Trail of a Kentish Farming Family
|Mon, 24 Nov 2008 14:43
|This is the trail of a family who farmed on the North Downs of Kent for nearly three hundred years. Their fortunes fluctuated as they struggled to earn a living off the heavy clay soil that overlies the chalk. They survived the Civil War, the frequent epidemics, the hardships of weather on the downland heights, and the effects of the long wars with France ending at Waterloo. After that, there was penury and social distress in the Kent countryside when farms were beset by riots and arson, the product of a real fear of famine among the poor. Over the years the family kept moving to survive and hence the ‘trail’ of historic Kentish downland villages where they farmed – represented here in many cases by the church which was then the centre of each community.
The North Downs from the Pilgrims Way. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Downs
The first records of the family Gore were of 1641 just before the start of the Civil War when Thomas and Ann Gore were farming in the parish of Lenham http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenham The village, an ancient market place dating back to 1088, has a lovely old square with timbered houses and quaint fronted shops. Nearby is St Mary’s parish church with cornfields beyond:
More on the history of Lenham, its church and old houses at http://www.lenham.net/History/History%20of%20Housing%20in%20Lenham%20P 2.htm
At Lenham is the source of the Great Stour river. To the north, the village lies in the shadow of an escarpment rising 300 feet to the chalk Downs above:
The hillside cross is a war memorial. Pilgrims Way marker
By the 1680s the family (under Abraham Gore) had moved four miles to the east to Stalisfield, one of several parishes isolated high up on the North Downs. St Mary’s, the little Stalisfield church, is tucked away a mile from its village:
Stalisfield's hilly farmland is described as “red cludgy earth of very stiff tillage, barren, wet and flinty”:
Ignoring these disadvantages, the family obtained the lease for Holbeam Farm:
a substantial property blessed with more level ground than elsewhere although “exceedingly bleak and exposed to north-east winds”. Its produce was mainly wheat and sheep. Holbeam’s owners, St Bart’s Hospital http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_Bartholomew's_Hospital , rebuilt and developed it as a model downlands farm in 1839. The family remained at Stalisfield for three generations, but in the end were overcome by the weather, scarcity of labour, rising wages, and the food riots of 1768.
In 1775 John Gore, the elder son, began the peripatetic life of a jobbing agricultural labourer in the parishes on the north side of the Downs above Faversham http://www.faversham.org/pages/standard.aspx?i_PageID=155 . We can trace his progress from where his twelve children were baptised:
Throwley – the Norman church has memorials of the Sondes family of Lees Court (see later).
Eastling – St Mary’s church and its ancient yew tree, the churchyard and the school.
Ospringe: the church, the Maison Dieu, church field and Watling Street
Maison Dieu: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/upload/pdf/maison_dieu.pdf
Roman Ospringe, on Watling Street: http://www.roman-britain.org/places/durolevum.htm
John Gore and wife Martha finally moved south to Challock:
Challock’s 13th century church is a mile south of the village, isolated in the middle of Eastwell Park – two views of the Park above, plus Challock Lees. http://www.history.challock.org.uk/ . It has no burial ground so John and Martha’s grave is two miles away at Molash church:
The family’s time at Eastling, Ospringe and Challock are described at http://books.google.com/books?id=hrpS_YQ9FoAC&lpg=PP1&dq=On%20Kentish% 20Chalk&pg=PA33#v=onepage&q&f=true
Their eldest son John and wife Ann settled in Sheldwich:
St James' church http://www.stjames.sheldwich.org/ and Sheldwich Lees near Lees Court where John farmed on the estate of the Sondes family:
John’s brother Joseph married a widow with a farm in orchard country at Selling:
Selling church and orchards. http://www.faversham.org/pages/standard.aspx?i_PageID=11110
By 1861 Joseph’s son with seven children was established 11 miles to the south-west on a farm at Egerton Forstal
The depression which followed the end of the Napoleonic wars was a hard time for farmers among many others. The Swing Riots of 1830-31 http://www.villagenet.co.uk/history/1830-swingriots.html caused John and Ann at Sheldwich to retire to Herne Bay by the sea. Their son Jonathan was meanwhile working at Southwark while his fortunate younger brother Joseph had a flourishing farm at Newnham:
Shulland Farm had “pastures, sheltered orchards with cherries (above) and other fruit”.
Newnham church http://www.twokentvillages.org/newnham/newnham_history/Newnham_history .html
The George Inn, Newnham http://www.twokentvillages.org/newnham/newnham_buildings/3_george.html
In 1850 both brothers Jonathan and Joseph joined their father John at Herne Bay:
The beach in winter and summer. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herne_Bay,_Kent
Jonathan leased the 148 acres of Owls Hatch Farm, west of Herne village and over a mile from the sea:
Part of Owls Hatch farm near Herne in winter.
St Martin’s, Herne, and its treelined entry.
Owls Hatch Farm flourished for a time, but Jonathan’s bachelor son had retired by 1890.
Meanwhile Joseph had leased 165 acre Parsonage Farm consisting of a patchwork of fields which extended from Herne almost to the sea, where the new town of Herne Bay was being built:
‘15 Acre’ field of Parsonage Farm and the track leading to it.
Parsonage Farm thrived for 25 years until the move away from arable farming and the encroachment of Herne Bay eventually reduced it to a few cow pastures supplying the family dairy in the town:
“The Creameries” dairy passed to Joseph’s son Robert who sold up in 1914.
Photos of Robert’s family and the dairy in about 1900 are at http://books.google.com/books?id=hrpS_YQ9FoAC&lpg=PP1&dq=On%20Kentish% 20Chalk&pg=PA49#v=onepage&q&f=true
Joseph had six sons and 12 grandsons, but all except Robert had left the family’s great Parsonage farmhouse for other forms of commerce, several emigrating to Australia, Canada and the USA. So the family’s farming trail, which had started at Lenham in 1641, ended at Herne Bay before the start of the Great War. Full family story at http://books.google.com/books?id=hrpS_YQ9FoAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=O n+Kentish+Chalk