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The Early History of Bredhurst Manor by Roger Cockett
A contribution from documentary sources to a wider archaeological and topographical research study.

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Bredhurst was once a remote place in the high woods. The way to get here lay south along the long, winding valleys from the Thames, or north up the short, steep scarp from the Vale of Holmesdale. Bredhurst, the ‘broad wood’ was a small and compact settlement, surrounded by larger neighbours. It began in late Saxon times as a detached swine-pasture of the lowland manor of Hollingbourne, a day’s walk away to the south-east. A chapel was built, probably of wood, for its few settlers.

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s monks held the swine-pasture of Bredhurst from the king, as they did Hollingbourne itself. By the 13th century, perhaps earlier, more land had been cleared and a manorial farm with around 400 acres, was set up in the parish, probably by the Northwood family from the Sittingbourne area to the north. Like the monks, they held their part of Bredhurst from the king. In their time, the chapel was rebuilt in stone and it later gained the status of a church.

In the later 13th century Thomas de Bikenore, a courtier of Edward I, held the manor of Bredhurst as a tenant of the Northwoods. Like his father and brother, he was one of the king’s falconers. He was knighted in 1297-8 and went on campaign with the king to Scotland in 1300. Sir Thomas died in 1316 and the tenure of the manor was bought by Henry Nasard, a prosperous draper of London, probably as an investment. Nasard died by 1327, but his widow Isabella still held the property in 1334-5. Her son John would have inherited it but may have died in the Black Death.

Bredhurst manor was back with the Northwoods by 1379 if not before. William de Northwood lived here and was buried in the church, with his four sons c1420. After this, Bredhurst reverted to the crown and the farm of its lands was assigned to the chapel of St Stephen’s in Westminster. At the Dissolution, Bredhurst comprised two ecclesiastical properties, the original woodland of the Canterbury monks and the manorial farm of St Stephen’s chapel. The separate tenures seem to have continued into later times under secular ownerships.

The manor house of Bredhurst was reported ruinous in 1569 and had vanished into the woodland by 1659. Legends of its existence persisted as late as the 1790s but the house was only rediscovered during 20th century woodland clearances.

Early days of the settlement
"The parish of Bredhurst itself", declared Professor Everitt, "originated as a detached pasture of Hollingbourne, some seven or eight miles to the south-east." 1

   Everitt had noticed that the parish boundaries of Bredhurst interlocked with those of its larger neighbours in a way which suggested to him "an old intercommonable countryside at one time shared between different parishes" 2. He derived the link with Hollingbourne from a lost, undated medieval document quoted by Lambarde 3 in 1570 which listed the lands owing contributions to the repair of Rochester bridge. Hollingbourne owed income from 6 sulungs, ie some 1200 acres. Subordinate to Hollingbourne was a long list of small estates, including: "Bradherst 4 Iuger" (around 200 acres, but a fraction of the later area of the parish). The historians Kilburne, Harris and Hasted had also noticed the relationship, as did Witney 4 more recently.

   Everitt also believed that "the detached Downland chapelry of Bredhurst originated …as a daughter of the mother-church at Hollingbourne in Holmesdale" 5. Presumably he based this upon Hasted’s statement "This church of Bredhurst was antiently esteemed as a chapel annexed to the church of Hollingborne" 6. A visitation by Richard de Clyve about 1293 7 described Bredhurst as a chapel, while Archbishop William Waring’s visitation in 1511 8 called it a church. If Bredhurst had been set up as a pioneering chapel in the backwoods, it may well have served only a peasant settlement and preceded the Bredhurst manor house by many years. Definite evidence seems, so far, to be lacking.

   Professor Everitt’s implication is that Bredhurst originated in late Saxon times, if not earlier. This may be so, but the name does not appear in any of the Saxon charters, nor in Domesday, nor even in the Domesday Monachorum9 which lists most of the neighbouring churches within Eyhorne hundred.

J.K.Wallenberg 10 gives twelve early examples of the name, the earliest being Bredehurst (1240). He suggests it meant either "the wood by the broad expanse of land" or "the broad wood". The recent Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, probably the most reliable of modern opinions, interprets Bredhurst to mean "the wooded hill where boards or planks are made or obtained" 11. However if Bredhurst did begin life as a detached hill-pasture, Wallenberg’s suggestions do seem the more likely.

Tenants in chief of the manors
Hollingbourne does of course appear in Domesday and in Domesday Monachorum, being held from the king by the monks of the Archbishop of Canterbury. According to Hasted it remained in their hands until 1540 when it was surrendered to king Henry VIII. Two years later it was regranted to the dean and chapter of Canterbury who still possessed it in Hasted’s time. Importantly, Hasted notes that a court leet and court baron were still held regularly by the dean and chapter and that the manor extended into Hucking, Bredhurst and Harrietsham. It is possible though, that the monks of Canterbury were tenants-in-chief of only a part of Bredhurst – perhaps 200 acres of the valley woodland and that as Hasted implies, the Northwood family held the settlement on higher ground. Examination of the Hollingbourne Court Rolls, which survive from 1292, may make this clear.

   The core of the present parish church of St Peter is thought to be Norman, though too little survives to date it precisely. It is possible that the manor house presently being excavated to its south-east was built at a similar, 12th century, date. That would leave enough time for several generations to have occupied it, before the first recorded tenants, discussed below.

Thomas de Bikenore
Thomas de Bikenore had been one of the falconers, or hawkers, in the service of Edward I as early as 1272 12. He held Bredhurst manor at least by the end of the century; also the manor of Portbrege, alias Bykenores, in Dartford 13. His father and his elder brother, both named John, were successively marshals of the king’s hawkers and they trained their birds in their own mews at their manor of Bicknor, only 4½ miles from Bredhurst 14. Thomas de Bikenore was "beyond seas with the king" in 1286 15 and he was knighted in 1297-98 16. In 1300 Sir Thomas de Bikenore, with his brother John, accompanied Edward I to the seige of Carlaverock in Scotland 17.

   Late in the reign of Edward I, Sir Thomas granted his manor of Bredhurst to Henry Nasard a citizen of London, probably to raise a mortgage18. The grant noted that the manor included a house, courtyard, garden, lands, meadows, pastures, woods and enclosures, ditches and the use of a mill. Tenure was liable to performance of services for the chief lord. Clearly Bikenore did not hold the manor directly from the King, but from the Canterbury monks – or more likely, the Northwoods. We must note that John de Northwood Juniore, the fourth of the Northwood line, was a witness.

   Men like Sir Thomas, in frequent attendance on the king, could often be in debt: a Chancery certificate of 1289 shows that he owed £16-14s to Gascon merchants in London 19. In 1290 he had a debt of £5, to be levied, in default of payment, of his lands and chattels in Kent 20. In 1305 he owed £10 to the Dean of York 21. A certificate of 1309 shows a debt of £25 to an alderman of London 22. In 1310 he owed £50 to a merchant of London 23. In his later years he married Joan, one of the two daughters and co-heiresses of Hugh de Mortuo Mari 24 and he also acquired a manor in Hereford, held directly from the king 25. However by June 1316, he had died. 26

Henry and Isabella Nasard
   Sir Thomas de Bikenore does not appear to have redeemed his mortgage of Bredhurst manor to Henry Nasard. In 1319 a clerk, John Deuery, possibly his executor, sold the manor to Nasard, who we learn was a draper of Broad Street in London. Henry and his wife Isabella were granted "1 messuage, 1 mill, 200 acres of land, 100 acres of pasture and 120 acres of wood with appurtenances in Bredhurst, Lydesynge and Gillyngeham" 27. Given that the whole parish of Bredhurst was only 602 acres (in 1901) and that a third of this was Boxley Abbey land, it is probable that the Nasards were now acquiring all of their deceased mortgagee’s remaining interests in Bredhurst manor with a few additional fields or woods.

   Nasard was several times named as the king’s merchant, perhaps because he occasionally loaned large sums of money to the king 28. In 1310, he was granted a safe-conduct to go abroad to trade for two years, and again in 1315 and 1318 29. He had debts too, mostly larger than Sir Henry de Bikenore’s, but clearly he operated on a larger scale 30.

   It is unlikely that the Nasards were involved with their investment at Bredhurst. Probably they had a sub-tenant there, or even one of the Northwoods. Henry Nasard himself was dead by 1327 31. Isabella Nasard appeared on her own in the Kent Lay Subsidy of 1334/5 for Eyhorne hundred, being assessed at 13s 4d, a respectable sum for a small manor 32. After the deaths of both Henry and Isabella, the grant assigned the remainder to their son John Nasard and then to Ralph his brother. A John Nasard appeared before the London Possessory Assizes in 1349 and was surety to the Mayor of London for an heiress in 135133. After that he disappears from the City records. There are no records of Ralph. Probably they both died in the Black Death and the tenancy of Bredhurst reverted to the Northwoods.

The Northwood family
   Hasted asserts that the manor of Bredhurst was "antiently part of the possessions" of the Northwood family, but he gives no details. If Hasted is right, the Northwoods will have held the major part of the manor from the king and Bikenore and Nasard were their feudal tenants.

   The Surrenden historian describes how Stephen the son of Jordan de Shepey, obtained a grant of the manor of Northwood Chastners, NW of Sittingbourne, around 1200 and assumed the name of Northwood. When Stephen de Northwood died in 1231, he held 810 acres in Sheppey and 90 acres in Upchurch and other unspecified land and manors in Kent 34.

   A petition of 1322 by the brothers of John de Northwood (then deceased) the fourth of the line, regarding the estates in Kent of their late father, lists Sheppey, Shorne, Thurnham, Binbury, Bettenham, Bobhurst, Birling and Horton near Canterbury 35. Bobhurst appears to be a scribal error, as there has never been a parish, manor, or house of that name. Bobbing could have been intended, but the Northwoods never held land there, so it is more likely that the scribe intended to write Bredhurst.

   However when the fifth of the Northwood line, Sir Roger, died in 1361 he held only the Sheppey and Upchurch lands and the manors of Shorne, Harrietsham, Thurnham, Binbury, Yoke in Frinsted, Wichling and Horton 36.

   Bredhurst is not named again in the Northwood estates until 1379, when we find Sir John de Northwood, the sixth of the line, holding Bredhurst manor at his death 37. His son Roger was then 23 and inherited his lands the following year 38; Roger was living in 1394 but must have been dead by 1416 when his son John died without offspring 39.

   Roger de Northwood had two younger brothers and two sisters 40. His brother William was buried in St Peter’s parish church about 1420, suggesting he was probably living at the Bredhurst manor house at the time. This would fit with the manor being taken back into the Northwoods’ demesne after the Black Death. Many years afterwards the historian Thomas Philipott saw William’s monument in the church, bearing this epitaph: Hic jacet Willielmus Northwood, cum quatuor suis Filiis, verus Haeres Domini de Northwood 41 which we may translate as "Here lies William Northwood with his four sons, the true heirs of the Northwood domain". Dr John Harris, a century and a half later, reported "a brass plate, with a figure in armour, over William one of the great family of the Norwoods… his four sons are likewise buried there by him." 42

   The lower half of a tomb-slab still survives in the church and bears the indents of brasses of three sons and a daughter. Without finding the upper half of the slab we cannot say if this is the Northwood memorial. The numbers match those given by the Surrenden Roll 40, but the memorial inscription given by Philipott mentions four sons. Perhaps Philipott thought he saw four and ‘corrected’ the inscription to fit?

   Just possibly, the tomb-slab could be that of Thomas Kemsley of Bredhurst, who died in 1586. Hasted notes that Kemsley was buried in the chapel which adjoins the chancel 44. Kemsley’s will 43 specifies "mye bodye to be buried within the chancell of the Parish church of Bradherst aforesaide on the north syde of the tombe of one Norwood there lyinge." He makes bequests to his sons Robert, William and Adam, but he makes no mention of a daughter.

St Stephen’s Chapel, Westminster
   Hasted also explains that the manor of Bredhurst and many other properties had been purchased by John, Duke of Lancaster, in fulfillment of certain provisions in the will of Edward III for increasing the revenues of the chapel of St Stephen in Westminster. He says that these lands were let to the dean and canons in 1382 but were seized by Sir Simon Burley under the authority of various letters patent. Burley was subsequently attainted for treason and executed in May 1388 45.

   Examination of the patent rolls suggests that Hasted is mistaken in including Bredhurst in this purchase. Possibly he had mixed it up with the nearby Leybourne properties (like Merecourt which was purchased for St Stephen’s) - a mistake also made by Philipott and Harris. Bredhurst was not listed in the grant of restitution of 2nd October 1388 copied on the patent roll, which restored the eight Kent manors seized by Burley, to the dean and canons of St Stephen’s 46. It would be surprising too, if Bredhurst had been sold while Roger de Northwood or his heirs were still alive. What probably happened is that Bredhurst escheated to the Crown after the death of William Northwood around 1420 and was granted to St Stephen’s soon after that.

   The dean and canons retained the manor until the Act of 1547 which transferred possessions of chantries, free chapels and colleges, to the Crown and allowed the subsequent sale of Bredhurst to lay owners. A Chantry Certificate of 1548 47 notes that St Stephen’s had owned the "assize rents of Meres Court in divers parishes and hamlets; farm of the manor of Meres Court and Bredhurst with demesnes and wood sales, [valued at] £24 11s 10d per annum".

After the Reformation
Whatever happened to the lands, the old house had for many years been falling into ruin. Some twenty years after the seizure by the Crown, a survey of Bredhurst in 1569 reported that Bredhurst Manor House had disappeared leaving only 'certain old walles of flintstone whych declare that yet hath bene a House of good recept...' The same survey stated that 91 acres were in the ownership of a farmer - probably William Kemsley who lived at Kemsley Street..." 48.

   Thomas Philipott visited Bredhurst ninety years afterwards and saw only "The Church of Bradhurst …thrust into an obscure and silent corner, amongst woods and other dark recesses." He muses that the Northwoods probably "had some retreat or mansion here at this parish, which upon their abandoning of Bradherst, languished away insensibly into ruine, so that the memory of it now is altogether neglected and forgotten" 49. Dr Harris was here in 1719 and could only conjecture that "the great family…might have formerly some seat here" 50.

   Hasted, writing in 1798, preserves the interesting folk memory that "Almost adjoining to the church-yard northward, there is a wood, where the inhabitants have a report, that there was once a village, called Bredhurst town." He added that "Several wells are yet remaining in it" 44. On the face of it, this is unlikely. There was no Kentish tradition of nucleated villages in the medieval period. Kent was a county of scattered farm settlements, except for ports and market towns. The memory probably relates to the ruins of a large house – in which case the easiest explanation is that Hasted or his informants confused north with south-east, and that ‘Bredhurst town’ was the site of the old manor house which at the time of writing is under excavation.

   A more recent report of the remains of the manor house is given by William Coles-Finch in 1921 when woodland south of the church was being cleared: "Massive walls were erected upon a foundation of large sarsen stones set in mortar…some quarter of an acre was almost solid with broken tiles…beneath the stumps of large trees were tiles, bricks of ancient make, and moss covered indications of further flint foundations of a place of strength" 51.

   The history of Bredhurst manor after the Reformation is adequately covered by Hasted, writing about the later owners of what by his time had become only a landed estate without a capital dwelling. In summary, Sir Christopher Hales received it first, but the Crown regranted it c1552 to Sir Thomas Cheney, treasurer of the household of Edward VI. His son Henry sold Bredhurst in 1570 with Merecourt and Merethorne manors, to Richard Thornhill, a grocer of London. His great grandson Charles Thornhill sold the manor temp. Charles II to Sir John Banks, who died in 1699 and the property passed to his son-in-law the Hon Heneage Finch, later Earl of Aylesford. Bredhurst was still in the possession of the Earls of Aylesford in 1805 52.

R A C Cockett 7th November 2012

1 Continuity and Colonization, Alan Everitt 1986 p155.
2 Everitt op. cit. p151.
3 A list, copied in the early 16th century by the diplomat-cleric Nicholas Wotton, of the lands owing contributions to the repair of Rochester bridge before its reconstruction in 1387. Neither original nor copy survive, but the list is quoted in extenso in William Lambarde’s Perambulation of Kent, Edn. of 1826 reprinted 1970 pp344-347.
4 The Jutish Forest, Kenneth Witney 1976 p82.
5 Everitt op. cit. p156.
6 History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Edward Hasted 2nd Edn Vol V, 1798 p590.
7 Canterbury Cathedral Archives Ref CCA-DCc-ChAnt/H/67A.
8 Kentish Visitations of Archbishop William Waring and his deputies 1511-12, Ed K L Wood-Legh 1984 pp281-2.
9 The Domesday Monachorum of Christ Church Canterbury, David C Douglas 1944 (transcription of the original document of c1100) p78.
10 The Place-Names of Kent, J K Wallenberg 1934 p208.
11 The Cambridge Dictionary of English Place-Names, Victor Watts 2004 p83.
12 The Kings and Their Hawks, Falconry in Medieval England, Robin S Oggins 2004 pp75-6.
13 Hasted op. cit. Vol II, 1797 p308.
14 Oggins op. cit. p94.
15 University of Iowao website: Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 26th April 1286
16 Oggins op. cit. p177.
17 Hasted op. cit. Vol V, 1798 p566.
18 Kent History & Library Centre, Maidstone Ref CKS-U512/T/5.
19 The National Archives, Chancery Certificate, Ref C 241/12/59.
20 British History Online website, Calendar of Close Rolls, 16th May 1290.
21 TNA, Chancery Certificate, Ref C 241/70/29.
22 TNA, Chancery Certificate, Ref C 241/76/200.
23 TNA, Chancery Certificate, Ref C 241/72/30.
24 BHO, Calendar of Close Rolls, 14th June 1316.
25 & 26 UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 30th December 1316.
27 Kent History & Library Centre, Maidstone Ref CKS-U512/T/1.
28 UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 24th January 1313.
    UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 24th January 1313.
    UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 4th June 1318.
29 UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 10th February 1310.
     UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 27th January 1315.
    UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 5th August 1315.
    UoI, Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452, 4th June 1319.
30 BHO, Calendar of Close Rolls 1216-1452, 14th November 1312.
     BHO, Exchequer Enrolled Accounts TNA Ref E359/14/12 Subsidy of 1319.
     BHO, Calendar of Close Rolls 1216-1452, 1st May 1320.
    BHO, Calendar of Close Rolls 1216-1452, 6th June 1320.
31 BHO, Calendar of Close Rolls 1216-1452, 13th March 1327.
32 Kent Records Vol XVIII Article ‘The Kent Lay Subsidy Roll of 1334/5’, H A Hanley & C W Chalklin 1964 p121.
33 BHO, Calendar of assize rolls – Roll AA London Possessory Assizes m.24 and
BHO, Calendar of Letter-books of the City of London 1337-1352 Folio:cxcvii b
34 Archaeologia Cantiana Vol II 1859 Art: ‘Genealogical Notices of the Northwoods (from the Surrenden Collection)’ Ed. Revd Lambert Larking, p11 and
Dictionary of National Biography (online), Article: ‘Roger of Northwood’, 2004-11 A.J. Musson.
35 TNA, Special Collections, Ancient Petitions, Ref SC 8/7/325.
36 The Baronage of England, Sir William Dugdale 1676 Vol II p71, citing an escheat roll (IPM) of 1361.
37 Hasted op. cit. Vol V p586 citing an IPM of 1379.
38 Dugdale op. cit. Vol II p71, citing a Fine Roll of 1380.
39 Musson op. cit.
40 AC Vol II 1859 Art: ‘Genealogical Notices of the Northwoods (from the Surrenden Collection)’ Ed. Revd Lambert Larking, p42
41 Villare Cantianum, T Philipott 1659 p62.
42 The History of Kent, J. Harris, 1719 p53.
43 TNA, Prerogative Court of Canterbury Wills, Ref PROB/11/1920.
44 Hasted op. cit. p586.
45 BHO: A History of the County of London Vol 1, W Page 1909 pp566-571 and
     Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online: ‘Sir Simon Burley’, J.L.Leyland, 2004-2011.
46 UoI: Calendar of Patent Rolls 1216-1452 especially 12th Dec 1385, 26th March 1386, 19th March 1388, 2nd October 1388,11th March 1390, 1st May 1390, 5th January 1391 etc.
47 Chantry Certificate, 1548: Middlesex', London and Middlesex London Record Society 16 (1980), pp. 60-81.
48 Off the Beaten Track, A Short History of Bredhurst, Wigmore, Parkwood and Hempstead, Geoffrey Hutton 1993.
49 Villare Cantianum, T Philipott 1659 p62.
50 The History of Kent, J. Harris, 1719 p53.
51 In Kentish Pilgrim Land, Its Ancient Roads and Shrines, William Coles-Finch 1925 p44.
52 Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. CIX (1991) pp85-109 Art: ‘Mapping and Estate Management on the Early 19th Century Estate: the Case of the Earl of Aylesford’s Estate Atlas’ (surveyed by R K Summerfield 1805) David H Fletcher.

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