Posted by: madkentdragon | April 15, 2011

More Neolithic Longbarrows, the Nevilles and a cure for Rabies Quirky Kent 14


Sorry Burham will have to wait for another day; today we’re looking at Birling, not the Birling Gap in Sussex, but a little village in Kent
which is only about 5 miles long. It is in the lee of the South Downs and the Birling hills, the first record of it seem to be in the time of Edward I when Walter son of John de Bogehurst lived at an estate called Boghurst, which he rented off the Bishop of Rochester. The church, All Saints, was mentioned in the Domesday Book and, as seemed to be the norm, was held by Odo who lost it at the court at Penenden Heath when it reverted to the Crown oh yes and the parish was responsible for paying towards the maintenance of the ninth pier of Rochester Bridge.

Odo had grabbed all the land he could in Kent and beyond and was sending the revenues to Rome, in the hope he could buy his way in to the
papacy.  When others complained about it and the court case was heard, Odo lost the lands and never became the next pope.

Comfort Park was owned by Sir Richard Crookethorne and it passed down through his family until in the 15th Century it passed in to the hands of Baron Bergavenny, through his wife Elizabeth who had inherited the title from her father the Earl of Worcestershire, prior to this inheritance Elizabeth’s husband’s name was Sir Edward Neville of the large and (in)famous Neville family.

A branch of the Nevilles have continued to live in Birling right to the present time, along the way they have suffered several leaps in power and just as many falls and accusations of treason, although the lands here were never forfeit. Boghurst Manor was incorporated into the holdings by Henry VIII’s time.

In Mary’s reign, Henry Neville opposed Sir Thomas Wyatt’s rebellion and battled with the rebels at Wrotham, a few miles away. But this branch of the family did not prosper well and in 1798 it was described as a mean place compared with the glories of other Nevilles. They now live at Birling Place which is a large medieval farmstead.

The church of All Saints has a cast-iron trap door in the chancel which leads to the Neville’s burial vault and the font cover was carved by the daughters of the family with each section initialled on the inside to show which daughter had carved that section.

A magnificent manor house was built for the vicar in the mid 19th Century, but burned down in 1917. The pub in the village was renamed the “Neville Bull” in memory of Michael Neville who was killed in WWII.

One Quirky fact – or rumour: A former vicar of Birling found the “Birling Cure for Rabies”, the recipe was kept secret and sold in large wine bottles for a guinea each, business remained good until Pasteur developed his vaccine in 1864, and the recipe has been lost, possibly in that fire.

Next Parish in this vicinity is Ryarsh, which has only a couple of things worth mentioning, it has the usual Odo connection and was partly annexed by the aforementioned Nevilles.

The church was originally called St Lambert was renamed in 1448 as St Martin because St Lambert’s feast day fell in the middle of harvesting and as it was an agricultural parish, there was no one available to celebrate the feast day. He is however commemorated in a stained glass window. The other is that the pub, known as the Duke of Wellington was built in Henry VIII’s time and was owned by the Benedictine
Monks, the first civil licence to sell beers and ciders was issued in 1516.

The last Parish to be mentioned in this boring (sorry) history of quirkiness is Addington, another small parish removed from Odo, but even before that, it was an important part of the trade route to the Medway and was called Eddingtune in the Domesday Book, possibly named after the Saxon lord Edda who owned the land here.

The main things to note here are the church of St Mary’s which was built in the 14th Century as denoted by the plaque on a wall in the church, it reads: In fourteen hundred and none,/ Here was neither stick nor stone;/ In fourteen hundred and three,/ The goodly building which you see.

There is also another early pub here called the Angel that was built in the 14th Century.

The other being the two Neolithic long barrows, there seem to be quite a few of them in Kent! The Chestnuts, is reasonably well preserved,
but has been pillaged over the centuries, however it was properly excavated in 1957 and cremated remains of about 9 people were found and sherds of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age pottery were found, it is thought that where earlier grave robbers had collapsed the sarsens the archaeology had been preserved. The artefacts and human remains are in the Maidstone Museum.

The site had been in use from earlier times as flint arrow heads were also found here and it is known that there was a small Roman settlement here as well. After the excavation there was an attempt to stand the remaining stones in their original position, so although smaller than the
original 60plus foot site, it can be seen as a smaller version of the original. It is believed that the Barrow is on a ley line.

The other Longbarrow, called Addington Longbarrow is much less well preserved and in fact a road was built through the site in earlier
centuries. It was thought that it would have been similar in build and size to the chestnuts but there are only a few stones left, although an excavation in the 19th Century did find cremated remains.

Although both of these Barrows are on private ground, the owner is happy to give guided tours and invites Pagans to festivals there.

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