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Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere (1275-1322)

The concept of land ownership as we understand it today – with a clear single owner of a coherent piece of land – did not apply in Medieval times. William the Conqueror declared that all land belonged to the Crown, and he parcelled bits out to barons and the Church, while keeping an estate for the monarchy.
Most people would lease their land from the Crown, Church or local feudal power (Lord), with the Crown and Church being by far the greatest land owners. In addition, the land they worked would have been, in very many cases, in small, non-contiguous, packages. Hence, it is doubtful if any one person “owned” Eythorne as such. Institutions such as the Crown, Church or local Lord may, however, have owned a significant part.
Edward Hasted, in his well-known and well regarded, “The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 10 (Canterbury, 1800)” states that ”Archbishop Wulfred, in the year 824, gave Eythorne with the lands of South Langdon… to the monks of the priory of Christ-church. How long it remained with them, I have not found, in all likelihood it was wrested from them, during the period of those troublesome times, before the Norman conquest; for not long afterwards it appears to have been in the possession of the family of Badlesmere, in which it continued till Bartholomew de Badlesmere in the 15th year of King Edward II.”
We already know from the Domesday book of 1066 and the Domesday Monachorum of 1087 that, far from being wrested from them, the monks of Christ Church still owned Eythorne to a very great extent.
So, is there any firm evidence that it was owned by the Badlesmere family from 1087 until the time of Bartholomew de Badlesmere as asserted by Hasted?
Bartholomew de Badlesmere, 1st Baron Badlesmere (18 August 1275 – 14 April 1322) was an English soldier, diplomat, member of parliament, landowner and nobleman. He was the son and heir of Sir Gunselm de Badlesmere (died ca. 1301) and Joan FitzBernard. He fought in the English army both in France and Scotland with a military career spanning the later years of the reign of Edward I of England, and the earlier part of the reign of Edward II. The arms and armour typical of a fighting wealthy knight of this time are shown in the attached picture, which is the funeral brass of a contemporary of Badlesmere, Sir Hugh Hastings, who died in 1347.
Property that Bartholomew de Badlesmere was known to have owned in Kent were the manors of Badlesmere, Bockingfold (north of Goudhurst), Chilham, Hothfield, Kingsdown, Lesnes (now in the London Borough of Bexley), Rydelyngwelde (i.e. Ringwould), Tonge and Whitstable. Bartholomew’s possessions in this county also included Chilham Castle and Leeds Castle. The list is not exhaustive, and he did not necessarily hold all of them at the same time. Whilst it is possible he also owned land in Eythorne, I can find no conclusive evidence to support this. The only mention of Bartholomew de Badlesmere in connection with Eythorne that I can find is the following petition to “King and Council”. The petition was made in 1321-1322 (15 or 16th year of the reign of Edward II) by John de Guston and his brothers (Nicholas, William and Simon) of the County of Kent and the request is as follows;
“John de Guston and his brothers request that the king order his sheriff of Kent to deliver their inheritance to them, that is, sixty acres of land with appurtenances, half in the parish of Tilmanstone and the other half in Eythorne, which Eustace de Bourne, with the protection of Bartholomew de Badlesmere, has wrongly withheld from them for four years, and still holds.“
It is clear in this document that Bartholomew de Badlesmere is not the owner of the land concerned, nor that he has authority over it. However, it’s worth keeping in mind that “absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence” and it cannot be ruled out that the Badlesmere family did own land in Eythorne at some point between 1087 and 1322. The petition was seemingly successful, as the de Gustons were stated to “have a writ of novel disseisin“. In English law, an assize of novel disseisin is an action to recover lands of which the plaintiff had been disseised, or dispossessed.
Bartholomew de Badlesmere (his coat of arms is pictured) participated in the unsuccessful Baronial revolt, later known as the Despenser War, of 1321-1322. Fighting under Thomas, 2nd Earl of Lancaster, the opposition faction raised arms against King Edward II and his chief advisor, Hugh le Despenser, 1st Earl of Winchester.
Hugh Despenser the Younger, son of the Earl of Winchester, was by this time the leader of the barons who, in effect, controlled the country. On 16 March 1322, the Earl of Lancaster and his allies were defeated at the Battle of Boroughbridge. Bartholomew fled south, but was caught. He was tried at Canterbury on 14 April 1322 and sentenced to death. On the same day, he was drawn for three miles behind a horse to Blean, where he held property. There he was hanged and beheaded. His head was displayed on the Burgh Gate at Canterbury and the rest of his body left hanging at Blean.
The areas of land involved in the above petition are small (being 30 acres each in Tilmanstone and Eythorne, 30 acres equating to 0.05 square mile) and are a very small part of the Eythorne recorded in the Domesday Book, which amounted to around 700 acres.
It is not known who the other key landowners in this area are at this time, although it is probably safe to assume that the Church remained one of them. Over the next one hundred years or so, the owners or possessors of Eythorne land will include, as we shall see, members of parliament, sheriffs of Kent, lawyers and other people prominent in the history of this county and country.
(Footnote; An appurtenance is a right or privilege that belongs to a principal property. For example, a garden belonging to a house would be an appurtenance of it.)

Vince Croud

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