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1790 Directory

Extracts for the County of Kent

Source: The Universal British Directory submitted by Peter Stuart.

About 1 mile N.W. of Canterbury is a village of Hackington, or St Stephenís on the left of which is Hales Place, the fine new seat of Sir Edward HALES, Bart., extending itself 538 feet in front, with a spacious lawn before it, and the wings and back encompassed with beautiful plantations.

Lee 3 miles is the seat of Thomas BARRETT, Esq. The house a few years hence was taken down and rebuilt in the Gothic style. In this house is an excellent library and curious collection of pictures.

Knowleton, 8 miles the seat of Sir Narborough DíAETH, Bart., near which is the village of Wingham, 6 miles.

Goodnestone, 7 miles the seat of Sir B.W. BRIDGES, Bart.

About 4 miles East is the village of Paticksbourne, which is noted by some for the antiquity of its church and the curious Saxon door way, carved with a variety of figures, a few paces further is Bisrons, the seat of Sir John Brewer DAVIS, Knt., It was built by Richard BARGRAVE, Esq., or his Lady, if one may judge by this motto, which was placed upon it Diruta adifsicant uxor bona, adisicicata diruit mala.

Not far from Paticksbourne is that of Bekesbourne, where several of the Archbishops of Canterbury formally had a small but elegant palace; the gateway of which still remains. In this parish is Howletts, formally the seat of Sir Philip HALES, but now of Isaac BAUCH, Esq.

Broome, 8 miles, the fine seat of Sir Henry OXENDEN, Bart., near which is Denhill, the seat of Hardinge STRACEY, Esq., which commands a most delightful view of the adjacent country.

About 6 miles S.E. is the village of Barnham, which gives name to that delightful spot called Barnham Downs, where Canterbury horse races are annually exhibited, in the month of August. The course till within these few years extend only 2 miles in length, but is much improved, as the horses now pass in view twice round in each 4 mile heat. A handsome building was erected on this spot in 1774 for the reception of the nobility and gentry who frequent the races, but it being found too small for the reception of company, it was considerable enlarged and greatly improved in 1790. Near this race ground is Higham, the seat James HALLETT, Esq. and Ileden, the seat of Thomas Watkinson PAYLOR, Esq.

On the right of the Down from Canterbury, 4 miles is Bourne Place, the seat of Sir Horrace MANN, Bart., which stands in the midst of green paddock, with a beautiful trout stream at an agreeable distance from the front of the house, and sheltered by lofty plantations in the back part. In the house is a most curios painted window, executed from Holland. Since the game of cricket has been patronised by several of our nobility and gentry, many grand matches have been decided in this paddock, between the greatest heroes of the bat this age perhaps any other ever produced.

St Laurence, 1 mile East, formally the seat of Lord Viscount DUDLEY & WARD, but now of Colonel John GRAHAM, near which on the road from Romney, is Nackington, the seat of Richard MILLES, Esq., formally M.P. of Canterbury, at a distance of 3 miles farther, on the left is Hardes Place, the seat of the late Sir William HARDES, Bart. At this house, King Henry VIII slept, when going on his expedition against Boulogne, he left his picture here, and a very old dagger, very broad, and about as long as a Roman sword; the handle is of silver gilt, enamelled, with mottos on it. The old gates of this seat (still standing) were the gates of Bolougne, brought hence at that siege by Sir Williamís ancestors who accompanied the King.

Three miles S. on the road to Ashford, is Mystole, the seat of Rev. Sir John FAGG, and at a distance of 1 mile further is the village of Chartham, where there is a very considerable paper mill erected over the River Stour.

Six miles S. is the village of Chilham, near which is Chilham Castle, and adjoining the fine old seat of Thomas HERON, Esq. which commands a fine prospect of the surrounding country. In the parish church are several beautiful monuments, and a fine mausoleum for the COLEBROOK family. Near the village is a tumulus or barrow, said to contain the body of Julius LABERIUS. Adjoining Chilham Park is Godmersham, the seat of Thomas KNIGHT, Esq.

Evington, 9 miles, the beautiful seat of Sir John HONEYWOOD, Bart., one of the representatives of Canterbury.

One mile W. on the London road, is the ancient village of Harbledown; the church is situate on a hill, opposite which is a hospital and a chapel , originally built and endowed by Archbishop LANFRANC, about the year 1084, for poor lepers. This hospital formally held the precious relic, St Thomas Becketís slipper, mentioned by Erasmus as the upper leather of an old shoe, adorned with crystals, set in copper. The numerous pilgrims to the shrine of St Thomas used to stop here and kiss this bauble, as a preparation for the more solemn approach to the tomb. Since the reformation, this hospital is continued for the relief of poor persons, who have, besides a house, a stipend of seven ponds each. Near are the seats of Sir William WILMOT, Bart. (late General BELFORDís) and Henry PRATT, Esq.

From Canterbury the road to Margate lies through Northgate and the village of Sturry where we cross the River Stour, which is in this part is sometimes rendered dangerous by floods; but a large sum of money has lately raised by subscription to build a substantial bridge over it; the first stone was laid on the 4th July 1776 and finished soon afterwards. About quarter of a mile to the right is Fordwich, is though it has the appearance of only a mean village, is incorporated by the name of the mayor, jurats and commonality, of the town of Forwich, which, is a member of the town and port of Sandwich, and enjoys the same privileges as the Cinque Ports. It is situate on the Stour which is navigable for small vessels to the town; though there is reason to think the sea was much nearer, and very properly the Porus Trutulensis was that part of this large haven where the Stour entered it and derives its name from those excellent trouts, for which this place yet continues famous. The Stour in the reign of Queen Elizabeth was made navigable as high as Canterbury. In ancient times there appear to have been two rivers of this name which are supposed to have fallen into the Wantsum at Stourmouth. There are two rivers still, one the greater the other the lesser Stour and both as far as we can judge, were formally navigable, built never a joint stream the former filling into the Wantsum, at Stourmouth, and the latter some distance from it. In reality there have been great and manifest changes in the face of the country and the course of the rivers in this part of Kent; but, however different their situation from which they are present, we have no authority to suppose that either of these rivers ever admitted vessels of any size or communicated with the sea, otherwise than by the arm of it called the Wantsum.

Near six miles from Canterbury is Upstreet, from hence we descend into the marches, formally covered by the Wantsum, the arm of the sea which separated Thanet from the main land of Kent, now contracted to a ditch and arrive at Sarr, another member of the port of Sandwich. This place was once in a flourishing condition, lying in the bay of Rutupium, and consequently a port, of which there is not only credible tradition, authenticated in the last age from the mouths of competent witnesses, who had themselves seen small boats and even barks of a tolerable size, pass quite through to the North mouth; but at both here and at other places in Thanet are visible marks remaining, of the little creeks and havens, in which vessels formally lay; and their charters prove this beyond the power of doubting as to its certainty.

Three miles to the left is Reculver, the Regulbium of the Romans, situated on a rising ground on the West side of Yenlade, (though it seems to have stood originally on an island, formed by that river) close by the sea shore. It is present joined to Kent without any sign of it ever being separated and is divided from Thanet by a very little brook, (the Yenlade) which falls into the sea at North Mouth. Serverus, Emperor of Rome, is said to have built a castle at Reculver, like that at Richborough. Great quantities of Roman & Saxon coins, urns and other curiosities have been found here. Ethelbert, King of Kent, built a palace and resided here as did many of his successors, and Bassa, an English Saxon Lord, founded here a rich abbey in 650; but there are now scarce the least remains of either. The present church is very ancient and had a most sumptuous choir. The west door in its primitive state was very noble and is still a curious remain of Saxon architecture over it are two lofty spires known by the name of the Two Sisters, which are very useful to mariners navigating this part of the coast of Kent.

The Isle of Thanet, which we enter Sarr, is celebrated for being the door through which arts, science and divine knowledge, came to this happy land. The Britons called it Richborough Isle from its vicinity to the city of that name. The Saxons dominated it. Thanet, from a word in their language which signifies fire, conjectured to been so named from the many beacons erected on it to give warning against the common enemy. The extent of the island is about nine miles from East to West and eight from North to South. It contains ten parishes and had formally as many churches, though now only seven remain. The soil in general is very fertile and through the good management of its occupiers, produces such crops of grain in favourable seasons as a scarcely to be equalled.

To the left of the road ten miles from Canterbury is the genteel village of St Nicholas. The church is a fair handsome building, but contains no monuments prior to the year 1500.

About the same distance to the right is the small town of Monkton, or Monktown, so called from being the property of the Monks who usually resided here. In the church, which appears to have been larger than at present, are collegiate stalls, and the heads of several priors in the remains of painted glass in the windows.


So named from seven very high oaks which stood near it when first built, (but have been long since cut down) stands near the River Darent, and is a great thoroughfare in the road to Rye, twenty four miles from London. It has a market on Saturday; fairs July 10th and October 12th. Here is a hospital and school, for the instruction of poor children and the maintenance of old people, erected by Sir William SEVENOAKS, Lord Mayor of London, who was a foundling, and took his name from this town. Queen Elizabeth having greatly augmented the revenue of this school, it was called Queen Elizabeth Free School. It was built in 1727. Near this town in 1450, the royal army, commanded by Sir Humphrey STRATTFORD, was defeated by the rebel forces headed by John CADE. The liberty has no court of record for pleas, but claims part of Kemsing, part of Lighe near Tonbridge, part of Seal, all Sevenoaks, and part of Speldhurst; and the Sheriff directs his warrants to the bailiff of the Liberty of Sevenoaks.

Keppington, near Sevenoaks, is the seat of Sir Charles TOWNLEY RATCLIFF, Esq. Knole the seat of the Duke of Dorset, is situated on the south east side of Sevenoaks, on an eminence nearly in the centre of a fine park, encompassed with beautiful valleys and lofty woods. The house is quadrangular and a noble pile of Gothic structure which with its adjacent buildings covers above five acres of land, and consisting of two large courts, which lead to a spacious hall and beyond that other court leading into the garden. The richness and variety of great part of the furniture of this house though somewhat injured by time, must convey to every beholder a clear demonstration of the magnificence and antiquity of the noble family that has long possessed it. The rooms and galleries are every where well furnished with a great variety of pictures of which are the performances of the most capital masters. There are also some Grecian and Roman busts and a famous and valuable marble stature of Pythagoras in the hall, which is an undoubted relic of the true Grecian taste. Many of the rooms are hung with curious old tapestry and the furniture and decorations which are ancient and which exhibit a perfect idea of the style of decoration in the 16th century are in high preservation. The park which is finely diversified by winding vales and riding grounds is ornamented by plantations of oak, chestnut, fir, etc. Here are also deer in abundance and some beautiful prospects particularly at a place on the south side of the park, called River Hill, where almost the whole county of Sussex is seen, and by the aid of a telescope The Isle of Wight. This mansion was originally built by Thomas BOURCHIER, Archbishop of Canterbury, who purchased it of William FIENNES, Lord Say and Seal: it was much augmented and improved by John MOTEON, and William WARNHAM, his successors in that fee; but the latter finding it looked upon with envy by the nobility, exchanged it with the King. It lay neglected for some time, till Thomas SACKVILLE, Earl of Dorset, Lord Treasurer, obtained it in James Iís reign. He made considerable improvements and rendered it a superb mansion.

Riverhead, is a village near Sevenoaks so called from the Darent rising in its neighbourhood. Adjoining to this place is Montreal, the seat of Lord AMHEAD, Baron HOLMSDALE, which is the name of the valley wherein it is situated. This structure was begun in 1764 and complete in 1775. It is with great propriety called Montreal as the noble possessor acquired great wealth and honour in that part of America which goes under the fame appellation. The ancient seat of the family of the AMHERSTS is still existing and is close the London Road, within a mile of the spot where the present elegant construction is situate. Though the building of the latter is finished, the gardens not yet arrived to sufficient perfection those of the old mansion are therefore preserved to supply Lord AMHERSTS family with their productions. The modern erection is on a spot which was originally called Watts Common.

A court was held some years ago at Riverhead, the place of nativity of this valiant peer, when his lordship claimed the above mentioned common and his claim was readily admitted by the jury, in consequence of which he caused it to be soon after enclosed as a paddock or park and the noble edifice was immediately planned and proceeded on with great deliberation till it was complete in 1775 It is a superb and elegant mansion and commands a very beautiful and extensive prospect. In the park is a column erected to perpetuate the happy meeting of this noble lord and his brother who after having been engaged in different services, in different part of the globe, during the last war but one, and gained honour both to themselves and their country were permitted by the favour of heaven to embrace each other on their native spot. Here is also a hermitage, whose beautiful solitude is enriched with some very good lines said to be composed by a female poet.

Shoreham, by the Darent, four miles North West of Sevenoaks has a charity school and a fair on May 1st. Here is an old house called Shoreham Castle, because built with battlements.

Otford is a village, three miles north of Sevenoaks, where Offa, King of Mercia defeated Lothaire, King of Kent, in 793. Offa to atone for the blood he had shed in this battle, gave Otford to Christ Church Canterbury in paseua porcorum (as the deeds say) for pasture for the Archbishops hogs and so it remained in the Archbishops liberty till exchanged with King Henry VIII for other lands. Another battle was fought here in 1016, wherein the Danish King Canute was routed by Edmund Ironside. The was a chantry founded at the Rye House in this parish. Here a fair August 24th. The church was once a chapel to Shoreham.


This is a post town and was made a mayor town in the reign of Queen Elizabeth and had a market neither of which it at present retains. It has fairs on Whit Monday and October 10th and a small charity school. It is one mile from Milton, and forty one from London and being a great thoroughfare from Rochester and Canterbury, it has many convenient inns; at one of which the Red Lion, Phillpot says that John NORWOOD Esq. treated King Henry V and his retinue, at their return from France in 1420 when wine was but 2d per quart and every thing else so cheap that the whole feast cost but 9s 9d. The church is large and handsome and had in it several ancient monuments among which was that of Sir Richard LOVELACE, Marshall of Calais in the reign of Henry VIII, richly inlaid with brass, but this with many others were injured by a fire that burnt inside and roof of the church in the year 1763; this has since been repaired. It is said that there was an organ in or about the time of Queen Elizabeth. Lewis THEOBALD, a laborious editor of and ingenious commentator on Shakespeare was a native of Sittingbourne; his father Peter THEOBALD was an eminent attorney in that town.

Tunstall is near Sittingbourne. It has an ancient church built chiefly of flint in which are some very old monuments. In January 1738 were found on the estate of Sir John HALES, in the neighbourhood on Tunstall several hundred broad pieces of gold, which were thought to have been concealed in the civil war by an ancestor of Sir John. They were found by a poor boy who was rambling in the coppice and not knowing their value was playing with some at a farmers who got possession of them but not being able to keep the secret he refunded 642 of the broad pieces for the use of the crown though Sir John laid claim to the whole, as did the Lord of the Manor of Milton which is paramount to that of Tunstall.


Tunbridge or the town of bridges, five miles south east from Sevenoaks and thirty from London is so called from the river Tun and four other streams here of the Medway over which there is a stone bridge. It has the ruins of a castle which appears to have been very large. It was erected in 1090 by Richard Earl of Clare natural son to Richard I, Duke of Normandy, who exchanged lands there for the like quantity here. This castle was taken by King Stephen, and afterwards by King John and King Henry III, who garrisoned it. The site is beautifully planted. The gateway remains with its holes for portcullis and opens into a small hall communicating by arches on each hand with the apartments in three stories the uppermost having the largest windows as being the state rooms. The keep was a vast height and from the remains of foundations appears to have been prodigiously strong. The town once in the reign of Edward I sent burgesses to parliament. There are three constables one for the town and two others for South borough and Holden in which two parts of it are situate. The present church is of modern structure. A native of this place erected a free school here on which an estate was settled in the reign of Queen Elizabeth by parliament. The stone causeway leading to into the town from London was a gift in 1528. The houses are mostly ill built and the streets sorely paved. Its market is on Friday; fairs on Ash Wednesday, July 5th and October 29th.

Near the town was anciently a place called the Forest of Tunbridge but it is now called The South Frith. The rocks about a mile and half from the Wells are in some parts seventy five feet high, the mean height forty interspersed with surprising cliffs and chasms that lead through the midst of them by narrow gloomy passages. The wells or chalybeate springs so much resorted to by the nobility and gentry in June, July and August, are four and five miles south of the town but for most part in its parish at the bottom of the tree hills, called Mount Sinai, Mount Ephraim and Mount Pleasant on which are good houses and fine fruit gardens but they are fed from a spring in the next parish of Speldherst. Here is also a good market of butchers, poulterers, etc. beside shops for toys, milliners, woollen ware etc. coffee rooms where is card playing, etc. and a hall for dancing; and behind the wells there is a large chapel of case to the parish church, where is divine service twice a day, during the season for drinking the waters and where seventy poor children are taught, who are wholly maintained by the contributions of the company at the wells, which are also the chief support of the Chaplin. Here is a priory built in 1094 but suppressed by Cardinal Woolsey and its hall is now converted into a barn. The springs were first discovered in 1606 by Dudley, Lord North, who retired to the neighbourhood in a consumption, and returning home hopeless in passing through a wood observed these springs and carried some of the water to a London Physician who after analysing them, recommended them to his lordshipís drinking who soon found in them a perfect cure. The first buildings were erected in 1636. The water is impregnated with shelly particles and marine salts and its weight is seven ounces and a quarter, four grains, lighter than the German Spa and ten grains lighter than common water. It is a great deobstruent and bracer and operates by urine and perspiration and is of great efficacy in cold chronical distempers, weak nerves and bad digestions. The air here is excellent all provisions reasonable and here is plenty of best sorts of wild fowl, and particularly the delicious bird called the Wheatear, from the south downs, but this comes very dear. They have very good fish of almost all kinds, from Rye, etc. and mackerel when in season from Hastings within three hours after they were taken. On Water-down-forest near these wells there used to be horse races.

Speldherst is three miles south west of Tunbridge whose wells are in its parish which is in a manner all hills and dales with deep vallies and here and there craggy bare rocks.
The church stands on an elevated situation and is remarkable for the loftiness of its shingled spire but more so for the carving. Over the porch of its church cut in stone are the arms of the Duke of Orleans who was taken prisoner at the battle of Agincourt by Richard WALLER of Gromesbridge at whose house he was kept near twenty five years during which he was a good benefactor to the repair of the church of Speldherst. The church was destroyed by lightening and the bells melted and other damage done, October 25 1791.
Somerhill is in the parish of Tunbridge three miles from Maidstone. There is a prospect from it of above fifty miles.
Pensherst or Penchester by the Medway is three miles south west of Tunbridge. Here a fair July 1st. This is the mansion of the SIDNEY family. It was the scene of Sir Philip SIDNEYís poetic dreams and has since heard the warblings of the poet WALLER in praise of his Sachaissa, who was an inhabitant of it and whose picture is still preserved. It is a noble structure and through its park is greatly diminished by enclosures, still remains much of its ancient beauty and magnificence.
Rusthall is a little village where many persons used to lodge formally who came to drink the waters of Tunbridge, before the building so much increased about the wells.


Westerham or Westram five miles west from Sevenoaks and twenty two miles from London stands near to head of the river Darent. Here is a market on Wednesday and a fair on September 19th. It was at this place that General Wolfe was born and buried; and here is a handsome monument erected to his memory. The late Earl of Jersey built (or rather finished, for it was begun by a private gentleman) a very noble house here called Squirries which is now in the possession of a descendant of Sir John WARD, who was Lord Mayor of London in the year 1719. The house stands on a small eminence but on the back of the house the ground rises very high and is divided into several steep slopes which as the hills are to the south and west of the house render the situation damp and cold. Near the house are some woods through which the present possessor has cut several ridings but many of them are too deep for that purpose and on the south side of the hill above the house arise nine considerable springs which unite at a small distance and form the river Dart which runs through Dartford, and afterwards discharges itself into the Thames. All of this part of the country from Guildford to this place is very agreeably pleasant, healthy and fruitful and is overspread with good towns, gentlemenís houses, populous villages, abundance of fruit, with hop grounds and cherry orchards and lands well cultivated but all on the right hand that is to say south is overgrown with timber has abundance of waste and wild grounds and forests and woods with many large iron works, at which they cast iron caldrons, chimney backs, furnaces, retorts, boiling pots, iron cannon, bomb shells, hand grenades, cannon ball, etc. At Coomb Bank one mile from Westerham is the noble seat of Lord Frederick CAMPBELL.

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The Universal British Directory 1790 part 3
Created by Maureen Rawson