Index - Contents - Beginnings - Romans - Saxons - After 1066 - some 15th century parishioners - 15th to 17th Century - l8th Century - 19th Century - Churches - Phelps - Cement - Ferry - Hook Family - May Family - Papermill Fire 1906 - Papermill - Schools - Toll Roads
On the south
wall of the nave in Birling church is a
to the Memory of John and William May sons of John and Jane May of this Parish.
William May ob. [died] 25th August 1777. aet .
John May ob. 2nd September 1805. aet . 71.
('1805' has previously been misread as '1803' - it is not
easy to spot the difference). In her book Birling - A Backward Glance (1982), Margaret
Collins suggests that John May senior lived in Sandy Lane. During the 1730s,
through bequests, he inherited cash, securities, leases and stock. We shall see
that at that time he bought the Snodland Court Lodge
estate and built (or possibly rebuilt) the paper mill. On 18 October 1738 he
acquired further property, including the 'Red Lion',
Shernall and hopground in Birling , Hope's marsh and a tenement in Halling . He added other property in Borden, Bredgar ,
Halling , Luddesdown
, Meopham and Tunstall .
He died in 1760 and was buried at Birling on 24
November. In his will he shared his property between his two sons William and
John (his wife having pre-deceased him). In Snodland
William received the Courtlodge estate (including
the paper mill and 'Red Lion') and John the
Holborough Court estate which his father had bought from Thomas Pearce.
When William died in 1777 John inherited his share.
John May junior was
baptised at Birling on 12 May 1734. (A
previous son John, baptised on 31 May 1732, had died
a year later). By 1777 he had become an extremely wealthy man. But as we shall
see, he established two endowments for the village in 1800 which have earned him much praise and
thanks in succeeding years. The
Gentleman's Magazine reported his death:
September 1, 1805. 'At his house at
Snodland , in Kent, aged upwards of 70, lamented by all who had been honoured with his acquaintance, or had shared his bounty.
John May, esq.. He went to bed seemingly in good health the preceding night, and
was found dead in the morning.'
He was buried at Birling on 6
May. His will is lengthy and complex, since he had no family, and was entrusted
to four executors. It begins by wiping out debts of £4000 owed to him and
then lists his property as follows:
Godings farm in Wrotham with 28 acres;
Wyarton House in Boughton Monchelsea with 215 acres; three cottages with 5 acres
in Boughton Monchelsea
; 8 more acres; Holloway Court in Snodland and Halling ; Lad's farm in
Snodland and Halling ; Halfhead's
in St. Margaret's parish, Rochester; Gassons in
Snodland ; Rumsey's ; Rectory of Halling ; house and 89 acres in
Luddesdown and Meopham ;
Birling Hole and land in Birling ; Whitehorse
woods in Birling and
Luddesdown : 126 acres; house and Boghurst
Down (6 acres) in Luddesdown ; several houses and
planted woodlands in Birling ,
Leybourne and East Malling ; 'Butlers' and
'Peat Pale' in Birling ; house called ' Contaers ' there; house and 1 acre planted with ash
in Birling ; three acres in East Malling called 'Hynes' and '
Barrams '; 6 new hopkilns and land called
' Boarfield ' and 'Lodge Brooks' in Wrotham (8 acres); Snodland
Court Lodge in Snodland and
Birling (50 acres); Manor of Veles in Snodland ; Snodland Mill and
The will concludes with a few monetary bequests. His own debts and
responsibilities satisfied, the four executors could each receive the rents of
various parts of the property and could jointly administer or dispose of it,
which they gradually did.