In AD 804 Cenulf, or Coenwulf, of Mercia together with Cudred of Kent gave the abbey of St Augustine’s in Canterbury the manor of Lenham in Kent. There’s a bit of a back story in that Cenulf as the overhang had a bit of a problem painting overall sovereignty of Mercia in Kent and at one point had tried to move the chief English see from Canterbury to London. He gave up on the idea in 798 when he installed Curdred as King of Kent. Cudred was his brother.
The two of them gave 20 plough lands, 12 denns (wood) of acorns and 40 tenements to St Augustines. Or put another way they became patrons of the abbey. A further 5 plough lands were added at a later date when the monks extended the manor of Lenham.
The Domesday book reports:
In Haibornehundred, the abbot (of St. Augustine) himself holds Lenham, which was taxed at five shillings and an half. The arable land is eighteen carucates. In demesne there are two carucates, and forty villeins, with seven borderers, having sixteen carucates. There is one servant, and two mills of six shillings and eight pence, and eight acres of meadow, and wood for forty bogs.
In the time of king Edward the Confessor, it was worth twenty-eight pounds, and afterwards sixteen pounds, now twenty-eight pounds. Of this manor Robert Latin holds one yoke, which is worth five shillings.
To make clear the process by which the monks of St Augustine’s held on to the manor William the Conqueror (but not in Kent because they came to terms) held all the land but he returned the land which the monks of St Augustine’s had previously held but now they received the land in return to service to him- which to be clear meant that for every knight’s fee of land they held they were required to put one knight in the field if William so required.
The monks of St Augustine’s continued to to benefit from Plantagenet patronage throughout the medieval period.
Once the abbey was dissolved, the land effectively went into the administration of the Court of Augmentations. In this case, Lenham became Crown estate until Elizabeth I gave it to her very capable chief minister William Cecil who alienated it to Thomas Wilford.
Alienation means that the land was sold or transferred. Most land in alienable but it demonstrates that the ownership of the land has moved out from the feudal system. In a feudal system land is transferred by sub-infeudination i.e. the monarch would still be the tenant in chief and William Cecil would have been Elizabeth’s vassal. Thomas Wilford would have been a sub tenant and a vassal of William Cecil. This was not the case.
Wilford’s grandson passed the land to Sir Thomas Brown, Lord Montagu whose wife was a FitzAlan. We can see that once the land passed out of Crown ownership that the manor of Lenham transferred through inheritance, marriage or sale. The Montagu family alienated the manor to the Hamilton family – specifically the widow of Sir George Hamilton. Elizabeth Hamilton’s maiden name was Colepepper or Culpepper. I am currently not going to chase down the links with the Thomas Culpepper who was executed in 1541. Suffice it to say that the Culpeppers were an important part of Kent’s gentry.
Edward Hasted, ‘Parishes: Lenham’, in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5 (Canterbury, 1798), pp. 415-445. British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/survey-kent/vol5/pp415-445 [accessed 29 November 2020].