Saturday, 23 March 2019

The Story of Christopher Kelsham

This is the story of my paternal 12th Great Grandfather, Christopher Kelsham  (1500-1566).

Born around 1500 to Elizabeth Scott and John Kelsham, in the village of Headcorn, Kent, England.

It's amazing to me that I've been able to trace a branch of my family back to the 16th century!!

Just to put this into context ... in 1500 Leonardo da Vinci was alive and living in Florence where he was creating his cartoon titled:

The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John the Baptist.
(By Leonardo da Vinci - National Gallery collection, Public Domain,

Christopher Columbus died just a couple of years after my 12x great grandfather was born, having accomplished the feat of reaching the Americas.  King Henry V111 was crowned King when my 12x great grandfather was aged around 9 or 10.   My 12x great grandfather was born and lived during what was known as 'The Tudor Period'.

It appears that my ancestor, Christopher Kelsham, belonged to the gentry, one of four broad groups in Tudor society.  There were the nobility at the top, then the gentry and rich merchants, then the yeomen and craftsmen, and below them ... the tenant farmers and wage labourers.

Gentry were 'gentlemen' who owned large amounts of land, were usually educated and had a family coat of arms.  These middle class Tudors usually built study 'half-timbered' houses made with a timber frame filled in with wattle and daub.  It seems that Christopher certainly fit the category of gentry.

He lived on an estate known as Kelsham Estate in the village of Hedcorne (later spelt Headcorn), and resided in a manor house known as Kelsham Manor, which was indeed a 'half-timbered' house.

A quote taken from Edward Hasted's chapter on the Parish of Hedcorne (Headcorn) in his book, 'The History and topographical Survey of the County of Kent' - Volume 5' published in 1798 stated:

"KELSHAM is an estate in this (Hedcorne, later spelt Headcorn) parish which lies at a small distance southward of Mottenden and though now only a farmhouse was formerly accounted a manor and was the residence of a gentleman, known by the surname, who bore for their arms "sable, a fess engrailed argent, between three garbs" or, as appeared by the figure of one of them, with these arms on his tabard, formerly in painted glass in the windows of this church, but long since destroyed (great storm of 1703). In this name the possession of it seems to have continued till the latter end of queen Elizabeth's reign."
Edward Hasted, 'Parishes: Hedcorne', in The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 5 (Canterbury, 1798), pp. 324-336.

Painting of Kelsham Manor House

Christopher lived in the manor house named Kelsham Manor, on the Kelsham Estate until his death towards the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign. 

According to an extract from 'The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Headcorn' by T.W. Burden Easter published in 1913:
'There were two Kelsham coats of arms in Headcorn Parish Church drawn by the vicar's wife early last century. The Kelsham family were granted this consideration, as tradition has stated that the Bethersden marble, of which the church is built,was quarried north of Summerhill on the lands of Kelsham.
Church of St. Peter & Paul, Headcorn, Kent

The two Kelsham family coats of arms figured prominently in a painted glass window of the parish church, the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul in Headcorn.  Whilst the Church is still standing, sadly the Kelsham coats of arms were destroyed during a storm in 1703.

I can only share a few details about the life of Christopher.  In 1537, when Christopher was 37 years old, his father John Kelsham died.  By this time it seems that Christopher had married Mary Hemersham, and they were living in Kelsham Manor House.

I've only been able to find a record for one child born during the marriage of Christopher and his wife Mary.  It seems highly likely there were other children born during these years, but I have yet to track down the evidence of this.

Christopher's daughter Agnes, was born in 1544 when Christopher was aged 44.  When she married in 1565, her husband William Fullagar became Lord of the Manor, so it seems Agnes was the only surviving child of Christopher and the estate was passed onto Christopher's son-in-law.

In 1564 Christopher made a will, and it's likely he died not long after.

There's a particular story that's been passed down the generations of the Kelsham-Fullagar family ...
" While Mr. Kelsham was away one time, William (Fullagar) swept young Agnes off of her feet and married her. When Mr. Kelsham returned he was none too happy about this, but agreed to give his blessings to them on one condition - the name Kelsham was to be passed down in each generation."
This could possibly mean that Christopher died around the time of Agnes's wedding which was in 1566.  He would have been 66 years of age.

Kelsham did indeed become a family name handed down to various descendants.

My 10th Great Grandfather was named Kelsham Fullagar  (son of William Fullagar and Agnes Kelsham).
One of Kelsham Fullagar's sons was named William Kelsham Fullagar, my 9th Great Grandfather.

Kelsham Manor House still exists today and is a Grade 11 listed building in Kent, England.  When it was listed back in 1968, this is how it was described:

Wealden farmhouse

Farmhouse. Late C16 or early C17, with C17 addition to left. Timber framed with plaster infilling and plain tile roof. Lobby entry plan of 3 timber- framed bays including stack bay, with 2-bay addition to left. 2 storeys and garret. Right section close-studded, with dropped tie-beam. Broadly-spaced studding to left section. Continuous jetty to right section, on solid brackets, with moulded bressumer. Left section unjettied. Three-quarters hipped roof. Multiple brick ridge stack to centre of right section. Irregular fenestration of 5 casements; one 3-light to each principal bay and one 2-light under stack, Right section formerly had deep central window to each outer bay, flanked by frieze windows under eaves. Mortices on ground floor for rectangular bay window to each outer bay of right section with frieze windows in ground-floor wall. Door of 2 fielded panels with rectangular 3-light fanlight under stack. Open lean-to shelter to right gable end. Rear lean-to to right. Rear wing to left built 1930. Interior: exposed framing.

Photos of Kelsham Farm - taken 2018

This week I'm joining the #52Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge and the challenge for the week is:  12.  

Christopher Kelsham is my 12x great grandfather on my paternal side, and I've already posted about another 12x great grandfather, Dominyche Fullagar  (Christopher's son-in-law's father).  He was also from Headcorn in Kent.

Christopher's daughter (my 11th great grandmother Agnes) married Dominyche's son William (my 11th great grandfather).  It seems fitting to link Dominyche's post here as well -  The Story of Dominyche Fullagar.

I'm joining Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks 2019 project / challenge.

The prompt for Week 12 of 2019 is '12'.

You can join by blogging or posting on social media with the tag #52ancestors.

1 comment:

  1. I have included your blog in INTERESTING BLOGS in FRIDAY FOSSICKING at

    Thank you, Chris


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