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

Go to content

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.

Back to content