Institute of Historical Research



Edward Hasted

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'Preface', The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1 (1797), pp. I-XIV. URL: Date accessed: 16 April 2014. Add to my bookshelf


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AMONG THE DIFFERENT COUNTIES of England, which have been at times illustrated by the labours of ingenious men, the county of Kent, besides the part it has in the general descriptions of Britain, has perhaps had a greater share of their attention than any other in the kingdom.

Leland, librarian to king Henry VIII. may be said to be the first who undertook a particular and regular description of the several counties of this kingdom. To effect this general survey, he obtained the king's commission to search all libraries whatever. He visited almost every part of England for this purpose, during the space of six years, and took notes of whatever he imagined might be of service to his intended work, in doing which, he appears to have made use of the many valuable manuscripts deposited in the several monasteries throughout the kingdom, which were soon afterwards dispersed, and many of them purposely destroyed. His collections, made for this county, are by no means the smallest of those he left behind him, but the greatness of his design; in all likelihood, disturbed his reason, so that he only left the great outlines of it, which appear to have been taken with great integrity.

On this rude, yet firm foundation, Mr. Camden is supposed to have framed the glorious superstructure of his Britannia, a work of immortal same, as well to the author as the country he has described. It was first published in 1586, and went through five editions in the author's life time. From this work, he was deservedly esteemed the great restorer of antiquity to Britain; and as he exceeded former ages in his admirable work, so he has remained without an equal to this time. As his Britannia included not only the description of England and Scotland, but of Ireland too, it could admit but of a very short and concise account of each particular county, nevertheless it has abundance of learning and information, though contained in so small a space.

The next general description of Great Britain was published a long time after that above mentioned, under the title of Magna Britannia ct Hibernia; or, A new Survey of Great Britain and Ireland. It was compiled by different persons, and having been first published in monthly numbers, was afterwards published in six volumes, quarto; the first in 1720, and the rest in the succeeding years; but it was lest impersect, the English counties only being described; considering the greatness of the undertaking, it is esteemed a work of some merit and reputation. Besides the notice which has been taken of this county, in common with others, in these general descriptions of Britain, the followingenious and learned men have employed their pens to celebrate its praises in particular.

William Lambarde, esq. of Lincoln's-inn, who was well versed in the Saxon language, and most intelligent in the antient laws and customs of that people, drew up, among many other learned discourses, An alphabetical Description of Places throughout England and Wales, published since his death, under the title of, A Topographical Dictionary, which he intended as a store house, from whence he might draw materials for a particular description of each county. Most probably Camden's undertaking his Britannia put a stop to this design, and he only finished what he had begun as a trial, his own county of Kent; his Perambulation of it, containing the antient history, laws, and customs of the county, especially in whatever the Saxons were concerned, with the Saxon etymology of places and things, was published in 1570; and it was not only highly approved of by Camden, and other literary men of that age, but has given hints to learned men of succeeding times to endeavour the like for their respective counties.

Mr. William Somner, of Canterbury, in the beginning of king Charles I.'s reign, whilst the blessing of peace remained in this happy isle, collected his materials for his History of Canterbury, which was afterwards published in 1640. His great proficiency in the Saxon language, made him esteemed the most eminent antiquary of his time; and as his industry was indefatigable, he laid a plan of writing a history of the whole county, but the impetuous storm of civil war and fanaticism, which broke out soon afterwards, and directed its fury against every thing that had the appearance of learning, religion, or decency, soon obliged him to quit his design, and to turn his thoughts to the preservation of his own domestic concerns, and the safety of himself and family. All that is left of this design seems to be, A Treatise of the Roman Ports and Forts in Kent, published since his death, supposed to be part of it; and some manuscript collections relating to some few towns and churches in Kent, now in the manuscript library of the dean and chapter of Canterbury.

Richard Kilburne, esq. of Hawkurst, published, in 1659, in quarto, A Topography, or Survey of Kent; but it is little more than a Directory, to point out the several divisions of the county: the names of rivers, towns, and parishes, and the distance of them from each other; the liberties, fairs, and markets, within them; the dedication of churches, with a list of sheriffs, &c.

John Philipott, rouge dragon, and afterwards Somerset herald, who had visited this county in the year 1619, and the two following years, as marshal and deputy to William Camden, clarencieux king at arms, soon afterwards began to make collections for An historical Survey of the County of Kent, which he seems to have continued till about the year 1640; no long time after which, the common fatality of the civil war overwhelmed him with misfortunes, and he lived for some years afterwards in great poverty and obscurity till his death, which happened in 1645. What state his collections were left in, or what pains it cost his son, Thomas Philipott, to put them into order, is not known, but the latter took the whole merit of them to himself, and without mentioning his father, published them in 1659, in a small folio, under his own name, by the title of, Villare Cantianum; or, Kent surveyed and illustrated; to which he added a Catalogue of Sheriffs, which he owns was drawn up by his father. This Survey contains a history of the descents of the several manors and places of note in this county and the owners of them, with some few historical dissertations, intermixed on particular matters of antiquity. The whole seems to be the rude materials which John Philipott had collected, with an intention of framing them into a more copious and complete history.

Dr. Plott had certainly formed a plan, after the manner of what he had already published for Oxfordshire and Staffordshire, of a Natural History of this County, with an account of the Roman antiquities, roads, &c. in it; but beginning this design at the farther part of life, and being involved in other business, he can be said but barely to have projected the outlines of it. Part of his collections for this purpose came afterwards into the hands of the late Mr. Thorpe of Bexley, in this county.

The last work of this kind, and the least in reputation too, was that of Dr. Harris, prebendary of Rochester, who spent eight years in making collections for a History of this county, but he did not live to see the fate of his transcripts, the first volume of which, in folio, was published in 1719, a few months after his death, under the title of, The History of Kent, containing an exact Topography or Description of the County, civil, ecclesiastical, and natural, with the History of the Royal Navy of England. It contains but few alterations from the former descriptions of this county, and as few continuations of families, the owners of the several manors and estates, concluding with the possessors of them in Philipott's time, which was in the year 1656. What progress the Doctor had made towards his second volume, which was never published, is not known; but dying insolvent, his papers were dispersed, and though every enquiry has been made after them, yet no knowledge has been gained what is become of them.

Such have been the attempts of learned and ingenious men to illustrate the History of Kent. How far they have accomplished this task must be left to the judgment of others, perhaps considering the extensiveness of the county and the multiplicity of matter necessary to be treated of in it, beyond that of most others, it may be found too much for one person to undertake, so as to accomplish it with any tolerable satisfaction, either to himself or the public; indeed, had Mr. Somner lived in more quiet times, and had leisure to have indulged his beloved passion for the study of antiquity, he would probably have left a history of this county, which would have done honour both to the writer and the county itself. He undoubtedly designed such a work. His learning, both in antiquity and history, and more especially in the Saxon tongue, was uncommonly great, his application was unwearied, and he had a purity of manners, which stamped a more than ordinary degree of credit on whatever came from his pen. His History of Canterbury, with his other learned treatises, are specimens of what might have been expected, had he been at leisure to have accomplished this great design.

Nor are those already mentioned the only learned men who have employed their pens in illustrating the history and antiquities within this county; many partial histories and accounts of towns and places, particularly of Canterbury, Rochester, Maidstone, Faversham, and Tunbridge Wells, of Romney marsh, and the Weald, have been at times published; several of which have no small degree of merit, and bear a good reputation among the learned. The best methodized, accurate, and most perfect county history which has been published, is Sir William Dugdale's History of Warwickshire, published in 1656, before the destruction made by the fanatics, in one volume folio; a most valuable and laborious work, as appears by the number of authorities quoted in the margin of it. Sir Henry Chauncy's History of Hertfordshire, published in 1700, in a like size, is esteemed the next best, and seems formed mostly upon the same plan; though had his digressions been shorter, and his authorities more frequent, his work would have been much more pleasing and much more valuable.

From these, which have been the patterns of all succeeding county histories, which bear any kind of reputation, with all due deference to their superior learning and abilities, the plan of this History has been in a great measure formed.

The contents of it have been compiled, in a great measure, from extensive searches made among the different offices of record, and other repositaries of learning, both public and private, in London and elsewhere, all which need not be enumerated here, as the continued references to them, throughout the work, will sufficiently point them out; from a constant series of correspondence with persons of the most respectable rank and fortune in the county, with the clergy, and with the gentlemen practitioners of the law, from whom the several subjects in it, especially as to descent and property, have been elucidated and ascertained on sure grounds, besides which, parochial visitations have been made throughout the county, by which the knowledge of every particular, worthy of attention, has been gained.

As to The General History prefixed to this work, it will be necessary to observe, that the accounts of Britain, before Cæsar's time, are by most deemed fabulous; his Commentaries are the first which have any appearance of truth, though the whole narrative of his expeditions hither seem but a partial representation of facts, in which whatever could tend to increase his own glory is punctually related; and the contrary, with as much art, softened or entirely omitted. Whatever therefore he relates of this county, and the inhabitants of it, must be read with much caution, as he attained his knowledge of it, not from his own observations, (his progress in it being of short extent, no farther than St. Alban's, in an almost direct route, his time but just sufficient for his military observations, and himself and his forces in continual jeopardy from the Britons,) but from the hearfay of those who dwelt on the coast adjoining to France, and who never travelled into the interior parts of the island.

What is met with relating to Britain in Tacitus, Dion, Suetonius, and others of later times, seems to have a greater founda- tion of truth than the elegant and well dressed Commentaries of the ambitious and vain glorious Cæsar. Notwithstanding which, whether his relation is consistent with truth or not, it is the earliest that has any probability of it, and as such, must be made use of by every historian, who wishes to give any account of Britain at that period of time.

The history of this county, from the departure of the Romans, during the times that the English, the Saxons, the Danes, and the Normans, were contending for the sovereignty of it, is very differently related by the respective historians of those periods, each inclining, with great partiality, in favour of his own nation; the truth of the events of those times must therefore be investigated, by comparing the probability of what each advances with the others, and yet, after all, the certainty of it will hang by a very slender thread indeed.

In the account of the descent and change of property, later than the abolition of the court of wards, and the authenticity of former histories, very few authorities can be given, most of the information being from private correspondence, oral information, or personal knowledge of the facts. The difficulty of procuring any knowledge in relation to them is becoming every year greater: Whilst feudal tenures subsisted, and the courts of wards and liveries was in being, a complete information could be gained of almost every manor and estate of consequence of which any one died possessed, either by searching that office, for the solemn inquisition, usually stiled, Inquisitio post mortem, taken after the possessors death by the king's escheator, on the oaths of a jury, who enquired what lands he died seised of, who was his heir, and of what age, and by what services he held—or by searching the escheat rolls, made up from his return, at the exchequer. The above mentioned court was abolished at the restoration of king Charles II. and these helps are now lost to the laborious historian, and he must consequently, as his only resource, apply to the possessors of the property themselves, no doubt the fountain head, where he ought to make his application, where his information must be authentic; but from various reasons, too obvious to mention, how few are there who can command the possession of their own deeds, and of the few who can, how difficult it is, in this age of distrust, to prevail on them to afford any information relating to the titles of their lands, much more with the fight of them; indeed, the practitioners of the law, through a constant attention to the emoluments of their profession, have, for some years past, so multiplied the deeds of all estates, and extended them to such an enormous length, that the trouble of producing, as well as of examining them, is become both tiresome and laborious.

The variety of information, which has been found necessary to insert in this history, has so far filled every part of it, as to leave no opportunity of adding such digressions and criticisms as occurred on many of the subjects mentioned in it, which would otherwise have been frequently done. The continual repetitions in the several pages of it could not be well avoided in carrying on the chain of narrative; and, indeed, had they not been submitted to, the frequency of the references, in consequence of their omission, would have rendered the several pages the most troublesome and disagreeable of all kind of reading.

The natural history of this county is a subject so copious, and abounding with such a variety of matter, that it neither can nor ought to be made a part of any book, it requires one entirely to itself, and a genius particularly adapted to the study of it, the sole attention and application of which should be that alone, and it must be the employment of several years to compose one that would do sufficient justice to it; however such matters as have occurred to the author, either from his own observations, or the communications of his friends, will be found interspersed throughout the work.

The several peculiar customs of different places and remarkable occurrences are in general taken notice of, all trifling and credulous stories, which are a disgrace to common sense, being omitted.

In the account of the several religious foundations it will, perhaps, be observed, especially in that of Faversham, that they are not represented in so odious a light as has been too much the practice for some time past, whether right or wrong, to serve either party or particular purposes. There were those among them, no doubt, as there are among all denominations of men, who were not without the common failings of human nature; but though there were some few among them, whose actions might be deemed a scandal to religion, and their ignorance a disgrace to the society they belonged to, yet there were many others of them who were great, pious, and good men, and of excellent learning for the times, many of whom were preferred to, and exercised with becoming credit, the highest offices in the state, the church, and the law; and in many of their houses great regularity of discipline and prayer was kept up, and daily charity dispensed at their gates to hundreds of the poor and hungry, who constantly flocked thither for that purpose.

In many of the extracts from the Records of Domesday (the printing of which, in fac simile engravings, none but those whose continued practice had gained a technical knowledge in antient records, could have interpreted, or even have read, and as such would have been of little or no use) it will no doubt be observed, that the names of places are very different from the present ones of those they are supposed to describe. This appears to have been owing, as well to the mistakes of the Norman scribes, made perhaps for the purpose, who took their accounts from the mouths of the Saxon inhabitants, as to the great change worked by such length of time in the very names themselves, insomuch that the greatest part of them, at this time, requires a person well acquainted with the antient history of the several places, as well as the provincial dialect of the county, to interpret them, and fix them to the places they are meant to describe, and even then conjecture must frequently be resorted to for this purpose, however it is hoped, that very few mistakes have been committed in the interpretation of them.

The maps of the several hundreds have been executed with much pains and attention, and considering, that they are the first which have been attempted of the kind for this county, are as accurate as can well be expected; the difficulty of ascertaining the bounds of most of them has been very great, several of them so very intricate as to be almost unknown, as well as those of the respective laths in which they are situated; the lowy of Tunbridge, the hundreds of Watchlingstone and West Barnefield, have been particularly so. The method of making the map of the county was well considered of, and the one adopted is what, upon consultation with several ingenious persons, seemed most approved of.

As to the views of the several seats, they are as well executed as such sort in general are; some of them are done in a more elegant and expensive style, where the donors have shewn a more than ordinary liberality, in order to do credit to the county, in thus embellishing the History of it. The expence, at this time, of engravings, even from the hand of a moderate artist, is such that it is hardly decent to ask it of any one; from the more eminent hands it is extravagant beyond all reason.

The genealogies of families have been held by many in by far too trivial and useless a light, especially when it is considered, that men, whose ancestors have been samed for their public virtue and patriotism, for the glorious actions they have peformed for their country, or for their proficiency in philosophy, learning, or the polite arts, are frequently stimulated to imitate their bright and worthy examples. The shame of degenerating from the reputation their families hold in the estimation of mankind in general, deters them from committing base and unworthy actions, actions unworthy those whose blood fills their veins. Relationship of family extended, by the preservation of pedigrees, promotes a chain of society and good will that often affords assistance and support to every link of it; besides which, many public foundations are enjoined to give a preference in the election of their members to particular consanguinities. Many endowments for the education of youth, as well in schools as in the colleges of both universities, and many offices of trust and emolument, are in like manner confined to kindred, by their founders and benefactors. How many estates are lost to their right owners from their pedigrees being inadequate to trace and authenticate their titles to them, in consequence of which advertisements frequently appear in the public papers to endeavour to find out the next of kin to possess an inheritance. The well-known loss of the Selby estate to the right heir is a recent instance, what care ought to be taken in this particular. There are some, indeed, who attempt to turn antient descent and pedigree into ridicule and contempt, but it has been observed, and that very justly, that this is seldom done, except by those who have none themselves, and think by so doing, to level others to a footing with themselves.

It was at first hoped to have preserved some similitude and propriety in the orthography of the names both of places and persons, but this was obliged soon to be given up entirely; the variety of spelling, both in manuscripts and histories, and still farther even in records and acts of parliament is astonishing, as may be seen, as well by the gavel-kind acts of king Henry VIII. and king Edward VI. as the several private acts, passed of later years, for the sale or settlement of estates; private deeds and conveyances frequently disagree in these particulars—fathers and sons frequently alter the spelling of their names, brothers do the same, to distinguish the different branches of the same family; and some, after a generation or two, have resumed the former spelling of their names again.

THUS FAR it has been thought proper to select from the Prefaces to the several volumes of the former edition, for the information of the reader of these volumes, and it will be now necessary to trespass a little farther on his patience, in relation to the present undertaking, which has been begun at the request of many, who though they approved much of the work itself, yet, from the bulk of the folio edition, and the very high price it sells for, declined the purchase of it, though at the same time they wished much to obtain it in a smaller and more convenient size, and at a much more reasonable price. The present edition it is hoped will, in every respect, answer both these purposes, and meet with their approbation, as well as of the public in general, for no endeavours nor expence have been spared to render it worthy their attention. Among the many improvements made in it, the parts of the former edition, which have been thought too prolix or unnecessary, as well as all tautologies, have been omitted, the several errors and mistakes, observed by the author himself, or communicated to him by others, are corrected; much information on every subject communicated by different correspondents, since the publication of the former volumes, are inserted throughout the work, and the several articles in each parish are differently arranged, so as to render the succession of them much more pleasant to the reader. The modern state of each parish is greatly enlarged with numbers of observations unnoticed before, and the several manors and estates are continued down to the present time. A full account of the several parochial charities, transcribed from the returns of them, made in conformity to the act of parliament to the quarter sessions, and a selection of epitaphs, in the several churches, which were omitted in the first and second volumes of the former edition, are likewise added. Much objection has been made to the frequent notes, which in the former edition so often interrupted the reader, to remedy which, they are all of them here inserted among the text, except the quotations of authorities, which are the only ones that remain, to be referred to.

The number of these volumes, as far as can be judged at present, will not exceed EIGHT; every endeavour has, and will be used, to comprize this undertaking within that number, and it is hoped, that this will be effected, and that without omitting any material part of the history, notwithstanding there are several other additions and improvements too copious to insert in the limits of this preface, insomuch that it may rather be esteemed as a new History than a second edition of a former one.

The prints, inserted in the course of these volumes, are several of them those, where the size would admit of it, which belonged to the folio edition, though much improved, the others are such as have been engraved at no small expence purposely for these volumes.

As to the numerous folio prints belonging to the former edition, as there is not a possibility of inserting them in these small volumes, it is proposed, that the purchasers may not be deprived of them, to make up six of them, and to deliver them, sewed up in a number, if required, to the purchasers of each volume at a very trisling price, though highly improved for this purpose by a very eminent artist.

LASTLY, the reader's candour is requested in like manner as was necessary in the former edition, to excuse such errors and mistakes, for many such there must unavoidably occur to him, likewise in the perusal of these volumes, but he may be assured, that there has not been a single one wilfully made, but that the sacred path of truth has been invaribly pursued throughout them, and as every endeavour has been used, and neither cost nor pains spared, to gratify his expectation, it is hoped, especially when he considers the difficulty of so great an undertaking from the hand of a single person, that he will be induced the more liberally to look over and pardon whatever he finds amiss, in the course of them, intreating him to acquiesce in the well known sentiment of the poet—

Any ERRORS or MISTAKES, in the former edition, or communications towards the improvement of these volumes, will, at any time, in future, be thankfully received, if directed to W. BRISTOW, PARADE, CANTERBURY.