Local History of Chilham Parish










We wonder how many local historians have seen this brick . It is as easy to see as a thrushes nest in the hedgerow & is passed by many pilgrims on the way from Chilham to Godmersham.


 The Parish of Chilham is brimming with history. You’ve only got to look at the buildings, many of them 500 or even 600 years old. Our heritage, however, consists not only of the buildings but of the people who have lived and worked in them over the centuries.

 Where could you learn about these families, where they lived, what they did for a living, when and how their houses were built and altered as time went by or what roads they took to nearby towns? The answers to many of these questions exist but are at present not easy to get at, as they are buried in historical archives held by various organisations and individuals in the Parish. Work has started on the cataloguing of all the records, pictures and maps that are held by the Chilham Society and in another substantial archive but this is only the first stage.

 Other villages in Kent have set up successful Heritage Centres, where selected material relating to their buildings, families and earlier history are exhibited on a permanent basis for the benefit and interest of the local people and as an attraction for visitors. With the wealth of history in our Parish, should we not consider having our own Chilham Parish Heritage Centre?

 The first step would have to be a careful study of the feasibility of the project, to look into such questions as the premises where it might be located, the security of the exhibits, the type and presentation of the material, the finance needed and, in due course, the management of the Heritage Centre.

 There is already a small core of interested people who would be able to make some contribution towards the Feasibility Study but a Project Leader is urgently needed to manage and direct the study in its entirety, to ensure that all the angles are covered and, above all, to see it through to a conclusion.

 Anyone, whether they live in the Parish or not, who feels that they could devote some time and thought to this leadership role or would like contribute to the work of the Feasibility Study, is invited to contact  Tom Reed (01227 730258)

 A Chilham Parish Heritage Centre would be an asset to the Parish but it needs a leader and a supporting cast to get it off the ground.

Photos around Chilham

Chilham Square - Oh to see it without cars  and full of life!

The Gift Shop - Part of the Talisman group The Copper Kettle - have a tea and cake in a wonderful place.
Chilham Antiques The White Horse - nice pub facing the square and Castle gates. 
The Woolpack - stay and eat lovely food in a comfortable place. Old Forge Garage - car problems then have it fixed here.

Contributed by Mr. Pool a resident of Mountain Street Chilham 2003

 Life before Money

Take a walk in any recently ploughed field in the River Stour Valley between Ashford and Canterbury and it is virtually certain that you will find indications of earlier human activity or occupation. Digging. up an early Stone-Age Handaxe in the garden sparked my interest and imagination and soon led to a greater enthusiasm about what might be found both locally and further afield.

Retirement meant more time for field walking, reading about the past, and experience of what might be clues worth investigating. For example oyster and other shells, animal bones or teeth, heat fractured stones along with the odd humanly struck flint flakes or blades would be sound indicators. Time and effort would then determine what the site had to offer.

This has led to my finding a considerable quantity of ‘waste’ flint flakes, part of the manufacturing process of much Neolithic, some Mesolithic and very occasional Palaeolithic ‘finds’ - see illustrations.

If you fancy your luck, make sure you get permission from the owner for a wander around their field. Sooner or later you will find something of real interest. Note the details of where and how, and advise the local museum or the Canterbury Archaeological Trust.

On finding my Stone-Age Axe, inevitably I was asked how much it was worth - but just re-read the title. You cannot put a price on thinking who handled it last. What did the man, woman or child look like? In what sort of wilderness environment? Food, clothes, shelter - basic needs for survival? The questions are endless?

How on earth did they get on without celebrities and TV Soaps? Perhaps they could claim there were pretty important considerations, both individually and collectively, to deal with. Lives of their own so to speak.  

Contributed by Mr. Pool a resident of Mountain Street Chilham 

The “French” Mill at Chilham

 The LOST LANDSCAPES GROUP sought to generate a greater knowledge and understanding of the history of the local landscape surrounding the North Downs Way and amongst others, visited Chilham Mill and Juliberrie’s Grave.

 Landscapes, past, present and future cannot be seen in isolation, but constantly change, develop and evolve, mainly as a result of human activity.  For instance, Mid Kent Water are now using the Chilham Mill complex for water extraction, a far cry from the production of flour, etc., which had gone on previously for well over a thousand years.

 The ever-changing environmental situation, such as global warming, should disturb any complacent assumptions that the water now extracted at the mill will flow with detached reliability from our taps for centuries to come.

 Anyway, the question had been asked – Why is Chilham Mill sometimes referred to as a “French” Mill? – some clues follow 

 In the 11th century, 1086 to be precise, the Domesday Book, an Inventory of England, unique in medieval history and thanks to the Norman Conquest, says that there were 6 ½ mills in Chilham!  Odd, until you learn these are mill wheels, almost certainly all part of one mill.  The “half” is explained by a seventh wheel under construction.  There were also 5 ½ mills in Chartham.

 Camden’s Brittania Kent described the valley of the Rive Stour from Ashford to the sea as very marshy and susceptible to frequent flooding.  This was 1586.

 In 1778 Hasted’s Kent referred to the Chilham Corn Mill as -  “Long known by the name French Mill.”

 There is a well documented record of a mill in Chartres in France in a remarkably similar environment to that in Chilham – marshy and subject to flooding.  It was constructed on huge wooden piles with little or no permanent foundation, built to last 100 to 150 years at most.  The timber piles rotted away in the waterlogged soil.  Floods were a recurring danger.  Vibrating machinery and intermittent heavy loading weakened the structure.

Friction between the grinding stones might spark off a fire which could spread with an explosive force through the dust-laden air.  Sagging floors and walls were strengthened with iron straps.

 The intentional burning of mills was not unheard of in order to get a replacement from the Lord of the Manor.  A Health and Safety initiative a little before it’s time?

 Since history books provided almost too much information about us and society over the many centuries during which those French Mills were no doubt at the centre of local economies, a very few inadequate but revealing insights during a limited period must suffice.  Remember that “education” was a privilege of the very few – the Lords and the Clergy, the Aristocracy and Administrators, and few others.

 From school we remember St. Thomas Becket, also the Black Death which slashed the population by up to fifty percent, (including the newly consecrated Archbishop of

Canterbury).  School did not tell me that this bubonic plague, in the long term, undermined labour-intensive arable farming, raised wages and even led to occasional paid holidays!  ’Tis an ill wind.  

 Matthew Parris, a monastic chronicler of that time declared “The case of historical chroniclers is hard, for if they tell the truth they provoke man, and if they write what is false they offend God.”  Journalists of the gutter-press face no such dilemmas today.

 Around that medieval period the Bishop of Lincoln forbade the clergy to haunt taverns, to share in drinking bouts, or to mix in the riot and debauchery of the life of the Baronage. 

Needless to say such prohibitions are witness to the prevalence of the activities they denounce.  The afore-mentioned press could have managed a six-page spread – except that most people couldn’t read.

 Threads of decency existed, including the activities of a certain St Francis of Assisi, who, whilst striving to reconcile knowledge with orthodoxy (science with religion today perhaps), preached real sanctity against false sanctity, combated the teaching of lies with the teaching of truth, enjoyed a mystical piety and an imaginative enthusiasm.  According to Green’s “Short History of the English People”, Francis’ life falls like a stream of tender light across the darkness of the time, and mentions that in the frescoes of Giotto and the verses of Dante we see him take poverty as his bride!  Any current parallels?

 Francis sought a complete reversal of the monasticism experienced hitherto, seeking personal salvation in effort for the salvation of his fellow man.  A revolutionary reformer of his time if ever there was one.

 A modest booklet introduces tourists and others to a brief history of Chilham and the Castle and reflects diverse and conflicting interests at a “higher” level  ---

 Isobel, widow of the Earl of Athol, died in 1292, Chilham passing to her son John who, living up to the fashion of the period, was executed for treason.

 Edward II thereupon granted Chilham to Bartholomew de Badlesmere, but Badlesmere very shortly lost his head for the same reason as his predecessor, and his estates, including Chilham, reverted to the Crown.

Edward III, possibly repenting his father’s over-indulgenced with the axe granted

Chilham back to Bartholomew’s  son Gyles de Badlesmere who died childless.  Margery his sister married Lord Roos, and their heir had the misfortune to support the House of

Lancaster and was executed on the accession of Edward IV – and so on.

It may be that those who ran the village in these troubled times, including the Miller at the French Mill, made sure they reflected any changes amongst their “betters”.  To keep his job the Miller might amend his politics, his allegiances and not least, his religion to maintain his position.  He might suggest to his apprentice – “Make sure you keep your mouth shut lad and when His Lordship is around, no more of that pulling a forelock a bit to the Left, or you’re out.”  We can be thankful that all such prejudices were left firmly in the Middle Ages!

Peasant families who worked plots on the Manorial Estates would hand over produce in lieu of rent and make themselves available for work, as required by His Lordship, at harvest time for instance.  Menfolk would be trained to serve in any military adventure.

 Incidentally, game birds were the property of the Lord of the Manor and anyone caught killing a pheasant for instance, risked having a hand or arm cut off.

Not surprisingly, simmering discontent led to the peasants revolt of 1381 when, according to the historian Dr. A. Jessop ----

         “No tenant could take his corn to be ground anywhere except the Lord’s Mill.  It is easy to see what a grievance this would be at the time, and how the Lord of the Manor, if he were really unscrupulous or extortionate, might grind the faces of the poor while he ground their corn.”

 So, for centuries, Chilham Mills were usually managed by the Lord of the Manor as agent of Crown or Church.  The Miller retained a proportion of the grain as payment or tax. 

The peasants used the mill on a first come first served basis with the proviso that the Lord enjoyed precedence and he alone paid no tax.  And quite right too – said every Lord of the Manor!

 Chilham Mills would have been hugely important to the locality and it’s economic structure.  Mills of French design may have existed here from the 12th to 18th centuries. 

It’s good and lucky that the present mill is being well looked after, “French” though it isn’t.

An all-party parliamentary committee has been discussing our heritage, history and archaeology, etc., and a Conservative MP speaking on TV reported their conclusions –

That much had been lost or destroyed forever, but that what is left must be identified and saved before that too is lost.  Humanity has a million issues to deal with and they are being talked about interminably, but the key is to take decisive action, otherwise our grandchildren and their grandchildren will not only learn of our lack of foresight and complacency but will curse us for our lack of drastic and serious action.

Two and a half thousand years ago Confucius suggested – STUDY THE PAST IF YOU WOULD DEVINE THE FUTURE – so the Lost Landscapes Group, anxious to take good advice, moved a short distance to Juliberries’ Grave.

 “There is a lovely places in the woods by Chilham in the Count of Kent, above the River Stour, where a man comes across an irregular earthwork still plainly marked upon the brow of the bluff . . . . . .  Where the British stood against the charge of the Tenth Legion, and first heard, sounding on their bronze, the  Arms of Caesar.  Here the River was forded . . . . . .  here the Barbarian broke and took his way, as the opposing General has recorded, through devious woodland paths, scattering in the pursuit!  Here begins the great history of England.  Is it not an enormous business merely to stand in such a place?”

                                                                 Hillaire Belloc

 And as today’s visitors peer at the almost indistinguishable mound, overgrown, neglected and hardly reflecting Belloc’s words, we get a glimpse of today’s unenthusiastic respect for a rare prehistoric monument, more important for the earliest progress of Stone Age men and women than the Roman Legions, the most effective killing machines to date.

Juliberries Grave at Chilham

 Amongst various myths and legends it is suggested that a Roman general Juliber is buried here.  In fact it’s a Neolithic, New Stone Age, burial mound.  In archaeological terms a Long-barrow.

 Over several centuries treasure seekers, now more aptly referred to as grave-robbers including Wildman, occupant of Chilham Caste in the early 18th century, dug randomly into the long-barrow, recording nothing of any scientific interest or value.

More skillful excavation, examination and recording in 1936 – 1938 revealed  -

 Humanly struck flint cores, flakes and scrapers and a fine but damaged polished flint axe of a type characteristic of the Nordic Regions of Scandinavia, North Germany and Holland.  There in use at about 2000 BC.

 About AD 50 Romans used the mound for four burials, originally marked by a cairn of flints.

  And eight late 4th century Roman coins.

 The 1987 hurricane felled several large trees in the vicinity revealing more Neolithic flint material and small piece of human skull and bone.  Very recent field walking around the long-barrow has produced even more flint cores, flakes, blades and scrapers – mostly Neolithic. 

Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic peoples inhabited this Stour River Valley and it’s surroundings.  We have the evidence, stone tools and artefacts.

 The earliest of our ancestors, who could have been here a couple of hundred thousand years ago or more, were hunter-gathers, leading a nomadic existence in a wilderness environment.  Small groups moved along coasts and river valleys, exploiting local food sources -–plants, berries, roots, animals, fish, birds, creating temporary shelters where no caves existed.  They made and used tools of stone, bone, wood, antler and any other raw material that met their needs.  Little other than flint has survived, and whilst there was a gradual evolution in hand-axe manufacture for instance, they knew little of crops and livestock, whilst pottery and metal were unheard of.

It was during the Mesolithic and more particularly the Neolithic, the latest Stone age that change accelerated.  They benefited from an additional migration of peoples from Southern Europe who proved culturally ahead, so that small settled communities developed, tilling the land and harvesting crops, keeping and breeding livestock, domesticating horses and dogs, cooking with pots and pans, building shelters and homes, hunting with ever more sophisticated weapons and tactics, using spears and harpoons, bows and arrows, nets and snares.  All subscribing to a more secure existence and healthier and longer lives – for humans at least.  Homo Sapiens, man who is wise, had evolved into the dominant species.  Until then it had been a case of adaptive evolution for all species, including humans.

 We are unique in that we have not only eliminated mammoths, sabre-tooth tigers and a million other species, but are now rushing headlong towards eliminating ourselves and most of us are beginning to realise it but are not yet doing what we must to reverse the trend.

 It seems that our Stone Age ancestors did not abuse their dominance except where survival was threatened.  They respected other living creatures and the environment they all shared – perhaps something from which we could learn.

 As mentioned elsewhere Stone Age peoples were not encumbered by such modern civilised essentials as Celebrities, Cosmetic Surgery, Beckham, Nationalism, the 100 Share Index, Nuclear Weapons and Third World Debt, to mention a few.  Clearly, they co-operated and depended on each other to a high degree, whilst individuals stood out and were respected for their wisdom, creativity, experience and leadership and deserved special treatment in death as well as life.  What more prestigious than a Long-barrow, a lasting monument for real heroes and heroines of their time.

 Who would qualify for such honour today?  Nelson Mandela, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu and a few others would qualify to join St Francis of Assisi, but their lives were monument enough anyway.

 I am indebted to a young lady who, many months ago, asked if I would talk to a group about Palaentology.  I readily agreed but hurried home to consult the dictionary on both the spelling and what it meant!

 Simple really – the study of extinct organisms, from fossils to humans.

 Glad I was asked, not least for the need to reassess what we mean by civilisation and progress.  I have developed a considerable respect for our Stone Age friends. 

A famous prophecy by the Cree Indians seems appropriate – 

“Only after the last tree has been cut down, 
only after the last river has been poisoned,
only after the last fish has been caught,
only then will you find that money cannot be eaten.”

           I submit that “Homo Sapiens Sapiens”, man who is doubly wise, assumes too much by far.  Today, he is less wise and civilised than our Stone Age friends, who thought quickly and acted decisively where necessary, in the interests of the community!


Submitted by Don Poole

Mountain Street Chilham Kent


“I’ll Be Dead By Then!”

My Father never said – “Don’t talk about religion, politics or the environment.  It only causes trouble”.  At considerable risk I’ll mention the last-named.

Every month and sometimes every week, evidence is emerging which links carbon emissions with a very real threat of disasters affecting not only people, but all life on Earth.

In the journal ‘Nature’, scientists have made it clear that a whole variety of plant and animal species are already doomed.  Every extinction has knock-on consequences for other life forms.  It can’t be an exact science but the indications are that from 15% to a frightening 37% of a whole range of land plants and animals will be well on the way to extinction, not in the next 500 years, but in the next 50 years.

Even more recently a large group of scientists warned that Arctic temperatures have risen in the last 50 years at almost twice the speed of the global average.  A further rise of up to 7º C could occur by the year 2100.  Permafrost, once regarded as the most solid foundation for any development, is thawing.  In several countries with boundaries fringing the Arctic, buildings are subsiding or collapsing.  The wildlife including polar bears and seals are in increasing trouble from the inevitable ecological disturbance, the shrinking habitat and of course, humans.

Globally, since records began in 1861, the seven hottest years of all fell in the 1990’s. 

Carbon dioxide levels are at the highest ever and increasing.

The Greenland Ice Sheet, which was retreating by one metre per annum up to 2000 is now retreating ten metres annually.  There hasn’t been too much concern so far that sea levels have been rising by centimetres each year, but if that ice sheet were to melt substantially, sea levels could rise by metres – over six metres in the worst case scenario. 

The consequences would be disastrous for hundreds of millions.

The Association of British Insurers faced on a billion pounds of flood claims in 2000.  Our neighbours in France experienced an unprecedented heat wave in 2003, when fourteen thousand died.  The total across Europe was thirty five thousand.

Scientists agree that if they had not understood what was causing climate change and global warming, we might have been beyond the point of no return already!  Clearly, every activity which subscribes to pollution must be curbed or stopped locally and globally whilst there is still time.

My Dad always insisted that present generations didn’t own the planet, but had a

responsibility to look after it for the future.  Which reminds me that about thirty years ago I attended just one more annual office “promotion” interview with “Sir”, and since I was damned with faint praise as usual, I gently guided the discussion on to future world environmental problems and their implications.  After a short factual summary I awaited “Sir’s” response.  The poor chap said – “I don’t think I shall worry too much about that – I shall be dead by then”!

I’m afraid I wagged a disapproving finger at him and reminded him “his children and their children would not be dead by then”.

That finished the interview, and “Sir” hoped I had learned something from the chat.  I expressed the fervent hope that we had “both learned something from the chat”, beamed at him, and exited.

Which probably demonstrates how to get, or not get, promotion.  Oddly enough I’ve no regrets whatsoever.  You see, I too have grandchildren.                                                                               

Don Poole 2005  

'Chilham The Unique Village' By George Mabbitt 1988, is a comprehensive and insightful study by a local man fascinated by life in Chilham. His final paragraph entitled 'Reflections' serves as a reminder to us all of our collective responsibilities  in caring for our world. It is published here, in Adobe PDF format, by kind permission of his son who still lives locally.

Click here to download: Chilham the Unique Village 450kb



The Match That Never Was


MARCH 2007

 Sir Winston Churchill once famously described the Soviet Union as ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma’. On a more parochial level much the same words might be applied to the well-known painting which purports to show the 1878 Australian cricket team playing in the grounds of Chilham Castle. The picture features in numerous publications and, despite the absence of any contemporary written references, a variety of cricket historians and assorted pundits have persuaded themselves that the match took place. Yet the evidence shows conclusively that the Australians never played at Chilham. The only ‘evidence ‘ to indicate otherwise is the picture itself and, as we shall see, that is in truth no evidence at all. Apart from any other consideration, the painting depicts the castle not as it was in 1878 but as it appeared almost one hundred years earlier.

 A great deal of cricket was indeed played in the grounds of Chilham Castle in 1878 but not in that location and not against the Australians. Although the Kentish Gazette mentions an abortive attempt to stage a match in September, the nearest the Australians came to taking the field anywhere in Kent was their fixture at Hastings.

 The original painting is in the National Library of Australia in Canberra, part of the Rex Nan Kivell Collection. There is a copy in the Harris Room at the St Lawrence ground in Canterbury, another in the Wetherspoon’s pub in Ashford. The picture appears in Kent Cricket. A Pictorial History by the late E.W. (Jim) Swanton and the late Christopher Taylor, former Joint Honorary Curators of Kent CCC, in William Webb’s Kent’s Historic Buildings in at least one guide to Chilham Castle and in Jack Pollard’s The Formative Years of Australian Cricket 1803-1893 where the game is described as having been a ‘private affair’. In January 1991 the National Library of Australia chose it for the cover of their monthly magazine and in the same year it featured in the local history journal Bygone Kent. Here it was asserted that ‘A great deal of publicity was focused’ on the match played in ‘what was described as a halcyon summer’.

 Printed Sources

Although the scorebook has not survived the tour was well documented. The team’s matches are recorded in the 1879 Wisden, in both Lillywhite annuals for the year, in Scores & Biographies and were much written about in the London sporting press. The Kent and Sussex local press also reported extensively on the Australians’ activities.

 Books were published at the end of the tour, by the organiser and joint team manager, John Conway, and by an Australian journalist P.E.Reynolds who accompanied the team for all or part of the trip writing under the name of ‘Argus’. A quite remarkably detailed diary cum scrapbook of the tour was kept by one of the team, Tom Horan, who later became one of Australia’s leading sports journalists. This book subsequently came into the possession of Mr Frank Tyson and in 2001 was published in a limited edition by the Association of Cricket Statisticians.

 Collectively these sources make it possible to plot the whereabouts of the team on every day from their arrival on May 14 to their departure on September 19. And every night. On nine occasions they were still on a train at midnight, hard on Horan who was unable to sleep on the move. There is also information on train times, hotels, banquets, sightseeing trips, even the colour of the horses taking the team to their Nottingham hotel and the name of the man who drove the four-in-hand to their match against the Orleans Club at Twickenham. The team  played 43 matches in the United Kingdom, only two of them South of London - v Eighteen of Hastings & District on August 26-28, v Sussex at Hove on August 29-31. There were fifteen weekdays on which they were not actually on the field. Six were spent travelling, on three of them they were in the North. May 28 was devoted to sightseeing in London, on June 5 they saw Harry Constable win the Derby on Sefton and June 19 is specifically described as a rest day although the team’s star bowler Fred Spofforth preferred to play at Maldon for C.I.Thornton’s Xl. July 24 and September 4 were partially free but on both days they caught evening trains from London. We do not know precisely what all the tourists did on May 25 but they were staying at the Horseshoe Hotel, Tottenham Court Road in London and two of their number, the professionals Charles Bannerman and Billy Midwinter, were in Ireland from May 23 to 25 supplementing their incomes by playing for the United South of England Xl alongside W.G.Grace and his brother Fred against Fifteen of Dublin University.

Artistic Licence

Pictures of imaginary cricket matches were not unusual. Two examples are W.H.Mason’s 1849 painting of Sussex v Kent at Brighton and Sir Robert Ponsonby’s 1887 picture of England v Australia in which the Prince and Princess of Wales (later Edward Vll and Queen Alexandra) are shown at Lord’s with several of the future King’s mistresses, among them Lily Langtry, seated nearby. Both matches took place only in the artist’s imagination. Even Albert Chevallier Taylor’s classic study of the 1906 Canterbury Cricket Week features a non-striker (William Findlay) who did not play in that year.

 The Chilham painting is different. It is unique in that it shows the scores. Inscribed on a low crenellated wall in the foreground is ‘First Australian team to visit England to play a single innings cricket match against Willsher’s Gentlemen at Chilham Castle, Kent, August 1878.’ On the left hand crenellation is written ‘Australia 182’ and below it the name of John Conway the manager (actually joint-manager) followed by all twelve of the tourists – F.R Spofforth, F.E.Allen (sic), A.Bannerman, H.F.Boyle, W.Murdoch, T.W.Garrett, W.Midwinter, T.P.Horan, D.W.Gregory captain, G. H. Bailey, J. M.Blackham, C.Bannerman.

 Here already is something which does not make sense. Billy Midwinter could not have played for the Australians in August 1878. The only cricketer ever to play for Australia v England and for England v Australia, he was born in the Forest of Dean and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of ten. He played for Australia in the inaugural Test Match at Melbourne in 1877 and that summer returned to England to play as a professional for Gloucestershire, county of his birth. He was therefore already in England when the team docked and had played for Gloucestershire prior to their arrival. Nevertheless he appeared for the tourists in their first eight fixtures and on June 20 was ready to play in the ninth against Middlesex at Lord’s. Some versions of the story have him padded up and about to open the batting, others place him in the nets or merely in the pavilion. Enter W.G.Grace accompanied by brother E.M and burly wicketkeeper Arthur Bush. Loudly asserting a prior claim on his services, they virtually kidnapped Midwinter and hustled him off to the Oval to play for Gloucestershire v Surrey. There was an almighty and quite fascinating kerfuffle but all that need concern us here is that Midwinter did not play again for the 1878 Australians or indeed for anybody else that year after August 16 when a thumb injury ended his season.

 Lord Harris

The wording on the right hand pillar is ‘Willsher’s Xl 159 and below it (some names are barely decipherable) – Hon.G.R.C.Harris, J Keen, I Cook, P.Markham, T.Swenny (or Swiner), F.M.Sulley, A.Myres, S.Mills (or Myles), T.Myres, P.Setterfield, F (or P.) Bowen (or Bonni). Here is a glaring anomaly. The first named is clearly one of the most influential names in the history of cricket, George Robert Canning, Fourth Baron Harris but he had ceased to be an ‘Hon’ on succeeding to the title in 1872. The next Hon.G.Harris was not yet  born. Of the rest, none ever played for Kent, for the Chilham Castle team or for any of the teams who played at the Castle in 1878. Nor do any of their names appear in the 1881 census as living in Chilham apart from a 45 year-old farm labourer called Edward Cook.

 Charles Stewart Hardy

The owner of Chilham Castle in 1878, Colonel Charles Stewart Hardy, was a future President of Kent County Cricket Club and, like Lord Harris, a member of the Club Management Committee which in January 1878 had resolved not to offer the Australians a fixture. Hardy’s own team – known variously as ‘Chilham Castle’ or ‘Charles Hardy’s Xl’ – undertook a regular programme of matches in July and August against local clubs, Army teams and other country houses including Lord Harris’s nearby Belmont. These games were renowned for sumptuous lunches and considered sufficiently important to merit printing the full scores, not merely in the local press, but in London sporting papers such as Bell’s Life. The 1878 programme comprised at least 27 matches, played not at the location indicated in the picture, but in the lower park where a pavilion had been built into the old park wall A photograph, appearing to date from no later than the mid 1880s, exists of a match in progress on this lower park ground.

 How then to account for the Australians’ supposed opponents being ‘Willsher’s Gentlemen’? Willsher and its variants are common names in Southern England but the prime candidate must be Kent’s Edgar Willsher, by 1878 virtually retired from major cricket but still one of the most famous bowlers in the history of the game. Charles Stewart Hardy employed several professional cricketers. but Willsher was not one of them. A benefit match for Willsher has been suggested but he had already had benefits from MCC and Kent and at the time was head bowler at Prince’s ground in Chelsea. In any case, with one, possibly two, exceptions, the Australian tour was a co-operative venture with the participants each contributing £50 (some sources quote £100) to cover expenses with profits shared equally. No figures were published but each was rumoured to have made between £700-£800 with manager Conway pocketing around £1200. In an already overcrowded itinerary, it is hard to see why the visitors would give up time, still less hard earned money, for the benefit of an English professional to whom they had no obligation.

The Painting

Despite the amount written in the past about both match and picture, until discrepancies were pointed out by the late Mr Charles Will of the Chilham Society and Mr Michael Peters F.R.I.C.S. Honorary Archivist at Chilham Castle, it seems to have escaped notice that the Castle is portrayed as it appeared in the 18th century not in 1878. The painter has apparently copied an engraving by William Watts from Seats of the Nobility dated 1785, adding the players and spectators, some of them watching from open windows. Even the shadows across the windows have been replicated, but the small pinnacled outbuilding and adjoining crenellated wall shown in the painting had vanished by 1878, replaced by a substantial service wing erected by Charles Stewart Hardy's father in 1863, which does not appear. The trees surrounding the keep and along the mansion walls have not grown in the intervening 90 plus years and the artist seemingly failed to notice, at the bowler's end of the wicket, the huge holm oak (still dominating the site) which, at the time of the supposed match, was already about 90 years old !

 To accommodate the match, the space available has been painted to appear rather larger than it is.  In fact the boundaries would have been very short, hardly conducive to a proper game of cricket. If the crenellated wall in the foreground ever existed, there are no traces of it now; the artist seems to have placed it upon the 18th century ha-ha which cuts across the park at about this point.

 It is unlikely that the artist ever actually saw the Australians. The fielding side wear red and white striped caps and sashes. Several sources including Horan’s scrapbook and a famous, still much reproduced, cartoon of Spofforth in the July 1878 issue of Vanity Fair, confirm that the tourists wore blue and white striped caps, sashes and blazers. Matching caps for a scratch ‘home’ side seem unlikely. The captain David Gregory and wicketkeeper Jack Blackham sported conspicuous bushy black beards. By August 1878 the tall, thin Mephistophelean Spofforth was probably the most recognisable cricketer in England after W.G.Grace. There is no obvious attempt to show any of them in the picture. The batsmen appear even less like the Australians. They look distinctly rustic, wearing low crowned ‘billycock’ hats, out of fashion among cricketers for a decade or more, and brown boots. One has brown pads, the other a brown waistcoat. 

Perpetuating the Myth

Writers still surface from time to time apparently believing that the game took place as some sort of unofficial extra fixture, notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Two eminent cricket historians, knowledgeable enough to know better, have suggested that the match took place on the next Australian tour in 1880. Even ignoring the date inscribed on the wall, Conway, Gregory, Allan, Charles Bannerman and Bailey only toured once. The 1880 tour was similarly well documented; the team’s only appearance in Kent (just) was at Crystal Palace.

 In an attempt to keep the myth alive it is sometimes suggested that some of the Australians may have played at Chilham – in other words the team might have played two matches in one day. This is nonsense. There were only twelve original tourists, reduced to eleven with Midwinter’s abduction. To cover for injuries, manager Conway, who had played first-class cricket in Australia, and a number of expatriate Australians were from time to time drafted in but usually only singly. Three substitutes were brought in for the final game of the tour at Sunderland and on four other occasions, all in the North of England or in Scotland, there were two.

 The “Centenary” Match

A “centenary” cricket match, ‘The Lord Massereene’s Xl v a Kent Xl ‘, was staged for charity in, somewhat eccentrically, 1987 rather than 1978. At the time Viscount Massereene and Ferrard owned Chilham Castle and the programme featured the painting on the front cover. Included was a note that the game ‘is not amongst the officially arranged matches and therefore was no doubt a private affair’. In notes provided for the occasion, Kent’s Joint Curator the late Chris Taylor stated that the 1878 match ‘was arranged by Lord Massereene, the father of the present title holder’  - quite an achievement for a child aged five, who at the time was living at the family home in Ireland.  The Massereene family moved to  Chilham in 1949.

 In conversation, Taylor subsequently informed the writer that he understood Lord Massereene’s grandfather played in the match which had taken place when the match at Hastings finished early. On the face of it, had Lord Massereene been visiting rural Kent in 1878, this sounds plausible. Lord Harris was one of five Kent players in the Hastings Eighteen and in his autobiographical A Few Short Runs mentions the match as his first encounter with the Australians. Several such extra matches were played to fill up time during the tour. One was staged at Hove in the very next fixture when Sussex lost in two days. But they were invariably played on the original ground and in any case the facts do not fit. Local papers carry full accounts of the match which was much interrupted by rain – far from being a ‘halcyon summer’ most of 1878 was wet, cold, and miserable.

According to the Hastings & St.Leonard’s Independent the last Hastings wicket fell at 4.30pm There was no train from Hastings to Ashford (change for Chilham) between 4.15 and 7pm. Hardly time to stage a match from scratch let alone score almost 350 runs.

 In any case, according to Horan’s diary, the team caught the 9pm train from Hastings to Brighton for their meeting with Sussex on the following day. A further complication; Chilham Castle played a home match with Lees Court that day.

 Dealing with the Masseerene connection, it is not clear why or how the then Lord Masseerene could or would stage a match at Chilham Castle which at the time was the home of someone else, Charles Stewart Hardy. The Masseerene family would not acquire the Castle for 70 odd years. As for his playing in the match, he is on record as having scored nineteen for the North of Ireland v I Zingari at Belfast in 1877 but his name is conspicuously absent from Willsher’s Xl as listed on the wall in the picture.

 Seldom on Sundays

A Sunday match might seem a possibility to modern eyes but in Victorian times organised cricket on the Sabbath was virtually unknown apart possibly from very minor matches, usually on common land. The Australians were in the North of England on the first three Sundays in August and at least part of Sunday August 25 was taken up by the journey from Scarborough to Hastings via London. Of all people, Lord Harris is among the least likely to have played on a Sunday and it is equally unlikely that Charles Stewart Hardy, a pillar of the church, would allow the use of his land. And of course, there could be no gate money. The Australians themselves went to considerable lengths to emphasise their equality with the English in terms of behaviour and are no more credible as possible Sabbath breakers.

Final Mystery

The question remains – Who painted the picture and, more bafflingly, why? The signature 'W.A.N.' on the picture has been provisionally linked by the National Library of Australia Pictorial Section to William Andrews Nesfield (1793-1881), a distinguished water colour artist with a penchant for cascades and waterfalls. The painting however is oil on canvas with not a drop of water in sight and Nesfield had abandoned serious painting in favour of up-market landscape gardening. He had a hand in the design of St James’s Park and parts of Kew Gardens but not, so far as is known, the grounds of Chilham Castle. He would have been 85 in 1878.

 There is one, albeit tenuous, link which might provide a clue to ‘Why?’ Nesfield had a son, a distinguished architect who also painted and had designed some of the gardens at Doddington Place not far away. He was educated at Eton as were Lord Harris and Charles Stewart Hardy. However unlikely it seems, could the painting have originated as an obscure in-joke among Old Etonians? It might at least explain Harris still being shown as an Hon. Unfortunately for the theory Nesfield junior’s initials were WEN.

 Other possible explanations are even more unlikely. An illustration for a long forgotten short story?  Possibly if it were a pen and ink sketch but not a 38cm x 50.7 cm oil painting. The same applies if it was an advertisement for a match which never took place. And how to explain the scores or the absence of press coverage? Barring miracles, it seems that, so far as ‘Why?’ is concerned, the riddle will remain wrapped, the mystery unsolved and the enigma unexplained.

 Readers who have bravely persevered this far are unlikely to be surprised to learn that the tale has a further twist. There is another picture. Attributed to T.Bristow, it shows the 1878 Australians v the Gentlemen of Kent & Surrey ‘near Faversham’. The background is nondescript but again the fielders wear red and white caps, most of the objections to the Chilham picture apply and in the same way the game can only be a figment of someone’s imagination. The painting, said to have been at one time at Lord’s, appears in full colour in

Sir Jeremiah Coleman’s The Noble Game of Cricket and in monochrome in Neville Cardus’s English Cricket. Could this perhaps provide a clue? Was there a lucrative niche market for such pictures among gullible collectors?

 Sources & Bibliography

 Cashman Richard The Demon Spofforth New South Wales University Press,1990.

The Cricketer September 1923 page 10.

Harris, Lord. - A few short runs. J.Murray 1921.

Haygarth, Arthur – Cricket scores & biographies Vol X1V. Longmans & CO, 1895, reprinted Roger Heavens, 2003

James Lillywhite’s Cricketers’Annual.1879

John Lillywite’ Cricketers’ Companion 1879

Moyes A.G. – Australian cricket, a history. Angus & Robertson, 1959.

Pollard, Jack – The formative years of Australian cricket 1803-1893 - Angus & Robertson, 1987

Reynolds, P.E. (Argus) – The Australian Cricketers’ Tour of Australia, New Zealand & Great Britain, 1878 – Sydney 1878, reprinted J.W.McKenzie, 1980.

Swanton, E.W. and Taylor, Christopher H. - Kent cricket a photographic history 1744-1984

 Birlings, 1985, 2nd edition, Geerings, 1988

Tyson, Frank, editor- Horan’s diary. The Australian touring team 1877-1879 – Association of Cricket Statisticians & Historians, 2001.

John Wisden’s Cricketer’ Almanack, 1879.

 Contemporary national and local papers including The Australasian, Bell’s Life in London. Hastings & St Leonard’s Independent, Hastings & St Leonard’s News. Kentish Express, Kentish Gazette, Kentish News, Sussex Times, The Times, Westminster Gazette  


The back lawn of the castle as it was at the time
The Victorian service wing is behind the big holm oak (planted 1816)
which would have stood mid-wicket
Photo kindly given by Michael Peters Archivist at Chilham Castle

'Aspects of Chilham' 



The recent marketing of the willow wood at the corner of Mountain Street leads to speculation about its ancient name.

Though now parcelled with neighbouring Upper Pike Shot, this rather wet tract used to be known as Running Field Mead.  Was it once dry enough for racing ?  Did it adjoin a Running Field ?  Is there some connexion with the races once held on the Running Field at Old Wives Lees ?

In a codicil to his will of 1638, an afterthought, Sir Dudley Digges laid down that £20 should be set aside from the quit rents of 40 acres in the Manor of Selgrave – his recent acquisition between Faversham & Sheldwich.  This bequest provided prize money for “a tye” or race to be run at Chilham each year on 19th May, anniversary of Sir Dudley's birth, when he directed also that the church bells should be rung in celebration - Sir Dudley was no shrinking violet !

Competitors would be “a young man and a young maiden of good conversation between the ages of 16 and 24” chosen by “the Lord of Chilham [Sir Dudley's successors] or in his absence the Vicar, with the advice of four of the best freeholders” and a couple chosen by “the Lord of Faversham or in his absence the Mayor, with the advice of four of the Jurats”

“the young man and the young maiden who should prevail, should each ...........have £10”

We know that, in later centuries, eliminating heats for the Chilham pair took place at Old Wives Lees on 1st May on the land still called the Running Field, and, for the Faversham pair, on the following Monday on Sheldwich Lees.

Latterly, until about 1850, the final was at Old Wives Lees, but where was it at first ?

At Chilham, as Sir Dudley directed ?

In 1728 James Colebrooke diverted the northern stretch of Mountain Street away from his castle gardens, newly acquired from Sir Dudley's descendants.  A high wall along the new boundary excluded the plebs.  (More of this another time)

In earlier times, might the Digges family have celebrated their ancestors' birthday with the local populace, watching the race on land which Colebrooke enclosed within the castle park, alongside Running Field Mead ?

 Michael H Peters       April 2008  



Toads in Mountain Street

The toads of Mountain Street mentioned in Don Poole's recent parish magazine article, reminded me that, shortly before Don's arrival, Henry Fearon in “The Pilgrimage to Canterbury” [1956 Associated Newspapers Ltd], named this quiet lane “the Road of the Thousand & One Toads”


He wrote:

If Charing is beautiful (and no one will deny it that) then Chilham, which lies farther on along the road, is glorious. For myself, I would not like to choose between the relative attractions of the two villages ! Both were loved by the pilgrims as they journeyed on their way to Canterbury, and both, I know, will be loved by those who follow in their footsteps - now. We come to Chilham by a curious road, rising steeply from the forest—that same " narrow, hollow steep Way" which Erasmus mentions, with " a cragged steep bank on either side, so that you can't escape it "; but for me this road has special charms, and it is one I come to every year—when spring arrives—for a strange and special reason.


For this is the Road of the Thousand and One Toads, and here it is that toads breed in such profusion that, at times, it is impossible to walk along the road without stepping on them. The farm-carts which use the lane down to the forest cause havoc, and the slaughter of toads is quite terrific ; but for centuries the Toads of Kent have come to Chilham to be born, and for centuries, I hope, they will continue in this admirable practice. Every year, I put a couple in my pocket as I pass this way, and I may claim to have as fine a collection of Chilham Toads as anyone in England !


The pilgrims, incidentally, took a toad with them as well, though what its virtue was, I do not know; but it takes a man of humble heart to love a toad, and probably this was the reason!


Though the toads, like Chilham's herons, have all but vanished, this peaceful spot is not without interest to those with a sense of history.


More of this anon................

                                                                                        Michael H. Peters  January 2008


Colebrooke's vista

 Walking along Mountain Street, people might wonder why there are railings on a stretch of the park wall.

 They were erected around 1730 by James Colebrooke, who in 1722 acquired the estate followed in 1724 by the castle & grounds.

 Before Colebrooke came here, the old Canterbury to Ashford road ran from Bagham extending   Hambrook Lane straight on, below the castle gardens, before swinging south & west to Mountain Street & Godmersham.

 Craving greater privacy, Colebrooke diverted the road southeastwards away from his garden to a point midway between the river Stour & the castle - about ¼ mile - a measurement sometimes in those days expressed as 80 rods, poles or perches. (In 1750 the parish border between Chilham & Selling was measured in rods).

 To allow unobstructed views up to the castle from outside the new enclosure, the new boundary wall was lowered for 80 yards making a “claire-voie” topped for security with railings set between urn-capped pillars.

 Beyond the realigned road, a new avenue occupied about 5 acres (or 800 square perches).    Identified on old field maps as “Broad Walks”, it sliced through the random patchwork of ancient field boundaries - twin parallels running half way across the meadows towards the riverside.

 At the roadside was a lay-by, (perhaps England's first) where travellers could “park” their carriages to admire this remarkable example of 18th century landscaping, whose entire length, to its outer boundaries, enclosed an overall area of some 20 acres (80 roods).

 The top of the vista centred on a hexagonal corner buttress of white stone on the south wing of the house & at the bottom, (where decades later “Capability” Brown proposed to “enlarge” the  river) the angle of this stretch of the Stour suggests that its course may have been changed to bring it within 880 yards of the castle's top terrace.

 We can consider Colebrooke's apparent obsession with number 8 some other time.

 Most of the “Broad Walks” boundaries have survived, but otherwise, little remains of this remarkable concept except the claire-voie railing & the pillars once capped with urns, which (it is thought) now grace the castle's entrance lodges in the village square.


                                                               Michael H Peters June 2008  


The Stables In Front Of The Castle

 At the head of the old road to Shottenden (enclosed within the castle park in 1777) stands the castle's 19th century stable block.  Across the road is its modern successor built in 2003/4

 Of their predecessors, there are no remains above ground.

 We know nothing of the mediaeval stables, but records do survive of those which stood on the forecourt until about 200 years ago.

 Including coach house, grooms' quarters & granary, the building, shaped like a huge capital F, lay just inside the castle gate.  Though convenient for the transfer of its main product to the adjacent gardeners' yard & the kitchen garden beyond, the building's location would have been all too obvious to those in the house when wind blew from the north-east.

 Clearly the stables were in the wrong place, but until Thomas Heron bought Chilham in 1774, they were at least screened by an avenue of lime trees between the entrance from the square & the castle's grand gated forecourt.

 Influenced by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, Heron preferred an open circular drive.  He destroyed the gated forecourt & felled the lime avenue, exposing the nondescript hotch-potch of buildings to stark prominence, spoiling the front prospect of the house & the skyline of the view from the valley below.

 Having realised his mistake, Heron found himself unable to afford the stables' removal.  Improvising a cheap alternative, he screened them from Colebrooke's vista (but not from the house) with a clump of trees planted beside the bowling green - the quiet garden as it is now called.

 The valuation of the estate made in 1792 for James Wildman, prior to his purchase from Heron reads: "The whole of the Buildings are in good repair except the Coach-House and Stables, which are too near the House, and probably have been neglected, owing to the removal of them being under consideration"

 Wildman executed the plan, building a new block tucked away behind the keep; enlarged in the 1860s by Charles Hardy, it was sold off at the end of the last century & converted to dwellings now called Stable Court.

Michael H Peters  July 2008



Fire Brigades & Fire Marks


On the front wall of old buildings, there is sometimes displayed a fire mark - an old metal plate (or a fake modern one) showing the badge of a company which used to provide insurance against fire.

 Before municipal & county fire brigades became the norm, some insurance companies ran their own.  It is often said that, long ago, when few houses displayed names or street numbers, these fire marks identified the buildings where the relevant company's brigade would fight a fire – presumably leaving all others to burn to ashes.

 Such alarmist tales  were not discouraged by insurance companies – they did no harm to business !  However, the prime purpose of a fire mark was advertising - to attract more insurance premiums.

 Confronted with a burning building, surely no brigade would refuse to help if the fire mark of its own company was nowhere to be seen (perhaps obscured by smoke or dislodged by the consuming blaze). Every fireman would be more concerned with dousing smoke & flame (& saving lives & property) than looking for a small metal label on the building's wall.

 The essence of insurance has always been mutual assistance.  In 1890, when fire broke out in the vicarage stable at Selling, both Faversham's brigades, (the Kent Fire Office & the Sun Insurance Office) turned out.

 Minutes of a Kent Fire Office meeting dated 26th April 1808 tell us that “Expenses are incurred by extinguishing fire regarding property not insured by the Institution”  This company was founded at Sittingbourne in 1802.  One of its founding directors was James Wildman (owner of Chilham castle 1794 - 1816).  The rate for insuring Mr Wildman's castle was fixed at 2s 3½d per cent (about 11.5p)  By comparison, the rate for churches was 2s 9d % (just under 14p) & for thatched farmhouses 4s 7d % (about 23p)

 Chilham castle's fire pump used to be displayed to visitors in its own fire station within the park.  The fire pump, we are told, went to Challock, when the building was sold off & became a dwelling – lately it has been offered for sale again.

 Nowadays, regardless of fire marks & private fire pumps, we all depend upon the bravery & expertise of Kent Fire & Rescue Service, including of course Chilham's own dedicated brigade.

 Let us thank God for such people.


         Michael H Peters    December 2008

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