The incumbency of the younger Pery’s successor, William
James, was tragically short. On a page of the register subsequently used
for burial entries in 1802 appear these words: ‘The Revd William James,
died the Rector of this Parish on Fryday the Third of December 1779: in
the Thirty Seventh Year of his Age --- Thirty Seventh Year’. It was more
common then than now for a man to die in his thirties; even so, the
premature death of William James struck a chill in someone’s heart.
James was succeeded by Charles Whitehead, who, one might say,
came at last into his own. Contemporaneously, Whitehead resigned from
Cudham, of which parish he had been vicar for well over thirty years and
where he may have been thought no great loss. He had, however, another
arrow in his quiver, East Grinstead in. Sussex, and early in 1780 he was
given dispensation to hold Ash jointly therewith.26
East Grinstead was even more remote from Ash than had
been Ash from Cudham and, whether or not upon pressure from above,
Whitehead gave up Ash after two years. That did not end his association
with the parish, as he owned Down House on the Meopham to Wrotham road and
some Ash acres, nearly thirty in number, that included Pipers Wood and
Upper and Lower Down Woods. The Whiteheads may have lived at Down House
during their earlier days in Ash, but subsequently it was let with some
small adjacent fields, meadows arid hop gardens to a family called Leach.
The Leaches left about 1793 and it could be that Charles Whitehead then
returned to spend what was to be the last year of his life at Down House.
More certainly, his widow looks to have spent some five or six years there
until her death about the. turn of the century.