Leigh Parish Registers

The Registers of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials in the Parish start in 1562 and are held on behalf of the Parish at Kent Archives.  They are for the most part bare records of names and dates and are chiefly of itnerest to genealogists.  However, Rev. Joseph Carte, Vicar from 1662 until 1706, recorded during the last 10 years of his incumbency the occupation of the father of each baptised person, of the husband of all marriages, and of all persons buried, or in the case of a wife the occupation of the husband.  This record makes it possible to make some assessment of hte pattern of occupation in the village at that time.

In all, during the ten years, there were approximately 250 entries and out of that number 75 are merely described as poor.  The occupations of the remainder were as follows:

57 farmers
17 husbandmen
18 labouring men
14 masons
10 millers
8 carpenters
6 shewmakers (sic)
6 palemakers
4 thatchers
3 tailors

There are two each of the following: park keepers, carriers, basket makers, wheelwrights, sawyers, weavers, beggarmen and gentlemen.  There were also one of each of the follwoing: wheeler, gardener, dish-turner, hemp-dresser, smith, apprentice, servant, servant maid, butcher, rich yeoman and rich widow.

The period over which these details are available is very short and one family may have a series of baptisms and burials which can give distorted figures.  Almost more interesting are the occupations which were not represented: there was no baker, draper or grocer.

The figure for masons is high, but there was a lot of sandstone in the area with quarries at Paul’s Hill, Cooks Pit, Ashour Wood and Redleaf and no doubt plenty of work for the Earls of Leicester at Penshurst Place.  The figure for millers is also high but there was a watermill on the Medway at Ramhurst and the Windmill at Watts ross was only a few yards outside the Parish boundary and the miller may have lived at Hollanden.

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In addition to including occupations for this 10 year duration, for three years, from 1703 until his death in 1706, Rev. Joseph Carte, in making entries of baptism and burials, indicated the part of Leigh to which the entry related.  In the Registers he refers to Leigh as Leighborough, which seems to have been consistent with the other areas around Tonbridge, such as Hildenborough, Southborough and Bidborough.

The following is an analysis of the entries:

Burials Baptisms
Leighborough 7 17
Hildenborough 18 13
Somerden 4 5
Charket in Liberty of Somerden 2 1
Washlingstone 3
Hollanden 2 1
Leigh Green 1

 

In 1703 the parish of Hildenborough did not exist and the area now known as Hildenborough was in the parish of Tonbridge, except for an area centred on Mill Lane, Vines Lane and Riding Lane, which was called Hollanden and was a detached part of the parish of Leigh.

The figures given above show that in this short period of three years a high proportion of burials and baptisms came from Hildenborough.  Even though there are two burials specifically recorded from Hollanden, it seems likely that the Hildenborough entries in fact came from the Hollanden part of the parish.

The entries from Somerden and Washlingstone are more obscure.  The area south of the River Medway was in the hundred of Washlingstone and this would have included the detached part of Leigh parish known as Upper Haysden and the entries shown as from Washlingstone probably came from Upper Haysden.

The Hundred of Somerden included the whole of the parish of Leigh except for the detached parts of Hollanden and Upper Haysden.  It also included Penshurst, Chiddingstone, Hever, Cowden and Speldhurst.  On the other hand, Somerden is the Hamlet on the Bough Beech Road just beyond Chiddingstone Causeway and Rev. Joseph Carte was probably using the term Somerden to describe that part of the parish west of the Compasses and this is borne out by his reference to Charket in Somerden.

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The Churchwardens in 1579 and again in 1750 caused to be included in the Church Registers a list defining the liability of the owner of each farm or cottage in the parish for the repair of the churchyard boundary fences.

The length of fence attributable to each property was clearly proportionate to the value of that property and, as the 1579 list is complete, it is possible to get a good impression of which were the more valuable properties in the parish at that time.  There were in all 56 properties but disregarding property which is now outside the parish (at Haysden or Hollanden) the following is a list of the larger properties arranged in order of size of boundary responsibility:

Great Barnetts 36 ft
Well Place and Penshurst Park 45 ft
Two farms at Charcott 40 ft
North Park (probably Leigh Park Farm) 36 ft
Hall Place 29 ft
Ensfield 28 ft
Morden 28ft
Ramhurst Mill 25 ft
Ramhurst 24 ft
Dourtnelles (probably White Post Farm) 21 ft
Hadlow Place (now Plough Inn) 19 ft
Muscombs (just south of the High Street) 18 ft
A farm at Charcott 16 ft
Coppins 13 ft
Wickhurst 13 ft
Ashour 13 ft

 

Unfortunately in the 1750 list many of the lengths are unreadable so it is not as valuable for showing the respective values of the properties in the parish.  However, it is interesting to see that in 1579 Ramhurst Mill was more valuable than Ramhurst and the situation was similar in 1750 when Ramhurst Mill was responsible for 35ft and Ramhurst (then owned by Richard Children) was only responsible for 16ft.

 

Lawrence Biddle (Par Mag. Aug 1982, Dec 1982 and Feb 1983)

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