27 Water Lane, West Malling, ME19 6HH
For centuries this ancient timber and stone building has stood within the precinct of West Malling Abbey. It has been witness to tumultuous times of upheaval and treason. Our own century has not been uneventful and yet the building known locally as the Tithe Barn survives intact.
In 1066 William of Normandy acquired the throne by conquest. He appointed the famous architect Gundulf as Bishop of Rochester. Work on building St Mary’s abbey, St Leonard’s Tower and a small building nearby started in West Malling. By 1080 it is thought work was complete and the First Abbess named Avicia was appointed. The abbey prospered despite plague and fire: it became one of the wealthiest in England owning many premises in the growing town.
Between 1536 and 1541 King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries confiscating their wealth. The nuns of Malling resisted bravely to the last. After various tenancies Queen Elizabeth I awarded Malling Abbey and lands to the Brooke family of Cobham. In 1603, English Courtiers plotted to depose King James I: the Brookes were ringleaders with Sir Walter Rayleigh. Sir George Brooke was executed and his brother Lord Cobham imprisoned in the Tower of London as was Sir Walter Rayleigh. Malling Abbey was confiscated and granted to the Brett family by James I. On the extinction of the Brett Family the Abbey and lands were granted to Sir John Rayney and the grant was later confirmed by King Charles II.
In the 19th Century, The Abbey came again into ecclesiastical hands and re-established as an abbey and monastery. Nowadays, the Tithe barn is home to the Pilsdon community and their fine work.