Sunday, May 26, 2013

Kent day trip

Last Thursday I drove my mum, dad and the four children to Kent to do some family history exploring. We were looking for sites which related to the Kingsnorths and Pullens.


First stop was Headcorn where Harriet's birth is recorded (along with the rest of her siblings') at Headcorn Baptist. She was born in 1796, but I think the births were all registered at the same time in the early 19th century. They are all recorded together and the words "The above list was given to me Esq. Love by John Kingsnorth for mention in this register" were included at the end. I had arranged to meet with the church secretary of Headcorn Baptist in order to look through their archives. I was hoping to find some more records, ideally a minute book or similar so I could learn a little more about the Kingsnorths and their involvement in the church. I know that there was some controversy associated with the church's theology about this time (the church ended up becoming unitarian by 1819), and I also think that by the time Sarah and John died they were Wesleyan Methodists. There is registration of death for a John Kingsnorth (1822) and Sarah Kingsnorth (1826) with the Maidstone Circuit of the Wesleyan Methodist church which makes me suspect they were no longer Baptists by this stage.

Headcorn Baptist
The secretary of Headcorn Baptist was so friendly and helpful, but unfortunately there were no records going back that far in their archives. Still, it was wonderful to even see the minute books from the late 19th century, and to meet the Bible study group meeting there that morning! It was wonderful to think that the same church my ancestors were once part of still meet together to read God's word together. Another highlight was when the church secretary told them that I was looking for information on a Kingsnorth relative and immediately most of the people in the room recognised the name and knew people with that name in the area - quite possibly distant relatives!

While we were in Headcorn we also looked at the Methodist church burial ground in the hope of finding John and Sarah Kingsnorth's graves, but the earliest graves there seem to be from the 1830s when that chapel was built.

Headcorn Methodist burial ground

Headcorn Methodist
On our way out from Headcorn, we went to find the site of Headcorn Baptist church in the early 1800s. The current one (pictured above) was built in 1819 so I don't think my ancestors would have attended church there. There was an earlier meeting place - in Love Lane, just out of town. There the church met on a property called Bounty Farm. We also knew that there was a burial ground there which is probably where Harriet's brother was buried as a young child. It was quite a beautiful place in many ways - a tiny plot of land fenced off next to a quiet lane. We couldn't get inside the fence to look closely, but did take some photos from the side of the road.


Our second stop was Staplehurst, where John and Sarah Kingsnorth were married. John's family had been living there for at least two hundred years before that as well. It seems he was from a family of Baptists, one of whom (Richard Kingsnorth) led and hosted the church in his own home, Spilshill Court.

We went to look at All Saints Staplehurst, where many of the Kingsnorths were buried and married (not christened!!). The weather was pretty average at this stage - in fact I think it was hailing!

Mum with the font

Inside All Saints

Sheltering from hail!
On our last trip to Staplehurst, we had managed to find Spilshill Court, but did it by driving up a private road and speaking to the owner (but not before snarled at by a threatening looking dog!). This time, I was keen to try and retrace the way the members of the church would have walked to church each Sunday. I had read that there had been a footpath leading from Chapel Lane up to Spilshill, so I thought we should see if it still existed as a public right of way. I was delighted to discover that it did! Admittedly, it seemed like it hadn't been used for at least a hundred years and was very muddy - but it was there. At first we walked straight past it, but as we walked back (feeling a little disappointed and silly for getting muddy for nothing!) I recognised it. It was very exciting.

Walking along the public footpath
A glimpse of Spilshill


The last place we visited was Chilham, where Jesse Pullen (Harriet Kingsnorth's husband) came from. It is about half an hour's drive from Staplehurst through some beautiful countryside which probably looks much the same as it did with its oast houses and barns and tudor buildings scattered through the countryside. On this particular day it was sleeting as we drove for a lot of the journey, but it was still beautiful.

At Chilham we visited St Mary's church again and showed mum and dad the Pullen graves we had discovered last time. Jacob and I spent some time working out what the gravestones said (more on that in another post). We saw the pub where Jesse Pullen's brother had been the publican in the 19th century and had a cup of coffee in one of the houses on the square and which of our relatives had visited this house (or even lived there).

font at St Mary's Chilham

Mum and me in the square - the pub (where Thomas Pullen was publican) is behind.

Finally, we went looking for Hurst Hill Farm which was where some of Jesse Pullen's family had lived (possibly Jesse himself), but it was too far up a private road to be able to see it.

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