NEXT to the parish of St. Margaret and liberty of
Rochester, southward, lies the parish of Woldham,
written in the Saxon charters, Wuldaham, in the succeeding Latin ones, Vuldeham, and in the record of
This place is supposed to take its name from the
Saxon words wolde, a plain open down or hill, free
from trees and wood, and ham, a village or dwelling;
in the like manner as those large open downs in the
north are still called wolds, in opposition to weald, a
low woody region. (fn. 1)
It is likewise described in several later grants by the
name of Woldeham Monachorum, from its belonging to
the monks of Rochester.
THE PARISH of Woldham lies on the eastern bank
of the river Medway, something more than two miles
from the city of Rochester, in a situation of a very disferent aspect, and far less pleasant than that of the
country last described, though so few miles distant from
it. The village having the church in it, lies at the
foot of the hills, very low, almost close to the river
Medway (which is the western boundary of this parish)
and from its contiguity to the marshes is accounted far
from being healthy. In it there is a handsome sashed
brick house, named Woldham house, built by Captain
Robert Trevor, of the navy, since the residence of
George Guy, esq. About a mile northward, in a situation equally low, and about the same distance from the
river, is the house of Starkey's, which, though now only
a farm-house, has still a handsome appearance, being a
strong building of stone, with gothic windows and door
cases, of ashlar stone. Hence, as well as from the
back of the village, the hills rise to a great height eastward, as far as Nashenden, being mostly uninclosed,
open downs, the soil of which is chalk, much covered
with slints, being poor and unfertile, a dreary country.
About forty years ago, in digging a trench from
Woldham house up to the open downs, there were
found several instruments of an antique form like a
wedge, or axe, usually called celts, which were chiefly
This parish ought antiently to have contributed to
the repair of the fourth pier of Rochester bridge. (fn. 2)
ETHELBERT, king of Kent, in the year 751, first
gave Vuldeham to the church of St. Andrew, in Rochester; but sometime after it was taken from it, and
several kings possessed it, one after the other, till the
time of king Edmund, who began his reign in 941, of
whom one Ælsstan Heahstanine bought it, at the price
of one hundred and twelve marcs of gold, and thirty
pounds in money, on whose death, Ælfege, his son,
succeeded to it, who by will made in the presence of
archbishop Dunstan, about the year 970, made a distribution of all his effects, and devised one part to
Christ-church, in Canterbury, one part to the church
of Rochester, and the remaining third part to his own
wife. Notwithstanding which, one Leossunu, who had
married his nephew's widow, endeavoured to set aside
this disposition, as well as the archbishop's testimony in
relation to it, and entered on them, but they were recovered from him in a solemn trial held at Erhede by
the archbishop, for this purpose. After which, on the
division of these estates, Vuldeham seems to have been
part of that share of them allotted to the church of St.
Andrew, in Rochester. King Ethelbert, in the year
995, confirmed Wuldaham, which then contained six
mansœ, which the Kentish men called sulings, to St.
Andrew's and bishop Godwin.
In the book of Domesday, Woldham is thus described, under the general title of the bishop of Rochester's lands:
The 'same bishop (of Rochester) holds Oldeham. It
was taxed for six sulings in the time of king Edward
the Confessor, and now for three. The arable land is
five carucates. In demesne there are two, and eighteen
villeins, with sixteen borderers having six carucates.
There are six servants, and one fishery, and sixty acres
of meadow. Wood for the pannage of twenty hogs.
There is a church. In the time of king Edward the
Confessor, and afterwards, it was worth eight pounds,
now twelve pounds.
Bishop Gundulph, who was elected to the see of
Rochester in the time of the Conqueror, on the division of the revenues of his church, allotted this manor,
with its appendages, to the monks; to the use of their
refectory, in lieu of Freckenham, in Suffolk, which he
took in exchange for it, chusing rather, as the latter lay
at so remote a distance from Rochester, that himself
and his successors should be put to the inconvenience
of going there, than that the monks, or the poor of that
parish, should be yearly harrassed in carrying their corn
so far, (fn. 3) but bishop Gilbert de Glanvill, on his coming
to the see of Rochester in 1185, claiming this manor
with its appendages, among others, which had been
allotted to them by bishop Gundulph, as belonging to
the maintenance of his table, the monks were at last
forced to submit. In consequence of which, though
he took the church of Woldham from them, yet they
continued in possession of the manor till the dissolution
of the priory in the 32d year of king Henry VIII.
In the reigns of king Edward I. and II. the bishop
of Rochester claimed several liberties, as belonging to all the lands and fees of his church, as did the
prior of Rochester in the 21st year of the former reign
in this manor, (fn. 4) both equally the same as has been already more fully mentioned under Frindsbury. (fn. 5)
King Edward I. in his 23d year, granted to the
prior and convent free warren in all their demesne
lands of this manor; so that no one should hunt or
take any thing on them which belonged to warren,
without their licence, on forfeiture of ten pounds. (fn. 6)
The manor of Woldham, on the dissolution of the
priory of Rochester in the 32d year of Henry VIII.
was surrendered, with the other possessions of it, into
the king's hands, who, in his 33d year settled it on his
new-founded dean and chapter of Rochester, with whom
the inheritance of it continues at this time.
There is a court leet and court baron held for this
The lessee of it, under the dean and chapter of Rochester, is Mr. Iden Henham.
In the Custumale Roffense there is frequent mention
made of a water mill in Woldham, belonging to the
above manor, and the custom was, that once a year
every house was obliged to send one man for a day, to
clear the passage, ditch, and mill-pond, that the water
might come well to turn the mill; and there were two
particular acres of land, the occupiers of which were to
clean the ditch, which led from the river to the millpond.
There were several small parcels of land granted
at several times to different persons by the prior and
convent of Rochester, lying in Magna and Parva
Woldham, being two divisions in this parish, a more
particular account of which may be seen in the Registrum Roffense.
RINGS is a manor here, a small part of which extends itself into the adjoining parish of St. Margaret,
in Rochester. It was formerly in the possession of Robert de Woldham, after which it became separated into
moieties, one of which became part of the estate of the
eminent family of Cosington, of Cosington, in Aylesford, and the other became the property of Carter.
From the family of Cosington that moiety passed by
sale in the reign of Henry VI. to William Whorne,
afterwards knighted, and lord-mayor of London, who
built Whorne's-place, in Cookstone, where he resided;
and the other moiety passed about the same time to
Laurence; they, by a mutual deed of conveyance,
alienated their joint interest in this manor to William
Hadde, of Meriam-court, in Frinsted, who in the 36th
year of that reign, gave it to his second son, Mr. John
Hadde, whose descendant sold it to Thomas Roydon,
esq. of Roydon-hall, in East Peckham, who, among
others, in the 31st year of king Henry VIII. procured
his estates to be disgavelled by act of parliament.
From Roydon this manor passed to Brockhull, of Aldington, in Thurnham, whose descendant, Henry
Brockhull, alienated it to Sir John Leveson, alias Lewson, of Whorne's-place, in Cookstone; (fn. 7) after which
it passed, in like manner as that seat by sale to the family of Marsham, in which it has continued down to
the right hon. Charles lord Romney, the present possessor of it.
STARKEYS is a manor here, lying in that district of
this parish called Little Woldham, which was formerly
known by the name of the manor of Lyttlyhall and
In the reign of king Edward III. it seems to have
been in the possession of Richard Byset, who held it as
one quarter of a knight's fee in Parva Woldham, (fn. 8) and
afterwards passed it away to Henry de Bokeland, who
alienated it to Henry Newman, and he held it in the
20th year of that reign of the bishop of Rochester as
above-mentioned. His descendant, Henry Newman,
conveyed it to Humphry Starkey, descended from the
Starkeys, of Wrenbury, and Oulton, in Cheshire, and
bore for his arms, Sable, a stork proper, who in the
12th year of king Edward IV. was made recorder
of London, and in the 2d year of king Richard III.
chief baron of the exchequer, having been knighted
before. (fn. 9)
He built a good house here, being a large strong edifice of stone, tho' much larger formerly than it is at present, together with a handsome chapel on this manor, a
fragment of the latter only being now left at the east angle
of the house, which, from that and his residence here
acquired the name of Starkeys. (fn. 10) He died possessed of
this manor, and lies buried in St. Leonard's, Shoreditch,
in London, leaving four daughters his coheirs; and on
the division of their inheritance, this manor fell to the
share of Sir John Rainsford, who had married Anne,
the youngest of them. His son, of the same name,
was a person much in favour with king Henry VIII.
who made him a privy counsellor. (fn. 11) He alienated this
estate to Lambe, who passed it away to Sir John Leveson, alias Lewson, from which name it was sold, together with the manor of Rings before mentioned, in the
reign of king Charles I. to John Marsham, esq. whose
descendant, the right hon. Charles lord Romney, is the
present possessor of this manor and estate.
SELLERS is a manor, which lies partly in this parish
and partly in Burham, which with the mansion of it,
called the Hall, alias Woldham ball, was held in the
teign of king John, as appears by the inquisitions returned into the treasury in the 12th and 13th years of
that reign, by Robert de Woldham Magna, as one
quarter of a knight's fee, of the bishop of Rochester.
Soon after which the possessors of this manor were
called, from it, At-Hall, and in Latin deeds, De Aula.
Robert Le Neve was owner of it in the reign of king
Edward I. and then held it by the above tenure. His
heirs sold it to John Atte Celar, written also At Celere,
in Edward III's reign, whose descendant Warine Atte
Celar, or De Celario, held this manor in the 30th year
of it, and continuing in his descendants, it at length acquired the name of Sellers, as they now began to spell
themselves. They bore for their arms, Argent, a saltier between four mullets gules; which arms were painted
in a window of this church, and remained very lately
in a window of the mansion-house of this manor.
The manor of Sellers remained in this family, till a
female heir, about the reign of king Henry VII. carried it in marriage to John Beuly, gent. who bore for
his arms, Argent, a chevron between three griffins heads
erased, sable, and continuing in his descendants it
gained the name of Beuly's-court, though the mansionhouse itself retained that of Hall-place, (fn. 12) alias Woldham hall. In this name of Beuly it continued till the
year 1693, when it was alienated to Manley, who bore
for their arms, Argent, a sinister hand couped, sable,
and were descended from Thomas Manley, of Chester, (fn. 13)
in which name it remained down to Mr. William Manley, who resided in it and died in 1779, and this manor became the property of his three sons and coheirs
in gavelkind, from whom it was afterwards sold to Joseph Brooke, esq. on the death of whose widow, Mrs.
Elizabeth Brooke, in 1796, it came by his will to the
Rev. John Kenward Shaw, now of Town Malling,
who has taken the name of Brooke, and is the present
possessor of this estate. There is a court baron held
for this manor.
There are no parochial charities.
WOLDHAM is within the ECCLESIASTICAL JURISDICTION of the diocese and deanry of Rochester.
The church, which is a small building, with a low
square tower, on which was formerly a spire steeple, is
situated at the south west extremity of the village, and
is dedicated to All Saints. The steeple of this church,
and much of the fabric, owe their original to the liberality of Stephen Slegge, of this parish, who was sheriff of Kent in the 20th year of king Henry VI. and
gave by his will in the 36th year of it, one hundred
marcs to be expended on it. It was formerly an appendage to the manor, and as such allotted by bishop
Gundulph, in the division which he made of the possessions of his church, to the share of the monks of St.
Andrew's; but bishop Gilbere de Glanvill, though he
suffered them to retain the manor, yet he wrested this
church out of their hands, and it has ever since remained in the possession of the bishops of Rochester,
Richard, bishop of Rochester, in the 9th year of
king Edward I. at the instance of the prior and convent
of Rochester, made enquiry by inquisition as to the
method which the monks used in taking their portions
of tithes within their manors, and what part of them
was allowed to the several parish churches, by which
it appeared, that in their manor of Woldham, the parish church, and the abbess of Malling took the whole
of the tithes of sheaves only, but of other small tithes,
it did not nor ever used to take any thing; and he decreed, that the parish church should be content with the
tithes of the sheaves of every kind of corn only. All
which was confirmed by John, archbishop of Canterbury, by inspeximus next year, anno 1281.
THE PORTION OF TITHES belonging to the abbey
of Malling, was given to it by Ralf de Woldham, (fn. 14) being the third part of his tithe of corn, and two parts of
the tithe of his demesne in this parish, and Robert de
Woldham gave the whole of his tithe of Parva Woldham to it. In the 15th year of king Edward I. this
portion of tithes was valued at eight marcs.
An inquisition was made by Thomas de Alkham,
and the tenants of Woldham, concerning these tithes
in this parish, belonging to the abbess in the 26th year
of king Edward III.
In the Registrum Roffense, p. 694, is a particular account of the portions of sheaves, which the abbess took
on the several lands in this parish, the names of which,
of the owners and occupiers, and the measurement of
them are therein mentioned, in which in some, the
abbess had two sheaves, and the rector one; in others
she had but one, and the rector two; in some she had
the tenth sheas with the rector, and in the rest therein
mentioned, she had all the tenth of sheaves.
Much dispute having arisen between the rector of
this parish and the rector of Snodland, the opposite
parish on the other side of the Medway, concerning
the tithe of fish, caught within the bounds of this parish by the parishioners of the latter, it was submitted
to the final decree of John, bishop of Rochester, who
by his instrument, anno 1402, decreed that for the future the parishioners of Snodland, being inhabitants of
it at any time going out from thence to fish, with their
boats, nets, and other instruments necessary for that purpose, might, either by themselves or by others, draw
their nets, and take fish beyond the stream of the main
river to the shore of the water situated within the
bounds and limits of this parish; that one moiety of the
tithe of the fish so caught should belong to the rector
of Snodland for the time being, and the other moiety
to the rector of Woldham, to be paid to them by the
fishers, without any diminution whatsoever. (fn. 15)
The church of Woldham is a discharged living in
the king's books, of the clear yearly certified value
of 30l. the yearly tenths of which are 1l. 8s. 7¾d.
This rectory, in 1716, was augmented by queen
Anne's bounty, the sum of 200l. having been contributed to it by different persons. In 1708, here
were sixty-five communicants. The bishop of Rochester is patron of this rectory.
CHURCH OF WOLDHAM.
Or by whom presented.
Robert Estre, instituted anno 20
Edward I. (fn. 16)
Bishop of Rochester
John Brokholls, in 1402. (fn. 17)
Francis Cacot, A. M. 1630.
Isaac Goslin, resigned 1689. (fn. 18)
Thomas Stapeley, obt. Oct. 30,
1639. (fn. 19)
Alne, resigned 1690.
William Ward, obt. June 1722.
Abraham Birch, 1728.
Anthony Dennis, B. A. instituted.
Feb. 14, 1728, obt. June 24,
Peter Rashleigh, A. M. 1775, resigned 1788. (fn. 20)
John Leach, A. M. 1788, obt.
June 16, 1791. (fn. 21)
Samuel Browne, A.M. ind. 1791.