Kent-Weald and "Dens"
by Mary Mettler
We kept hearing the words “Kent Weald” and wondered what that meant. Turns out that it refers to forested land and is meant to describe part of Kent, as well as Surrey and East Sussex in Southeast England, which was heavily forested in Saxon times. Immediately, I thought of Robin Hood and his “merry band” melting into the woods! I’ll bet his band included some of my ancestors! If you take one more step, all the towns that end in “den” refer to clearings in the “weald.” Our Kent ancestors come from Frittenden, Marden, and Tenterden, three very old towns, along with a few other non-“den” towns such as Headcorn, Selling, and Wye. Tenterden, for example, was the nearest point in the Wealden forest to Thanet and served as their “den” or pig-pasture in the early Saxon period.
We were very excited about our first stop in the lovely town of Headcorn, the ancestral home of our Borden line, which name survives in our family all the way to my 3rd great grandmother Sybil Borden (1773-1864). For years, we American Bordens felt we had excellent documentation back to my 15th great grandfather, Henry Borden (b. ca 1370). In fact, the American Bordens placed a plaque in the floor of our ancestral church, St. Peter and St. Paul in Headcorn in memory of my 12th great grandfather, William Borden (1450-1531), who was a substantial landowner.
St. Peter and St. Paul - Headcorn
Plaque - William Borden (1450-1531)
Like so much of the early genealogy, one link has turned out to be very unlikely. William supposedly had a son named Edmund, who is my 11th great grandfather, but careful work from some fine genealogists broke that link. [see note at the end of the blog] William is likely a relation of some kind, just not in our direct line. Nevertheless, we are happy to carry the Borden name from Edmund through nine proven generations!
We were in Headcorn on a Saturday with the six bells of the church working overtime with June weddings. The town itself is a favorite destination for Londoners on weekends, as it is filled with shops, restaurants, and old half-timber buildings. We wish we had had more time to investigate the town further.
Headcorn-half timber building
To complete our Borden line, we visited Frittenden and Marden, home to five generations of Fowles, dating back to the 15th century. Joan Fowle (ca. 1604-1688) married Richard Borden (ca. 1595-1671). They were the Bordens who settled in New England by 1638 and were my 7th great grandparents.
The massive traffic jam discussed in a previous blog ended thoughts of visiting the ancestral towns in northern Kent, including Selling, where our Hatch line has been documented as far back as the early 15th century. Fortunately, Thomas Hatch, my 11th great grandfather, must have foreseen the traffic jam, as he removed to Tenterden by 1563, when the first of his children born in Tenterden was baptized in St. Mildred’s Church. Although Tenterden historians believe a church might have existed as early as 730, shortly after Mildred’s death, the present church dates from about 1180, again built in the Norman style. The lancet window, but not the stained glass, pictured below is part of the original church.
Lancet window - St. Mildred's
St. Mildred's Church - Tenterden
With sincere apologies to the many fine genealogists who include sources in their blogs, I am writing this at a very superficial level. I really hope that any of you who have one or more of the surnames in my blogs will please contact me. I have compiled these ancestries and have excellent sources for you, plus much more information on the ancestral churches and towns. There is just no way I could do justice in my blogs to this wealth of information!
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