The buckhurst terrier
The Buckhurst Terrier was not a small Tudor dog, but a survey of land (in Latin “terra”) in the Withyham and Hartfield area made for Lord Buckhurst in 1598. Four hundred years later much of the landscape remains unchanged and can be explored on this walk around the beautiful Medway Valley. Plus Winnie the Pooh and Tigger too.
LENGTH – 8 miles
TIME – 5 hours
START – Hartfield Church, Church Street, Hartfield, TN7 4AG.
PARKING – On street parking in Hartfield.
TOILETS – No public toilets available.
REFRESHMENTS –Pubs at Hartfield and Withyham & village shop at Hartfield.
CAUTION – There’s a narrow bridge with no pavement towards the end of the walk.
This walk contains stiles.
For the area by the church, the Buckhurst Terrier gives the following entry: “the heirs of John Charlwood hold by deed a parcel of ground adjoining Hartfeild Churchyard. Rent 2s 1d”. The route leaves the churchyard past this plot and through a most unusual gate formed by part of Lych Gate Cottage which dates back to 1520.
“But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his bear will always be playing” wrote A A Milne the author of the “Winnie the Pooh” books. He lived at nearby Cotchford Farm, south of the village and close to a shorter walk from Hartfield leading to “Pooh Sticks” bridge. The same house was later the scene of the mysterious death of its new owner, Brain Jones of the Rolling Stones.
On the opposite side of the river is Hodore Farm where “Simon Wright alias Bowyer holds by deed lands called Howdore 150 acres”. The Terrier does not explain why he needed an alias. The same Simon had held Cotchford Farm in 1598, long before Milne and Jones.
Lower Parrock was the site of an ironworks and remains of the bank which dammed the Medway to form a hammer pond can still be seen. The works were opened in 1491, possibly operated by immigrant French workers bringing new skills to the industry (even though the cannon produced were used in wars against France). In 1547, a dispute broke out between the owner and the widow of the leaseholder which reached court. The widow claimed that the owner’s men had arrived to break the pond dam and let out all the water and that they did “pluck up iii bellowes being blowing in the orafyces and brake up the frame wherein they stode and carried them away”. They also “struck Christopher Trindall with a sword, and wounded John Walters and cut off one of the one fingers of Henry Heyward”. In contrast, the owner maintained that he came “in a peaceable manner”, but she had encouraged her son and nine men to attack him and that she “cryed out with a lowd voice downe wyth Greybearde, shoote, sley hym, sley hym”. Even just before the works closed in 1595, the Crown was refusing to pay the owner for guns supplied in another dispute about the alleged poor standard of the iron.
At the top of the hill the route passes through an area called Clays which was part of an estate owned by Thomas Turnor, yeoman, who owned 192 acres including “Claies Field, two Claies Crofts and Claies Wood”. His rent was £25 and “2 fat capons (castrated cocks) alive 1st August”. Apart from the considerable rent, the survival of the medieval custom of payment of chickens in kind is rare by this late a date.
On the left is the half-timbered Chartners Farm. In 1598 this was a major estate. “Edmund Herds, yeoman, holds messuage (house) and lands called Chartnes als Charknes and all that site and demeane (manor farmed) lands of the manor of Colbins. Rent £46 18s and 8 fat capons (castrated cocks) alive 1st October”. Due to the large number of capons received in rents from all the tenants throughout the year, the Terrier specifies different dates for payment to prevent the estate office being overrun with poultry.
The walk now passes across the Village Green, described in 1598 as “one p’cell of wast ground called Hartfeild Grene cont by estimacon 5ac” and often still used for grazing horses today.
To the north of the village are the slight remains of a Norman castle, a motte (earth mound) and bailey (surrounding yard) structure. Placed to guard the crossing of the Medway, it seems to have quickly fallen out of use. It is a puzzle that the well-established Roman road crossing of the Medway about ½ mile to the west, had apparently been abandoned by the time the castle was built. By the time of the Terrier: “Thos Woodgate, gent, holds one piece of meadow called The Neck of Castle field 2ac, rent 16s”. However, the main castle site had remained in the hands of one of the owner’s son “Richard Sackville Esqire, holds at will, Castle Fields, 29ac(res) 0r(ods) 3p(oles) of meadow
Just after the Terrier was written, Queen Elizabeth presented the patronage of Withyham church to Lord Buckhurst. However he didn’t have long to enjoy it since in 1663 the church was hit by lightening. The resultant fire destroyed the building and was so fierce that the bells melted. However, the church was rebuilt with a new family vault, including a monument to Buckhurst’s son, Thomas, who died before his father in 1675, aged 13, and is shown reclining on a slab contemplating his own skull in his hand.