15th to 17th Century


As the centuries pass our picture of the village and its inhabitants becomes increasingly vivid. New series of documents, imperfect though they are, add life to the tale. First there are the church registers, dating from 1559, which chronicle the births, marriages and deaths of the parishioners. Then a limited group of papers from the local Quarter Sessions informs us of some of the misdemeanours here. Returns of taxes provide lists of householders at various times, while wills and deeds, now usually in English, fill in details of friends and families and of the exchange of property.

A good starting point is the list of taxes imposed in 1524, which probably records most of the householders then in the village and their relative worth in lands, wages, or goods, on which the tax was based.

Image of list

1524 : Assessment of Snodland Parishioners

Stonyng, Spayn, Lambe, Tannton and Ussher stand out with Tilghman as the most prosperous. No other reference to Tannton has been found, but William Lambe appears in other tax lists until 1547. The families of Spayn and Ussher have already been noted in the fifteenth century and together with others like Andrewe, Stalworth, Parmenter, Lulke, Watts, Canon and Taylor, testify to their being well-established in this place. Wills give us snippets of information about these men and their fathers. John Smith (d.1513) had a ‘bote and netts’; John Chapman (d.1524) was a carpenter; William Smith (d.1528) lived in a house called ‘Coppid Hall’; Walter Andrewe (d.1532) had a house in Northstrete (Holborough Road); Nicholas Chitenden (d.1540), perhaps son of Henry, was a ‘Matrismaker’; Steven Wadman lived in a house called ‘Arnolde’ and owned another one called ‘Stocks’; Marian Spayn (d.1543) left a ‘house in Brokegate strete [Brook Street] wich John Bregge hath in occupying’ and another ‘that Bartholomew Bekytt the parish Clarke of Snodland now dwellyth in’; John Springfield (d.1546) lived in North Street and made provision that ‘Alis my daughter as often tymes as she comythe from London to Snodlande as a Geest shall have thuse and occupying of my plowre [parlour] where I nowe dwell with the bedde and other thyngs now being there.’; William Ussher (d.1545) owned five houses in Snodland and Halling, one ‘at holbergh which I now dwell in’ …and another ‘in holbergh, whereof the one is called Lamkyns, the 2d I laytlie bought … of John Taylor of neyther Hallyng, and the Thredde … standythe nye unto the myl at holberg wich I laytlie buylded’.

Walter Stonyng (d.1531) owned houses and land in Snodland, Milton and Luddesdown, but his prime interest was in ships. He bequeathed to his wife Agnes, daughter of William Nicholson of Wouldham,

my shippe called the new Inne with all ye takeling and ymplements belonging to her to give or to sell at her pleasure. I will that my new Shippe called the Mary marten with all the takeling and Implements to her belonginge be solde by myn executors and overseer and of the money thereof coming I will that Margaret my daughter have £80 at her marriage and £10 more to an honest prest to sing for my soule in the parrysh churche of Snodland.

Mention of Margaret brings us into touch with another prominent Snodland family of the time. She married Allen Wood, son of John Wood of East Dereham, Norfolk, and they settled here. Margaret died sometime before 1540 and I wonder whether the brass of three figures now in the chancel of All Saints church is in memory of Walter and Agnes Stonyng and Margaret. Its inscription is lost, but I do not hold to the view of those who believe it belongs with the Tilghman brass: the size is wrong and the quality is poor when compared with the latter. Experts date the brass to around 1530. Allen Wood acquired land from the Crown in addition to farming fields leased from the bishop. He remarried, and after his own death in 1556, his property descended to his son William. William received a grant of arms on 20 November 1570 and certainly ranked himself a ‘gentleman’. By a Crown lease of 1598, William’s land was transferred to Arthur Jarvis. It comprised (1) a house and 80 acres of land in Snodland in Wood’s own occupation; (2) a house and 18 acres of land in Snodland occupied by John Bowne; (3) two houses and 8 acres in Snodland occupied by William Forster and the rector Thomas Barnard; (4) a house and garden in Snodland occupied by William Cromer. Snodland parishioners who have visited the remarkable church of Greensted in Essex have been surprised to find a memorial on the North chancel wall there:

Image of memorial text

Later another grant of arms was made to Sir John Wood of Stapleford, Essex, ‘descended out of the house of Wood of Snodland, Kent’, so it seems the family subsequently settled in that county.

The religious upheavals of the mid-sixteenth century created difficulties for all. Parishioners had to come to terms with the many alterations made both to the fabric of the church and to the services held in it. Images were taken down and painted over, the rood screen was dismantled and their faith was challenged. No longer could they set aside money in their wills for candles to be burned before the images of saints, nor could they pay priests to say or sing services for their souls and those of their forebears; rather all their bequests were accepted as alms in the ‘poor men’s box’, to be distributed in charity. The rector of Snodland instituted in 1530 was Robert Truelove, who also received the living of Halstow in 1533. He was chaplain to John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester, yet was among the clergy who renounced Papal Authority in 1534. During the reigns of Edward VI and Queen Mary (1547-1558) he held a prebend in York Minster, but lost all his livings at the accession of Queen Elizabeth. William Hall was Rector here from 1540 until his death in 1571 and he had the help of curates. As time goes on the wills begin to include more details of household property and of livestock and produce, but a precise map of Snodland and its inhabitants at this time is currently unattainable. We do know, however, that the clothier John Leeds (d.1585) owned the manor of Veles and bequeathed it to his son Edward. His will is a typical mix of the time. He asks to be buried ‘in the churchyarde beside the Ewetree in the Sowthside of the sayd Church’. Edward is to receive ‘all such corne and cattells, haye and other moveable goods and chattells belonging aswell to my husbandrie and Trade of Cloth makinge wthin the sayde p[ar]ishe of Snodlande as also wthin the Citie of London or elsewhere’, ‘my manner of veles and the land in Snodland, Birling, East Malling, Luddesdowne and Paddlesworthe’. His daughter Amy received ‘5 sylver spones .. the best horse, mare or geldinge and the best cowe and one heyffer’ and her sister Elizabeth ‘one cowe and a quarter of barley.’ Whatever one’s trade and status, the daily sustenance of one’s family came from land and livestock. Wealth, then as now, brought temptation to others. On 10 July 1587 Robert Gyles and James Hopkyns, labourers of Snodland, stole a piece of woollen cloth valued at 30s. from Edward Leedes. On 5 June 1588 Thomas Raynard of East Peckham, labourer, burgled the house of Edward Leedes and stole 2s. 3d. belonging to Elizabeth Hurtt (presumably a servant in the house). Later that month, on 24th, he tried again and stole a frieze jerkin (18d.), a doublet (11s.), 2 pairs of stockings (6s. 8d.) and a pair of breeches (18d.). All were tried and indicted. But Leedes himself also got into trouble: on 21 April 1595 he was indicted for assaulting one Arthur Francis at Snodland, and on 20 January 1603 he was required to promise future good behaviour, having abused George Shakerley, gent., the collector of the subsidy for the hundred of Larkfield, when he came to collect the subsidy from Leedes. By their nature the Quarter Sessions records reflect local disturbances and problems, of which theft and breaches of the peace were the most common. Thomas Hollowaye of London may have been a travelling salesman staying overnight at the village, perhaps in the house of Richard and Alice Skate. On 19 November 1563, at Snodland, Richard Bartlett (also from London) stole from Holloway ‘a casket with metal chains (16d.), a ‘turkes’ [head] mounted in a gold ring (20s.), a death’s head mounted in a gold ring (30s.), a white saphire mounted in a gold ring (20s.), three gold ‘hrope’ rings (£3), 5 silver spoons (25s.), 6 silver pins with pearls (4s.) 3 rails (10s.), 3 headcloths (8s.), 6 handkerchiefs (12s.), 12 cottons (20s., 12 red satin purses (14s.), 4 dozen knives (40s.), 3 dozen ivory combs (15s.), 3 pounds of tape (12s.,), 1 dozen snuffers (2s. 4d.), 1 pound of counters (16d.), quarter pound of sisters thread (6s. 8d.), 3 dozen ‘cullyne’ knives (20s.), a child’s shirt (8s.), 1 dozen wrought leather gloves (6s.), a belt (8d.), and 10d. in money. Skate and his wife were indicted as accessories, but found not guilty; Bartlett was to hang for his crime.

In the years following the Spanish Armada, it was rash of Nicholas Howlett to say publicly ‘I would they [the Spanish] would come. I would strike never a blowe agaynst them’. He was found guilty of uttering seditious words, was to be pilloried in market time and remanded in gaol. Routine matters included the granting of licences to keep alehouses. And Thomas Usher was warned that if he ‘will not of his own accord deliver the indenture of Stephenson, his apprentice, then the said Stephenson when he shall be at large should go to Sir Maximilion Dallyson for his discharge.’ One dramatic event occurred on 10 September 1608. John Barnes of Cranbrook, bricklayer, Andrew Whyte of Snodland, blacksmith, and William Ray of New Hythe, labourer, were talking and drinking together in the house of John Fletcher, victualler, at Snodland. A quarrel broke out between Barnes and Whyte, in the course of which Barnes stabbed Whyte with a knife and killed him. An inquisition was held at Snodland the next day by the coroner, Thomas Willoughby, before a jury of leading parishioners: Richard Argall, William Gyles, Whetnall Tillman, William Wylles, John Easdowne, George Sprinckfyeld, Alan Ussher, Thomas Mylles, Abraham Coker, Robert Rumney, Thomas Edmunds, William Benson and Robert Lane. They found Barnes guilty and he was sentenced to hang.


Beyond the changes in fashion which inevitably came and went, there would have been little to distinguish the village of Snodland in 1500 from how it appeared some two hundred and more years later. It is not likely to have changed much in size, if at all, and the farms and houses served successive generations unless, as sometimes happened, they were consumed by fire. Then it was no great matter to rebuild with wood and plaster and without foundations. Even the Plague seems to have passed by, for there is no evidence from the church registers of any sudden increase in mortality, even in the years when that scourge was dominant. The uncertainties of life in an age when communications were limited sometimes speak from surviving documents. When Joan Chauler made her will in 1523, she asked her executor ‘to gif and to sell my house and garden yf that my husbonnde com not a geyn and yf he com agayn he to paye £3 to my son that he and I did borowe of hym in ouer besiness’. Richard Chauler seems to have been a man of some eminence, for there is a letter from him extant in the State Papers addressed to his ‘well beloved friend, Thomas Cromwell’, then a rising star at Henry VIII’s court. Chauler was a merchant of the Staple in Calais, so his absence from Snodland is not surprising. More than a hundred years later, in 1638, John Cawsten, farmer at Covey Hall, bequeathed all his land, goods and chattles to his daughter Mary ‘provided always that George Cawsten, my eldest sonne bee already dead. If he be livinge then I give and bequeath all my lands to him and his heires males for ever, paying to my sonne William Cawsten £300 … .’ But there was a snag:: ‘provided always that if my sonne William Cawsten be already married or do ever marry or take to wife Anne Giles, sister to John Giles in the parish of Snodland, yeoman, that then hee shall have only for his porcon untill he be married to some other venter or person fortie shillings’. Furthermore if George was living and William was married to someone other than Anne Giles, then William could inherit the land. John Cawsten seems to have had another grudge too, for he bequeathed 10s. a piece to every poor widow in the parish, ‘the widowe Gilbert onlie excepted’. If Ann Giles married William Cawsten, there is no record of it, at least in the Snodland registers.

The Giles family are an interesting bunch. William (d.1614) was the miller at Holborough and a churchwarden, as early as 1541 ‘servant’ to William Monde, a tenant of William Tilghman the elder. The job of miller passed through his family to John (d.1620) and then to John Amisse, who had leased the mill for 31 years in 1617; the latter married John’s widow in 1628. John (d.1678) achieved notoriety for his activities (with others) for

Image of Giles tree

his part in the Kentish uprising against Cromwell and his forces in 1658.

It would appear that he clashed with the Roundheads who had marched from Meopham to Maidstone on 1 June 1648, where they fought a fierce battle. In 1650 Giles and others received the attention of Cromwell’s administrators. The records include:

12 April 1650: Information by Col. Baseville and other against men ‘as being in arms against Parliament in Kent at Whitsuntide, 1648. the list includes ‘Thos. Hester’ and ‘John Joyles’, both of Snodland.

6 May 1650: Information concerning Wm. Grigges and Wm. Yappe, both of Snodland, ‘that in the late rising in Kent, Grigges rode in the King’s army, and has spoken inveterately against Parliament, says that it sits for nothing but to cozen the country, and he shall live to see them all hanged, and would be the first to cut their throats if there should be another rising. Also that Yappe was a very violent actor in the late rising, forcing men and horses to serve against Parliament. Yappe was in the insurrection under Lord Goring in 1648, violently took away horses and arms from a well-affected widow [i.e. she was sympathetic to Cromwell’s cause], threatening to leave her not worth a groat, and imprison her, and used gross words against Parliament.

August 1650: Giles’ estate was to be seized and appraised and an inventory made. In November the prosecutor, John Abell, confessed that Giles gave him £10 as a bribe to desist from the prosecution. Abell was ordered to pay the money to the Parliamentary committee in charge.

14 March 1651: Information renewed that Giles furnished the insurrectors with men, horses, arms, and money, and carried himself with much bitterness and malice against Parliament and the well-affected. Also that he was in the Tonbridge rising, and was a gross maligner of Parliament.

In spite of all this, on 9 April 1652 (when the War was over), Giles was granted a free discharge on the Act of Pardon because no judgement or sequestration had taken place. Joan, his wife, achieved notoriety on her own account, for the entry of her burial on 8 September 1717 reads: ‘Joan Giles being as was suppos’d an hundred and three years of Age’. There is no good reason to doubt it. Their house was the former ‘Benet’s Place’, mentioned earlier.

Apart from the insubordination of John Giles and his friends (which in any case does not appear to have occurred in Snodland itself), the village seems to have avoided any mistreatment at the hands of Cromwell’s forces. Church registers throughout the land were neglected and it seems probable that the few entries in our registers between 1640 and the late 1650s, such as the following, were added later, drawing upon people’s memories for the details.

Isaac Tylghman dyed Dec: ye 21 1644 & is buried under the Great Chancell Window at the East End Snodland Church yard. Near If we can make any Guess his Father Whetonhall Tylghman of this Parrish Gent: (is deposited). Whetenhall actually died in 1650 or later. The last known record of him comes from another of Cromwell’s committees, which administered estates of Royalist sympathisers which had been seized by Parliament:

16 August 1650. Whetenhall Tilman of Snodland, Kent, petitions that in 1606, Edward Nevill, Lord Abergavenny, sold him for £120 an annuity of £20 on Rotherfield Manore, Sussex, which he received during the life of the said Edward and that of Henry, his son and heir; but it ran into arrears during the troubles [the Civil War], and the manor is now sequestered for delinquency of John, Lord Abergavenny, son and heir of Henry. Whetenhall ‘has always been faithful’ [to Parliament], is 80 years old [actually he was just 75], and has no other subsistence.

A hundred years later John Thorpe recorded the grave ‘On an Altar Monument, about six or eight feet East of the S.E. corner of Chancel is the following inscription: ‘Here lyeth the body of Isaak Tilghman, son of Witenhall Tilghman of Snodland, Gent. who dyed the 21st day of December 1647 aged 36 years, and Lisbona his wife, who dyed the 10th day of September 1678 aged 58 years and of their two daughters Elizabeth and Elinor.’ Such discrepancies are difficult to solve. All that remains of the ‘Altar Monument’ is one slab, now illegible and at grass level.

A tax rated according to the number of hearths in each property was begun in the 1660s and at least three lists for Snodland have survived. Here are the names (1662-1664):

Images of hearth tax list

It has to be said that this was not a popular tax and many in the country sought to evade it, at least in part, by blocking up fireplaces and chimneys.

One member of a prolific family, and son of Thomas Godden, the farmer at Paddlesworth, remembered the village where he had been born. Edward Godden, baptised at Snodland on 13 January 1600, had prospered as a ‘Citizen and Haberdasher of London’. He established a charity by his will dated 8 February 1662, in which he devised

20 acres in Ivychurch to Brett Netter and his heirs to the intent that they should pay yearly to the church wardens and overseers of Snodland £10 on trust with £5 thereof to put forth one poor child male or female apprentice to some honest trade or calling.This is still administered by trustees today and the income has increased.

Meanwhile Holloway Court was transferred from Thomas Williams to Sir Richard Manley. He appears little in the village records, although he was a churchwarden here and a Justice of the Peace. But when his wife Martha died in 1682, he commissioned a memorial in the church which recent expert opinion suggests was made by Arnold Quellin (1653-86), a partner of the famous woodcarver Grinling Gibbons, so clearly he was a man of some refinement, in touch with the most fashionable sculptor’s workshop in London. His own simple memorial, required two years later, has disappeared. Holloway Court was sold by their son Charles to a Rochester man, Robert Conway. A census of the number of communicants, catholics [‘papists’] and non-conformists in the county was taken in 1676, the ‘Compton Census’. It revealed

Snodland: Conformists: 100;   Papists: – ;   Non-conformists: 40

Paddlesworth:     Conformists: 5;    Papists: – ;   Non-conformists: -.

The position of Grove farm, on the Snodland-Birling boundary, caused difficulties since it was never clear to which parish it belonged. The text of an agreement was inserted in the Snodland church register:

Memorandum that, whereas there has formerly been a Difference between the Parishioners of Snodland & those of Berling concerning Grove’s House; it was unanimously agreed upon by both Parties (haveing put the Businesse to Arbitration) that the said House should hereafter be ever accompted & acknowledged to stand entirely in, & to be part of the Parish of Snodland, in consideration of four pounds & ten shillings, to be given by the Minister & Parishioners thereof to the Inhabitants of Berling aforesaid, & that the said sum was actually given and received accordingly upon ye 21st day of Novembr: 1693: In Testimony whereof they have hereto set their Hands:-

Theo Beck, Vicar de Birling; [the marks of] John Carnall, William Flood Churchwardens; William Pain [and others]; John Walwyn, Rector of Snodland

Edward Hasted tells of a plan to pipe water from Holborough to the Medway Towns:

Sir John Marsham, bart., and Sir Charles Bickerstaff, had a design of supplying the towns of Stroud, Rochester, and Chatham with fresh water by bringing it from the spring rising at the foot of Holborough hill, and others thereabouts, by a cut or channel through Halling and Cuxton thither, four miles of which was through Sir John Marsham’s own lands, but after they had proceeded two miles, finding some obstructions, which could not be removed, but by an act, this was procured for the purpose in the 1st year of James II [1685-6], but nothing further was afterwards done for it, for what reason does not appear.