The Name and Family of Barham

by Sydney Pay Barham

Chapter Seventeen


Richard Barham appears to have inherited 'Browns' from his father. It consisted of a house and thirty acres of freehold land, but I have been unable to identify it on the ordnance map. By his wife Alice, a Sussex lady, Richard had a son, to whom was given his grandfather's name of Nicholas. As far as my in formation extends he was the only son. Nicholas Barham the younger adopted the legal profession, and had a highly successful career in it, which ended however untimely. He was admitted to Gray's Inn in 1540, and was called to the Bar in 1542. He severed his connection with Wadhurst in 1548 by selling Browns to his uncle John Barham the ironmaster, and became associated thereafter with Maidstone.

Nicholas is one of the few to bear the family name who have a notice in the 'Dictionary of National Biography', which amplifies the brief account given by Mr. FitzGerald-Uniacke. He is also mentioned by Phillipot and Hasted in their descriptions of the county town of Kent. There are in addition a few items of authentic information to be gathered from Maidstone records, a selection of records in the possession of the corporation, which was published in 1926. These entries show that the two older historians have sometimes been in error, and have caused me to revise my own account in some respects. There were already Barhams living in Maidstone when Nicholas settled there. The records show that a David Barham owned a house and a garden in the town in 1948. There was also a freeholder and freeman of the town named Richard Barham, who became Mayor in 1571, and who appears as a witness in one of two documents concerning Nicholas. Whether these men were offshoots of the old Teston stock, or distant relatives of the Wadhurst Barhams I am unable to say.

The early years of Nicholas Barham of Maidstone coincided with a time of humiliation for the county town. At the beginning of the reign of Mary Tudor 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt of Allington Castle headed an unsuccessful revolt against the Queen, which led to his execution as a traitor, and the forfeiture of his lands. According to Phillipot and Hasted, one of his followers named George Maplesden owned the manor of 'Dygons' - sometimes written 'Bygons' - in Maidstone, which was forfeited to the Crown in consequence to the rebellion. Soon after it is said, 'Dygons' was granted to Nicholas Barham, presumably for a money payment, as he can scarcely have had opportunity to render the Queen service. The old house of Dygons is situated in Nightrider Street, and now serves as the vicarage to All Saints Church.

The Maplesden family had been long established in Maidstone. A Peter Maples­den had been the owner of Chillington Manor, near the old chapel of St. Faith. Although Peter may not have been involved in the Wyatt rebellion, he seems to have suffered financially, for he mortgaged the manor for £490 to one Peter Short. On the 25th September 1562, Robert, John, and George, the sons and co­heirs of Peter Maplesden sold Chillington Manor to Nicholas Barham for the sum of £500. Beside the manor house, the estate comprised three tenements, a shop, four barns, sixty acres of land and the Chapel of St. Faith with its churchyard. One of the witnesses to the indenture of sale was the Richard Barham who was subsequently to become mayor. This is the account of the acquisition of Chillington as it is recorded in the documents of the borough, and is doubtless authentic, but Phillipot and Hasted, give a different story. They say that Chillington, like Dygons, had belonged to the George Maplesden who was implicated in the Wyatt uprising, and that it had been forfeited also, and afterwards granted to Sir Walter Henley who sold his interest in it to Nicholas Barham. This Walter Henley did in fact own land in Maidstone, and was a member of a family that had grown wealthy through the cloth trade at Cranbrook and entered the ranks of the county gentry. However he may have acquired the two manors Nicholas Barham had now become firmly established in Maidstone. He rebuilt or added to the old house of Chillington which today houses the Maidstone museum. Its great hall and long gallery remain much as they were in his day, but the original building has been flanked on either side by wings added in the last century. Modern embellishments also with the names and arms of Nicholas Barham and his son Arthur, together with those of the Maplesdens and other owners of Chillington, carved in stone or displayed in the windows. On the shields of both father and son, the arms of the Wadhurst Barhams are combined with the family arms of their wives.

The year 1562, in which he Purchased Chillington manor, was an important one in the career of Nicholas Barham. For their support of Wyatt's insurrection, the people of Maidstone had been punished by the forfeiture of the municipal privileges granted to them by the charter of Edward VI in 1548, and by the loss of their right to send representatives to Parliament. These rights and privileges were restored by a new charter granted by Elizabeth I in the second year of her reign, 1559. In 1562, the mayor, jurates and commonality of the town appointed Nicholas Barham recorder (legal adviser), and town clerk, and determined that a yearly fee of 20 Shillings should be paid to "Master Nicholas Barham, the Councillor to the Town". The amount seemed ludicrous, but it is in line with those granted to the other officers of the corporation. The mayor himself was to receive only £5 a year, together with certain allowances in kind. In the case of Nicholas the sum was probably in the nature of a retaining fee. In the Chamberlain's account of 1561-62, we read, "Item, paid to John Beale, for his expenses at London, for our town, three days at two shillings per day, and for Mr. Barham's fee, 6/8d; in all 12/8d. Item paid for the carriage of a letter to Mr, Barham to London, 2/-."

Maidstone was represented for the first time after the restoration of the franchise at the Parliament of 1563. The representatives chosen were, Nicholas Barham Esquire, and Henry Fisher, gentleman, two worthy and discreet burgesses, as they are described in the document declaring their election, one of the witnesses to which was Richard Barham, later to be mayor. This Parliament was however the only one to be attended by Nicholas. He was in fact launched upon a wider career in his own, profession.

In 1567 Nicholas Barham was made Sergeant-at-law, a superior class of barrister now extinct, from which it was customary to select the judges. In this capacity he conducted the case for the Crown in the trial of Thomas Howard, Fourth Duke of Norfolk, and Higgford his secretary, after the unsuccessful plot to replace Elizabeth by Mary Queen of Scots. Both were convicted and the Duke was subsequently beheaded for High Treason. Nicholas was rewarded next year -1573 with the Honorary Title of Queen's Sergeant. He is said to have been a very able lawyer and of much service to the Government, but with a reputation for unscrupulousness in his methods of extracting information. He is alleged to have used the rack to obtain evidence against the Duke from his agent, Bannister.

Perhaps it was to celebrate his advancement that the Corporation made the gift to their Recorder which is entered in the Chamberlain's accounts for 1567-68 "Item for two capons and a turkey, given to Mr. Sergeant Barham, 4/6d." He was also accorded an honourable place in the parish church. In 1570 Nicholas caused five pews to be erected at the east end of the south aisle of All Saint's, and the Town Council granted him exclusive use of these pews, and one other, for himself and his family. In return he undertook to repair and maintain the great window above the pews, presumably the easternmost window of the south aisle. He was only four in family, but he must have supported a considerable household to be able to occupy six pews.

At the second Heraldic Visitation of Kent in 1574, Nicholas Barham registered his coat-of-arms which was that of the Wadhurst Barhams; the three bears supple­mented by the fess, fleur-de-lis and martlets, and as a crest the stork in the bulrushes. He can hardly be said to have recorded a pedigree, for he contented himself with the naming of his father, Richard Barham of 'Browns'. I am inclined to suspect that it was his newly acquired honours which entitled him to enrol himself among the arms-bearing gentry. Perhaps his acquaintance with the vener­able family at Teston whose surname he shared suggested the adoption of their time honoured armorial bearings with the addition of the difference as an admission that his claim to common descent was not without doubt. We have seen that in Wadhurst the Barhams showed a preference for the insignature of the Courthopes, as if either they had not heard of Nicholas’ coat-of-arms, or were suspicious of it. Three only of the Barham memorials at Wadhurst display these arms in full with the difference and crest; old Mr. William Barham of Scragoak boldly claims the three bears undifferenced, and as if to underline his claim, has them repeated twice on his slab.

Nicholas Barham was clearly marked up for a seat on the judge's bench, but his career was cut short by death. At the Oxford Assizes in 1577, he conducted the prosecution of a Roman Catholic bookseller for alleged sedition. The bookseller was convicted, and sentenced to lose both his ears, but fate avenged him. From the crowded courthouse of this, the Black Assize, an epidemic of gaol-fever broke out which carried off many victims, including the Queen's Sergeant. Nicholas Barham died on the 25th July 1577.

On the day before his death Nicholas signed his will, in which he appointed as his executors his wife, and Thomas Barham of Teston, a further indic­ation that the kinship between the two families was recognised on both sides. A year before - in 1576 - the two families had been associated in the draw­ing up of a tripartite deed of settlement between Nicholas Barham of Chillington, James Barham of Teston, and Thomas, James' son and heir. The two principals were extensive landowners, and it is quite likely that they had interests, and perhaps boundaries in common.

At his death Nicholas was possessed of large estates. In addition to Chillington Manor, his principal restage in Maidstone, and 'Dygons’, he owned quarries, the locations unknown, perhaps at Boughton, Springfield Grove, the manor of Hall Place in Barming, Lee Park in Boxley, Copthall, and other lands in Cobham, and houses and lands in Charing, Egerton, Luds­stone and Nurstead. Nicholas went further afield for a wife than had been the custom of his tribe, for he married a Cheshire lady, Mary Holt, who survived until 1597. On the occasion of a subsidy in 1585 'Widow Barham' was assessed at £3 on lands. There were two children, Arthur and Margaret. Both were married in their father's lifetime, Margaret in 1564 to a legal gentleman Peter Knott of Gray's Inn at St. Andrew's Holborn; and Arthur in 1574 to Jane, a daughter of Richard Chamber of Charing.

The arms and pedigree of Arthur Barham, the heir, were registered at the fourth Visitation of Kent, in 1619-1621. At that time he appeared to have three sons, Nicholas, Richard and Edward, and one or two daughters. A daughter Anne was married to Throwley in 1634. There is no clue to the destiny of the other children. At the fifth Visitation of Kent in 1638, the name of Barham does not appear. After his accession to his father's property, Arthur Barham became involved in a dispute with the Corporation, respecting the right of the latter to the use of the Old Chapel of St. Faith. During the Middle Ages Maidstone had possessed in addition to the parish church, a 'free Chapel', dedicated to St. Faith, on the site of modern church of that name adjoining Chillington Manor. This chapel with its churchyard had been appropriated to the Crown at the Reformation, and had subsequently been purchased by the Town. The Corporation had then sold it to the Maplesdens, who owned the neighbouring Chillington estate, but with the reservation that the town should retain the right to use part of the churchyard for interments, and the chapel for funeral services. The building, with its acre of land, came to the posses­sion of Nicholas Barham with the rest of the change in property. The right to the corporation had apparently been disregarded, for it is recorded later that a slaughter house had been erected on part of the burying ground, and that Mr. Sergeant Barham had laid out a great part thereof and impaled it for burial, and his wife in his absence at the term laid it open again. Apparently the Queen's Sergeant wished to appropriate the plot as a family burial ground, but his wife disapproved, and took the opportunity of her husband's absence in London on professional business to remove the fence. However that may be, the corporation drew the attention of the heir on his accession to the terms of the original agreement, whereupon we learn, Arthur Barham, upon the view of the original grant from the town wherein the reservation was made, "did tear and rent the same in pieces". Nevertheless he was persuaded or compelled to sign a document in 1578, in which he recognised the right of the Town to use the remains of the chapel, and part of the land for burials.

Some time after his encounter with the Corporation, but at a date which can no longer be determined, Arthur Barham sold both Chillington and Dygons to Henry Hall, a gentleman of Wye. The sale certainly took place before 1610, for in that year the Corporation were again in dispute with the new owner of Chillington about the right to use the churchyard of St. Faith, and there was litigation with the latter Hall, on the same subject in 1625. I am unable to say what induced Arthur Barham to dispose of his inheritance, and where he made his home after doing so. In fact he passes out of history.

This abruptly ends the story of Richard Barham of 'Browns', and of his famous son and obscure grandson, but there is a curious postscript to the chronicle of the Queen's Sergeant. In the Archives of the Corporation of Hastings there is preserved a letter of legal advice, addressed to Lord Cobham, the Warden of the Cinque Ports, which is concerned with the right to wreckage on the coast between Hastings and Pevensey. This letter bears the signature of Nicholas Barham, and it has been assumed that this was the Nicholas Barham of Chillington Manor, but as the letter is dated 1599, more than 20 years after the death of the Queen's Sergeant, either it must have been dictated by his ghost, or we must assume that there was more than one Nicholas Barham in the law. This is a reminder that there may have been far more Barhams of high or low degree, than we have any record of. There was in fact another Nicholas Barham living in Maidstone in 1598, but he was a draper, and his name appears in a list of Free­men of the Town in that year. Commenting on the Hastings letter, the 'Dictionary of National Biography remarks, "that the Barhams were a numerous tribe in Kent and Sussex, and that Nicholas was a favourite name amongst them".

Although it does not properly belong to my subject, I will conclude this section with a brief note of the subsequent history St. Faith, which had proved a bone of contention between and the Barhams and their successors.

According to Hasted the old building was used as a place of worship by Protestant refugees from the Low Countries, until Archbishop Lord dis­persed the congregation in 1634. After being closed for a time it was again used for worship by a congregation of Presbyterian dissenters, who continued to meet there until 1735, when they built for themselves a Meeting House off Earl Street, the present Unitarian Church, whose congregation dates from the ejection of 1662. Hasted adds that at the date off writing, (the latter part of the 18th century,) part of the old chapel was in occupation as a dwelling house, and the rest as a boarding school for young ladies, after it had had served for some time as an assembly room.

From Roman times, and indeed still earlier ages, iron had been extracted from the ore, ore carbonate, to be found in the clays and sands of the Weald, in Sussex, Kent and Surrey by the comparatively simple, but laborious and inefficient process known as 'blooming', a process similar in some respects to charcoal burning, which is still practised by some African tribesmen. The ore, which was called 'mye', was dug from shallow pits generally in the formation known as the Wadhurst Clay. A pile of mye and charcoal was built upon a hearth, and covered with a layer of clay, provided with vent-holes. The pile was set on fire, and heat was maintained by means of bellows operated by hand or some simple form of water power, until the ore, or some of it had been reduced to metallic iron. When the operation was complete the pile was broken up, the product, ­a spongy lump or 'bloom' of iron mixed with cinder, was extracted. The bloom had then to be beaten upon an anvil until the cinder had been removed, leaving a mass of malleable iron, which was in fact wrought iron.

Towards the close of the fifteenth century a more efficient method of iron smelting, which had been invented on the continent, was introduced from France to England. The new method required the erection of a tall chimney ­like furnace, a blast furnace, which was charged with a mixture of mye and charcoal, and fired. A strong blast of air was maintained by a pair of huge bellows generated by water-power, and the temperature so obtained would melt the iron completely from the ore. The molten iron, and the lighter slag which floated on the surface of the iron, were drawn off at separate openings. The 'metal so produced was cast iron which could be run into moulds to form a variety of articles, 'such as, fire backs, which are to be found on the open hearths of old houses and in antique dealers shops; and especially cannon and cannon-balls. This iron however was too brittle to be worked until it had undergone a further process which converted it into wrought iron. For this, the 'bars', or ingots of cast iron known as 'sows' were reheated in a forge and beaten on an anvil by heavy hammers, which like the bellows were operated by water-power. Sometimes the furnace and forge were worked together, but often they were separate undertakings. The new blast furnaces were much more efficient than 'the old style bloomery, in extracting the maximum amount of metal from the ore, but far more capital was required for the building and maintenance of the furnaces, and for the damming of streams to make 'hammer-ponds' needed for the supply of water-power. The Weald was well suited to the development of the new industry for besides possessing ore in abundance; it had a wealth of timber for conversion to charcoal, and innumerable streamlets and gills to feed the hammer-ponds.

Mr. FitzGerald-Uniacke quotes Mark Anthony Lower 'The Ironworks of County Sussex', in Sussex Archaeological Collections, Vol. II, for the tradition that John Barham, the ironmaster, built the celebrated furnace between Lamberhurst and Bayham Abbey, which is said to have provided the railings around St. Paul's Cathedral, and which later received the title of 'Gloucester Furnace', but Mr. Straker was unable to find any evidence to support this tradition. He says that the first owners of the Gloucester Furnace were a family of the name of Collin, and that the connection with the Barhams was indirect only, a sister-in-law of one of them being married to William Benge, who rebuilt the furnace in 1695. I shall deal with this matter in its appropriate place. It appears that the original John Barham operated forges, and not furnaces, and that his activities began about 1521, in which year he purchased from Humphrey Lukenall the two forges of 'Rooklands' and 'Verage' with the neighbouring 'Bartley Mill', a corn-grind­ing water-mill.

The two forges which remained Barham property for the rest of their active life were situated between the parishes of Wadhurst and Frant, and about two miles east of Frant Village in a deep and romantic valley, through which flows one of the headwaters of the river Teise. The woods of Bayham Abbey rise steeply above the valley, and the names of the forges are perpetuated in the names of ‘Brookland Wood’ and 'Verage Wood " but no traces of them or their hammer-ponds remain. The pond bay of the Brookland forge is believed to have been destroyed when the Tonbridge to Hastings Railway was constructed. Bartley Mill is still in existence, but today it is only a farmhouse.

John Barham, the owner of Brookland and Verage forges, died sometime before 19th June 1555, the date on which his will was proved. In his will, he left his wife an annuity upon lands in Lamberhurst, and some rights of residence in the Woodlands House. He had five sons; Nicholas, John of Faircrouch, Thomas of Boughton Monchelsea, Richard of Lamberhurst Mill and Wateringbury, and Robert of Lamberhurst. There was also a daughter Alice.

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