St George, Wrotham, Kent

St George, Wrotham, Kent

My parent’s 56th wedding anniversary.

Heritage Weekend.

Ride and Stride charity event.

Churchcrawling, the hobby of visiting churches, can be a hit and miss affair. A church in one village maybe open 24/7, whilst a church in the same benefice, deanary in the next village may only be open for services, with no keyholder details.

This means you never can be sure that a church will be open, but one day a year, there is a higher chance they might be open.

In normal times.

But these are far from normal times, of course.

Ride and Stride is a national charity day when walkers and cyclists visit as many churches in eight hours to raise money. Churches are usually open for this, offering refreshments for the participants. Sometimes they just put up a sign in sheet in the porch. THis was something I would see through the day.

I have a list now of churches I still need to visit, and with Kent being a large county, those in the north and west of the county are nearly 8o minutes drive away, so planning a route is something akin to a military operation. I do that, then have my list with me, and the Kent A-Z in case I have spare time, 12 churches on my hit list, and 50 more in the book. More than enough for several such days.

I have breakfast and coffee, pack my cameras, check the batteries, format memory cards and am ready to leave at half eight, so to be at the first church at just after half nine in case it is open early. Or at all.

Jools wasn’t going to come with me, so I leave her and the four cats behind, and set off up the A then M20 past Ashford, Maidstone, nearly into Surrey.

Wrotham is better known for having a motorway junction named after it, so surprising to find it an old and attractive village, with the church sitting proud overlooking the small village square. Wardens had begun to arrive, so I go to snap the village before returning and asking if I could go inside to take shots.

If you mask up and don’t touch anything.


Inside, St George is clean, airy, full of light and well cared for. Numerous chandeliers and lights hang down supplementing the sunlight pouring through the south windows.


In an excellent position overlooking the diminutive village square, the church is much larger than one imagines. It is entered under a two-storey stone-vaulted porch. On the right, inside the church, is a holy water stoup. The south chapel shows the rood loft staircase leading to the top of the fourteenth-century screen. The lively altar in the chapel was designed by Comper in 1907. The stonework of the main east window was inserted in 1958 and came from Wren’s St Albans Church in London, damaged in the Second World War. By far the best visual feature in Wrotham church is the chunky nineteenth-century stone and marble pulpit designed by Newman and Billing in 1861. The tower has an unusual feature – a vaulted passage leading right under it from north to south at ground level to allow medieval processions to circumnavigate the building. There is nothing else like it in Kent and few across England!


SOUTHWARD from Stansted lies Wrotham, commonly pronounced Ruteham. In Domesday book it is written Broteham, and in the Textus Roffensis, WROTEHAM.

THE PARISH of Wrotham is of very large extent, being, though only between two and three miles in breadth, near five miles in length from north to south. It lies of course in various situations, and is of various soils. The village, or town of Wrotham, is situated at the foot of the great ridge of chalk hills, above the summit of which this parish extends northward. From this hill, called here Wrotham hill, which is here luxuriantly cloathed with fine spreading beech trees, there is a most beautiful prospect southward over a variety of country, lying in the vale beneath, of vast extent, which is bounded by the sand hills at the southern extremity of it; the high road from London through Farningham to Maidstone leads through this town, which is a little more than twenty-four miles from London. At the entrance of it is the mansion of the rectory, a handsome house, well suited to the income of it, and on the opposite side the road stands the church, and the small remains of the archiepiscopal palace, but yet sufficient to remind us of its having formerly been such. In the center of the town stand the marketplace and public well, both repaired by the lord of the manor; the market, which was on a Tuesday, has been disused for many years, but here is a fair held yearly on May 4, for horses, cattle, &c. Opposite the marketplace is Wrotham place, the seat of Mr. Haddock, a further account of which will be given hereafter. Hence the road divides, that to the right leads to Yaldham and Ightham, and to the left the London road to Maidstone continues south-eastward along a chalky soil, through the borough of Neupiker, where there is a handsome sashed house belonging to Mr. Tomlyn, and a spring, which supplies the rivulet which runs afterwards by Ford, situated at the western boundaries of the parish, next to Addington, and thence by Leyborne towards the Medway; about a mile from Neupiker, is Wrotham heath, a barren sandy soil, both red and black, but on which great quantities of peat is dug; here the road divides, the left leading by the Royal Oak to Maidstone, near which are the two hamlets of Great and Little Comp, and the woods of that name, and the right towards Ightham, the antient Roman camp on Oldberry hill, and over Seal chart to Sevenoke and Westerham. On the southern side of the road this parish extends over the hill to Hale borough and the hamlet of Plaxtool, where the soil, from a sand becomes a deep stiff clay, and though a fertile, yet an unpleasant miry country. The chapel and street of Plaxtool, together with the seat of Fairlawn, are situated at the southern boundaries of it, next to Shipborne and West Peckham. In Plaxtool-street is a good house, built by Thomas Dalyson, esq. who resided here till his father’s death, when he removed to Hamptons, in West Peckham. He lies buried in Plaxtool chapel, and his eldest son, William Dalyson, esq. of Hamptons, now resides in it. Near the last hill above-mentioned, but still within the circuit of this borough, are two hamlets, called Plaxtool-street likewife, and Crouch, the latter of which was formerly the residence of the Millers, baronets, about half a mile eastward from which is the large tract of woodland, called the Herst or Compwoods; through the other runs a stream, which rises near Ightham, and having turned a paper mill at Basted pasies through this borough towards West Peckham, Hadlow, and thence into the Medway.

That part of this parish which lies southward below Comp-hill, and the hill above Fairlawn, is in the district called the Weald, though there have been several, who have contended, that all that part of Wrotham lying below the chalk hill is in the Weald of Kent, and as a proof of it, urge the non payment of tithe for the wood in those parts of this parish. But the general received opinion is, that the Weald begins at the next sand hill above Fairlawn; wood being exempted from tithe can be no proof of its being in the Weald, as there are such large districts in this county plainly out of it, which claim and enjoy, as yet, a like privilege.

This parish ought antiently to have contributed to the repair of the fifth pier of Rochester bridge.

Besides the gentlemens’ families mentioned hereafter who formerly resided in this parish, John Richers, a justice of the peace, resided here in 1570, a period when that office was truly an honor to those who were intrusted with it. He was descended from an antient family of Swanington-hall, in Norfolk.

William Bryan, esq. of this parish, son of John Bryan, of Kibworth, in Leicestershire, by Elianor, sister of Anthony Watson, bishop of Chichester, and at length heir to the bishop, resided here in the beginning of the reign of king James I. and bore for his arms, Or, three piles azure, a chief ermine.

A branch of the family of Polley, alias Polhill, once resided in this parish, of which was Sir Thomas Polley, who was living here in the reign of king James I. These were junior to those of Preston, in Shoreham, but elder to those of Chipsted and Otford, in this county. John Thomas, gent. was of Wrotham, in the reign of queen Elizabeth, whose grandson, William Thomas, gent. removed to Selling, in this county. They bore for their arms, Argent, a fess dancette, sable, between three Cornish choughs, proper. (fn. 1)

Thomas Shakerley, third son of Francis Shakerley, of Ditton, in this county, resided at Wrotham in the reign of king James I. (fn. 2)

In Blacksole field, in this parish, Sir Robert Southwell, sheriff of this county, and the lord Abergavenny, with about five hundred gentlemen and yeomen, routed the Isleys and their party, who were engaged in Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion, in the first year of queen Mary’s reign; the rebels were pursued from hence near four miles to Hartley-wood, many of them were killed, and about sixty taken prisoners. Those who were slain in this rencounter were buried in the field of battle. Sir Henry Isley himself escaped and fled into Hampshire.

Some of our antiquarians, as Talbot, and after him Lambarde, (fn. 3) have conjectured Wrotham to have been the station called in Antonine’s itinerary Vagniacæ, but in this they have not been followed by any one else that I have seen.

There is great probability that the Roman military way passed by Ofham through this parish near the Comps, westward, towards Oldborough and Stonestreet, as will be further mentioned hereafter.

About seventy years ago a considerable quantity of British Silver coin was discovered in this parish by a mole’s casting up the earth, and by digging afterwards, which were all seized by the lord of the manor of Wrotham.

Pentaphyllum, or creeping cinquefoil, mentioned by Dr. Plot in his history of Oxfordshire, as a rare plant, is said to grow plentifully on one side of Wrotham town.

WROTHAM was given to Christ-church, in Canterbury, by king Ethelstan, in the year 964, and continued part of the possessions of that church, when Lanfranc came to the see in the year 1070, being the 5th year of the Conqueror’s reign.

On the division, which the archbishop soon afterwards made of the revenues of his church, between himself and his convent, Wrotham was allotted to the archbishop and his successors, and as such it is entered under the general title of his lands in the survey of Domesday, taken about the year 1080, as follows:

In Broteham hundred. The archbishop himself holds Broteham. It was taxed at eight sulings. The arable land is twenty carucates. In demesne there are three carucates, and seventy-six villeins, with eighteen borderers, having fourteen carucates. There is a church and ten servants, and three mills of fifteen shillings, and nine acres of meadow; wood, when fruitful (in acorns) sufficient for the pannage of five hundred hogs.

Of this manor, William Dispensator holds one suling, and there he has one carucate in demesne, and two villeins with half a carucate.

Of the same manor Goisfrid holds of the archbishop one suling, and there he has one carucate, and six villeins, with one borderer, having two carucates.

Of the manor itself, Farman holds one yoke and an half of the archbishop, and there he has three carucates, and six villeins with twelve cottagers having two carucates, there are ten servants.

In the whole value, in the time of king Edward the Confessor, this manor was worth fifteen pounds, and afterwards sixteen pounds. Now the demesne of the archbishop is valued at twenty-four pounds, and yet it pays thirty-five pounds. Of the knights eleven pounds.

What Richard of Tonebridge holds in his lowy is valued at fifteen pounds.

Walter, archbishop of Canterbury, in the 8th year of king Edward II. had a grant of a market weekly on a Thursday at his manor of Wrotham, and one fair on the seast of St. George yearly.

In an antient taxation of the archbishop’s revenues, this manor was valued at eighty five pounds. (fn. 4)

¶The archbishops had very antiently a palace here, in which they frequently resided till the time of archbishop Simon Islip, who came to the see in the 23d year of king Edward III. who having a desire to finish the palace at Maidstone, which John Ufford his predecessor had begun, and wanting materials for that purpose, pulled down the greatest part of this house, and transported the materials thither, in which situation, the manor, with the remains of it, continued till the reign of king Henry VIII. when Thomas Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, in the 29th year of it, conveyed it, as well as all his estates whatsoever in this parish, except the church of Wrotham, and its appendages, to that king, in exchange for other premiles; at which time the scite and demesnes of it were let by the archbishop at the yearly rent of 5l. 6s. 8d. and there were paid to the archbishop (who reserved the royalty and rents of the manor to himself) from the farmers and tenants of it, of antient custom, annually, two hundred and sixty-four hens, valued at sixty-six shillings; 1159 eggs at 5s. 9d. and two geese at ten-pence, (fn. 5) which is noted here to shew the small value of these articles at that time.

WROTHAM is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese of Rochester, and being a peculiar of the archbishop of Canterbury, is as such within the deanry of Shoreham.

The ecclesiastical jurisdiction of this parish extends over the district of the chapelry of Woodland, once a parish of itself, the civil jurisdiction of which is united to the parish of Kingsdown, though on the decay of the chapel, it was, in the 15th year of queen Elizabeth united, as to the ecclesiastical jurisdiction, to this parish, the rector and vicar of which have a right to possess all emoluments arising from it till another chapel is built.

The ecclesiastical jurisdiction of this parish extends likewise over the adjoining parish of Stansted, which is accounted as a chapel to the church of Wrotham. It was made a distinct church of itself, by the ordinance of parliament before-mentioned, in 1647, in which state it remained till the restoration, when it became again united to the church of Wrotham, and continues so at this time.

The church, which is dedicated to St. George, is situated on the north side of the town, adjoining to the London road at the foot of the hill. It is a very handsome large building, consisting of three isles, a cross isle, and a large chancel, which last was new-paved and otherwise much beautified some years ago, by the late rector, Dr. John Potter.

There seems to have been a rectory and vicarage belonging to this church very antiently, for in the 15th year of king Edward I. the former was valued at eighty marcs, and the latter at twenty marcs. However, the vicarage was not endowed till the middle of the reign of king Edward III. when Simon Islip, archbishop of Canterbury, at the request, and with the consent of William de Isleppe, then rector of this church, with the chapel of Stansted annexed, decreed, that there should be from that time in future one vicar, the collation of whom should belong to the archbishop and his successors, and he separated the portion, which the vicar should take in future from that of the rector, and he decreed, that the vicar’s part so divided, with the permission of the rector, should be as follows: Imprimis, that he should have for the habitation of himself and his successors, a certain house lately assigned to the vicar, with the garden adjoining, as wholly and as freely as the vicar formerly held the same, and all manner of oblations in whatsoever things they should in any manner arise, in this church and chapel and elsewhere within the parish; and also the tithes of lambs, wool, chickens, pigs, geese, ducks, eggs, bees, honey, wax, cheese, milk, the produce of the dairy, flax, hemp, apples, pears, swans, and also of pidgeons, merchandisings, fisheries, pasture without the parks of the archbishop, onions, garlic, and other small tithes and obventions whatsoever, in any shape arising within the bounds and limits of the parish of this church; and also of the silva cedua of faggots and fardels. And that the vicar should have the tithes of the four water mills situated within the parish of Wrotham, and also the tithe of hay growing at Hale, Roghey, and Wynfield, within this parish, and the small tithes of a place called Pellesholte, titheable to the church of Wrotham from antient time, and all trentals left within the parish of this church and chapel; and he taxed and estimated the above portion at the sum of twenty marcs, and decreed it should pay accordingly to the tenth, whenever the same should be levied

And he decreed that the vicar should undergo the following burthens, viz. that he should find one fit chaplain to celebrate in the chapel of Stansted, and to administer to the parishioners there all sacraments, and sacramentals whatsoever, and to exercise all cure of souls, and when he had leisure, and the other part of the parish of Wrotham should be in want of his ministry, beyond the usual service, that he should give his assistance, as the same should be enjoined to him and the vicar. Moreover, that the vicar should provide for his chaplain’s celebrating at both places, bread and wine and lights, and should pay the procurations due to the dean of Shoreham at his visitations, and should bind and repair the books, and cause the vestments to be washed as often as need should require. But that the sacrist assigned by the parishioners, according to antient custom, should carefully keep them, as he should answer it at his peril. And he decreed, that the vicar of this church for the time being, should not take any thing whatsoever beyond the above portion, or undergo any other burthens than those before expressed.

And he decreed, that the vicar and his chaplains, and their successors, should take an oath of obedience to the rector, that he would neither by himself, or by any other, publicly or privately, bring any damage or burthen to the rector or church, and that he should not knowingly ever usurp to himself, any thing of the rector’s portion. And he further decreed, that as often as the vicarage should become vacant, the rector should take all and singular the tithes, and obventions whatsoever assigned as before mentioned, to the vicar of it, and arising during the time of such vacation, and that during the same, he should undergo and acknowledge all the before-mentioned burthens, and should cause, as well the said church, as the chapel of Stansted, to be served in divine services, saving to him the archbishop and his successors full liberty of correcting, amending and explaining his decree, and of adding to, or diminishing from the same, as often as need should require. (fn. 16)

Thomas Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, in 1402, confirmed the above endowment, and being frequently requested by John Sondereshe, rector of this church, to inspect the said letters, how far he might with justice expound the decree, or endowment of this vicarage, which in several parts of it seemed doubtful and obscure, on account of the differences and disputes arising from thence, and the preventing those which might probably arise in future; the archbishop therefore having examined carefully into the premises, decreed, that that part of the endowment, where mention is made, that all small tithes, and obventions whatsoever, should belong to the vicar, ought to extend to the tithes, oblations and obventions therein expressed, and likewife to the tithes of trades and of calves, for the taking of which there had been no small contention, and that all occasion of dispute might be prevented between the rector and vicar, by reason of the endowment, he decreed, that the vicar should yearly receive from the rector for the time being 13s. 4d. in money, and four cart loads of wood of the tithes of silva cedua of this parish, yearly to be taken, when it should most suit the vicar, nevertheless by the direction and delivery of the rector, or of his locum tenens.

And in recompence of which 13s. 4d. of the tithes of calves and of trades, and of the fire wood, the rector of this church for the time being should take entirely all manner of tithes of hay, and silva cedua of whatever sort or quality, the same might be, the decree of his predecessor in any wise notwithstanding, which he nevertheless decreed to remain in all other parts firm and valid, saving to himself and his successors, full power to correct, amend or explain the same, and either to add to or diminish it, as often as need, or reason required it. (fn. 17)

From this time the rectory became a sine cure, and the vicar performed the whole service of the cure, though they both continued to receive institution and induction.

The rectory of Wrotham is valued in the king’s books at 50l. 8s. 1½d. and the yearly tenths at 5l. 0s. 9¾d.

The vicarage is valued at 22l. 5s. 10d. and the yearly tenths at 19s. 10¾d.

An indenture was executed anno 6th Elizabeth, with the queen’s consent, between the parson of Wrotham and George Bing, in which the latter conveyed in exchange a court lodge, and twenty-four acres of land to the former, and his successors in free alms, in lieu of the parsonage house, and twenty-four acres of glebe land.

The rectory of Wrotham continued a sine cure impropriate, under a lease from the archbishop, separate from the vicarage till the year 1715, when the lease expiring, archbishop Tenison having before refused to renew it, conferred this preferment on the vicar Mr. Thomas Curteis, since which both these preferments have been conferred on the same person who has a separate institution and induction, and conforms likewise in every particular to the act of uniformity for each.

¶The parsonage house is a handsome building on the opposite side of the road westward from the church. It was considerably improved of late years, first, by Mr. Curteis, and next by Dr. Potter, who was the principal benefactor to it, and expended a large sum of money upon this house and the offices belonging to it, during the time of his holding these preferments. The vicarage house is still remaining. It is a mean building situated in that part of Wrotham leading to Yaldham.

The extent of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of this parish, with the chapel of Stansted, is very great, containing a space of six miles and an half long, of which Stansted is two miles, and three miles in width, besides the chapel of Woodland. There is an exceeding fine glebe to it, and the first value of the rectory and vicarage is, as I am informed, upwards of one thousand pounds per annum, of which the latter is computed at three hundred pounds.

Posted by Jelltex on 2020-09-13 19:29:40

Tagged: , St George , Wrotham , Kent , Church , Jelltex , Jelltecks

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