West Peckham, Kent
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West Peckham, Kent, England

St. Dunstan's Church

Ancient parish. Original registers from 1561.

Location: On Church Road off Mereworth Road, about a mile from the Intersection of the B2016, the A228, and the A26.

National Grid Coordinates:
TQ 644 526

A feature of considerable interest north of the chancel is the private pew (pictured at the right). This was originally a side chapel and was founded as a chantry by Sir John Culpeper7a. (A chantry is an endowment for the chanting of masses, generally for the founder.) The license for the chantry reads:

Warren Culpepper in the Pew at St. Dunstan's, West Peckham, Oct 1999
Warren Culpepper in the private pew at St. Dunstan's, Oct. 1999

Henry IV, on the second of March 1408-9, granted license to John Culpeper, one of the judges of the common bench, to found a chantry of one chaplain to celebrate divine service daily in the Church of West Peckham for the good estate of the King and his consort, Joan, Queen of England, the said John Culpeper and his wife Katherine, and for their souls after death, also for the King's father, John, late Duke of Lancaster and his wife Blanche, the King's mother, and other progenitors of the King, the parents of John Culpeper and his wife, and Walter Culpeper; and to grant in mortmain to the chaplain after inquisition, lands and rents not held in chief to the value of 10 yearly, and for him and his heirs in to present to the chantry at vacancies.

St. Dunstan Church, West Peckham, Kent, England
St. Dunstan's Church, West Peckham

Sir John and his wife were both buried in the chantry he had founded. On the north wall, just below the monument to Leonard Bartholomew and his wife, can be seen portions of the canopies of tombs which are very probably those of the founder and his wife.

The brass rubbing to be seen in the pew is of a brass effigy of Lady Elizabeth Culpeper on the top of the altar tomb at the northeast corner of the chancel. The effigy of her husband, Sir William Culpeper, the son of the founder of the chantry, is missing. A brass plate on the tomb wrongly records the date of Sir William's death as 1417. In fact, he died in 1457.

The chantry chapel was suppressed in 1548, but no possession of it was retained by the owners of Oxen Hoath Manor, and, at some time in the middle of the next century, the existing vault and pew were constructed. A raised vault and tomb, four feet high, was erected in the western portion of it, entirely blocking up the entrance on the north side. Access was then made possible by making a doorway in the eastern end of the chapel where the altar of the chantry chapel would have been. A square pew, with seating for ten people, was then erected on the top of the raised tomb at the western chancel, the arch cut away and a plastered beam placed across the top of it. Steps were made to lead from the pew to the outside door, and also down into the chancel...

For many generations the owners of Oxen Hoath were interred in this vault, the last interment being that of the widow of Sir William Geary, the second baronet. When Sir Borlace Miller died in 1714 without issue, the estate passed to his sister, who was married to Leonard Bartholomew. In 1757 the last of the Bartholomews died without issue, and by his will left the estate to the son of Admiral Sir Francis Geary. The Geary family remained in possession of Oxen Hoath until the death of Sir William, the fifth baronet, in 1944. Although the last interment in the vault was in 1871, the pew remained in use until the death of Sir William...

(Source: Church Pamphlet, undated, obtained at church in October 1999)

West Peckham Manor

See Dukes Place

West Peckham

Location: Off the A26, 12 miles NNW of Goudhurst, and 8 miles WSW of Maidstone.

National Grid Coordinates: TQ 645 525

West Peckham is a quiet village in the midst of smiling orchard country, with fields surrounding the village and no main roads running through the most attractive parts of it. The parish church of St. Dunstan lies down a narrow lane and stands opposite the village green. The church predates the Norman Conquest and there are some fascinating wooden carvings behind the altar - although these seem to be of a later date. West Peckham is on the Wealdway and Greensand Way footpaths, which trace their way across the higher ground in the vicinity. Another footpath, leading west from the village, passes the edge of Oxen Hoath, a large mansion and estate built by the Culpeper family. Further along the path, from a stone bridge by a small lake, there is a good view of the house, which commands excellent views of the Medway Valley and the Weald. (Source: Connolly, Sean, Hidden Places of Kent, 1998, pages 85-86)

1831 Topographical Dictionary
PECKHAM (WEST), a parish in the hundred of LITTLEFIELD, lathe of AYLESFORD, county of KENT, 6 miles (N.E.) from Tunbridge, containing, with Oxen Hoath, 498 inhabitants... The church, dedicated to St. Dunstan, is a small building, with a tower surmounted by a spire, situated on an eminence nearly in the center of the parish... A preceptory of Knights Hospitallers was founded here, in 1408, by John Culpeper7a, one of the Justices of the Common Pleas.

Also See: Oxen Hoath, Dukes Place, Old Soar, Hadlow and Wrotham

Last Revised: 02 Jan 2015


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