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History of Ash and Ridley from Earliest Records to 1957
Compiled by Dorothy G. Meager on behalf of Ash and Ridley Women's Institute           Page 101

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Early History of Ridley

This Parish is situated in the chalk hill eastward from Ash and northward from Wrotham.
   There are no records concerning Ridley in Saxon Times. No doubt some Jutish or Saxon thane carved out his manor of Ridley and, in course of time built a church near his dwelling. A hamlet grew up around that church to house his immediate relatives and such others as worked upon his manorial lands.
   The Manor of Ridley covered the whole of the ecclesiastical parish and lay entirely within its bounds. It was a completely self contained unit of secular and ecclesiastical control and therefore differed from those numerous parishes that are made up of several manors or parts of manors.
   The earliest reference we have to Ridley is in the Domesday Book from which it seems that a Saxon named Siward owned it in about 1050 A.D. whilst Adam, son of Hubert was in possession at the time of Domesday (about 1066) when it was called Redlege and that he was a tenant of the Bishop of Bayeux who was a half brother to the Conqueror, and also the "wicked uncle" of the period. There were 6 "villeins" on the Manor and 5 "borders" (names which can be interpreted as tied-tenants and labourers) whilst, in addition to those 11 people there were 5 slaves. Domesday Book also tells us that Richard de Tonbridge, (another half brother of the Conqueror) held one "dena silva" (a wood) and half an acre of meadow, whilst the 5 slaves belonged to Richard.
   The next reference is in 1198, when Gilo de Badlesmere makes over to the Prior of St Gregoryís in Canterbury an annual payment of two "seams" of oats from Riddelee, so that the Prior may pray for the souls of his parents and ancestors and also celebrate every anniversary of the death of Giloís father.
   The overlordship of Ridley manor seems to have passed from the Badlesmere family to that of the de Leybourne in about 1210, and Roger de Leybourne then made a grant of Ridley to Bartholomew de Watten to hold it of the Manor of Leybourne.
   In 1253 Bartholomew de Watten, of that great family whose seat at a later date was Addington Park, owned Retleghe, and had to pay one "fee" for knighting the son of King Henry III.

   In 1348 an assessment was made upon all the land holders who held of the sovereign on the occasion of the knighting of the Black Prince, and then appears the name of the Augustine Waley who has to pay 40 shillings for his holding of one knightís Fee in Redlighe, which had belonged to Bartholomew de Watten. This Augustine Waley was descended from Henry Wallis (or de Galeis) a leading merchant in the City of London and Lord Mayor several times during the reign of the great Edward 1st. Augustine died in 1349, the year of the Black Death, possessing the manor of Ridley, for which he had obtained charter of "free warren" the year before his death.
   The Black Death 1348-49 caused the greatest upheaval that Britain has ever experienced in its long history, and here we may pause to speculate upon what Ridley looked like during the 300 years following the Conquest. It has been indicated that a series of nobles possessed the overlordship, whilst lesser feudal lords held the manor under them, the latest of these being Augustine Wallis, who probably himself died of the Plague. They would not have resided regularly at Ridley, but there would have been a Lordís Manor House there, probably where Ridley Court now stands, and their retainers and labourers would have lived in lath and plaster dwellings clustered, for mutual protection, round the Church. Thence they proceeded to their daily toil in the tillage of the soil of their lord during such days of the week as they were pledged to spend in his service, whilst they would have eaten and drunk in the hall of the Ridley Court of those times. They would have had their own small plots from which to produce the necessities of clothing etc., whilst their women folk would have spent their days labouring in the field and weaving lindsey-wolsey.
   When the Black Death came, all would have altered. The large establishments of the nobles were broken up, acute labour shortage ensued, people in their ignorance of hygiene believed that supernatural powers were cursing their hearths, and would have burnt down their crazy dwellings whilst the distraught survivors would have made a clean start in undefiled ground. We know this happened at Horsmonden, East Peckham and many other places, so it may well have been that the people of Ridley, 600 years 

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