History of Denton and Wootton

1. History of Denton

Denton, midway between Canterbury and Folkestone, lies in the folds of the North Downs in a valley that runs from North to South and the hills that rise sharply to both East and West. They are well wooded and sheep can be seen grazing on the slopes; the whole village is very park like.  It is listed as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and any building is tightly controlled.

The village consists of a small number of houses on both sides of the street.  In 1705 the population was recorded as 86 and this has risen to 144 in 1959 and stands at 153 in 1998. At the present day there is only one Inn although formerly there were two. No shops survive, though there used to be Bakers, General Store, Butchers, Cobblers, Carpenters and a Post Office which was the last one to close in 1992.

The main road from Canterbury to Folkestone runs through the centre of the village and the fast traffic makes a dangerous environment. Despite this, the village still manages to maintain the strong feeling of community with the Church, Village Hall and Inn as its focus.

Saint Mary Magdalene Church

There can be little doubt that Denton Church is of Saxon foundation.  An entry in the Doomsday Book states that “at Danetone (Denton) there is a Church”.  At the time of the Doomsday Book, the Manor and Parish were in the possession of Odo, Bishop of Baieux, who was also Warden and Constable of Dover Castle.  There are no visible remains today of this original Saxon Church. The Church which is dedicated to St Mary Magdalene is situated to the South of the village next to Denton Court and is reached via a footpath from the driveway to the Court.

The building is very small and has one aisle, a chancel and a small square tower at the west end.  It is built of flint, chalk and mortar and the chancel is rendered without.  The present Church is largely of 13th Century construction as evidenced by the simple form of the building itself – the chancel arch and the lancet windows have been renewed at a later date but the building remains typically characteristic of the small early English village of the period.  The interior is plastered, with panelling against the North wall by the side of the pews there.  There are two niches for a rood screen above the chancel step.  The font is of stone on a single pedestal.

The chancel has three windows, one of which is very low.  Most of the glass is modern, but there is an ancient piece of stained glass above the priest’s door.  The glass is supposed to be part of a formed window and depicts the head of Christ. The church has a porch on the north side and the seats of which are dedicated to the dead who fell in the 1914 – 1918 war. There were originally three bells in the tower. The middle one became cracked and was unfortunately sold in 1870 and so spoiled the Mediaeval peel. The church holds a fete every year at the Village Hall.

The Village Hall

The Village Hall is sited behind and to the west of Dairy Farm and Dairy Farm Barn (now converted into private dwellings). It was originally half of an army hut which fell down after a party and was replaced in 1972 with a large modern brick structure with a stage area, kitchen, toilets and a fine wooden floor. The money for this building was raised by village effort and a two-thirds grant.




The Jackdaw Inn

Built in 1645, this public house was originally a farmhouse forming part of an estate of Thomas Leythorpe, a gentleman from Elham.  There were various occupants throughout the years, but in 1756, Andrew Snell was granted a licence to sell ales and ciders from here.  In 1758 he called the premises “The Red Lion”.  In the 1760’s the celebrated poet, Thomas Dray was a regular patron of the Red Lion as was the humorist, Richard Harris Barham who resided in Tappington Manor and wrote the “Inglesby Legends”.

The Red Lion has seen and undergone many changes since it was first built. It featured in the epic “Battle of Britain” movie.

In 1962 it underwent extensive refurbishment and the name was changed to “The Jackdaw” in honour of Richard Harris Barham and his famous poem, “The Jackdaw of Rhiems”. It faces west onto the village green and is separated by the main road.

The Manor Houses

There are two manors within the Parish and they, and the Church lie to the South of the village and cannot be seen from the village itself.

The Manor of Denton, or Denton Court as it is known, is very ancient and must have been a considerable house even before 1086. At the time of the Doomsday Book, “the Manor of Dentetone was given to Odo, Bishop of Baieux and Molleue who held it of King Edward as tenant; the sub-tenant, Ralph de Curbespine held it of the Bishop”. It is probable therefore that Ralph actually lived in the Manor which, “was worthy of sixty shillings, arable land of three teams, four villans, with two borders have one team”.

Four years later, in 1090, the Bishop fell into disgrace. All his estates were confiscated by the crown, the Manor was then granted, among other estates, to Gilbert Magimot and it made up part of his barony by tenure, all lands were held by the King. In the reign of Henry III it was held by Simon who called himself de Danitone; he held it by knight’s service. During the reign of Henry VII, a Thomas Yerd left Denton Manor to his only daughter Joan, who married Thomas Peyton from Cambridgeshire.  Sir Thomas Peyton, their grandson, alienated it to John Boys.  His son William Boys built a new mansion in about 1574.  The Manor then passed through various hands until about 1792 when Sir Samuel Egerton Brydges restored the mansion and laid newe gardens around the house.

After 1810, the estate still belonged to the Brydges family but was occupied by various people. The house was partially destroyed by fire in 1860.  William Willats bought the estate in 1867 and the mansion was rebuilt over the next six years.  Two of the gables on the west side were saved and new bays and structure were added. The main frontage however now faces south instead of west, so that from the road only the west end of the house can be seen.

The house is now of only two storeys. It is constructed with brick and tile under a slate roof.  There is little left of the 1574 interior or even of the restored house now.  William Willats died in 1867 and the estate passed to his son.  The surviving granddaughter of William Willats passed the house and estate to Colonel. The present owner of the Court is George Gosling who lives there with his sister Francisca.

Tapton Manor

The Manor of Tapton, or, Tappington as it is now called, lies in the valley at the southern end of the Parish. In ancient records of Dover Castle, it is cited as part of the estates of the Barony of Fobert. It was held by Fulbert of Dover by knight’s service of the king.  At one time it was held by knight’s service of the Black Prince and so has given rise to the erroneous idea that the Black Prince lived at the Manor.

During the reign of Henry III it belonged to Gerard de Tappington. By the time that Henry VIII was on the throne it belonged to William Boys. In 1628, Thomas Marsh rebuilt the Manor House, part of which is still remaining today. In 1795, Reverend Richard Harris Barham wroye “The Ingolsby Legends” which are stories about the old Manor and also which feature Broome Park which is situated up the road.

The Barhams were descended from the de Berehams. Sir Randal (or Reginald) Fiturse was one of the four knights who killed Thomas a Beckett in 1170.  Sir Randal made over his estates to his brother Robert who quickly changed his name to Bereham. The present farmhouse is smaller than the original Manor but it is believed to be part of it.

There are many stories told about the house; the blood stained stair is still shown where the two brothers fought, one a Roundhead and the other a Cavalier, one killed the other on the stairs. The incident is claimed as factual.  The Manor House and Lands at the present moment belong to George Gostling and it is run as a farm. Most recently it was featured in the TV program, Treasure Hunt where one of the clues was hidden.

Village Life Past

As the power of the Manors declined, the Church, Churchwardens and overseers took over the various forms of local government.  The churchwardens collected the various taxes and also disbursed them for the Church.  At this time, the church raised money by owning stock, cows, sheep and farming them out.  Unfortunately, records of these transactions are no longer in Denton but in 1561, John Broke, the gentleman had in his keeping a cow belonging to the church and again, in 1599, William Verrier, the previous churchwarden, had two cows which he kept, ”according to the custom of the parish.”

Two years after Elizabeth I came to the throne it was reported that Denton had no curate and the Parson was not resident. It was also reported that the catechism was not taught “because the youth did not go to church”. Also, there was no chest for the poor.

The Women’s Institute for Denton with Wootton and Swingfield was started and held it’s first meeting in Wootton in 1919 and is still active. Electricity was laid in the village in 1920 and water in 1928, nearly all houses had wells but many have now been sealed over. The public telephone was installed in 1923 and the first bus service ran from 1924. The village still has no gas or main drainage.

During the Second World War, the army took over the Rectory, the Village Hall, Lavender Cottage and Porch House for the duration of the hostilities.  Denton, as with most villages in East Kent, became front line.  In 1940 the meadows were scarred and scorched by the wrecks of Nazi planes.  In the same year, Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth (Queen Mother) came to visit.

The church holds a fete every year at the village hall and the Village Hall committee organise various events to help raise funds to cover the running costs and repairs to the hall.

2. History of Wootton

The Manor of Wootton, or Wootton Court, was given to Athelard, Archbishop of Canterbury, in AD 800 be Cenulf, King of Mercia. The manor house, and the church, were supposedly built by Ivo de Woditon in the 12th century. The Manor passed to the Crown during the Reformation and was sold by Henry VIII to Leonard Digges in 1547.

The Digges family owned the nearby Manor of Barham but, as the youngest son, Leonard wanted his own family home. Leonard and his son Thomas are regarded as the two finest English mathematicians of the 16th century. It was at Wootton Court that they invented the telescope, more than 30 years before Hans Lipperhay and Galileo are said to have invented it. The Digges work on telescopes and planetary orbits has only recently been discovered in an unpublished manuscript of 1576. It seems to have been kept a state secret so as not to warn the Spanish and their threatening Armada of the “secret weapon” invented by the Digges. Leonard has been called the “Einstein of the Tudor Age” and also laid the foundations of the modern sciences of surveying and meteorology.

Thomas Digges was appointed by Elizabeth I as General Surveyor and Engineer to Dover Harbour and he built an enormous artificial harbour complex that now forms the Western Docks. He was also Muster Master General of the English Army in the Netherlands. Leonard died at Wootton Court in 1571 and Thomas sold the house in 1574.

The manor eventually passed to the Brydges family who built a new house on a grand scale in 1785-90, the 16th century house being incorporated into the rear. The house was rebuilt again in 1870 and it was purchased by H G Underhill and converted into a preparatory school.  In 1939 the school was evacuated and used to house prisoners of war and the displaced persons. After the war the school never returned and the old manor house was demolished in 1952.

Wootton has always been closely associated with the neighboring village of Denton and this is reflected in St. Martin’s Church which forms a pair with St. Mary’s in Denton. The flint church has some 14th century remnants in its fabric but both it and Denton church were virtually rebuilt in 1878 and 1881 by the Brydges family. Unusually, the war memorial to the nine men of the parish who fell in the Great War is an oak wayside seat, erected in 1923 beside the road to Denton.