The Name and Family of Barham

by Sydney Pay Barham

Chapter Thirteen


During the Tudor period when the original de Berham or Barham stock in its Kentish seats was losing its vitality, and moving to extinction, a vigorous family bearing the same name, which had established itself at Wadhurst in Sussex, was growing to wealth and influence.

Before discussing the origin of this family, and its relationship to the older line, I must refer in a little more detail to the authorities that I have been able to consult. Information about the Barhams of Wadhurst and their off­shoots is more abundant and detailed than that about the senior stock. This is in part because we have reached an age when records were being kept more carefully and regularly; and in part because a modern member of the family became curious about his ancestors, and was in a position to satisfy his curiosity.

The late Sir George Barham, who in 1885 reacquired one of the ancient seats of the family in Wadhurst, had his pedigree investigated, and his right to bear the family arms confirmed by the Heralds College in 1910. An outline of this pedigree, and a copy of the armorial bearings can be consulted in volumes of 'The Landed Gentry'.

As in the foregoing sections, my most fruitful source of information has been the article on the Barhams of Shoesmiths in Wadhurst, published in volume LVI of the Sussex Archaeological Collections. Two authorities whom I have drawn upon in the earlier part of this study are no longer available, at least so far as Sussex is concerned. I know of no compilations that do for Sussex what has been done for Kent by Phillipot in his Villariae Cantianum, and by Hasted in his 'Survey of Kent', neither have I discovered a complete account of the Heraldic Visitations of Sussex. However, some of the Barhams of Wadhurst migrated into Kent, and for these the sources named again become helpful.

Some useful information about the Barhams as Ironmasters are to be found in Ernest Straker's account of the former Iron industry in Sussex, Kent and Surrey, entitled 'Wealden Iron'. There is also the contemporary evidence provided by the series of cast iron memorial slabs in the parish church of Wadhurst. Such memorials are to be found in other churches in the ironworking districts of Sussex, but the Wadhurst collection is unrivalled. Of some thirty iron grave slabs in the church there, nine commemorate members of the Barham family. Some are elaborate examples, with inscriptions and armorial bearings, while others simply bear initials and dates. There is an excellent guide to the Parish Church of St. Peter and St. Paul Wadhurst edited by Walter H. Godfrey,F.S.A. for the Sussex Archaeological Society, and issued by the Wadhurst Parochial Church Council. This contains a list of all the memorials in the church, including those made of cast iron, with a plan showing the position of each. Also helpful is the official guide to Wadhurst, issued by the parish council which has a sketch map showing the location of many houses connected with the Barhams and other old families. The exact relationship between the Barhams of Wadhurst and the descendants of Robert de Berham in Barham and Teston can no longer be determined. A similar obscurity covers the date of their first settlement in Wadhurst, and indeed elsewhere in Sussex, where individuals of this name are recorded in early times. Here is the second gap in my story, the first being the century long gap between Wulnoth de Bereham and the aforesaid Robert.

In its account of the Barhams of Teston, Hasted's Survey states that: "There was a branch of this family that settled at Wadhurst." In a manuscript pedigree preserved at Herald's College, as quoted by Mr.FitzGerald-Uniacke, John Phillipot says that John Berham, the second son of Henry Berham, Lord of Barham, Teston and Sissinghurst, by his wife Elizabeth Colpepper of Oxenhoath, was the founder of those branches of the family that settled at Wadhurst, and afterwards spread to Maidstone and Borton Monchelsea. But Phillipot's statement cannot be correct. The marriage of Henry Berham and Elizabeth Colpepper is believed to have taken place about 1470, but there were Barhams at Wadhurst before that date

Ancient charters in the possession of the Courthopes of Wylie, Ticehurst old neighbours and relatives of the Barhams show that a John Berham of Wad­hurst made an enfiefment of land in that parish before the third year of Henry VI (1424-5), so he cannot be the same as the John who was the son of the marriage contracted in 1470. There can however be no doubt that the Barhams of Wadhurst were related in some way to the original Kentish stock, and that the kinship was recognised on both sides. In the first place there was the common possession of the name Berham which became Barham at about the same time on both sides of the county boundary. Then there is the testimony of the coats of arms. As can still be seen in stone on the west front of St. Dunstan's Church in Cranbrook, the shield of the Barhams of Kent carried three bears, either as a reference to Fitzurse or to the place named Barham. The arms of the Barhams of Wadhurst also displayed the three bears but with the addition of a horizontal band, or fess, which was a fleur de lis between the two martlets, or legless heraldic birds. These are the arms shown on some of the Wadhurst memorials, and claimed at the Kent Visitations by the Barhams of Maidstone and Boughton Monchelsea, and they are those confirmed for Sir George Barham in 1910.

The Wadhurst arms also bore a crest, showing a stork among reeds or bullrushes. What crest if any the Kentish family displayed I do not know. The addition of the fess with fleur de lis and martlets constitutes a difference, and indicates that the owners claimed to be a branch - but a distinct one of the original family. Why this particular difference was adopted I am unable to say - it may have been arbitrary choice of the first person who aspired to the honours of the senior stock. My own guess is that the person who did so was aspiring Nicholas Barham of Chillington Manor in Maidstone, whose acquaintance we shall make at a later stage. The two versions of the family arms can be compared on the rough sketch prefixed to these notes.

At a later point in the story I shall mention certain transactions which tend to confirm that the older and newer lines were aware of one another's existence, and acknowledged their kinship.

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