Earliest records show Ryarsh was being held for the owner, Kind Edward the Confessor, by Alured c1050. This suggests the probability the there was a chapel or church and it would be normal for the Normans to have built their church on the site of the Saxon one, not necessarily in a village, but more centrally in an area of farmsteads and hamlets – serving a dispersed community. This is borne out by the proximity to the stream and alder & chestnut woods.
The village became the possession of Odo, Bishop of Baieux, Kind Williams half-brother, after the Norman conquest, but in 1084 was given by the King to the family of Cresie. It stayed with this family until about 1300 – the latter end of Edward I’s reign – when it became a parcel of land owned by John Mowbray in the Barony of Bedford.
Meanwhile, around 1240, the church had been appropriated to the Priory of Merton in Surrey, “with its tythes and monies, buildings, the grove, alder beds, meadows and rents”. It remained in their possession until the Dissolution of the Monasteries when it was surrendered to the King – Henry VIII. By Tudor times the main buildings and the extended parish included Callis Court, Fatherwell, The Mill adjacent to the A20, Ryarsh Place, Woodgate, Aldon, The Duke of Wellington and Elmtrees pubs and the various farms.
The village was granted to Thomas, Earl of Nottingham who became the Duke of Norfolk in 1385. It remained in his family’s ownership (in spite of their chequered history) until 1499 when it was alienated to the Nevills, Lords of Abergaveny, in whose possession much of it still is, along with neighbouring Birling where they still live.
“The parish of Ryarsh is a rather unfrequented place, more healthy than it is either pleasant or fertile…. The village stands close to the north of the water called Addington Brook, with the church about a quarter of a mile eastward from it, almost adjoining Leybourne parish, hence the ground rises northward, where at a near miles’ distance is another hamlet (1), called Ryarsh likewise, which is larger than the former village.
The soil between the two villages is a deep infertile sand, but on the rising ground southward of the turnpike road (2) it borders upon much quarry rock”
Until 1995 this ‘deep infertile sand’ mentioned by Hasted in 1798 was being extracted for sand and eventually for brick making. This developed into a major source of employment for the village and in fact caused the village to remain fairly insular with many families still living in the village. In its heyday the village supported two pubs, three shops, two carriers, farms, and many other tradesmen such as cobblers, wheelwright, blacksmith, brewer and coal merchant.
The Duke of Wellington pub is still a hub within the village and the licencee encourages many community activities.
The present day parish of Ryarsh
From records it seems that the parish did extend south and west to include Fatherwell, Callis Court and Aldon.
1. The larger hamlet, mentioned by Hasted grew even larger round the group of old buildings by Ryarsh Place and the Duke of Wellington and is now the village centre.
2. The turnpike road is what is now the A20 with Callis Court on it.