Kingston comes from the Old English ‘cyning’ meaning a ‘king’ with ‘tūn’ as an ‘enclosure, a farmstead, a village’; therefore, the ‘king’s farm/settlement’. It is a parish, in the union of Bridge, hundred of Kinghamford, lathe of St. Augustine, E division of Kent, 5¼ miles SE by S from Canterbury.
KINGSTON is situated in the same fine healthy and pleasant country of East Kent, the Bourne valley continues through the center of it, where it is very narrow, not more than a mile from east to west, but the other way it is more than four miles in length. The village, having the church and parsonage within it stands on the southern side of Barham downs, just on the rise of the hill, on the opposite side of the valley, through which the River Nailbourne runs at times, near which the land is very good and fertile. Above the village the hills rise pretty high to a poor barren and stony country, covered with woods, among which, on the summit of the hill, is that large tract of them called Covert wood, accounted a manor, and belonging to the archbishop; beyond this the parish extends to Lynsore bottom, joining the parishes of Upper Hardres, Stelling, and Elham. On the other side of the Bourne valley northward, the ground rises to an open unenclosed country, taking within its bounds great part of Barham downs, and Ileden and Dennehill, beyond the opposite side of them, and it extends beyond the latter to the site of Nethersole-house, which stood partly within it. The soil from the vale towards the downs, and on great part of them, is but poor and barren, being chalk, and covered with flints, but the soil on the upper part of the downs, towards Ileden and thereabouts, inclines to a loam, and is more fertile.
Barham Downs lies on the slope of the hill, facing Kingston-church to the south-west. When Julius Caesar and his legions invaded Kent in 55 and 54 B.C., the region had recently been occupied by Belgic immigrants from Gaul and they still retained close links with their continental cousins. It was probably the influence of these people which led Caesar to comment that the natives of Kent were the most civilised in the country. The Romans adopted the Celtic name for the area, ‘Cantion’. This became Cantium and eventually Kent, making it one of the few English place-names of pre-Roman origin. The most obvious Roman legacy to Kingston is the road they built across the Downs, which, as the major highway from Dover to London, has dominated the village ever since. The Roman military way, or Watling-street, runs, along the lower side of the downs, the whole length of them, in a straight line from Canterbury towards Dover. It is made circular, and composed of the soil of the country, chalk and flints blended together, and is at this time the greatest part of it entire, being made use of as the common high road.
On these downs, anno 1213, king John encamped with a mighty army of 60,000 men, to oppose Philip, king of France, who was marching to invade this kingdom; but Pandulph, the pope’s legate, who was then at the house of the knights templars in this neighbourhood, sent two of them to persuade the king to come to him there, where the king, in the presence of his principal nobles and the bishops, resigned his crown to the legate, as the pope’s representative; and here, in king Henry III.’s reign, Simon Montfort, earl of Leicester, being declared general of their army by the discontented barons, arrayed a numerous army to oppose the landing of queen Eleanor, whom the king had left behind in France.
THE MANOR OF KINGSTON was part of those lands which were given by the Conqueror to Fulbert de Dover, and made up together the barony of Fulbert, or Fobert, being held in capite by barony; and Chilham being made the chief seat of it, or caput baroniæ, it came afterwards to be called the barony of Chilham. In his descendants, and in the Strabolgie’s, earls of Athol, this manor continued, in like manner as Chilham, till it was forfeited by one of them to the crown, whence it was granted by Edward II. in his 5th year, to Bartholomew de Badlesmere about 1312, who in the 9th year obtained the grant of a fair here, on the feast of St. Leonard the abbot, and free-warren within all his demesne lands in this manor; but his son Giles de Badlesmere died s. p. in the 12th year of king Edward the IIId.’s reign, leaving his four sisters his coheirs, and upon the division of their inheritance, this manor, with the advowson of the church, was assigned to Sir John Tiptoft, in right of his late wife Margaret, one of them. His son Robert Tiptoft dying in the 46th year of it, without male issue, his three daughters became his coheirs, of whom Elizabeth, married to Sir Philip le Despencer, on the partition of his estates, had this manor, with the advowson, inter alia, assigned to her. Sir Philip died possessed of it anno 2 Henry VI. upon which it descended to his daughter Margery, then the wife of Roger Wentworth, esq. whose descendant Thomas, lord Wentworth, of Nettlested, alienated it, in the 35th year of that reign, to Thomas Colepeper, esq. of Bedgbury, who soon afterwards conveyed it to Sir Anthony Aucher, of Bishopsborne, in whose descendants it continued down to Sir Anthony Aucher, of Bishopsborne, who in 1647 passed away this manor, with the advowson, to Thomas Gibbon, gent. of Westcliffe, who next year settled it on his second son Richard Gibbon, M. D. whose two daughters and coheirs, Dorothy Gibbon, and Anne, wife of the Rev. John Stoning, whose window, her sister Dorothy being deceased unmarried, then became entitled to the whole of it. She left a sole daughter and heir Elizabeth, then the wife of Peter Peters, M. D. of Canterbury, who died possessed of it in 1697. The family of De la Pierre, or Peters, was originally of Flanders. The first of of them who came into England to reside, was Peter Peters, alias De la Pierre, who two years before the restoration purchased the Blackfriars, in Canterbury, where he and his descendants afterwards resided, and practised as physicians with much reputation there, they bore for their arms, Or, three roses, gules. Upon Dr. Peters’s death, the inheritance of it descended to his sole daughter and heir Elizabeth, who in 1722 carried it in marriage to Thomas Barrett, esq. of Lee, whose second wife she was. He died possessed of it in 1757, upon which it descended to his only daughter and heir by her, Elizabeth, who entitled her husband the Rev. William Dejovas Byrche, to this manor, with the advowson appendant of the church of Kingston; his arms, Azure, on a chevron, argent, between three fleurs de lis, or, a cross clechee, gules, on a chief of the last, a portcullis, chained of the second, were granted to him in 1758. He died in 1792, as did his widow in 1798, possessed of it, on which it came to Samuel Egerton Brydges, esq. of Denton, who had married their only daughter Elizabeth. A court leet and court baron is held for this manor.
ILEDEN, or Ilding, as it was anciently written, is a seat in this parish, situated below the hill, on the opposite or northern side of Barham downs, which was anciently part of the possessions of the family of Garwinton, of Garwinton, not far distant from it; in which name it continued down to William Garwinton, who dying s. p. Joane his kinswoman, married to Richard Haut, was, anno 11 king Henry IV. found to be his heir, and their son Richard Haut having an only daughter and heir Margery, she carried it in marriage to William Isaac, esq. of Patrixbourne, whose descendant James Isaac, about the middle of king Henry VII.’s reign, alienated this seat, which had now lost all reputation of being a manor, to Diggs, of Diggs-court, in Barham, in which it staid till the reign of queen Elizabeth, when it was at length sold to Sir Thomas Wilsford, who afterwards rebuilt this seat, and resided at it. He was only son of Thomas Wilsford, of Hartridge, in Cranbrook, and married Mary, daughter and heir of Edward Poynings, by whom he had Sir Thomas Wilsford, of Ileden, and other children. Sir Thomas married Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Edwin Sandys, of Norborne, by whom he had James and three other sons; of whom, Edward, the third, was captain of a troop of horse, and in holy orders, which was somewhat remarkable; but being a faithful royalist, he was present at the famous battle of Worcester, and among those who courageously fought at one gate of that city, where he was dangerously wounded in the shoulder, whilst the king made his escape at another part of the city; and the university of Oxford soon afterwards, in compliment to the king, conferred on him the degree of D. D. and the king gave him in recompence the vicarage of Lid, where he died, and lies buried in that church. They bore for their arms, Gules, a chevron, ingrailed, between three leopard’s faces, or; which coat, impaled with Sandys, is in several of the windows at Ileden; and in the hall of it is the coat of Wilsford, quartering those of Corney, Poynings, Fitzpain, Bryan, Rokesley, Criol, Crevequer, and Averenches. In whose descendants it continued down to his great-grandson Sir James Wilsford, of Ileden, who in 1668 sold this seat to Sir Robert Faunce, of Maidstone, who afterwards resided here. He was first of St. Margaret’s, Rochester, and resided afterwards at different times at Cosington, in Aylesford, Ileden, the Precincts in Canterbury, Bekesbourne, Betshanger, and Maidstone, and lies buried at Aylesford. He bore for his arms, Argent, three lions rampant, sable, collared, or. In 1679 he alienated this seat to John Cason, esq. afterwards of Ileden, and he about the year 1690 passed it away to Thomas Turner, esq. of London, descended from William Turner, of Sutton Valence, of the houshold to king Henry VII. being the son of William Turner, alderman of Canterbury. He was clerk of the drapers company. and was a benefactor to the poor of this parish. He had a daughter Elizabeth, married to Sir Thomas Lombe, of London. He died possessed of it in 1715, whose grandson Thomas Turner, esq. changed his name to Payler, for which an act passed, and resided at Ileden, and died possessed of it in 1771. He left one son Thomas, and a daughter Margaret, married to the Rev. Edward Taylor, of Bifrons. Thomas-Watkinson Payler, the son, married Charlotte, one of the daughters of William Hammond, esq. late of St. Albans, by whom he has seven sons and one daughter. They bear for their arms, Turner, per fess, ermine and sable, a pale counterchanged, three fer de molines, two and one, or, quartering Payler, gules, on a bend, or between three lions, passant-guardant, argent, three mullets of six points, pierced, sable. He was succeeded in it by his son Thomas-Watkinson Payler, esq. now of Ileden.
The Civil War
Kent was in the hands of Parliament from the beginning of the Civil War, so all the major battles took places far away, although there were continual plots and rebellions, stirred up by the royalist element in the county.
The leaders of Kentish society were mainly members of old county families, moderate in their opinions but very independent minded, This is well illustrated by Sir Thomas Wilsford of Ileden who shortly before the civil War, led his men to join the King’s army against the Scottish Covenanters. Sir Thomas approached the King and said ‘I pray God send us well to do in this business, but I do not like the beginning …. because you go the wrong way to work’. When the King smiled and asked him which was the right way, Sir Thomas told him that he should go back and call a parliament to raise money for the war.
Despite such feelings, the Wilsfords remained royalists and the third son, Edward, fought with the King’s army and was wounded at the battle of Worcester. However, Sir Thomas’ wife Elizabeth was the half-sister of Edwin Sandys of Northbourne who was a colonel in the parliamentary army. Sir Anthony Aucher of Bishopsbourne, who was also the Lord of the Manor of Kingston, was an active royalist. It was not until 1648 when the Civil War had been over for two years that Kingston saw action. The harsh suppression of a riot in Canterbury and the general discontent with the activities of the ruling County Committee led to the organization of a petition to Parliament and then to county-wide rebellion. The revolt was soon suppressed by parliamentary forces under Sir Thomas Fairfax, but in the course of it, there is said to have been a skirmish between the two sides at Kingston, when every building was occupied, even the church. Sir Anthony Aucher, who played a prominent part in the rebellion, fled to Holland, having already disposed of his Kingston property the previous year, although he retained his Bishopsbourne estate.
The Rector of Kingston during the Commonwealth was Nicholas Dingley, who was appointed about 1647 and was probably to some extent a puritan. He seems to have been resident in the parish, as his children were baptized there, and he must have suited most of the parishioners, because at the Restoration there was an unsuccessful attempt to eject him from the living and replace him with one Miles Barnes, who was well connected with the local gentry. However, Mr Dingley continued in office until his death in1672.
The Hearth Tax lists 221 returns for 1664 list 47 householders including both Mr Dingley and Mr Barnes, while a religious census taken in 1676 lists 221 inhabitants, with no papists and five protestant non-conformists.
The 18th and 19th Centuries
For almost 200 years, from about 1700, there was a race-course on the Downs above Bishopsbourne. Originally it extended from the front of Highland Court to Ileden, but about 1770 it was made shorter and rounder so that in a four mile race the runners passed the grand-stand twice. Cock-fighting also took place every day during the races. Racing on Barham Downs finally ended in 1879 and afterwards some of the area was turned into a golf-course.
In 1750 Bryan Faussett became curate of Kingston. (The incumbent, Peter Innes, was at this time about 60 and probably in ill health). Faussett was an antiquarian and became interested in the barrows on the Downs above Kingston, but he was not able to set to work on them until 1767, because the owner of the land refused his permission. However, after his death, the land passed to the Rev’d William Dejovas Byrche, whom Faussett described as ‘my very worthy and learned friend’. Over the next few years he excavated numerous graves, numbering them and recording his finds in a manner which was very scientific for his time. Faussett made another more parochial contribution to village history, when he rescued the 13th Century font, which had been damaged and discarded from the Church and was apparently being used as an animal feeding trough. He took it to his home near Canterbury, where it remained until it was restored and returned to Kingston Church in 1931.
At the end of the 18th Century, with war and revolution just across the Channel, the Downs were once again in use as a military encampment. Between 1799 and 1804 several baptisms took place in St Giles Church of soldiers’ children ‘from the camp’.
With the ending of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, the position of the agricultural labourers became very difficult. Unemployment and starvation-level wages, combined with rising prices and the effects of archaic poor-laws culminated in 1830 in riots, which began in East Kent and spread to other parts of the country. The labourers realised that the new threshing machines would deprive them of what little work there was during the winter, and they set about destroying them. Some of these disturbances took place in the parishes around Kingston. Mr John Sankey of Digges Place was awoken by a crowd of about 200 men entering his yard, who proceeded to break up his threshing machine and throw the remains into the pond. Marley Farm is reputed to have been the scene of another battle.
The affairs of the village at this time were to some extent still in the hands of the various parish officers, although they were gradually losing their old powers. The Road Surveyor, for instance, had to obtain materials for repairing the roads, find men to do the work (usually reluctantly) and keep accounts of the money paid out. Twice a year he had to go to Wingham ‘to sware to the accounts’. In 1846 the Surveyor was instructed ‘to dissent from all the plans of the different Railway Companies sent to him’.
In 1836, an Act of Parliament was passed commuting the hated Tithes in kind to a fixed charge. In order to carry out this measure, over the next few years detailed maps were made of most parishes with lists of the owners and occupiers of the land. Kingston was surveyed in 1839 when the 1540 acres of the parish consisted of 1141 acres of arable, 246 acres of meadow or pasture, 19 acres of hops and 134 acres of woodland.
The commutation of the tithes was part of the great wave of reforms taking place at that time in both Church and State. It may have been this wind of reform which blew through Kingston Church in 1846, when it was thoroughly restored by the Rector, parishioners and landowners. Among other work, the tower was repaired, the gallery and chancel screen were removed, a new floor laid and new pews put in and all was cleaned and redecorated. To pay for the pews, the parish had to borrow £100 which was paid off in four yearly instalments. The churchwarden’s accounts for 1846 include ‘carriage of benches from Dover 8/-‘ and carriage of sand and timber for tower 12/-‘.
The 20th Century
During the First World War a farmer had a field commandeered one evening to pasture about 100 horses on their way to France. We know the names of 6 village men who died in the Great War, because their names are inscribed on a tablet in the Church, but many others also went to fight, leaving their families at home to cope. Miss Mary Pettit, for instance, at the age of 18, took over the running of Little Marley Farm when her brother went to war and her father became unfit to work. After the War the land was divided between the two of them and she continued to farm her share until she was 75, and for many years she was the only woman regularly dealing at Canterbury market.
The years between the wars in Kingston have been chronicled by the Rector of the time, Canon Potts, in his parish magazine. Quite a number of new houses were built, the Barn was converted and given to the village by Canon Potts and his sister, and King George V’s Jubilee was celebrated jointly with Barham, with a procession, tea, games and a bonfire. Kingston contributed between £90 and £100 towards the building of the new Kent and Canterbury Hospital, there was death-watch beetle in the Church roof and, after some delay, the electricity came in 1937. Canon Potts retired in October 1939, just after the outbreak of World War Two.
After the war, village life carried on as much as it had been for a few years, until in the early 1960s, the building of more new houses, particularly the three Closes, led to the village as we know it today.