1066 and all that
The conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066 brought about changes which directly affected Kingsdown. The record of the land and property the Normans acquired with their success, the Doomsday Book, 1086, makes no mention of Kingsdown, although it is possible to interpret references to the local region and the church as references to Kingsdown. What seems clear is that as Edward the Confessor had owned Kingsdown, the name was retained and the property passed into the ownership of William I.
Kingsdown to Kingsdown - 1066 to 1440
Evidence suggests that Henry I gave Kingsdown to others and the first named holder, Ralph Picot, Sheriff of Kent from 1155 to 1160, received a charter to hold the land from Henry II. Through marriage the land passed down into the FitzBernard family. The landscape had by this time changed from that into which the Saxons had settled. In 1259 Kingsdown Manor had 226 acres of arable and 32 acres of pasture land, with 67 acres of woodland. Other land was being farmed by tenant farmers. Just over a century later the amount of arable land had reduced - possibly due to the effect of the Black Death plague on the local population - to 200 acres, with 180 acres of pastureland. From the FitzBernards the rights to the land passed through marriage into the hands of various families until the late 1300s. The estate was by then separated into four holdings. Two of these passed back to the Crown when their owners forfeited their land - one for supporting Lancaster in the War of the Roses, the other for his part in a conflict between the House of Lords and the King in 1388. The third quarter was inherited by Edward, Earl of March, later King Edward IV. The final portion reverted to the Crown when the owner, Margery Wentworth, died without an heir. So what had been the King’s down was once more Kingsdown in both name and ownership.
The Lovelaces - 1440 to 1630
Events after the mid 15th century saw the Manor and its farming land decline in importance. Richard, a poet, and Robert Lovelace bought land in nearby Kemsing in 1437. Richard then bought Hever in Kingdown. The name ‘Hever’ derives from Hever Castle, 12 miles away, because the property was probably held by the de Hever family around the 1240s. Richard’s grandson (or great grandson) built Hever Place Farmhouse, complete with its own chapel. The home became the most important building after the church and the family built up an estate of 2500 acres. After 1630, when the land passed through marriage out of the family, Hever Place became a tenanted farm - the manor house became the farmhouse and the chapel became redundant. The house was demolished in 1960.
Absentee Landlords - 1630 to 1784
For about 150 years after the Lovelace estates passed to Margaret Lovelace, wife of Henry Coke and mother of 9 children, the area of Kingsdown largely lived under the sway of absentee landlords while the Cokes lived out their lives elsewhere. Coincidentally, a record of the Coke farms under the title ‘Kingsdown’ (a wider area than occupied by the present village) from the 1700s lists 9 farms, including Hever Place and Brands Hatch farms.
These were not the only farms in the area and there are records which give an indication of the ‘ordinary’ folk who lived in Kingsdown. Records from 1664 show there were around 30 houses in the parish, indicating there may have been a population of maybe 150 people, a third of whom were too poor to pay tax. A census in 1676 to establish how many Roman Catholics and nonconformists there were in the area recorded 90 people aged over 16. No-one was, or admitted to being - a Roman Catholic or a nonconformist.
Roads through the village were increasing in importance. Turnpikes were set up to provide an income to maintain and improve the main road, now the A20. Around 1780 improvements were made to the alignment of the route, making it easier to travel through the village and improving the descent down the steep Wrotham Hill on the way to Maidstone.