DOVER KENT ARCHIVES

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OUR VILLAGES AT THE BEGINNING OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY AND NOW. (1901)

THE DOVER EXPRESS AND EAST KENT NEWS—FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 1901.

XV. POULTON.

A PECULIAR PARISH

Poulton can only by courtesy be included in the list of “Our Villages,” for, after extensive perigrinations in the valley, and on its overlooking hill, we could find no village.

 

Poulton—Past and Present.

We found but two farmsteads, one in Poulton Valley and one at St. Radigunds, and two brickfields at St. Radigunds, which, whether technically within the parish limits, are the industrial features of the district. Poulton has no church, but there is in the valley a stone which marks the site where the parish church of St. Mary stood there until the year 1523; and there is on the hill the picturesque ruins of the Abbey of St. Radigund’s, which have historical associations of great interest. Poulton, although destitute of modern features of interest, has a wealth of memories; to-day it has no church, no parson, no place of public worship of any kind, and apparently is burdened with no tithes, yet the time was when it had a church, and when there was within ita boundaries one of the largest and richest ecclesiastical establishments in the county. Great have been the changes at Poulton, and as we walk through its now deserted fields and its silent woods, “sic transit gloria” (so the glory)  seems to echo in the solitudes.

 

Poulton Valley.

But let us hasten to say that at Poulton we did not find it all barren. For instance, we found one of the most lovely valleys that England can produce. A winding road is margined by fertile fields, sloping up to woods luxuriant in verdure. The whole face of the country west of Dover has at some far-away period been furrowed deep by some natural forces, volcanic or alluvial, leaving a succession of ridges and ravines, from Shakespeare’s Cliff to Ewell Minnis, all debouching on the Dour Valley at the one end, and at the other all merging in the ridge which overlooks Alkham. The particular ravine in which Poulton lies is known at the Dover end as Buckland Bottom, further up it lies the Dover Union Workhouse and Coombe Farm, bounded on the south by Diggle’s ridge and on the north by Shooter’s Hill. After passing Coombe, the valley grows in romantic beauty, and its serpentine windings give a continuous charm of novelty.

 

The Land and the People.

The land of Poulton parish is estimated at 720 acres, and its gross estimated rental 1,377. The parish is divided into sixteen holdings, the two largest of which are Poulton Farm, 313 acres, the property of Mr. G. C. Wilson, and St. Radigund’s, 318 acres, the property of Mrs. Sayer. Eythorne Chapel Trustees own Friends Hill, Major R. B. Lawes owns Bramble Hill and Little Soril, and the other landowners are Geo. Pepper’s Exors., Mr. J. Morris, Miss Sladen, Mr. E. P. Coleman, Exors. of A. Grimes, and A. Leney & Co. The population of this parish has long ranged between 26 and 28 persons, but at the last census it had increased to 32, and there are five inhabited houses. The parish, in addition to having no church, no school, no in-door nor out-door poor, has no public house and no policeman. It will be seen that Poulton lacks many of the things considered indispensable in modern civilisation, but the people seem moderately happy without them.

 

History of Poulton.

Very few historians have taken any notice of Poulton. Hasted, however, is an exception. He says: This parish is so very obscurely situated amongst the hills, as to have escaped the notice of all our historians. It is very small, long, and irregularly narrow. The country and soil is much the same as Hougham, which it adjoins, excepting that it is still more wild, dreary, and romantic, indeed the most so of any in this county. At the time of the taking of the Domesday Survey this parish was part of the possessions of Hugo de Monfort, the entry being to this effect: “Herfrid held of Hugo, Polton. Ulwin held it of King Edward, and it was taxed at one suling. The arable land is two carucates. There are three villeins and a little church.” When Hugo was exiled the manor of Polton went into the hands of the King, Henry I., and was granted to Gregory, Earl of Perch, as the superior lord, from whom the manor was held by a family who took their surname from it. William de Polton and Sir Stephen de Polton are mentioned as owners of it in the register of St. Radigund’s Abbey, and in the reign of Henry III., Robert de Polton gave the manor to St. Radigund’s Abbey. These lands remained in the possession of the Abbey till the dissolution in the reign of Henry VIII. The estate was then granted by the King to private hands, and in the time of Charles II. it was held by Sir Basil Dixwell, of Brome, from whom it passed to the celebrated Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel. From that family it was sold to Mr. John Cunnick, of London, from whom it passed to the family of Mr. G. C. Wilson, its present owner. The manor of Bradsole, the present St. Radigund’s farm lands, was also given to the Abbey at the time of its establishment in 1191, and that, too, remained Abbey property till the dissolution. The Crown then took possession of the site and adjoining lands, which were granted to Lord Clinton, and in the reign of Elizabeth the Abbey was sold to Simon Edolph, Esq., who repaired the ruins and formed there a noble residence. He died there in 1597, and the place was inherited by his son, Sir Thomas Edolph, who died in 1645. Then it passed to Richard Chandler, and from him to his daughter, Mary, wife of George Sayer, and it has remained in the Sayer family ever since. Leland, in his Itinerary, thus describes St. Radigund’s as it was in his time. He says: S. Radegundis standeth on the toppe of a hille, iii little myles by the west and sumwhat by the south from Dovar. There be white chanons and the quire of the chyrch is large and fayr. The monaster ys at this time netely mayntayned, but yt appereth that yn tymes past the buildngs have been more ample than they be now. There is on the hille fayre wood, but fresch water laketh sumtyme.” Of the former church of St. Mary of Poulton Hasted says: The church, which was dedicated to St. Mary, was standing in 1523. There are now no remains of it, but on the site of it, in the bottom, about half a mile south from the Abbey, there is a stone set up with an inscription to perpetuate the memory of it and the place where it stood. The church was so small as to be named in Domesday Aecclesiola. It continued appendant to the manor of Polton till Stephen de Polton gave it to the Abbey in 1193. The church was served by the canons of the Abbey till its dissolution, and after that time, there being no parson or incumbent presented to it, the church fell into disuse and decay, and the tithes lapsed.

 

St. Radigund’s Abbey as it is.

The remains of St. Radigund’s Abbey as they now exist consist of some detached pieces of walls built of flints, and there are indications that these detached pieces formed part of extensive boundary walls which seem to have been defended by an entrance rampart and fosse. The walls are now mostly rased, and can only now be traced by the trenches which formed part of the outer protection. Passing these we come to the large square entrance gateway of two stories, still folly forty feet high, and about the same in breadth. On the left outerside of the archway is an enormous stem of old ivy, from which branches spread all over the structure. There is a postern beside the main entrance, a porter’s lodge and chambers, and two quadrangles, the outer being 40 feet by 27 feet, and the inner 65 feet in breadth. On the south side are some ancient domestic buildings of two stories, with a projecting porch and small chapel, built with a curious pattern of Caen stone. These, with a part of the north side, form the present farm house. On the east is the west front of the Minster, and on the west the crypt, a portion of which is beneath the parlour of the present residence. The ruins are very interesting, and the drive hither is a favourite one for Dover visitors.

 

Modern Industries.

Since the far-off days when the brethren of of St. Radigund’s occupied themselves in building and restoring the neighbouring churches, industries here have only included those connected with agriculture and wood-craft, until recently two brickfields have been opened near the Abbey—the one by Messrs. Lewis and Son, and the other by Mr. George Munro. Messrs. Lewis’s brickfield seems to be specially adapted for producing red bricks, which are used for ornamental work, while Mr. Munro is making a big output of the serviceable brick so largely used in the buildings now going on in Dover, including the New Forts on the Western Heights and the new gasholder in Union-road. It will be recollected that Leland in his account of St. Radigund’s, said that “water lacketh sumtyme.” That is just the difficulty which these brickfield proprietors met with when they proceeded to utilize the brick earth here. They had to sink wells very deep before they found the necessary water. Mr. Munro’s sinking was most successful, but he had to go to a depth of 420 feet before he obtained a satisfactory supply. On this well he now has a powerful pump at work, which not only supplies the water for his brickfield, but the Abbey and the adjoining brickfield also finds it useful. The brick-making season at St. Radigund’s has just come to a close, and judging from the large number there now burnt ready for sale and others ready to be burnt, the season must have been a very busy one.

 

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