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Origins of Frittenden

Roman influences are suggested by the remnants of the Roman route from Rochester to Hastings via Maidstone which passes through the Parish of Frittenden at Knoxbridge closely following the track of the A229.

Roman Road
Roman Road at Knoxbridge from Margary’s Roman ways in the Weald (1948).

It was near this route, at Leggs Wood, off of Granshore Lane, that Roman urns were discovered in 1857, suggesting the possibility of a Roman settlement nearby, possibly even a villa.  Archaeologia Cantiana, the Journal of the Kent Archaeological Society described the urns in 1867:-

‘The urns are dark grey ware, globular and with omphalos bases.  They both have a single cordon at the junction of neck and shoulder and the smaller of the two has traces of black burnishing on the neck and upper part of the shoulder…  They are enlarged versions of the globular pots with amphalos bases well known from the latter part of the Iron Age, like those in the Museum from Barming and Maidstone…  It seems likely that the Frittenden urns, of native descent, are to be dated early in the Roman period, to the first century A.D.’

 

Roman Urns
Roman Urns found in Leggs Wood, Frittenden, held in Maidstone Museum.

A Roman bloomery is believed to have existed near Maplehurst Mill in Mill Lane.  Other traces of the Romans appeared during the rebuilding of St Mary’s Church in 1846-8 when some fragments of Roman concrete were found in the old church.

The settlement which was to become the parish of  Frittenden probably began to emerge from about 700.  Sometime after the departure of the Romans, in the early years of the 5th century, a form of transhumance was established.  The den element of Frittenden probably indicates that it was an area providing temporary pasture, probably from the 6th century, on an annual basis for swine driven down from a place in north Kent. This pasture would have been recorded as a possession of that place in Domesday (1086).   By their nature buildings established by such settlers would have been of a temporary nature, and which have left no recorded evidence.

Drove Roads
The Jutish Droves
From K P Witney: The Jutish Forest – A Study of the Weald of Kent from 450 to 380 (1976)

In Kent, perhaps more obviously than in most parts of England, we have a road system shaped by the needs of a pastoral society based on the practice of transhumance.  Many, and probably most, of the lanes running across the grain of the county from north-east to south-west are the droveways of a people whose swineherds, during the summer months, migrated with their herds from the settlements north of the Downs to their detached pasturelands in the Weald.  That they originated as droveways rather than cart-tracks is evident from their gradient as in negotiating the Downland escarpment, which are generally too steep for horse-drawn vehicles.  This practice waned between 1000 and 1300 with the permanent settlement of most of the Weald.

The clearance of the forest was a formidable task, particularly on the heavy clays and ill-drained gleys of the Low Weald.  It was probably not until the tenth century that the woods began to give way to permanent settlement, and not until the fifteenth or sixteenth that the work of reclamation was complete.

Until recently, it was believed that the first documentary evidence for Frittenden was in a charter of 804 at Tolhurst.  However, recent evidence has cast some doubt on the veracity of that charter, though a charter of 856 is unchallenged.  Whether the first recording was in the reign of Egbert (802 to 839) or Aethelbert (839 to 858) (both quite long reigns), the suggestion is of a move toward the establishment of a more permanent settlement, which by 1200 had led to a community large enough to warrant the erection of a permanent site of religious worship, i.e. the church.

By the end of the 13 century Frittenden is thought to have several manors, though none of these have survived into the 21st century, although some of the manors’ names have survived.

Frittenden Manors probably in existence by 1400.

Antiquarians such as Hasted and Furley and the historian Margary have identified a number of manors in what was to become Frittenden.  These, with dates first recorded, were:

Tollhurst [804]; Whitsunden [1202]; Ayleswade [1224]; Buckhurst [1232] and Wallinghurst [1256], both described as a petty manor belonging to the Abbey of Faversham until dissolution; Bewper [1278], part of the demean of the Abbey of Faversham until 1544; Balcombe [1332]; Brissenden [1348]; Hodges [1450]; Bubhurst [1475]; Sinkhurst Green [1563].  Other manors which are undated are:- Leggs Wood – a manorial name; Comenden – sometimes Comden – within the revenues of Leeds until dissolution of the monasteries in the reign of Henry VIII; Upper Peasridge – was possessed by Lord Badlesmere and later by John de Vere, Earl of Oxford, and then to St Leger and then the Lones family of Lancashire.

Buckhurst and Wallinghurst were gifted to Thomas Cromwell, Earl of Essex, by Henry VIII in 1538 but were granted to Sir John Baker of Sissinghurst when Cromwell fell from grace in 1540.  Arthur Mee in his Kent edition of ‘The King’s England’, writes that while awaiting execution at The Tower, Cromwell ‘wrote some letters in which, looking back on his life, he spoke of the happy days he spent at Frittenden.’

 

The information on this page has been kindly provided by the Frittenden Historical Society.