Leigh to 1550: Villare Cantianum

There is a document, the “VILLARE CANTIANUM” – or KENT survey – by Thomas Philipot,  which is available to view on-line.  It is a survey of Kent, describing all the parishes, boroughs, villages and other manors of Kent, and the ‘possessors’ of them.  It also includes an historical catalogue of the high-sheriffs of Kent, collected by John Philipot, father of said Thomas Philipot.

Dates:   John Philipot 1589? – 1645?;   Thomas Philipot  d. 1682.

For Leigh, the relevant pages are 214-215 and below is an ‘outline’ of the detail which shows the change of land ownership in and around Leigh from the time of the Doomsday Book to about 1500, when Lawrence Biddle takes up the story of land ownership in Leigh in his book “Leigh in Kent 1550-1900”.  


Leigh is in the Lowey of Tunbridge, sometimes written as West-Leigh, and also as West-Leigh alias Pauls.

It formerly belonged to the Penchesters: in the Doomsday Book there is a mention of Paul de Penchester who held lands in Leigh and Pencehurst.  The land was passed down the line to Sir Stephen of Penchester, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Constable of Dover Castle.  He had two daughters and co-heirs.  The eldest was Joan who married Henry, Lord Cobham of Roundall in Shorn;  the younger was Alice who married John Lord Columbers.  An inquisition in the third year of Edward III (ca 1330) had assigned as her portion the Manors of West-Leigh and Pencehurst.

The heir of John de Columbers and Alice was Sir Thomas de Columbers. By a Deed ca 1339 he passed away his interest in the property to :

Sir John de Poultney, Lord Mayor of London.  He died ca 1350.  After that:

Sir Nicholas Lovain, son of Guy Lovain, held possession of the property, possibly due to marriage to Margaret, widow of Sir John Poultney, or by purchase.  Sir Nicholas Lovain had issue, again Nicholas Lovain, who then held it as heir to his father, as evidence from an inquisition made after his death, ca 1371.  But this Nicholas also died without issue and therefore:

Margaret Lovain, his sister, became heir, and whose husband Philip St Clere of Aldham St Clere, son of John St Clere, shared possession of it.  By joint Concurrence, by their Deed of Sale (dated ca 1409), then passed it away to the Crown (Henry IV).

The Crown (Henry IV)  bequeathed the Manor of West-Leigh, with several other Lands to John, Duke of Bedford, his third son, later Lord Regent in the minority of Henry VI.  But John, dying without heir, it came to:

Humphrey Duke of Gloucester, his fourth brother, who died at the hands of William de la Pole, Duke of Suffolk in the Abbey of Bury, too died without heir.

Therefore, Henry VI, in 25th year of rule, 1447, granted this Manor being an adjunct to Penshurst to Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham.  He was an ancestor of Edward Stafford who was accused of High Treason in the reign of Henry VII (ca 1522), lost life, title and estate.

The property was then granted by Henry VIII to Sir Rafe Vane.  However, Sir Rafe Vane, was executed in 1551.  The manor, then by escheat, returned to the Crown and granted to Sir William Sydney, in ca 1553 (in the last year of the reign of Edward VI).



There is another Manor in the Parish called Philipotts, giving its surname to a family so-named.  In a Deed which bears date from 28th year of Edward 1(ca 1300) when John de Philipott does demise some parcels of land to Robert Charles, bailiff of the forest of Tunbridge.  The property was in the Philipott name for several hundred years, down to one Thomas Philipott, whose daughter and heir Alice, was married to a John Petley and so the Philipotts land came under this family.  John Petley only had four daughters and coheirs, one of whom married a member of the Children family.  One of the daughters and heirs of this name would inherit Polhill.


Hollenden is the another place in Tunbridge which spreads its demesne into the parish of Leigh and was for a long time in the patrimony of the family of Fremingham.  In the 55th year of Henry III, 1271, Ralph de Fremingham obtained a Charter of Free Warren to several of his manors in Kent, one being Hollenden.  In the reign of Henry IV, the land appears to be in the hold of the Cheyneys and several parcels of land of the manor are called Cheyneys Fields.  The manor continued in this family until towards the end of the reign of Henry VIII, and then it was alienated to Waller, and was in this family until the time of above John Philipott’s (i.e. author above) knowledge, when it was passed to the Crittenden Family in which it now is.  But part of the demesne which is spread into Leigh was, at about the beginning of the reign of Henry VII, convehed to the Stacy family, who in turned alienated it to Turner, who turn demised it to James Pelset.


Joyce Field (April 2020)