The Name and Family of Barham

by Sydney Pay Barham

Chapter Seven


The heir of Henry de Berham, a second Henry, was a minor at the time of his father's death, and was admitted to his lands on the 1st of July 1279, when he performed homage and swore allegiance to his Overlord, Archbishop Peckham at Cranbrook. This is the first recorded contact between the family and Cranbrook, where during the later Middle Ages we find them in possession of the Manor of Sissinghurst. This manor was represented by the residence known as Sissinghurst Castle was situated near the Eastern border of the far flung parish of Cranbrook, about a mile from the hamlet of Milkhouse St. which about the middle of the last century borrowed the name of the manor, and is now known officially as Sissinghurst, and has an ecclesiastical parish of the same name.

The manor of Sissinghurst, originally Saxonhurst or something like that was held by the Saxonhurst family at least as late as the first half of the reign of Henry III, for in the 20th year of that King 1235-1236, John de Saxonhurst paid a feudal aid on the occasion of the marriage of the King's sister Isabella to the Emperor Frederick II. Presumably the de Saxonhurst line terminated in a daughter, who conveyed the manor of Sissinghurst together with the two dependant manors of Copton and Stone to the de Barham family by marriage. I do not know when this marriage took place but as Sissinghurst owned the Archbishop as Overlord, and as the second Henry performed homage to him at Cranbrook in 1279, it was possible that it was his father -the first Henry - who married the de Saxonhurst heiress.

The settlement of the de Berhams in Cranbrook coincided with town's rise in prosperity. Like other places in the Weald, it had been originally no more than a den - that is a woodland pasture for swine, appertaining to some manor situated in some more opulent part of the country. As such it had not been deemed worthy of a separate notice in the Conqueror's Domesday Book. Nevertheless it had a church at that time, for this together with other Wealden churches is mentioned in the Domesday of the Monks, but by 1289 it had become of sufficient importance for Archbishop Peckham who held the vows of the parish church of St. Dunstan to obtain a charter from King Edward I for the establishment of a market there. Peckham, a Franciscan Friar who became the Archbishop of Canterbury (1279-1292) and who derived his name from his birthplace, Petcham - now Patcham near Brighton; appears to have taken a special interest in Cranbrook. The fortune of the town was assured when in 1337 in pursuance of his policy of nurturing the ancient industry of croft-weaving, invited Flemish weavers to settle in the Weald to teach the inhabitants the improved art of manufacturing broadcloth. As a result of the King's policy, Cranbrook in the later Middle Ages and the Tudor period became a prosperous centre of the broadcloth industry.

There is a gap of nearly a half of a century between 1279 when the second Henry attained his majority and 1324 when we find reference to the third Henry de Berham, so we cannot be sure whether this Henry was a son or grandson of the second of the name. In the interval between the two Henrys we have to make room for a John de Berham who FitzGerald-Uniacke does not mention in his article, but whom Phillipot actually makes a great-grandson of the original Robert de Berham and the inheritor of the estate at Teston, a chronological impossibility. According to Hasted as well as Phillipot, this John de Berham was created a Public Notary of the Diocese of Canterbury. It appears that the Prior of the Christ Church, Henry de Eastry, equivalent in modern times to the Dean of Canterbury, had petitioned the Pope for the authority to create notaries for the dispatch of Church business and on receiving such authority had in about 1309 appointed three men to the office one of whom was John de Berham of the Diocese of Canterbury. The appointment seems to have been one of some honour, but for some reason that seems to have escaped us, the authority had been received through certain foreign potentates. The King, Edward II, resented this intermeddling of foreigners as an affront to his Royal Prerogative and about 1320 forbade the notaries to exercise their office within his realm.

Leaving this dubious John, we return to Henry de Berham, third of the name, Lord of Barham, Teston, and Sissinghurst. He was a person of distinction, for it is recorded that he was summoned as a Homo ad Armour - Man at Arms or Knight - to attend the great council of the Magnates of the Realm, held at Westminster in May 1324, during the brief period in which Edward appeared to have gained the upper hand in his struggle with the nobles. Three years after the holding of his great council, the unfortunate King was deposed, and murdered. The honours of Henry de Barham were increased during the reign of his son and successor Edward III. In 1339 he was commissioned by the Prior of Christ Church Canterbury to receive waifs and strays, the chattel of felons, and treasure trove pertaining to the Chapter. In the 20th year of Edward III (1346-47) Henry de Berham paid feudal aids to the King on the occasion of the Knighting of his eldest son Edward the Black Prince in respect of half a knight's fee which he held of the Arch-bishop in Barham, as also of his other lands in Kent , including his estate in Cranbrook . In 1349 according to the Christ Church Registers Henry was appointed Custos, or churchwarden of the church of St. Dunstan in Cranbrook . It was about this time that the practice began of appointing laymen to look after the temporal affairs of the parish churches in England . In 1352 Henry purchased from Queen Phillipa for £100 the custody of the lands of the deceased William de Lonaford in Sussex by which he acquired the feudal right of wardship merrage over the son and heir during his minority; a source of profit as I have explained above. Henry de Berham, third of the name, died about 1365, and his inheritance passed to his son Richard. He also left two daughters.

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