The Name and Family of Barham

by Sydney Pay Barham

Chapter Twelve


There is reason to believe that during the declining years of the Barham dynasty at Sissinghurst and Teston, a junior Branch of. the family had been installed in the ancestral manor of Barham Court in Barham. The evidence is confused and contradictory, and I must ask the reader's patience whilst I endeavour to unravel it.

I have already referred to the heraldic visitations which were carried out at various dates in the reign of Henry VIII. Officers of the College of Heralds made visitations in several counties, in which they inspected the coats of arms claimed by the arms-bearing, or armivorous families, and considered the pedigrees submitted by the heads of the families, in view to confirming genuine claims and rejecting those found to be without foundation. Now, the Barhams of Teston and Sissinghurst are not to be represented in the findings of any of the Kentish visitations, surely not because their arms and pedigrees were disallowed. They may not have wished to submit their claims to the visitors, for I do not think that there was any compulsion on them to do so. But the Barhams of Barham did not show the same reticence, and were included in the first two visitations of Kent. At the visitation of 1530-31, Bartholomew Barham of Barham claimed as his arms: 'Or; three bears passant, sable; muzzled gules.' Gules is red; sometimes the colour of the muzzles is given as gold. These are the same arms, heraldic colours apart, as those to be seen on the west front of Cranbrook Church.

Bartholomew did not name any ancestors, but said that he was married to a daughter of John Boyes of Sandwich, and had five children; John, George, James, Alice and Mildred.

At the second visitation in 1574; a more elaborate statement was submitted by John, the son of Bartholomew Barham, who was now evidently head of the family. He claimed as his armorial bearings the three black muzzled bears as before, but quartered with the arms of his wife's family, and including in chief point, a crescent. In the language of heraldry, the crescent in chief point that is at the top of the shield is the recognised difference, or distinctive sign borne on the coat of arms to indicate descent from a second son. This John had an antiquarian taste, and was interested in his family history. He it was who first betrayed a knowledge of the Fitzurse tradition. The pedigree next to the arms starts from a John Barham, descended of Reginald Fitzurse, that lived in the time of Henry II, followed by; firstly John Barham, Lord Barham by the gift of his father's last will, and married to a daughter of Oxenbridge; and secondly Bartholomew, married to Elizabeth, daughter of John Boyes. He added that his own wife was Anonna, daughter of William Giarter, apparently an error for Garten; and that he had six children; Thomas, Bartholomew, Jonathus, Mildred, Martha, and Catherine. For full measure, John appended to his statement a meagre little genealogical table, which we must presume summarised all he knew about his own ancestors. It is too vague to be of any use, although it contains one or two names that we have met before. I reproduce it here for what it is worth. [table not available]

The publications of the Harleian Society, in which the findings of the Visitations are reproduced, contain another pedigree of the Barhams of Barham, from an unknown source, on which the line is continued to another generation. This pedigree which records the family arms with the crescent, the difference as before, is more ambitious than the one submitted by John in 1574 but it shows no clearer light on the early days of the family. It starts from a John Berham of Berham in the County of Kent esquire, son and heir to Simon de Bereham, son and heir to John Berham, and heir to Ananas de Bereham, who lived in Anno Regno Regis E 15. As the first three Edwards each reigned for fifteen years or more, covering the period 1272-1377, we cannot suppose at what date this Ananas is supposed to have lived. The pedigree goes on to state that the John first mentioned was followed by four other Johns, each the son and heir of his father, the last of whom was Lord of Bereham by the gift of his father, and was married to the daughter of Oxenbridge. Then follow Bartholomew and John, as in the 1574 list, and lastly Thomas Bereham, of Bereham aforesaid, esquire, son and heir to, John, married to Elizabeth, daughter to Edward Merryweather of Shepherdswell in the said county, and by her hath issue Marjorie (now living). If .the reader has had the patience to pursue the foregoing paragraphs they will probably conclude that Bartholomew Barham and his successors knew rather less about their ancestors than did for instance Mr. FitzGerald-Uniacke.

We now have to ask who was the parent who by his will made John Bartholomew's father, Lord of Barham? Mr FitzGerald-Uniacke quotes the genealogist Phillipot as asserting that he was the first of the Thomas Barhams who lived at Teston, and who had two sons, James his heir, and John

As this Thomas did not succeed to his paternal estates until nearly the close of the fifteenth century, he could scarcely have had a grandson of full age in 1517, as Bartholomew is known to have been.The same author thinks it more likely that the best owner of Barham Court in Barham was the John Berham who was buried in the parish church of Cranbrook in 1442.

The date and manner of the transfer of the old Barham Manor to the junior branch of the family will have to remain uncertain, but there is no doubt about the names of the last four holders of it. They were successively John, Barthol­omew, John and Thomas Barham. I have been able to garner a few facts about some of them.

The second John, who portrayed an antiquarian taste in his return to the Visitor on 1574, did not always carry out his duties under the Elizabethan Poor Law as conscientiously as he might have done. In 1573, Archbishop Parker undertook a visitation of his Diocese in which for the parish of Barham the following complaint was recorded. 'Mr. Barham will not pay the money for the poor, but is behind this two or three years, and the collectors are likely to be arrested for the money that they withhold from the parties.' It is to be presumed that he paid up his arrears.

In the same year, 1573, a certain George Barham was one of the witnesses to a covenant concerning land in Wooton, Swingfield, Denton and Barham. As Bartholomew Barham's second son was named George, this witness may have been the brother of the defaulting John. John Barham had been succeeded by his son Thomas by 1582, for in that year a certain legal document describes a piece of land as being 'Bounded on the east by the land of T. Barham, gentleman, to the north by the churchyard.' Thomas Barham was the last of the Barhams to own the ancestral estate of Barham Court in Barham, often described in the feudal past as half a knight’s fee held of the Archbishop. According to the anonymous pedigree quoted above, he married Elizabeth Merryweather of Shepherdswell, and had an only child, a daughter Marjorie, but possibly he married again, for a covenant dated in the third year of James I (1605-6), contains the name of Anna, the wife of Thomas Barham, gentleman. There may have been a second daughter by this later marriage, for the register of marriage licenses of the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury in London, records the marriage on 12th November 1633 at St. Anne's Blackfriars of George Duke of Wandsworth, and Mary Barham, age 30, daughter of Thomas Barham, gentleman of Barham Down, Kent. I surmise that the estate got into financial difficulty, for in 1594 Thomas entered into a covenant with Thomas Smith, a yeoman of Canterbury, and a gentleman named Terry, whereby he conveyed to Terry on trust the manor of Barham, with appertainces, together with 400 acres of land etc., £6 rent, and rent of 33 hens. The legal intricacies are difficult to follow, but it appears that the procedure was a contrivance to allow Smith, by a process of law, to get possession of the estate to the use of Thomas Barham. It suggests something in the nature of a mortgage. Again the 1605-6 covenant referred to above, appears to convey to one Matthew Fay and his wife two messages six acres of land and ten of pasture in Barham, from Thomas Barham and Anna his wife, and another party. It may have been financial trouble, or the lack of male heir that finally induced Thomas Barham to dispose of his inheritance.

At the very beginning of the reign of James I, that is, soon after 1603, he sold Barham Court to the Reverend Charles Fotherby, Dean of Canterbury. From the fact that a daughter of Thomas Barham of Barham Down was married in 1633, it may be surmised that Thomas, after leaving Barham Court found a home elsewhere in the neighbourhood of his native village.

Thus after at least 400 years the continuous history of de Berhams and Barhams comes to an end in the early years of the seventeenth century, with the two distant kinsmen, Thomas Barham of Teston, and Thomas Barham of Barham.

Barham Court in Barham remained in the possession of Dean Fotherby’s descendants for about a hundred years until in the first half of the eight­eenth century, it passed by marriage to the Derrings of Surrenden Derring in Plilokley.

A Postscript:

Although the story of the Barhams of the middle ages comes to an end early in the reign of James I, it is of course certain that the name is continued by many scattered descendants of the original stock. The written records are limited in the main to the individuals in the direct line of descent; eldest sons of eldest sons. In the course of centuries there must have been many younger sons who founded families, and passed on to their children the family name, but generally speaking, history and the genealogist are silent about them.

A few of these are known to us because they occupy a paragraph in the dictionary of National Biography. One such was Henry Barham, a Fellow of the Royal Society, and writer on Natural History, who lived from 1670 ­to 1726, and whom the dictionary describes as being a descendant of the Barhams of Barham Court, presumably in Teston. Henry Barham died in Jamaica, leaving there a son also named Henry, a doctor of medicine. The second Henry, after acquiring a considerable property by marriage, returned to England in 1740, and settled in Staines in Middlesex. He died in 1746.

The same dictionary has a note about Thomas Foster, son of James Foster who was born in Bedford in 1756. This man took the name of Thomas Foster Barham, by the authority of a private act of Parliament, and in accordance with the will of Henry Barham. Could this have been made by the son of the Dr. Henry Barham of Jamaica and Staines, who died twenty years before Thomas Foster was born? The dictionary is silent, and we are left to conjecture.

Thomas Foster-Barham is described as a musician and a miscellaneous writer. It is fairly clear that he was a man of parts, and we may guess that with the name, he also inherited the wealth of Henry Barham. He settled at Lesskinnick, near Penzance in Cornwall, and died in 1844, leaving a large family, of which four sons have gained a place in the dictionary. The eldest son, Thomas Foster­-Barham M.D., was born at Hendon in 1794, and lived until 1869. He was a classical scholar as wall as a physician, and had professional connections with Penzance and Exeter. He was a supporter of the Unitarian Congregation Meeting at Georges Chapel in the latter city, and subsequently conducted independent rel­igious services at Newton Abbot. It appears that some of his father's writings were designed to confute his unorthodox views on religion.

William Foster Barham, the third son was born Meriozion, Cornwall, in 1796, and died somewhere in Kent in 1844. He is described as a poet. Charles Foster­-Barham M.D. the fourth son, was born at Truro in 1804, and died there in 1884.

He was also a physician, and engaged in antiquarian and geological studies. The dictionary states that he carried out investigations into the climate of Cornwall, and the diseases of the Cornish tin-miners.

Francis Foster-Barham, the fifth son was born at Leskinnick in 1808. After studying law he turned to authorship. He became known as 'Barham the Aelist', because he devised a new and comprehensive theistic religion, which he named 'The Aelism', from Hebrew and Arabic names of God. He produced a large body of writings, which were edited after his death in 1871 by his friend Sir Isaac Pitman, the inventor of the Pitman system of Shorthand.

In February 1958 the press published a notice of the death of John Foster-­Barham M.C. eldest son of the late F.E.Foster-Barham, at the age of 64. He may well have been a grandson of ' Barham the Aelist', or one of his brothers. The line of these 'Barhams by adoption' may still be flourishing.

Post-Postscript: (C Barham - June 2015)

An email received from Quentin Foster-Barham reports that this is indeed the case.

Next Chapter (13)