Skip to main content

Wyke (or MoatMote) near Canterbury and the Finch family

Page number
Margaret Sparks

Margaret Sparks.2016.Wyke (or MoatMote) near Canterbury and the Finch family.Archaeologia Cantiana.137:237-250.




margaret sparks

At the Kent History and Library Centre in Maidstone there is a collection known as Cowper Papers (EK/U449). Within these there are some which relate to a lost house and small estate just outside Canterbury known as Moat (NGR 180 582). The house was demolished in 1785, but traces of it could be found in the field behind that now owned by Polo Farm Sports Club on the Littlebourne Road. The brick gate piers to the drive remain and stretches of brick wall beside the road. In the 1930s brick cellars on the house site could be explored, but little more was known about the house. The gate piers were called ‘Apple Pudding Gates’, presumably because of the ball finials on top.

There had been a house there since c.1100 in the place called Wic, occupied by a family who called themselves de Wyke, who were the archbishop’s tenants by knight service, who were part of his large manor of Westgate. About 1430 the site was moated, so it became known as Moat, still occupied by tenants by knight service. In 1509 it was inherited by William Finch, son of Henry Finch of Icklesham and other estates in East Sussex. William lived at Moat, brought up a family there, and was succeeded by his son Thomas. Thomas was a successful soldier who married an heiress, Katherine Moyle of Eastwell (by Ashford). They had five children, but Thomas was ‘drowned by misadventure at sea’ in March 1563, without leaving a will. The papers at Maidstone give evidence of a very long quarrel between two brothers of that family, Moyle and Henry, in dispute about their inheritance (EK/U449/L2). The estate (c.300 acres arable and 200 acres pasture) was situated at the north-east end of St Martin’s parish, outside the jurisdiction of the city. The house remained with the Finch family until 1716.

Evidence for the appearance of the house comes from the habit of early mapmakers of drawing tiny sketches of standing buildings. Three such views of Moat are on maps at the Canterbury Cathedral Archives. The earliest is on a map of the land east of Canterbury which concerns the St Paul’s Rectory tithes, probably about 1560 (CCA Map 49). Moat is at the top of the map, shown with two tall ranges side by side, two lower buildings and a gate house with stepped gables (Fig. 1). The house is coloured grey (perhaps to indicate stone) and the moat beside it is coloured blue and fenced. A map of c.1600 (CCA Map 57) displays an unusual building of four adjoining ranges with tall gables and chimneys, with an extension to the east (Fig. 2). There is no sign of the moat or outbuildings but there is a drive from the Littlebourne road and Moat Gate is labelled. This map may be related to the Finch lawsuits, pretending to show Moat as former St Augustine’s Abbey land. The house is coloured red, for bricks, but this might be brick cladding over timber framing. The same house is on a large map drawn to show the archbishop’s landholding near Canterbury c.1640 (CCA Map 123). The Moat site is coloured yellow like St John’s Hospital and the Palace. The four ranges and the eastward extension are enclosed in a moat. There is a yard in front of the house with two lodgings and an arched gate within the moat. A survey of the estate was made in 1600 (EK/U449/E1). Later in 1635 (EK/U449/E6) a map was drawn which is now represented by a copy of 1832 (Oxford, Bodl. MS C 17: 36(51)). In mapmakers’ shorthand the house is shown as two separate ranges with a yard between them, with some outbuildings. The drive is lined by trees and there are trees between Callis Field and Chapel Field, near the house, where the de Wykes had built a chapel in the fourteenth century (1333). Many of the fields are named.

Fig. 1 The Moat c.1560, CCA Map 49.

Fig. 2 The Moat c.1600, CCA Map 5 copied from Map 57 in 1734.

Clearer evidence of the house comes from the two ink and wash drawings dated c.1750, stored with the papers at Maidstone (EK/U449/P3). One view is from the south-west across the moat, looking into the courtyard. The gate arch and the west lodgings had been removed. John Finch had built a new range across the front of the old house into the yard, and a long single-storey building along the eastern side, perhaps a hall with a kitchen. The other view from the north-east shows the back of the house, three ranges side-by-side, with the smaller eastern extension. The garden is walled with espaliered fruit trees. A small engraving of John Finch’s new building in the yard was published in 1787, after the house had been pulled down (Nichols 1787, XLII, pl. iv).

When the last Finch owner was endeavouring to sell Moat in 1715, the estate was inspected by John Paramore, who reported that the house was ‘old and ruinous, a very irregular inconvient Building unfitt for a Gentleman and too large for a Farm House’, but the farm buildings ‘were not amiss’ (EK/U449/E6). Charles Seymour recorded a visit in the 1770s to ‘an assemblage of low irregular buildings which look more like an old Farmhouse than a Nobleman’s seat. The furniture is mean and hardly fit for use’. He mentions a state room; the Library ‘a spacious lofty room, the best in the house’; the Hall and the Kitchen. Narrow dark passages led from one part of the house to another, ‘making it a melancholy abode’ (Seymour 1776, 222).

The Finches

Henry Finch

( -1494)


William Finch



Thomas Finch

Kath. Moyle

( -1587)




Moyle Finch

Elizabeth Heneage

Henry Finch

Ursula Thwaites







12 children





The Finch family were merchants in East Sussex with landholding round Icklesham and Winchelsea. Some members moved into Kent, to Lynsted and Milton next Sittingbourne. Henry Finch (d.1494), was the son of William Finch (d.1443) who had been Sheriff of Sussex. He married (before 1481) Alice Belknap, whose father Philip had been Sheriff of Kent 1445-6 and was said to have ‘kept his shrievalty at Moat’. Alice inherited Moat from her father and lived there as a widow and with her second husband Thomas Turberville. When her third son William Finch (1480-1552) came of age in 1501 he became owner of Moat, for which the Turbervilles paid rent (his brothers inherited the land in East Sussex). The Finch connection at Moat really began after 1509, when William lived at Moat and in time brought up a family there. He had two sons Laurence and Thomas from his marriage to Elizabeth Cromer of Tunstall, and two more sons, Erasmus and Vincent and three daughters, Eleanor, Mary and Elizabeth from his marriage to Catherine Gainsford of Crowhurst, Sussex. He prospered as a soldier, being knighted at the siege of Theroanne in 1515 and became Sheriff of Kent in 1532-3. He was tenant by knight service to the archbishop for Moat and a tenant of St Augustine’s Abbey for land to the south of the Littlebourne road, which his predecessors at Moat had rented at least since the 1390s. After the fall of the abbey he tried his luck in the land market, obtaining a tenancy at Burmarsh in Romney Marsh (formerly St Augustine’s property) in 1541. In spite of this activity, with fellow Kentish JPs including Edward Thwaites and Sir Thomas Moyle, William took part in the so-called ‘Prebends’ Plot’ of 1542-3 (Zell 1976), and his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, married Thomas Thwaites of East Stour in Chilham.

There is evidence that William bought land in Moatfield in 1547 (CCA/CC/Woodruff 12, sheet 2), part of the land he had rented from the abbey. This had been acquired from the Crown by Sir Walter Hendley of Cranbrook in 1539 with Holdrich Wood by the Lampen Stream at Fishpool Bottom (NA/E/318/ 12/562). (Hendley was Solicitor to the Court of Augmentations, which dealt with property accruing to the crown at the Dissolution.) The land near Fishpool had been in occupation by the abbey tenants since the twelfth century, including Hoath Farm in Bekesbourne Lane, The nature of the land-holding – whether was it in gavelkind – became an issue in the legal struggle between William Finch’s grandsons, Moyle and Henry from the 1580s. At the time of his death in 1552 William was said to hold the manor of Moat near Canterbury, land in St Paul’s parish and Burmarsh, holding Moat from the archbishop and Burmarsh from the king (IPM William Finch, NA/C142/ 98/33).

William was succeeded at Moat by his second son, Thomas, since the elder son Laurence had died. Thomas was also a soldier, knighted in 1553. He was active in local and public affairs, and amongst other offices he became Keeper of the King’s Park at St Augustine’s in 1560. In 1562 there was an ill-fated English expedition to occupy Le Havre to assist French Huguenots. Thomas was appointed Knight Marshall of the army: he sent his brother Erasmus to take temporary command, then set out in March 1563 on the queen’s ship Greyhound. Off the French coast the ship was driven back by the wind towards Rye, where it sank with great loss of life. Thomas was said to have lost his life ‘by misadventure at sea’. About 1548 he had married an heiress, Katharine Moyle, daughter of Sir Thomas Moyle of Eastwell. Moyle was a considerable landowner, a lawyer, Speaker of the House of Commons (1542) and had served as Chancellor to the Court of Augmentations. He died in 1560 and alienated the manor of Eastwell and probably his house there to his daughter Katharine and her husband in 1559 (CPR Eliz 1, 1558-1560 (1939), 135, 141). At the time of his death Thomas was said to be ‘of Eastwell’ and was buried there. He and Katharine had a large family, four sons, Anthony, Moyle, Henry and Thomas, and a daughter, Jane, all of whom shared Eastwell with Katharine’s mother, Katharine Jordeyne. As a comparatively young man, Thomas had left no will, so there were no instructions as to how a great inheritance should be divided up amongst the family.

Moyle Finch

Katharine Finch and Thomas Wotton (in 1566 to become her brother-in-law on his marriage to Thomas’s sister Eleanor) were granted the wardship and marriage of Anthony Finch, the eldest son, in May 1564. She had already received a grant of Eastwell Park for her life, for Anthony to inherit (CPR Eliz 1, 1563-1566 (1960), 119, item 483). Four years later Anthony Finch died, and about the same time Katharine married Nicholas St Leger (d.1589), described as ‘a puritan lawyer and sometime M.P.’ (1572, 1581), who joined the household at Eastwell. Moyle Finch was now the eldest of the family, for whom a bill was promoted in 1571 to ‘enter into his lands’ at the age of 20 instead of 21 (CPR Eliz 1, 1569-1572 (1966), 245, item 2000). On his marriage to another heiress, Elizabeth Heneage, in 1572, he resided at Moat. Moyle’s father-in-law, Sir Thomas Heneage, was Vice-Chamberlain of the Royal Household, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. Heneage was concerned that Moyle might not have sufficient income from the Eastwell estates, from which Katharine (Jordeyne) the widow of Sir Thomas Moyle and Katharine and Nicholas St Leger drew support. Katharine St Leger had granted Nicholas St Leger possession of Eastwell for his life: she died in 1586 and he in 1589, so it was a long time before Moyle could inherit the house. At the time of the marriage and again in 1580 Thomas Heneage made an agreement with Nicholas St Leger that Moyle should obtain the reversion after her death of the lands used for the income of Katharine Jordeyne (Cal. S.P. Dom. 1547-1580 (1856), 695, items 34, 36; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1580-1625 Addenda (1872), 31, item 77).

Henry Finch

Meanwhile Nicholas St Leger took an interest in the education of Moyle’s brother Henry, whom he sent to Christ’s College, Cambridge, aged 15 in 1572 to study under Laurence Chaderton, a famous tutor who would encourage him in puritan thought and godly behaviour. He studied rhetoric, dialectic and philosophy for a b.a. degree (law and theology were graduate studies). He would have been ex-pected to be proficient in Latin and Greek, but he also studied Hebrew. He became fascinated by the works of a French Calvinist, Peter Ramus, whose ‘categories’ he later applied to English Common Law. He entered Gray’s Inn in 1577. St Leger encouraged godliness at home by his appointment of the clergy at the church at Eastwell, which was little more than an ‘estate’ church, since there were few parishioners.

Henry Finch married Ursula Thwaites, probably in 1583. This too may show the influence of his stepfather, since there was a connection by marriage between the Thwaites and St Leger families. Their son John (d.1660), later the purchaser of Moat, was born at Hoath Farm in 1584. Hoath is on the lane to Bekesbourne and still a farm. At this time it was in the hands of Moyle Finch, who must have provided it for Henry to set up house: it was on former St Augustine’s Abbey land in Barton Manor, rented by the Finches. Amongst the Finch papers in EK/U449 is a remarkable document (EK/U449/L2/pt 1, 17) which reveals that Henry’s mother, Dame St Leger or ‘Lady Finch’ as she was often called, had devised a scheme in 1585 to provide him with a house of his own. She said Moyle ‘had houses enough’, so she and Nicholas St Leger urged Thomas, the youngest brother, to sell to Henry his alleged share or title to the Moat estate, pretending that Moat land was in gavelkind, divisible on inheritance. Ursula Finch thought that if Henry had the title to two parts (his and Thomas’s) Moyle might sell him the other part. However, the buying of titles was illegal, unless the seller had possession of the estate (Statute of 32, H8, cap. 9). Henry Finch and Nicholas St Leger, being lawyers must have known this. A case in Chancery was brought against Henry as buyer, for which this document appears to be a lawyer’s notes. It was necessary to prove that Moat was not in gavelkind, since it was held of the archbishop by knight service, also that it was the same estate which was anciently called Wyke, or in the twelfth century, Wic.

Moyle Finch’s Enquiries

Henry’s oldest brother Moyle had been trained in Common Law, going to Gray’s Inn in 1568, aged 17. At that time the Inns of Court often provided education for future landowners and ambitious young men who had no intention of taking up the law professionally. He was MP for Weymouth 1575-83, and had been knighted at Greenwich in 1584. He was drafted into public life by his father-in-law, acting as Under Treasurer at Wars at the time of the Armada (1588-9). In the 1590s he had local offices – Commissioner for Works at Dover Castle 1590, MP for Kent 1593, Sheriff of Kent 1596-7, and again 1606. The papers at Maidstone were his, showing research into the ownership of land as well as notes, letters and records of his legal battles with his brother Henry. They show his character: he thought in legal terms and easily went to law with anyone who crossed him or seemed to infringe his rights (he carried on a long law suit with St John’s Hospital, Canterbury, about a small rent (EK/U449/L2, pt 4). The papers suggest he was a man of great energy, who liked to think with pen in hand. He made sheets of notes with passages crossed out and emendations in the margins. He was careful and kept copies of letters. He was thorough in his investigations, trying to get back to original documents concerning landholding. His wife’s uncle, Michael Heneage, Keeper of Records at the Tower of London, obtained for him copies of any documents he required, copies written in a legal hand and signed by the copier. The boundaries of Moat were Stodmarsh Road to the west; a path from Fordwich and a wood to the north; the Lampen Stream to Fishpool Bottom to the east and an artificial boundary a field’s width from the Littlebourne Road to the south (so arranged to give the Abbot of St Augustine’s rights on both sides of the road). It was held of the archbishop by knight service, registered as a quarter fee. The list of tenants, most of which Moyle found, is in the Appendix.

Henry Finch Disputes his Mother’s Will

Henry Finch had failed in the attempt to buy titles in 1585; so when his mother died in 1587 he disputed her will in the Archdeacon’s Court at Canterbury (July 1587, CCA/X.11.1.). In the deposition, Henry Hancock, formerly a servant of Henry Finch, described the writing and sealing of her will in 1585 in an upper chamber of Eastwell House after dinner, in the presence of Lady Finch (really Dame St Leger), Nicholas St Leger, Henry Finch and Lady Eleanor Zouche (apparently not a member of the family). Henry’s wife Ursula was named executrix of the will. When examined Hancock remembered having seen a tripartite indenture, presumably that of 1580, between Sir Thomas Heneage, Nicholas St Leger and Moyle Finch and their wives, in which Eastwell was mentioned. He thought Lady Finch had intended that a lease of Eastwell to Ursula for five years was for her use and not in trust. He further said that Nicholas St Leger had entered into a bond with Henry Finch that the will made by Lady Finch should not with his consent be revoked. There may be evidence that Henry Finch took possession as Eastwell and was ‘forcibly evicted’ by Moyle, but this is not confirmed in the Finch papers (Prest 1978, 105). Nicholas St Leger remained at Eastwell until his death in 1589, when Moyle at last became possessed of it. He obtained the Queen’s licence to enclose his grounds and stop up roads which ran across them, and also to embattle his house, to which he made ‘great additions’ (Hasted 1798, 415).

Finch Law Suit: the Assize of Fresh Force

In 1590 Henry Finch was appointed standing counsel to the City of Canterbury (Burmote Book, CCA/CC/AC3, fol. 158) and became a freeman of the city. He took part in a hard fought election in 1593 to be one of Canterbury’s MPs against Sir John Boys of St Gregory’s former Priory. Henry rented a house in Canterbury, where it was said that secret prayer meetings were held by fugitive ministers of presbyterian opinions. He vigorously supported puritan causes at the House of Commons. In private life he continued to fight his brother for a share in the land at Moat. He began with an Assize of Fresh Force in the summer of 1588, a cause which ‘could be brought in a City or Borough if a man were disseised of any lands or tenements within it, or deforced of any lands, after the death of his Ancestor to whom he is heir’ (Jacob 1732, Fresh Force). This raised further problems, since the suit could only be brought if the land were within the city. Moat was held of the archbishop and was within his Liberty, and was in any case outside the bounds of the city. The archbishop’s legal officers noticed that an Assize of Fresh Force was to be held for Moat, and caused the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal to send an injunction to prohibit the Burmote from proceeding with the case. The Mayor of Canterbury wrote a diplomatic letter to the archbishop explaining that ‘the land called Mote … hath been always used, reputed and taken within the jurisdiction and parcel of the Liberties of the City of Canterbury’. He further said that we confess there is a place ‘sometime called Wyke tenement, which is holden, as we think, of your Grace’s see, which is a distinct thing from this and of far less quantity, which as we understand is not now in suit before us’ (6 October 1588, EK/U449/L2/pt 3.19). References to the Finch quarrel appear in the Burmote Book 1578-1602, as for instance when answers from the Burmote were required for a case in Chancery between the Archbishop and Henry Finch concerning ‘the liberty of the Mote house and Lands’, the Burmote decided to ratify whatever answers Henry Finch and his counsel should depose (CCA/CC/AC3, fol. 157).

The Burmote Book and the Finch papers do not provide further evidence of the events of 1588-90, but Henry Finch had no success and in June 1598 he borrowed ‘books and writings from the City Chamberlain’, probates of wills, accounts, lay subsidy records, a muster book, and parchment rolls from the ‘boxes’ for St Martin’s and Moat. All were found wanting in 1736. Finch intended to use these records to work up his case that Moat was within the City’s jurisdiction (CCA/CC/Woodruff 2, Index). An undated set of legal papers in the City Records shows the use that was made of this kind of evidence, attempts to prove that Moat was in the County of the City of Canterbury or that the manor of Longport was outside the city. It seemed possible for lawyers to prove matters either way (CCA/CC/Woodruff 12).

New legal proceedings were begun in late February 1601, after agents of Henry Finch set cattle into corn growing in Moatfield, between the Sandwich and the Bekesbourne roads. A warrant for seizing the cattle was issued for the Burmote on 23 February. Moyle Finch was at his house in Charterhouse Square in London, while Moat was occupied by his tenant farmer Thomas Fetherstone. Moyle sent him letters of instruction, so that he could keep Moyle’s counsel, Mr Walter Ailworth, informed of any trespass on the Moat lands. The new Assize of Fresh Force was for land in St Martin’s and St Paul’s parishes. The same procedure as before was set in motion. On 2 March, the Lord Keeper, Thomas Egerton, sent letters to the Mayor and Burmote to discontinue the trial until Mr Justice Gandye, the Kent Assize judge, should decide on the ownership of the land. On 9 March another Assize of Fresh Force was brought for land only in St Paul’s parish. Moyle Finch seemed to regard this as contempt of the Lord Keeper’s letters. It was agreed that Mr Gandye should conduct the trial on the 20 March. There are many letters in Moyle Finch’s file showing the Canterbury legal men conferring with each other and asking questions of the mayor who does not give the promised answers. The last letter is from the archbishop to the citizens of Canterbury on the 23 March 1601 (EK/U449/L2/pt 3.39, 40); the letters are collected in L2, part 3, but not in date order.

In March 1602 the same series of events took place. The suit was put off from one Burmote Day to another. A vivid letter from Matthew Hadd to Moyle describes the Burmote Court at which Mr Petit made essoin (excuse for non-appearance) for Moyle. ‘Mr Finch, no other lawyer being there, ruled that no essoin should lie. Mr Boys was sent for and came, but refused to give advice’. ‘But Mr Finch ruled all’ and ‘called the jury and adjourned them into the next Burghmote’. Hadd recorded that ‘Mr Finch and Mr Maior and his brother carry all away with zeal … for the defence and preservation of their liberties’ (EK/U449/L2/pt 3.41).

The last letter on the file is of 8 April 1602, but an item in the Chamberlain’s Accounts for 1606-7 suggests the cause was still continuing ‘xxs to Mr Lockley to pay over Mr Grove to stop the Jury about Sir Moyle finch and his brother’ (CCA/CC/FA 21, fol. 198). Although Henry Finch wanted the house and land at Moat, he made his claim in Moatfield, the land mostly south of the Sandwich road, which had been bought from Sir Walter Hendley by William Finch. The purchase included the strip of land on the north side of the road, which had been arranged to give the Abbot of St Augustine’s rights on both sides. The tenants at Wyke or Moat had rented the land, certainly since the fourteenth century, but of course until William Finch’s purchase, it was not part of Moat. Henry presumably hoped to prove that the land was in gavelkind and thus could be divided. Moyle Finch and his lawyers must have known that the estate as it stood in the 1590s was not the same as the old Wyke, and that it extended into St Paul’s as well as St Martin’s parishes. Henry Finch made an error in trying an Assize of Fresh Force for land in the City of Canterbury, since none of the land was within the Burmote’s jurisdiction.

Henry Finch – his career and family

Henry Finch never had his own house at Canterbury, or perhaps elsewhere. From at least 1597 he rented the interesting group of medieval building at Salmestone, near Margate, from the archbishop, formerly a grange of St Augustine’s Abbey (LPL/TA/668/1). From perhaps 1620 he rented the house which had been built on the Whitefriars’ site within Canterbury, from which he fled the plague in 1625 to stay with his sister Jane, who had married George Wyatt at Boxley. He died there and was buried at Boxley. When he was in London he could stay at Gray’s Inn, where he became Autumn Reader and in 1604 a Bencher. He reworked his thesis of 1585 to systematize English Common Law according to the method of the French humanist Peter Ramus (d.1572), which was published as Nomotexnia in 1613. Perhaps as a theorist he acquired the patronage of Francis Bacon (then Attorney General) in 1614, becoming Sergeant at Law that year and MP for St Albans. He was appointed King’s Sergeant and was knighted in 1616. For some years he had been in financial trouble, said to have been caused by his ‘expensive lawsuits’ for his share of the Finch family inheritance. By 1619 he was said to be bankrupt, but he and his two barrister sons, John and Nathaniel, were protected by an injunction in Chancery from Common Law action by their creditors. As if he had not problems enough, he published in 1621 a controversial book called The World’s Great Restauration, or, the Calling of the Jews, in which he suggested that the Twelve Tribes of Israel would return to the Holy Land and establish ‘a universal Judaeo-Christian empire’. The book was condemned and the author briefly imprisoned in the Fleet. After an apology he was allowed to continue to practise as a King’s Sergeant. He seems to have been a theorist, and though his work on Common Law was admired, he appeared to have little idea of the reaction to his Jewish proposals. His persistent recourse to law against his brother, and the borrowing of money to do so, argues a lack of sound judgement in personal affairs.

He and Ursula Thwaites had a large family. There were four sons, all at Gray’s Inn. John (d.1660) and Nathaniel (d.1649) both became barristers. Nathaniel had a legal career as Bencher in 1635, Sergeant at Law in 1637, King’s Sergeant and Knight in 1640. In 1642 he bought East Stour Manor, which had belonged to his mother’s family, the Thwaites. John became Baron Finch of Fordwich, going into politics and becoming Speaker of the House of Commons in 1628 and Lord Keeper of the Great Seal in 1639. He perhaps showed his father’s lack of wise judgement in continuing to support the king in impossible circumstances. At Moat he bought the house his father had never owned from his cousin Thomas Finch in 1635 and made great changed to the buildings. He also bought the house where he had been born, Hoath Farm, in 1635 from the owners of Barton Manor (EK/U449/T3). Although the Finches at Moat had rented it, they had never owned it.

John Finch was impeached by parliament for his persistent Royalism in December 1640 and fled to Holland. He obtained permission to return in 1647 to live privately at Fordwich. He regained his estate at the Restoration but died in November 1660. A large memorial tablet was erected by his widow Mabella at St Martin’s Church, Canterbury (now in the church porch). There were two younger sons of Henry Finch, Edward and Thomas, who were enlisted at Gray’s Inn in 1610 and 1622, and two daughters. One, named Anne (d.1637) married Robert Moreton of East Stour, a Thwaites family house.

Moyle Finch – his career and family

Moyle Finch’s career is recorded in the Complete Peerage in right of his wife, who as a widow became Viscountess of Maidstone in 1623 and Countess of Winchilsea in 1628 (G.H. White 1987, cols. 773-5). Moyle was again Sheriff of Kent in 1606 and in 1611 he was created Baronet, one of eight from Kent at James I’s first creation. He lived at Eastwell and at his house in Charterhouse Square in London. There is no evidence from the Finch papers as to whether any of his numerous family lived at Moat, but a note in his hand of ‘Trees as are to stand for the ornament of the seat at Moate’ shows that the house was intended as a family residence (EK/U449/E2). He died in December 1618 and was buried at Eastwell in the small church on the estate. A large monument to himself and his wife was put up about 1628, thought to be by Nicholas Stone (d.1647). Lady Winchilsea died in 1634. The church at Eastwell became ruined after a gale in 1951, so the figures from the monument were eventually re-erected in the Sculpture Gallery (Room 50 west) in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but are now in store (A.186:1-1969; Physick 1970, 131-5).

Moyle Finch and Elizabeth Heneage had twelve children. Three sons and two daughters died in infancy. Theophilus (1575-1619) was a soldier and MP for Great Yarmouth. Thomas (1578-1639) succeeded his mother as 2nd Earl of Winchilsea (1634), was MP for Winchelsea 1621-2 and Kent 1628-9 and sold Moat to his cousin John. He was buried at Eastwell, but no monument remains. John (1579-1642) was a diplomat, resident with the Grand Duke of Tuscany and ambassador in Turkey. He was buried at Queens’ College, Cambridge, of which he was a benefactor. Heneage (1588-1631) was a lawyer at the Inner Temple, Recorder of London and Speaker of the House of Commons 1626-8. He was buried at Eastwell and his monument by Nicholas Stone remains at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Francis (1587-1657) was also at the Inner Temple. He was a kind uncle to Sir Roger Twysden, the son of his sister Anne (1575-1638) and William Twysden. She was remembered by the Twysdens as intelligent and devout, but inclined to spend money too lavishly (Jessop 1965, 35, 54). Another daughter, Katherine (born 1583) married Sir John Wentworth.

In 1716 Heneage Finch, the 5th Earl of Winchilsea, sold Moat to William Cowper (d.1723), at that time Lord Chancellor and from 1718 Earl Cowper (Fig. 3). The Cowpers lived at Cole Green, Hertingfordbury, Herts., and were lawyers who went into politics (as the Finches had been). After the demolition of Moat in 1785, papers from the house were taken to Cole Green. On the demolition of Cole Green in c.1806 the papers went to Panshanger, the Cowpers’ new mansion in the Mimran river valley. On the demolition of Panshanger in 1952, the papers were transferred to the Hertfordshire Record Office and from there to Maidstone. This explains their name, the Cowper Papers: their preservation from the record rooms or estate offices of country houses is indeed remarkable.

Fig. 3 Extract from the Andrews, Dury and Herbert map (1769) showing Mote in Cowper ownership.


The Tenants of Moat (or Wyke) c.1100-1552

Moyle did not find the earliest reference, now printed in the Domesday Monachorum of Christ Church (Douglas 1944, 82) to Albold who held a yoke of land at Wic c.1100, nor that to the c.1170 ‘Glynde List’, showing the names of Ivo and his son Payn (Du Boulay 1964, 37). Moyle’s list (EK/U449/L2, pt 1, 18) begins with Payn in 1210, followed by John 1253, Stephen 1330s and Richard 1340s, all called de Wyke from the estate. They lived on the estate, where they built a chapel in 1333. The next tenant was Sir Richard Hoo 1376, an alderman of Canterbury and MP for the city in 1369. As well as being in Moyle’s list, he occurs in St Augustine’s Abbey records in 1392 renting Wykefield beside the Littlebourne Road and land south of the road in Longport (St Paul’s) parish (CCA/ Lit. MS E. 19, fol 109 verso). As a person of consequence (he had been with John of Gaunt’s knights in Spain in 1385), it is hard to say whether he resided at Wyke or whether he let the Wyke estate and his holdings from the Abbey. John Monyn of Dover, tenant in 1404, was probably non-resident, as his family let land near Dover, and in Canterbury and Thanet. Geoffrey Lowther, 1421, came from Sebergham in Cumberland but was Lieutenant of Dover Castle in 1424. He rented the Abbey land in the usual way (CCA/Lit. MS E 19. fol 151 verso). In Moyle’s ‘Paper Book of Evidences’ (EK/U449/L2, pt 2, 10) he is described as ‘Geoffrey Lowther of St Martin’s Canterbury’ so it is quite possible that he did reside. When after Geoffrey’s death his brother Robert sold the estate in 1448 it was described as ‘all that his manor or tenement called the Moat in the parish of St Martin’s near Canterbury’ which suggests that Lowther had moated the house. This sale in 1448 was most important for Moyle as evidence that ‘Wyke’ and ‘Moat’ were names for the same estate. Robert Lowther sold to John Sandford whose name was not found by Moyle in the lists of tenants by knight service, though he does occur in the ‘Evidences’. Sandford settled Moat as an estate for Isabel his wife: after his death she married Philip Belknap in 1455, a person of importance as Sheriff of Kent 1445-6 and Mayor of Canterbury in the year of his death 1458. He was said to be ‘of Moat’, though he let the land. Philip and Isabel had a daughter Alice, who married before 1481 Henry Finch of Icklesham, Moyle Finch’s great grandfather. Moyle had the satisfaction of finding a note in ‘a paper book of the Archbishop’ listing the tenants at Wyke which explained ‘once in the hands of Thomas Turberville by right of his wife, now the heirs of William Finch knight’ (EK/U449/ L2, pt 1, 19).


The author went to Maidstone in 1976 to look at the ink and wash drawings of Moat of 1750 and the estate surveys. While there she was told that there were four large folders of legal papers, on which work was begun. She is grateful to the staff of what was then the Kent Archives Office for their help. Later she wrote up the story for a collaborative book of essays which in the end was not published. In making this revision she had had the assistance of the staff of Canterbury Cathedral Archives. Mark Bateson encouraged her to rewrite the paper.


Douglas, D.C. (ed.), 1944, The Domesday Monachorum of Christ Church, Oxford.

Du Boulay, F.R.H. (ed.), 1964, Medieval Kentish Society, Kent Records 18, Maidstone.

Hasted, E., 1798, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, 2nd edn, VIII, Canterbury.

Jacob, G., 1732, A New Law Dictionary, 2nd edn, London.

Jessop, F.W., 1965, Sir Roger Twysden, London.

Nichols, J., 1787, Bibliotheca Topographica Britannia, XLII, pl. iv, London.

Physick, J., 1970, ‘Five Monuments from Eastwell’, Victoria and Albert Museum Yearbook II, London.

Prest, W.R., 1978, ‘Sir Henry Finch’, in Pennington, D. and Thomas, K. (eds), Puritans and Revolutionaries, Oxford.

Seymour, C., 1776, Survey of Cities, Towns and Villages of the County of Kent, Canterbury.

White, G.H. (ed.), 1987, The Complete Peerage 6, Gloucester.

Zell, M.L., 1976, ‘The Prebendaries’ Plot of 1543: a Reconsideration’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History, 27, 241-53.