The Colkyns, also Kulkin, Kalkyn, Calkin, Colekin, ect, were not originally members of the Anglo-Norman land-owning class but wealthy Canterbury merchants who appear to have married into it during the reign of King John [1199-1216]. The earliest reference to the Colkyns in connection with the knight’s fee of Essewelle is to be found in a court action bought before the Exchequer for Jewry by King Henry III 1216-1272] in late October of 1219 for the non-payment of money owed to the Crown for the knight’s fee of Essewelle.
The ownership and occupation of the knight’s fee of Essewelle was not straight forward. Dionisia Wischard, who appears to be a widow, held Essewelle in her own right from the Barony of Say, but had Hugh de Hotot, who was married to Dionisia’s daughter Isobel, as tenant. Hugh in turn had Ralph Colkyn as a sub-tenant or occupier. Ralf also appears to be the son-in-law of Dionisia and was married to the younger, and as yet unnamed, sister of Isobel.
King Henry claimed that he was owed certain fees by Hugh de Hotot as Dionisia’s tenant, but in court Ralf Colkyn stated that he had himself paid the money claimed by the Crown to Reginald de Cornhill, one of King John’s administrators, and that he had proof of payment. The court found that the money had been paid and that Reginald de Cornhill had to reimburse the King for this and other money he had collected on behalf of the Crown but had retained for his own use. These thefts of Royal revenue were possible because of the lawlessness during the last year of King John’s reign brought about by the 1st Baron’s War.
The 1st Barons War had begun in 1215, the last year of the reign of King John and ended in September of 1217. During this time the barons had rebelled against King John and invited Louis, son and heir apparent of King Philip II of France and grandson-in-law of King Henry II of England, to take the throne of England. Most of Kent fell to Louis but Dover Castle stayed loyal to King John. Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle, and a well-supplied garrison of men were besieged by Louis from 19th July, 1216, until some three months later when Louis called a truce on 14th October that ended the siege. The castle remained in Hubert de Burgh’s possession and Louis returned to London.
King John died later in October at Newark and was succeeded by his nine year old son, Henry III. Many of the rebellious barons decided that Henry was a better option as King of England than Louis of France and sided with the new boy king. After a series of defeats during 1217, which included the Battle of Dover and Battle of Sandwich in the Straits of Dover, Louis agreed to give up his claim to be the King of England by signing the Treaty of Lambeth on 11th September, 1217. Louis accepted 10,000 marks to relinquish his English dominions and returned home.
Hugh de Hotot and Isobel de Hotot had a daughter, Nichola, who had married Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] but Isobel and her son-in-law were at odds in 1223 when Geoffrey was involved in a suit against Isolbel concerning her laying waste to land he owned in Houghton, Bedfordshire.
However, their differences appear to have been resolved by 1227 as that year Isabella de Hotoft used Geoffrey Cunquest as her attorney to petition against Hamo Colekyn, the heir and therefore presumably the son of Ralph Colkyn, claiming that Hamo should pay service to her for the customs of the tenement he held from her in Esewaut [Esol] as Isabella was the elder sister and Hamo was the child of the younger sister. Nicola Conquest was therefore the heiress to one half of Essewelle through her mother, Isabel de Hotot, and Hamo Colkyn was the heir to the other half through his mother, the unnamed sister of Isabel. Later events provide evidence to show that Hamo inherited the knight’s fee of Essewelle and the manor that became known as Esol, and Nicola inherited the manor that became known as Fredydevill’.
In January of 1244  Geoffrey Conquestor and Nichola’s heirs sold their half of the Essewelle fee to Rogerus de Kynardinton (Roger de Kennardington), a member of a West Kent landowning family. The Manor of Kynardinton, from which the family took their name, lay on the borders of the Weald of Kent between Tenterden and Romney Marsh. The half fee at Essewelle was held in payment of annual scutage of 42/-, with half paid at Easter and half paid at Michaelmas [29th September]. There was also an annual charge of 10/- for “ward of Dover Castle”, which was payment in lieu of the service and exactions of providing guards for Dover Castle for eight months of the year.
Holders of a knight’s fee, or part thereof, originally had had to carry out specified military services for their over-lord, usually a maximum of 40 days service a year for the holder of a full fee. However, by early to mid-13th century the payment of scutage [literally shield money] had generally replaced military service and over-lords used the revenue from scutage to employ professional full time soldiers to replace the previously “part-time” knights who held their knights fees. The payment of scutage in lieu of military service also allowed knights fees to be held by non-members of the knightly class, and from the early part of the 1200’s many of the growing number of wealthy merchants purchased knights fees, manors, and land.
Not long after de Kynardinton’s purchase the Kent Rolls of 1242-3 recorded: “Hamo Colekin and Roger de Kynardinton’, hold one fee at Esewelle from William de Say, who holds it from the King”. However, it was not to be a happy relationship between Hamo and Roger, his tenant!
In 1249 Roger de Kynardinton’ had borrowed money from the Prior and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral Priory using the £10 annual revenue he received from Freydevill’ in part security for the loan. This loan document contains the earliest known use of Freydevill’, or any of its many variant, to describe the one of the two manors that made up the knights fee of Essewelle and shows that Nicola Conquest had inherited the part of Essewelle that made up the manor of Fredydevill’.
The following year Hamo Colkyn (Kalkin) was summoned to court by William de Say, Baron of Say and Hamo’s over-lord, for the non-payment of feudal dues owed for tenure of Freydevill’. Hamo asked William to acquit him of this debt as it was in fact owed by Roger de Kynardinton’ who was actually in possession of Freydevill’. The over-lord stated that it was for Hamo to pay the dues owed and obtain recompense from Roger de Kynardinton’. This indicates that Hamo actually held the knight’s fee of Essewelle and that Roger was in effect a sub-tenant.
At the same time as Hamo was pursuing payment from Roger for Freydevill’ John, son of William de Frogham, and Richard Prit were pursuing a claim against Roger, but unfortunately the claim was not specified in the court records. Roger did not turn up in court, despite being given time to do so, and an attachment was made. The claim may have concerned manorial obligations as William de Frogham and the Prit family held land in and around the hamlet of Frogham which was in the large part within the Manor of Freydevill’.
Roger de Kynardinton’ appears to have at least temporarily resolved his problems and retained his holding as the 1253-54 Kent lists of knight’s fees records that Radulf Colkyn, presumably Hamo’s son, held three parts of one fee and Roger de Kenardynton’ held one part of one fee in the Manor of Eswall (Essewelle) from Willelm de Say. This appears to indicate that Freydevill’ was considered to be the lesser part of Essewelle.
In 1268 Ralph Colkyn was summoned by King Henry to appear before the Exchequer of Jewry, as had his late grand-father and namesake Ralph Colkyn in 1219, but this time the charges were much more serious. Ralph was accused of being was one of nineteen men that “came and entered the house of Simon Paable at Canterbury [bailiff (‘Ballivus’) of Canterbury], and by force and arms thence took and carried away the King’s Chirograph-Chest against the King’s peace”.
The King’s chirograph chest contained records of transactions between Jews and Christians under the provisions of the 1233 Statute concerning Jews which specified that:
“Loans contracted with Jews shall be by “chirograph only, not tally”. The Jew shall have the 1st part, with the seal of the Christian debtor attached; the Christian debtor the 2nd part; the 3rd part, the pes [foot] shall be put in the chest for safe keeping by both Christian and Jewish chirographers.
A chirograph whose foot is not in the chest shall be invalid”.
A chirograph is a medieval document, which has been written in duplicate, triplicate or very occasionally quadruplicate (four copies) on a single piece of parchment, with the Latin word “chirographum” (occasionally replaced by some other term) written across the middle, and then cut through to separate the parts.
The alleged crime took place during the attack on the Canterbury Jews in April of 1264 in which many of the city’s Jewish inhabitants were slain and those who survived fled the city. The attack had been instigated by Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester, who had taken Canterbury as an ally of Simon de Montford, who had himself in the week before Palm Sunday instigated a massacre of the Jewish community in London.
Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford, 7th Earl of Gloucester was one of the most powerful and brutal of all nobles in England and was known as “Red” Gilbert de Clare or “the Red Earl”, probably because of his hair colour. At the time of the Canterbury massacre he was a supporter of Simon de Montford in his rebellion against Henry III, known as the 2nd Barons War. Later, de Clare fell out with de Montford and went over to the King’s side just before the Battle of Evesham in August 1265 where de Montford was killed and the rebellion ended.
The main object of the attack on the Canterbury Jewish community appears to be the seizure of the chest and the documents contained therein concerning debts owed to Canterbury’s Jews. Therefore it can be assumed that Ralf Colkyn owed money to one or more of Canterbury’s Jews. Despite exhaustive enquiries the sheriff failed to apprehend any of the culprits, nor were the contents of the chest ever found.
Ralph Colkyn nor any of the other of the nineteen men accused in 1268, four years after the Canterbury attack took place, were convicted of the crime. The proceedings ended in 1270 when no evidence was offered against the accused. Any debts that Ralf Colkyn had owed any of Canterbury’s Jews were therefore erased.
Some twenty or so years later the Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274-75 recorded: “Item: Then Ralph Kalekin holds half a fee in Freydevile of William de Say and the same William of the king in chief, by what service they do not know”.
Who held the other half of Freydevile is not recorded, but it is strange that the type of service by which William de Say held Freydevile of the King is said to be unknown as it was still held of service for Dover Castle.
The Aids and Scutages Roll for Eastry Hundred of 1303 seems to indicate that Johan Colkyn, the then holder of the knight’s fee and presumably the son of Ralph Colkyn, had reunited Esol and Freydevill’, the two constituent manors of the fee, as the Roll refers to one fee held by Johan (John) Colkyn at Esol and Fredevill’ from Galfrid (Geoffrey) de Say. John Colkyn died a couple of years after the 1303 roll and his Post Mortem Inquisition of 1306 records him as having “ died possessed property at Esol and Freydevill’” which was inherited by his son, also called John.
After the death of John Colkyn in 1306 his son, John Colkyn (I), continued to hold property at Freydvill’, Esol and Nonyngton [probably in the North and South Nonington manors of the Manor of Wingham] during the early 1300’s until his death. John Colkyn’s (I) son and heir was another John Colkyn (II), who was in his minority when he inherited his father’s property. The exact date of death of John (I) is not known but it is believed to have been between 1316 and 1326. As a minor inheriting manors and land held from an over-lord John (II) became a ward of the Crown.
In 1315 Sir Henry Beaufuiz (Beaufitz, Beaufiz), a King’s Justice, obtained an enrolment of grant on a messuage and 25 acres in Esewele [Eswalt], the manor adjoining Esol which was held by the Abbey of St. Alban’s, from Walter, the son of Thomas atte Bergh of Esewele, who had inherited the property from family members. The exact location of this messuage is at present not certain but it could have been near the site of the present Old St. Alban’s Court buildings.
After the death of John Colkyn (I) Sir Henry appears to have bought the wardship of John Colkyn(II) from King Edward II, so becoming John’s legal guardian until he became of age. The sale of wardships was a common practice which bought a considerable revenue to the Crown in times of high mortality such as war or pestilence with the more lucrative wardships retained by the Crown. Guardians had control over the assets of the ward and also to whom the ward should be married. Often female wards were married to members of a guardian’s family.
Sir Henry died in 1325 but John Colkyn (II) did not have his property returned to him until Sir Henry’s executors were ordered to do so by King Edward III in February of 1337 (1338) when John Colkyn (II) showed he had reached his majority. The property returned was at least a part of the knight’s fee of Essewelle, and a messuage and a carucate of land held in his desmesne [land retained on a manor by the lord of the manor for his own use] in Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton.
The year after Sir Henry’s death Alice, his daughter and sole heiress, and her husband Sir William de Plumpton, a Yorkshire knight, sold “2 messuages, 90 acres of land, 70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton” to Richard de Retlyng (I), these were presumably her father’s Esewele property with some additional acquisitions which may have included a part of the knight’s fee of Essewelle, as Richard (II), son of Richard de Retlyng, was recorded as being part responsible for the fee in the Eastry Hundred Rolls of 1346. Sir Henry could well have acquired a part of the fee and other property from his wardship of the property of John Colkyn (II) and also of wardship of Geoffrey (II), the son of Geoffrey (I) de Say, who held the Barony of Say to which Esol and Freydevill’ owed their fee.
Richard de Retlyng (I) [who should not to be confused with Sir Richard de Retlyn(g) of Retlyng/Ratling Manor, a close relative but not directly connected to the following events] was a trusted servant of the Crown and served Edward II and Edward III from the 1320’s until his death around 1349. Royal service was well rewarded and Richard’s Post Mortem Inquiry records holdings in Staple; Nonyngton; Kyngeston (Kingston); Berfraiston (Barfreston), and Godwyneston juxta Wyngeham (Goodnestone-next-Wingham).
John Colkyn (II), senior, appears to have died shortly after regaining possession of his inheritance as his Post Mortem Inquiry was held in September of 1338 and recorded his having holdings in “Frydewill, Esole, Nunyngton”. The Nunygton property was almost certainly in the Manor of Wingham’s North and South Nonington manors. After the death of John Colkyn (II) land tenure becomes a bit confused and complicated and is not very clearly recorded.
John Colkyn (III), junior, inherited the holdings at Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton on his father’s death in 1338. His father had once held the whole knight’s fee of Essewelle, but by 1346 it appears to have become divided as the 1346 Eastry Hundred Rolls record John (III), son of John Colkyn (II), the Abbot of St. Alban’s, Edmund de Acholt, Richard (II), son of Richard de Retlyng (I) and their parceners [in this case co-owners/joint holders/partners] as being responsible for the fee that John Colkyn (II) had held at Esoll and Freydevill from Geoffrey de Say for 40s (£2) annually.
A likely cause of this division of responsibility for the fee and its constituent manors of Esol and Freydevill may date back to the wardships of John Colkyn (II) and Geoffrey de Say (II) by Sir Henry de Beaufuiz. He would have had control over the two minors and their property and it appears that he obtained at least a part of one of the two manor as his will states that he had: “70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs”, which appear to be manorial rents. Sir Henry’s daughter sold her inheritance to Richard de Retlyng, whose son was recorded as liable for a part of the Essewelle fee in the 1346 roll. The Abbot of St. Alban’s and Edmund de Acholt could also have purchased a part of the fee at the same time as the Abbot of St. Alban’s was certainly lord of the Manor of Esol by 1349.
John Colkyn (III) appears to have died a minor without male heirs soon after the 1346 Hundred Rolls were taken, so ending the holding of the knight’s fee of Essewelle and its component manors of Esol and Freydevill. Under the law of escheat, the Essewelle fee and its constituent manor of Freydevill would therefore revert back to the direct control of Lord Say, the over-lord from whom the knight’s fee and manor were originally held. This indicates that there was no male heir to John Colkyn with regards to the knight’s fee and Freydevill manor. The freehold and other property would have gone to any female heirs such his mother, sisters, or female relatives of his father or mother by precedent. Later documentation from the 1390’s concerning the inheritance of the Barony of Say records that the knight’s fee of Essewelle and the Manor of Fredville were retained by the Barony and its heirs until the early 1400’s.
The young John Colkyn was possibly a victim of the Black Death which swept through England between 1348 and 1450 with sporadic outbreaks continuing into the 1360’s black-death. The Black Death killed between one third and a half of the population of England and as a result land was readily available. However, the returns from agriculture were greatly diminished as the cost of employing a now scarce labour force rapidly increased and the market for agricultural produce had correspondingly shrunk. To counteract this state of affairs the Statute of Labourers was passed in 1351 in an effort to stop labourers taking advantage of the shortage of workers and demanding more money. The statute forced them to work for the same wages as before the Black Death and allowed landowners to insist on labour services being performed instead of accepting money (commutation) in lieu of service. Landowners accordingly profited from the food shortages, whilst the labourers standard of living declined due to substantial increases in the price of basic food stuffs such as bread and ale. A consequence of the shortage of labour was that much of the land previously used in food production was used to rear sheep as wool became more profitable, especially when shipped to Continental markets.
The rental roll for the Manor of Esole made in 1349 records the Abbot of St. Alban’s as the Lord of the Manor of Esol and therefore responsible for a half of the knight’s fee for Essewelle, a responsibility transferred to subsequent owners of the manor up until such fees for the “Manner of Eastwell alias Essoles alias St. Albans Court [in Nonington]” were “extinguished by purchase” by William Hammond in 1738. The Abbot’s manorial rent rolls for 1349 show that Sir John de Beauchamp held at Esole:-‘one messuage [now called Beauchamps] with dovecot, 60a arable, 12a pasture at a total annual manorial rental of 52 s.6d payable to the Abbot of St. Alban’s’.