THE LOWY OF TUNBRIDGE.
Or, as it is now generally called, the lewy, adjoins
the hundred of Littlefield towards the north, and on
the other sides is incircled by the hundred of Wachlingstone, being about five miles in length from north
to south, and about six miles in width from east to
west. The whole of it lies within that district of the
county, called the Weald of Kent.
It contains within its bounds the boroughs of
2. TUNBRIDGE TOWN,
3. HILDEN, and
The borough of Hadlow contains part of the parish
of Capel, and part of the parish of Hadlow, and the
churches of both those parishes.
The borough of Tunbridge Town contains that town
and the church; and the boroughs of Hilden and
South contain the remaining part of the parish of
Each of these boroughs has a constable, who has
jurisdiction over his respective borough.
THE LOWY OF TUNBRIDGE is called in old Latin
deeds, Districtus Leucæ de Tonebridge, and in the book
of Domesday, Leuua Ricardæ de Tonebriga.
It was antiently the custom in Normandy, to term
the district round an abbey, castle, or chief mansion,
leuca or leucata, in English, the lowy, in which the possessor had generally a grant of several peculiar liberties,
privileges, and exemptions.
When Richard Fitz-Gislebert, who came into England with the Conqueror, had possessed himself of the
manor and castle of Tunbridge, in exchange with the
archbishop for other lands in Normandy, he procured
a grant of several liberties and exemptions to it, as
well as to his adjoining manor of Hadlow, probably
the same as those he enjoyed with his possessions there,
after the example of which he called this district round
his manors and castle, the lowy of Tunbridge, by which
name it has been called ever since.
In process of time frequent disputes arose between
the earls of Gloucester, successors of Richard de Tonebridge in his lowy, and the archbishops of Canterbury,
concerning the extent, limits, and privileges of it,
which were adjusted by actual surveys and perambulations, the first of which was made in the 42d vear of
king Henry III. by tl
tention between archl
of Gloucester, by th
men, twelve of whor
and the other twelve by the earl, to determine it.
After this, disputes again arising, concerning the
bounds of the lowy, another perambulation was had
in the 8th year of king Edward I. before Stephen de
Penchester and Solomon Roffe, justices in eyre, by
the view and oaths of a like inquest. But the places,
as well as the names of persons mentioned in both
these perambulations, being obsolete, and now totally
unknown, the insertion of them in this place can
give so little information to the reader, that it has
been thought proper to omit them both here.
And the inquest found further, "that no man's
tenants, excepting the earl's, were within the perambulation; and that the tenants of the archbishop were within the jurisdiction of his own bailiff
At which time the earl of Gloucester claimed
among others, these liberties within his lowy, viz. a
coroner out of his own tenants, or by their election
in the court of Tunbridge; that his tenants should
not make presentments before any justices in eyre,
either of assize or of gaol delivery, but only when
they should come into the lowy; which they ought
to do before their departure out of Kent, and there
to hold their oyer assizes, or gaol delivery for the
That the ministers of the king, or of the archbishop, should not bear up their rods in the lowy,
nor make any summons or distresses for any pleas
out of it.
That his tenants should be free of toll over all
England; and that when the justices in eyre should
come to Canterbury, the earl's steward should go thither with twelve men of the lowy, and in their hearing demand allowance of these liberties, and the justices should at their pleasure assign a day to go to Tunbridge, before their departure out of the shire.
In the 7th year of king Edward I. the earl of
Gloucester claimed the above liberties within his lowy,
and likewise view of frank-pledge, and assize of bread
and beer, within his lands in the parishes of Eltham,
Keston, Mereworth, Netelstede, Chekeshall, Tremworth, Hardress, Stelling, Natyngden, Blean, and
Sheldewyke, and that his tenants in them should be
free of all suit and service in the hundreds of the
county, and on a quo warranto in the 21st year, and
again in the 29th of the above reign, the liberties and
privileges above-mentioned, within the lowy, were allowed and confirmed to him and his heirs. Hugh de
Audley, and Margaret his wife, in the 7th year of
king Edward III. claimed these liberties within their
lowy, and likewise free warren and chase, and to hold
pleas of withernam, and that the tenants of the lowy
should be free of all toll, passage, murage, pontage,
contributions to the repair of highways, &c. throughout England.
These liberties and privileges seem to have been at
first extended to the earl's tenants in different parts
of this county, at some distance from the lowy, which
from thence seem to have been accounted as within
the bounds of it; of which there are several examples
in the book of Domesday, in which Ricardus de
Tonebridge is said to have held lands in sua Leuga,
that is, within his lowy, as may be observed in different places throughout this history.
All the above-mentioned liberties, even within
the district of the lowy, have been disused time
out of mind; nor has there been a bailiff appointed
for it within memory: so that now it falls in with
the like jurisdiction as other places in this county,
which, not being in any hundred, appoint their own