POLHILL FAMILY HISTORY PAGE<< Previous Next >>
III. THE POLHILLS AND THE CHURCH.
The family has given many sons to the service of the Church of England.
The earliest on record, if we accept the Polles of Detling as of the Polhill family, was John, son of Laurence de Polle. He was instituted parson of Tycheseye in Surrey on 12th February 1322. He is so described in a 'feet of fines' 103-139-545 of 1342, concerning a rent of 15/- due for 180 acres of land at Chydyngston, Sundrash and Hevre. (A). He is also named in the parish records of Titsey, Surrey, as transcribed by W. Bruce Danneman, F.S.A. in 1906. (31). The record for 1345-1366 is lost, but John is rector in April 1324 and the next entry is of Halfe Daferson, instituted on 15th July 1362. However long John de Polle was rector of Titsey he was faithful in his ministry for in the will of Sir Thomas de Uvedale, whose family were Lords of the Manor of Titsey from 1301 to 1535, he charges in 1367
"that my wife and mine executors do appoint and ordain a service in the church of Tycheseye for the soul of John de Pole and for the souls of all others from whom I have received any good either in their life or after their death."
The old church at Titsey was demolished in 1775 and a new church, dedicated to St. James, erected in 1861.
Edward, the son of John (the Elder) and Elizabeth Fowle (of Preston), of whose family was the last Prior of Southwark, was rector of Etchingham, Sussex; a church dating from 1363 and noted for its fine brasses. (24). The first mention of him in the register is the officiating at a baptism on 3rd, February 1610 and the last entry bearing his signature is on 25th, November 1639. He died 11th. October 1654 and is buried at Etchingham, but there is no memorial to him there. He left a collection of 17th. century books which is now in the library of Preston Manor, a museum belonging to the Brighton Corporation. His son Edward, is noted for having written a number of religious works which have been reprinted more than once. (22).
William Polley, M.A. was appointed rector of Offham in October 1660. He resided in a fairly considerable property at East Street, Addington;- in the Hearth Tax return of 1664 he paid on 5 hearths. On 16th January 1666 he was married at Addington to Mrs. Margaret Deane. He was presented to the rectory of Addington by William Watton, Lord of the Manor and instituted on 12th. November 1673. His
incumbency was short for he was buried at Offham on 15th October 1675. (70).
The Kentish historian, Hasted, records that Edward Polhill was rector of Bredgar, Sittingbourne, at the church of St. John the Baptist, from 1690 to 1699.
Simon Polhill, born 11th May 1659, the son of Simon Polhill, of London, was rector of Woolverston, Suffolk, from 1692 to 1694. He was educated at Merchant Taylors' School between 1673 and 1677, and became a Sir Thomas White scholar of St. John's College, Oxford in 1677. He was M.A. in 1685; B.D. in 1691 and assistant master of his old school from 1688 to 1692.
Edward Polhill, of New Hall Inn; M.A. 1686; was vicar of Dinton and rector of Compton Chamberlayne, Wilte. It is possible that he was brother to the Simon, above. He married Mary, daughter of the Rev. Robert Frampton, rector of Donhead St. Andrew. Both are buried at Dinton: she in 1713 and he in 1732. From them has sprung the Wiltshire line of Polhills and through them the Australian and New Zealand branch of the family. Their grandson, Edward, was rector of Milston Wilts. He married Susannah Pinckney. Both lie buried at Milestone; he in May 1800 aged 62 and she in October 1810. (53).
Hasted also records that Robert Polhill, A.M. was vicar of the church of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Goudhurst, Kent, in July 1759, and by special dispensation granted July 6th 1764 also rector of SS. Peter and Paul, Shadoxhurst, Ashford, in plurality. (30). His ministry extended from 1759 to 1801 and on his death his sons, William and J.B. Polhill erected a tablet on the west wall of Goudhurst Church, the inscription runs:-
" Near this spot
Lie the remains of the
Revd. Robert Polhill, A.M.
Vicar of this parish above forty years
who died on the 2nd. June 1801 aged 67.
If unaffected piety, universal benevolence
and a cheerful resignation to the will of God
are the just characteristics of a true believer,
his life spent in the exercise of these virtues
proved him a christian.
Let his example, reader, encourage thee diligently
to rely on the support of Divine Providence.
His sons, William and J.B. Polhill, from a sentiment
of filial piety consecrate this tablet to his memory.
Also Mrs. Milicent Polhill, wife of the Rev. Robert
Polhill, vicor of this parish, died 30th of July
1771, aged 36 years.
Mr. D. Stanford obiit 9th of June 1781, act. 72."
Rebecca Polhill died the 11th of April 1799, aged 38 years;
A brass plate under the tower states " By a voluntary subscription of this parish these chimes were made by Samuel Harman of Tenterden. A.D. 1789. Robert Polhill, vicar. Thomas Williams and Thomas Tanner, Churchwardens." the peal weighs over 5 tons, the tenor bell alone weighing 27 hundredweight. The third bell expresses the purpose of the peal:-
"To honour both of God and King
Our voices shall in concert ring."
The family papers of the Rev. Robert Polhill, who described as 'of Tovil' are deposited in the County Archives at Maidstone (B. U442). From these it is learned that the two sons William and J.B. who placed the tablet in Goudhurst church were themselves in Holy Orders.
The Rev. William Polhill, A.B. was rector of Hadleigh in Essex from 1792 to 1802 where he died aged 36. A tablet was placed to his memory in the chancel of the church.
J.B.'s full name was John Bosanquet Polhill. He succeeded his brother William at Hadleigh and was rector there from 1802 to 1824, and curate of Kingdown from 25th May 1821 to 19th January 1823. He was tenant of St. Vincent's, the largest house after the Manor house in the parish of Addington, Kent, and was 'officiating minister' there from 17th December 1809 to 11th January 1825. (70). He married Elizabeth May on 25th October 1803. She was daughter to Walter May (formerly Barton) who built Hadlow Castle, by Elizabeth Stanford his wife. On his death he was buried in the May Mausoleum at Hadlow. His widow married Sir William Twysden, Bart, of Royden Hall, East Peckham in 1831. On her refusing, on legal advise, to convey to him a proposed settlement, he promptly left her and wrote a scurrilous pamphlet describing her as 'only a yeoman's daughter'. (71). She died 12th July 1863 and was buried in the May Mausoleum with her first husband.(71). Hadlow Castle has long since been demolished and only the lofty tower, 'the Stair' built by Walter's son, remains.
From the Rev Robert Polhill is descended, through the marriage of his daughter Sarah with the Rev. William Douthwaite of Philpotte, Leigh, on 27th February 1780, the family of that name in Tonbridge.
The Rev. William Polhill, who was the distinguished Head-Master of Maidstrone Grammar School and who has been mentioned earlier in this story, also served incumbencies. A tablet in St. Nicholas church, Linton, Maidstone.
states:- Patron, Edward Louisa Mann
Vicar, William Polhill, B.A.
on death of the last,
He had previously been instituted to the living of St. Margaret Bircholt on 19th November 1762. On 10th September 1764, he was also instituted to St. Mary, Orlestone, and in 1779 to St. Martin of Tours, Detling. He gave up these livings on institution to the rectory of Albury, Surrey. He served here until March 11th 1822 when he died at the age of 85. (2).
Miss Bray, a resident of Albury, has entered in her 'Recollections of Shere', written in 1857:-
"Mr. Polhill, Rector of Albury, was a good specimen of the old-fashioned race of clergy now extinct. He and his wife were perfect pictures in their neat and pretty personage, and when on Sundays, he descended from his respectable chariot in his full- bottomed powdered wig, dingle hat and flowing silk gown, and walked up the Churchyard with his lady by his side dressed in white with black silk cloak, he made a most imposing figure to my mind. Yet his teaching was not such as I should value now, and he did not scruple in his younger days to join the Hunt on his sleek steed, which was used for farm work and riding in the week, and with its companion drew the couple to church on Sundays. They were thoroughly respected."
The next members of the cloth were two brothers, sons of George Polhill and Mary Porteus. The Rev. Frederick Campbell Polhill (25.9.1809-2.2.1898) was curate of Otford church from 1836 to 1845 and of Hever from 1848 to 1859.(20). His brother the Rev. Henry Western Onslow Polhill. (1815). was of University College, Oxford, B.A. 1837; M.A. 1843: Deacon 1838 and Priest 1839. He was rector of Illington, Norfolk, 1851 to 1861 and of Ashurst, Tunbridge Wells (where Kent and Sussex meet and the Medway enters Kent, (48), from 1861 to 1900.(20). He and his wife Charlotte Frances died in 1900 and lie beneath a simple white marble cross at the foot of an ancient yew tree in the yard of the church they served so long and so well. The only wording on the tomb apart from the names and dates are the words 'God be merciful to me, a sinner'.
A substantial restoration of the church of St. Martin was carried out by the Rev. Henry during his incumbency (5). A small vestry was added on the north side; the floor of the church was lowered; the gallery was removed and the nave reseated. During the progress of this work the top of the old pre-reformation altar was found inverted in the pavement
of the chancel, with three quite perfect crosses on it. The mason who was told to clean it rubbed out the three crosses, for, he said, "he had no respect for the dark ages". This stone now forms the top of the existing Holy Table.
The pulpit was made in 1870 out of the remains of the old rood screen which was purported to have miraculous properties. The communion vessels include a flagon and patern dated 1870; that is during the incumbency of the Rev. Henry Polhill.
The church dedication is of great antiquity, dating from a monks' house build between 921 and 927. The church was rebuilt in 1229/30 and again after a fire in 1240. Mr. Polhill built the present rectory, a stately Georgian building opposite the church, which is now divided into three homes.
The most impressive impact upon the life of the church was undoubtedly caused by the conversion, together with a great number of University under-graduates, of the second and third sons of Capt. Frederick Charles Polhill-Turner, D.L.,J.P., M.P. and Emily Frances, daughter of Sir Henry Winston Barron, 1st. Bart. (55)
These sons, Cecil Henry (23.2.1860) and Arthur Twistleton (7.2.1862) were brought up at Howbury Hall, Bedford, accustomed to all the amenities and habits of life usual to a great country estate. They were destined, as was the case with so many county families, respectively for the army and the church. Both were educated at Eton. Cecil played for school in the field-game in 1877 and was for two years in the cricket eleven. Arthur won his house colours for football and cricket in 1879 and was for two years in the cricket and football elevens and for one year as keeper of the field.
Cecil went up top Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1879 and prepared for his army career. He was 2nd. Lieut, in the Bedford Yeomanry in 1880 and commissioned in the 2nd. Dragoon Guards, (Queen's Bays) in 1881. In 1884 he was lieutenant.
Arthur went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge in 1880, was B.A. 1884 and went in that year to Ridley to prepare for ordination.
At that time the American Evangelist, D.L. Moody, was conducting a mission in England. His eloquence and fervour made a great impression upon Arthur and by 1882 he had made a clean break with his old life and was determined to offer for missionary service in China. Cecil was not so moved at the time but two years later while on holiday in Germany he was equally stirred with thoughts about service in China. The two brothers became closely associated with five other Cambridge graduates, all moved with the same consecration towards missionary work in China. On February 4th. 1885, at a great meeting in the old Exeter Hall, Strand, organised by the China Inland Mission, the
Cambridge Seven, as they came to be called, were given a great farewell. Mrs. Polhill-Turner had viewed the enthusiasm of her two sons with some misgivings but she was present at the Exeter
Hall with her three daughters. Their eldest brother, Edward Frederick, who had succeeded his father in 1881 was not there. He died a bachelor in 1903. Backed by the presence of forty other Cambridge graduates on the platform, all of whom had volunteered for service in China, the Seven made rousing speeches and amid an unprecedented wave of enthusiasm the Seven sailed for China the next day.
Cecil was stationed in Shansi for a short while but he moved steadily north-west, set upon reaching the prohibited land of Thibet. He became great friends with the Thibetans at Kansu, and through travellers made contact with the Dalai Lama. He moved to Sungpan in Western Szechwan, still bordering on Thibet where Cecil and his wife nearly lost their lives in a violent riot in 1892. After a recovery of health by a visit to England they spent nearly a year on the Indian border of Thibet and moving round reached again the Chinese border of that mysterious land. In 1900 they were withdrawn with other missionaries to the coast during the Boxer rising and Cecil was invalided home. The doctor forbade his permanent return. Soon after, in 1903, he inherited the Howbury estates but his heart was in China and he made several prolonged visits to that country before he died at Hampstead in 1938 aged 78 years. He had married Eleanor Agnes, daughter of Dr. Marston on May 3rd 1888. She died on 31st December 1904.
Arthur was ordained in China in 1888 and he became M.A. in 1892. For ten years he lived at Pachow in North Szechwan, later moving to other stations in the province, using them as bases for evangelisation of the thickly populated countryside. He was in China throughout the Boxer rising and the Revolution of 1911 and did not retire until 1928 at the age of 66. He took the country living of Furneux Pelham in Hertfordshire and stayed there from 1930 to 1932. He died 21st November 1935, having twice married and brought up a large family.
The unpublished reminiscences of Cecil and Arthur Polhill (they dropped the additional surname of Turner), entitled "Two Etonians in China" and Arthur's Diary 1884/5 are in the possession of the China Inland Mission.
Arthur's eldest son, the Rev. Douglas Arthur Polhill born 23rd January 1889, followed his father's vocation. (14 and 20). At C.C.C.Cambridge he took B.A. in 1912 and entered Ridley Hall the same year. Deacon 1914; Priest 1916; T.C.F. 1917/20; Hon. Chaplain to the Forces 1920. After serving curacies at Walthamstow, Forest Gate and Norwich he was appointed vicar of East Ruston, Norfolk 1924/32, of St. Paul's, Greenwich 1932/38 and St. Michael's Battersea 1938/47. He retired to Sussex with licence to officiate in the Chichester Diocese.<< Previous Next >>