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"BIDDENDEN, a parish and village in the hundred of Berkeley, lathe of Scray, in the county of Kent, 5 miles to the E. of Cranbrook, and 13, from Maidstone. Staplehurst is its post town. It was for some time a seat of the clothing manufacture, which was introduced by the Flemings in the reign of Edward III.; at which time Sir Walter Manney had his residence here. Part of the land is laid out in hop grounds, and there are many ponds and springs in the neighbourhood. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Canterbury, of the value of £436, in the patronage of the archbishop. The church is a handsome early English edifice, with an embattled tower, and peal of eight bells. It is dedicated to All Saints, and contains five monumental brasses, the earliest being of the year 1452, and some monuments of the Hendon family. The charitable endowments of the parish amount to £74 a year, and consist chiefly of the income (£20) of the grammar school, founded by John Mayne in 1566, and £30, the produce of land the alleged gift of twin sisters, Eliza and Mary Chulkhurst, called the "Biddenden maids," who art, said to have been born joined together at the hips and shoulders. They lived till the age of thirty-four, when they both died within six hours of each other. The charity was bequeathed in the 12th century, for the purpose of an annual distribution of bread and cheese to the poor; and the tradition of the two sisters is still perpetuated by figures of them stamped on the loaves or cakes given away on Easter Sunday. During the Civil War, a beacon stood near the village, communicating by Boar's Isle, Tenterden, and Coxe's Heath, with London. Fairs are held here on Old Lady Day and the 8th November."

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868 by Colin Hinson ©2010]


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