In his History of Kent Hasted also says this of James Donet, who died in 1409, ‘On his  death without male issue his sole daughter and heir, Margaret, carried this manor  in marriage to John St. Leger esq., of Ulcombe, Sheriff anno 9, Henry VI, (1430-31)  Hasted is mistaken in calling James Donet’s daughter Margaret; her name was Margery.  Several generations of the Donet family lived at Siloam. John St. Leger who was  knighted died in 1442. His memorial is the brass of a man in armour of the Lancastrian  period which is mounted on a board in the north aisle of Ulcombe church (the inscription  is missing) His wife Margery is buried beside him in Ulcombe church. A long line of  St. Leger’s resided at Ulcombe, acquired manors and wealth, intermarried with the chief  families of Kent and frequently served the office of Sheriff and represented the County  in Parliament. They had four sons, Ralph the eldest, who succeeded his father at  Ulcombe, Bartholomew, Thomas and James. Of the four Thomas was the one who left  his mark on Rainham. 

Some of you may remember that several years ago The Rev. R.Allington-Smith, a former  vicar of Rainham, arranged an exhibition in the church entitled ‘The World of Thomas  St.Leger’. This is what he said in the Publicity Release ‘Sir Thomas St.Leger, Knight of  the Bath, lived from 1440 to 1483. Born of a Kentish family, the St.Legers of Ulcombe,  he fought on the Yorkist side in the War of the Roses, became esquire and later knight of  the body to King Edward IV and married the King’s sister, Anne of Exeter. He was much  in favour with the King who employed him extensively in the affairs of the Kingdom,  including foreign diplomacy. His connection with Rainham lies in the fact that he lived  for a time at the manor of Siloam in this parish and was involved in the building of the  great tower of the parish church. He was also instrumental in putting up the ‘canopy of  honour’ inside the church painted with Yorkist ‘sun-in-splendour’ devices. The church is in fact a part of the exhibition.

After Edward IV’s death Thomas St.Leger, with many  other Kentish knights, became implicated in Buckingham’s conspiracy against Richard  III. After its collapse he was beheaded at Exeter in 1483’  It was once suggested that Sir Thomas lies buried in the chest-like monument under the  easternmost arch of the arcade dividing the chancel from the chapel in St.Margaret’s  church. As this is shorter than normal it was argued that it must contain the body of a  headless individual namely Sir Thomas St.Leger.  The truth is that he was interred alongside that of his wife in the Rutland Chantry in St.  George’s Chapel, Windsor. He had founded it for Ann in 1481.  Incorporated in the battlement on the north side of the tower of St. Margaret’s church  are three shields, all eroded, one of which would probably have displayed the St. Leger  coat of arms if Sir Thomas had been involved in the building of the tower. 

The subject of who was responsible for the ‘canopy of honour’ or celure on the ceiling of  the nave and its interpretation has given rise to much debate- but that is another story.  Hasted continues ‘Sir Anthony St. Leger, (d.1559) lord deputy of Ireland in King  Henry VIII th’s reign (1509-1547) sold the manor of Sileham, or Sileham-court to  Christopher Bloor esq. who rebuilt his seat in this parish called Bloor's Place, in  which his ancestors had resided for several generations.’       

Christopher had a daughter, Olympiaz, who by her marriage to John Tufton of Hothfield,  near Ashford in Kent, the Tuftons came to possess not only Siloam but other estates in  the neighbouring parishes that were owned by the Bloor family. They remained in the  possession of the Tufton family until sometime in the 20‘h C. John was Sheriff of Kent in  1575, knighted in 1603 and became a baronet in 1603. He was buried, along with  Olympia and his second wife Christian Browne, in the vaults at Hothfield church. These  were prone to flooding and so in 1770 their remains were brought to Rainham. Along  with other members of the family they were placed in the vaults beneath the Tufton  chapel in St. Margaret’s church which are thought to have been built by Olympia’s father.  My paternal grandfather came from near Thame in Oxfordshire and moved to Kent at the  end of the 19"‘ C looking for work. Wakeley’s who were farmers at Meresborough gave  him employment and he lived at Siloam, which was owned by them. At that time it was  divided into two parts to accommodate two families of farm workers. My father spent his  childhood there and I visited Siloam, as a boy, a number of times to see my grandparents.  In particular I can remember the enormous fireplace in the house and a pump in the yard  where water was drawn from a well.  The house and estate comprising 66 acres was sold off in parcels by auction in 1986.  Notes:  1 A more reasonable explanation for the shortening of the tomb (if indeed it is a tomb) is  that it was done in order to allow priests to pass from chancel to chapel.  2 Olympia died without having a son. Sir John’s descendants (who became Earls of  Thanet) came from his second marriage, which produced six sons and four daughters. 

Eric Cross       



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