The Name and Family of Barham

by Sydney Pay Barham

Chapter Six


Our story of the de Berhams begins with Robert, who in the latter part of the 12th century was in possession of two manors called Barham, or Barham Court, one situated in the parish of Barham near Canterbury; the other in the parish of Teston, on the Medway near Maidstone. Whether this man was a descendant of Wulnoth de Bereham who appears among the Knights of the Archbishop in the monks Domesday, a century before; or whether he owed his estates to his kinship with the banished FitzUrse is a question that must remain unanswered. I think that Robert de Berham must have been a newcomer to Teston, and that he bought his name with him from his original home in Barham and applied it to his manor. Unlike its namesake at Barham, Barham Court at Teston had no connection with the Archbishop of Canterbury. It had owed the overlordship of Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux and Earl of Kent, and after his disgrace had passed to other overlords, including the Priory of Christ Church in Canterbury. At a later date the Tudor Queen Mary granted the overlordship of this, and many other estates in Kent, to her famous, or infamous Attorney General, Sir John Baker of Sissinghurst, whose acquaintance we shall make when we hear the story of the Barhams of that place.

Robert de Berham remains a shadowy figure. The next bearer of the name we can identify, and who heads the line in Mr. FitzGerald Uniacke's article, is Warine de Berham. He appears as party to a fine dated 15th July in the 5th year of King John, 1203. Under the feudal system, a fine had not it's modern significance of monetary penalty, but it meant the settlement - FINIS- of a legal case or claim. The fine was a legal device taking the form of a fictitious lawsuit to effect the conveyance of land in circumstances in which the current system made the transaction difficult. A tripartite document was drawn up, one part being held by each of the parties, while the third part, or foot, a note on the terms of the settlement, was entered for record purposes. Feet or fines are a useful source of information for historians. The fine in question concerns sixty acres of land at Hammis, that is the present village of Ham near Sandwich , held at one eighth of a Knight's fee which was then conveyed from Robert de Ham to Warine de Berham. In a return made to the Sheriff of Kent in 1210, the same Warine de Berham is shown as holding from the Archbishop by Knights Service, lands in Barham of half a Knights fee. These lands were of course those of Barham Court . Warine de Berham may have been the son or grandson of the original Robert.

Next in succession was Warine's son, Gilbert de Berham. Gilbert took to wife Lucy, the daughter of Thomas de Ocholt. By her he had three sons- Henry, Warine, and a second Gilbert. The elder Gilbert and his wife were parties to several fines in respect to lands at Barham and the neighbourhood between 1246 and 1249, during the reign of Henry III. He died before 25th July 1255, for at that date his widow had married again. A charter which is unfortunately undated in the archives of Canterbury Cathedral testifies that Gislibitus -Gilbert- son of Warine de Berham granted of the Prior and Convent of Christ Church the rent charge upon lands at Barham, for lights and other uses at the alter of the Blessed Mary in the nave of the Church, that is, of the Cathedral, which was served by the monks of the Priory of Christ Church. The witnesses to this Charter include Thomas de Ocholt, Gilbert's father-in-law; Ralph de Berham, a kinsman otherwise unknown, and Robert de Ham, whose name we have already met. This pious donation was perhaps an act of expiation for a tragedy in which Gilbert de Berham, or his son of the same name had been involved. He had been so unfortunate as to kill his neighbour, Richard de Tappington, with a lance in a joust. Tappington Hall, which will be familiar to every reader of the Ingoldsby Legends, is a pleasant old residence standing near the village of Denton on the road from Folkestone to Canterbury . Many centuries after Gilbert's time this place by turn of fate came into possession of the author of the legends - Richard Harris Barham, of whom more hereafter. Jousts and tournaments were regarded with great disfavour by Henry III, and it appears that proceedings were begun against Gilbert for the involuntary homicide. However, an entry in the patent rolls for the 28th year of the King - 1243-1244 recorded the granting to him on the condition that he made his peace with the relatives of the victim, and an injunction to the Sheriff to return any of his goods that were taken away.

Gilbert was succeeded by his son, Henry de Berham, who paid an aid on the lands he had inherited from his father at Barham on the occasion of the knighting of Prince Edward, afterwards Edward I, in 1254. Ten years later Henry de Berham was found taking part in a barons war between Henry III under Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester, as did also Richard de Berham, whom Mr. Fitzgerald Uniacke thinks may have been Henry's nephew. The revolt, after its initial success was put down after the battle of Evesham in 1265, but it does not appear that Henry de Berham suffered any penalty for his part in the rebellion. He lived on until the beginning of the reign of Edward I, dying sometime before 1276.

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