The New College of Cobham
Founded by the will of Sir William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham, to provide almshouses for the relief and maintenance of poor.
The New College of Cobham
The New College of Cobham was established in 1598 by the Will of Sir William Brooke, 10th Lord Cobham. In his Will dated 24 February 1597 Sir William had ordered the "ruined buildings" of the former medieval chantry college to be rebuilt as almshouses for the relief and maintenance of the poor and to be renamed "The New College of Cobham." He gave to his executors 100,000 bricks, forty tonnes of timber, and over £2,000, requesting them to complete the re-edification of the college buildings within four years, to draw up rules and ordinances for the election and governance of the almspeople, and to purchase property for the maintenance of the college. The Elizabethan poor law statutes of 1597 had made parish officers responsible for the care of the poor in their parish and had also obliged all parishioners who owned property to pay poor rates to provide for that care. To relieve the burden on the parishes in which Lord Cobham owned property, the executors provided for the election of almspeople by the vicar, churchwardens, and overseers of the poor in the Kent parishes of Cobham, Shorne, Cooling, Strood, Hoo, Cliffe, Chalk, Gravesend, Higham, St. Mary's Hoo, Cuxton, and Halling.
After completing the reconstruction of the college and establishing the regulations for election and governance of the almspeople, the executors of Sir William Brooke invested the remaining money from his bequest in property, purchasing during 1598 a farm in the parishes of Chalk and Shorne known as Smith's Farm and during 1599 a farm in the parish of Edenbridge known as Mowses along with other land and woods in the parish known as Stoyles, Charmanwood, and Devenocke. The first accounts for the New College, ending 31 May 1599, include rents of £43 3s.4d. from these properties, rising to £89 16s. 8d. during the first full-year's accounts ending 14 May 1600. The property in Edenbridge was sold a few years later, but in 1615 Sir John Leveson conveyed to the Presidents of the New College a farm known as Davy Down Farm in the parishes of West Thurrock and Stifford in Essex "for the sole and proper use sustentation and relief of the pore people of the said Newe Colledge of Cobham for ever." For the next three centuries the Presidents of the New College collected rents from these properties, paying stipends to the almspeople and maintaining the almshouses, until most of the land was sold in the early 20th century and the proceeds placed in other investments
The Elizabethan statute establishing the New College of Cobham had ordered that the Junior Warden and Senior Warden of Rochester Bridge each year would also serve as the Presidents of the New College of Cobham, legally constituting them as a corporate body with a common seal and powers to sue and be sued. The Presidents met annually to inspect the college, let the college estates, and sign the accounts, but day-to-day running of the college was usually left primarily to the Bridge Clerk, who also served as the Paymaster and Receiver of Rents for the College. This arrangement led over the years to some intermingling of the administration and records of the Rochester Bridge Trust and The New College of Cobham. Although today these two registered charities are administered separately, the historical archives of The New College of Cobham are still maintained by the Rochester Bridge Trust. The estate records of The New College of Cobham may be consulted by appointment with Dr. James M. Gibson, Bridge Archivist, The Bridge Chamber, 5 Esplanade, Rochester, Kent ME1 1QE.