Ward" to the river; in the reign of Richard II beacons were erected here, when the watchmen were commanded, on the approach of hostile to light them, and “to make all the noise by horn and by cry that they can make, to warn the country around to come with their force to the said river, each to succour the other to withstand their enemies." At that time the village was of large extent, and of considerable importance, but in 1520, a fearful conflagration destroyed the larger portion, from which it never recovered.

During the Saxon Heptarchy, synods of the clergy and laity were convoked here; these assemblies were remarkable for their splendour and the exalted person composing them, the King, and the Archbishop of Canterbury were joint presidents. The King, with his nobles, represented the laity, and the archbishop, bishops, and abbots, the clergy; between the years 668 and 825, eight synods were holden at Cliffe.

The first on record, w convoked by Theodorous, who was Archbishop of Canterbury, from 668 to 690 ; he held two, one at Hereford, and the other at "Clives-- Hoo near Rochester."

Archbishop Oath held the next synod in 742, when ETHELBALD, King of Mercia, presided, at which a decree was instituted, commanding that "Priests should first and then teach their parishioners the Lord's Prayer, and the. Articles of their Belief, in the English tongue.”  In 747, King ETHELBALD, with the same Archbishop, assembled the third synod, which was carried out with remarkable pomp and state.

The next council was in 798, five years after the translation of Athelard to the see of Canterbury; he convoked other synods in 800 and 803; Cenulph, King of Mercia presided at both, which happened in troublesome times, when the Danes were harassing the realm.

The remaining synods were in 822 and 824, under the presidency of Bernulfe, King of Mercia, and Archbishop Wulfred; these resulted, in the restoration to the church of certain lands which had been estranged from it; Archbishop Wulfred, consequence, is reputed one of its best benefactors.

The manor of Cliffs formed part of the possessions of Christ Church, Canterbury, early in the Saxon rule, which they held down to Henry VIII, when it was conferred on Sir George Brooke, Lord Cobham.

Berry, or Perry Court, a manor belonging to Lord Cobham, was forfeited to James I, but afterwards given to Robert, Earl of Salisbury, whose wife Elizabeth, was sister of the fallen Henry Lord Cobham

Mallingden, called Molland, and Dene, another manor in this parish, was the property of Christ Church, until the dissolution of the priory, when, like that of Cliffe, it reverted to Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth bestowed this manor on William Ewens, who afterwards alienated it to a Mr Brown,—the present owner is Mr Harvey, of Gravesend.

Cardons, or Cardans, a manor named after the original proprietor, Robert Cardon, was granted by Edward IV to the Carthsuian Monastery in London, (now known as the Charter House), but on  suppression of the brotherhood, became e property of the Crown.

A small manor, at the southern extremity of the parish, called Mortimers, was the estate of a noble family of that name, during the reign of Edward I. It was part of the post sessions of Sir John Sedley, and was granted a fair by Edward III.

An ancient custom prevails in this parish which imposes on the rector, or his representative, the annual distribution of a loaf of bread, and a mutton pie, on St. James's day, (25th July) to as many poor inhabitants as may demand it; the origin of the custom is own; some little time since, attempts were made to substitute money, but unsuccessfully, and the custom is of necessity, perpetuated, although the applicants are few.

Cliffe Church, dedicated to St. Helen, is of remote date, and a good example of early English architecture; the chancel is of the decorated order, and the of the windows on either side is generally considered very fine ; a noble embattled tower at the west end, has a grained roof, and three lancet windows, a clock, and a peal of six bells, cast in 1616, 1630, 1670, and 1675.

The extreme length of this interesting church is 216 feet,—the chancel measuring 50 feet, the nave 150, and the tower 16 feet; the nave is divided from the aisles by massive circular columns supporting noble pointed arches ; against the first column on the south side, is the very ancient font, indicated by its magnitude.

The triple sedilia, and double piscina are richly carved in flowers, figures, and grotesque heads; a finely carved rood screen of three arches separates the nave from the chancel; the ancient stalls of the monks of Christ Church, Canterbury, are still preserved in the chancel; the east window, originally in five lights, and of the date of the Church, has been superseded by another, the beauty of which may be questioned.

The carved oak pulpit bears the date 1634, and the rest, which in olden times supported an hourglass, that of 1636; there are a few remains of rich stained glass in a window in the north aisle representing the Virgin and Child, and an ancient vessel, with an upper deck lighted by semi-circular windows.

The north and south transepts were formerly chantries; that on the north side, now used as the robing room, has the remains of two gothic windows, and a larger one blocked up, this latter act is to be regretted, as largely detracting from the general effect of a finely detailed structure. The wall of the south chantry was originally covered with frescopainting, which from frequent whitewashing had been hidden; some two years since, a laudable desire was evinced to remove an abomination of the seventeenth century, and to restore, if possible, this early work of art; but, unfortunately, from using wrong material, the operator nearly obliterated the whole, save the outline of a fine head encircled in a halo,

Amongst the Communion plate, is a very ancient paten of silver gilt, used for the consecrated wafer by the priesthood in olden times. It is richly enamelled in colours of green and blue, and, represents the Deity, —our Saviour nailed to the cross—a descending dove, and other detail ; round this paten or salver, measuring six inch in diameter, is the following inscription—" Benedicamus patrem et filium cum spiritu sancto."

Few of the monumental brasses remain that once abounded in the nave and chancel; there is one, to the memory of Bonham Faunce, dated 1652, with the figures of a Man and his two wives, and two children; another for

Thomas Faunce, his wife, and children; a third for Elizabeth Grisome, who died in 1658, and a fourth with the effigies of two children. On one of the pillars, near the tomb of the Baynard family, is an inscription on a brass plate, recording the bequests of John Browne, under his will dated 7th June, 1679,—"for the education of twelve poor children, and a man and woman to teach them." Many very ancient stones exhibit the mortices which once held elaborated brasses, two especially in the nave, near the chancel, on one of which may be traced the figure of a bishop wearing a mitre and bearing a crosier.

In the nave are several coffin-shaped stones, with crosses, of great antiquity ; two of these bear inscriptions in Saxon capitals,—that to the memory of John Ram must be of remote date, from the period he held the manor of Cardans; the inscription reads thus, —
"Ione la femme Iohan Ram gyt yci Deu de sa alme eit merci ;" 
the other reads,
"Elienore de Clive gist ici Deu de ea alme eit merci, Amen, par charie."

In 1857, the exterior of Cliffe Church was thoroughly repaired, and an unsightly buttress erected some years since against the tower after its injury by lightning, removed. About a mile from the Church is the Rectory, an ancient gothic structure built in ecclesiastical style, with heavy buttresses, arched doorways, and battled.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is patron of this living, worth £1297 per annum; the Rector is the Rev. James Croft, D.D., who was presented to it in 1818. In addition to the living of Cliffe, Dr Croft is Canon and Archdeacon of Canterbury; he has also been Rector of Saltwood in this county, since 1812, the latter living alone,—according to the Clergy list, is worth £784 per annum.

COWLING. (1864)

From, ‘Jottings of Kent’ by William Miller


Cowling or Cooling, anciently written Culing, or Culinges, from the Saxon cu, a cow, and ling, a pasture signifying "Cows pasture," lies eastward from Cliffe, and comprises 1544 acres, 26 houses, and 121 inhabitants; this parish, from its isolated position, is little frequented, although in Saxon times it is supposed to have been one of their early settlements ; the soil northward lies low and flat, being a heavy wet clay and unhealthy; the land, however, rises southward to a high hill, upon which is a handsome seat called "Lodge Hill," which embraces superb scenery.

In 808, Cenulf, King of Mercia, gave to his faithful servant, Eadult, "one plough land and a half; with all its appurtenances in Culinges, according to the bounds mentioned in the Charter."

In 961 Queen Ediva, mother of Kings Edmund and Eadred, gave to the Priory of Christ Church Canterbury, all her lands in Culinge, free of secular service, save the maintaining of castles, repelling invasions, and the repairing of bridges Sing Edward in the 10th of his reign, further granted to the same Priory free warren in all their demesne lands in this parish.
During the reign of Edward the Confessor, the lordship of Culinges belonged to Leofwyne, a son of Earl Godwin ; Leofwyne was killed in the battle of Hastings while fighting for his brother King Harold.

After the Conquest, Culinges, (so written in Domesday), became part of the vast possessions of Odo, Bishop of Bayeux, on whose disgrace it reverted to the Crown, and was conferred on Henry de Cobham by Edward I whose son John de Cobham obtained a charter of free warren in 1344, the 17th of Edward III.

The family of Cobhams had a mansion here at the close of the thirteenth century. In 1381 Sir John de Cobham obtained license of Richard II. "to fortfy and embattle his manor house ;" he however pulled it down, and erected a formidable castellated castle, since called Cowling Castle, and placed an inscription deeply graven on brass on the eastern tower, over the principal entrance; this inscription is still visible, and reads thus:
"Knoweth that beth and shall be,
That I am made in help of the Contre,
In knowing of whiche thing
This is Chartre and witnessing."

This curious record, resembling a deed, or charter, bears the Cobham arms; there is some obscurity as to the motive for this public notification, unless we infer that from the king having strictly forbidden the erection of Baronial fortresses, which this really was, without Royal license, it became policy to give it the semblance of a national defence, and thereby preserve, not only the property, but perhaps the life of the owner.

Sir John de Cobham died in 1408, (the 9th of Henry IV.) when his grand-daughter Joan inherited it; she married Sir John Oldcastle, who adopted the title of Lord Cobham, and became possessed of the castle and estates in right of his wife: he commanded the English army in France, and defeated the Duke of Orleans; Sir john zealously espoused the doctrines promulgated by Wickliffe, and was, in consequence, cited to appear before Archbishop Arundel in September 1413, when he was condemned "as a pernicious and detestable heretic;" he escaped into Wales where he remained concealed some years, but in 1417 was apprehended by Lord Powys, brought to London, and on the Christmas day of that year, "the Lord Cobham, with his arms bound, was brought on a hurdle to the green meadows of St. Giles,' and there hung in chains to the cross-beams of a gallows, his body being sustained in a horizontal position ; fagots 'were placed beneath and around him, and in a few minutes all that was mortal of the spring martyr became a heap of coal-black dust."

After the execution of Lord Cobham, the Lady Joan, his widow, became owner of the manor, with the advowson of the church, and resided in Cowling Castle; at her death in 1434, her only daughter Joan, inherited the estates, and conveyed them by marriage to Sir Thomas Brooke, of Somersetshire, afterwards Lord Cobham, in her right. His descendant, George, Lord Cobham, resided here, and nobly defended the castle against the attack of Sir Thomas Wyatt, during the rebellion in the reign of Queen Mary, 1554; Sir William besieged it with six pieces of cannon, but his attempts were defeated; for after battering down the gate, and part of the wall, he marched with his forces during the night to Gravesend.

Cowling Castle is described as a fortress of considerable strength, the walls of great thickness forming a solid square building flanked by towers; a deep moat surrounded the whole which was supplied from the Thames; the principal entrance stood a short distance from the fortress under an arch, with formidable gates and portcullis, between two embattled towers with flights of steps within each.

The gateway and towers still remain in excellent preservation, on one of which is to be seen the brass plate already described; amongst the ruins are the remains of a circular tower covered with ivy, and portions of the walls, affording ample evidence of its former strength and grandeur, in picturesque ruins that must highly interest every lover of antiquity.

Within the walls is a handsome modern mansion, the residence of John Murton, Esq who, when the members of the Kent Archaeological Society visited these antiquities in 1860, entertained them with sumptuous liberality.

Cowling is within the diocese of Rochester, the Church, dedicated to St. James, is an ancient gothic structure built of flints and stone; here is a double piscina with credence above, and a few monumental brasses; that to the memory of Feyth, daughter of John, Lord Cobham, dated 1608, is in the nave near the pulpit ; in the chancel are brasses for Sybel wife of Nathaniel Sparks, rector, she died in 1639, and near to it, that of Thomas Woodyear, who died in 1611.

Shortly after the Conquest, Cowling Church became tributary to the Priory of; in the reign of King John, the year 1200, Adam Pincerna, or Butler, was patron of the living, which passed into the family of the Cobhams in 1280. The living is a rectory, now in the gift of J. Alliston, Esq, valued at £600 per annum.

Our ride homeward is really beautiful, the air so mild, and the evening so bright and clear, to close a lovely day, as well as our vacation; for we return to London on the morrow; we near Gravesend with the long shadows of evening,—the sun is setting in fiery glory before us,—and the lady moon just rising in silvery softness as we alight.

Refreshed by a dainty dish of "Natives"from old dame Turrell's, we resolve on a walk through the town, and a parting word with some of the kindly towns-people, who always treat us with respect ; that centenarian, old master Sutherland is just turning into Bath street, we greet him, and in an infantile voice he tells us, that he has " been for a walk, is very deaf, and 120 years old ;" poor old man, you are very feeble, your walk has been the length of some dozen houses occupying as many minutes, your years on the verge of, but not beyond, a hundred ; he totters on in his blue-striped frock, palsied and curved, leaning on his well-used stick.

We call at Windmill Street for a parting shake with Mr Hall, who has so kindly ventilated our Kentish sketches in his excellent journal; and feeling interested in the proposed "Steam Packet Company," repair to the High street, and are told by Mr Crowhurst, one of the committee, (who by the way is our snuff purveyor when here), that there is good hope of the scheme being carried out, we rejoice at this, feeling such would prove a desideratum.

To tell of the many we met, and of the kind words spoken during this our farewell gossip would become tedious, but one thing we must say, that through our lengthy experience, we have not yet found the inhabitants of the Borough of Gravesend deserving the appellation cast upon them, of being an “off hand people."

Our remaining "JOTTINGS " will emanate from our own fire side, and include a few more of the many notable localities in this ancient County, so full of interest to lovers of history.

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