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History of Cobham

Cobham comes from the Old English ‘hām’ meaning a ‘village, homestead, estate’ or ‘hamm’ as ‘land hemmed in, land with a boundary’ combined with a personal name; therefore either ‘Cobba’s homestead/village’ or ‘Cobba’s hemmed-in-land’. 

From the 13th century, the history of the parish links closely with the families who owned the land. The family of de Cobham acquired their lands, in Cobham and Shorne, from the de Quartermeres during the reign of King John. For the next 400 years, they and their heirs, the Brookes, dominated the village and generously endowed the church.

As lawyers, the de Cobhams and the Brookes associated with the Court. As soldiers, they fought for the Cross in the Holy Land, and for the King in France and Britain. Following Henry Brookes implication in a plot against the king, in 1603, King James I gave
Cobham to his cousins the Stuarts. The last Stuart heiress married secondly Sir Joseph Williamson, the First Secretary under Charles II, who gave Cobham some beautiful Communion silver. In 1715, the lands passed by marriage to the Blighs, - later Earls of Darnley. The The Darnleys moved out of Cobham in 1957, following a change of fortune initiated by the agricultural depression of the 1880’s.

Cobham parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to St Mary Magdalene. The de Cobham family rebuilt the earlier Saxon chapel in the early 13th century. The de Cobhams regarded it as their own Chapel and place of burial. They made it exceptionally large for a parish church, similar to the huge endowments of the Norfolk 'wool' churches. Sir John de Cobham, who described himself as 'Founder of this place', carried out intense building work. He re-built the nave with two aisles, raised the roof, and added the porch and parvis. He also built the College, and liberally endowed the church, presenting it with ornaments, vestments, books and plate. Finally, under direction from Henry Yevele, the King's Master Mason and architect of the naves of Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Abbey, he added the tower, lengthening the two aisles to clasp it. Joseph Hatch cast a ring of five bells between 1623 and 1632.

In 1797, Edward Hasted described the Cobham church as a ‘handsome spacious building, consisting of three isles and a large chancel, and has a good tower at the west end of it, with a ring of bells’. Gillett and Johnson cast a treble bell in 1907 to commemorate the coming of age of the 8th Earl of Darnley’s son, Lord Clifton…. more

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