( From an article supplied by a Local Resident, Karen Garwood-Young)
By considering the meaning of the word STAPLE and its derivations we are able to conclude that people have inhabited this particular village for a very long time, and for many different reasons.
There are five meanings given to the word STAPLE in the Universal Dictionary: 1) To hold fast. 2) A U-shaped piece of wire or metal with pointed ends. 3) Principal commodity. 4) Part of a lock. 5) Place of execution.
As far as our village is concerned, only meanings 3 or 5 need considering. The Old English word STAPOL meant pillar or block of execution, and it is not unreasonable to suppose that as far back as pagan times that this was the case. The old French word ETAPE - halting place, may well apply during Chaucer's time of pilgrimages to Canterbury, and many centuries later. There is at least one remaining cottage in Staple which was a watering place.
In Chaucer's times there lived a knight called John of Gaunt. In John's will money was left to a 'Kathryn of Staple'. Was this perhaps Catherine Swynford, John's mistress, whom he married in the late 13th Century? We know that spelling varied with the scribe at the time of writing. So were these two Kathryns the same person? Was it 'our' Staple?
Back to the derivation of the word Staple: Another old French word ESTAPLE - a place where merchants enjoyed trading privileges appointed by Royal Charter, solely to export certain goods: leather, textiles, tinware and wool. This offers the most probability. If we consider a few facts: Local merchants must have been faring well during Edward the First and Seconds' reigns; the indigenous sheep grazed local pastures; that the Monarchy was saved when the ransom for Richard the Lion Heart was paid in wool sacks; most of the current enactments benefited these merchants and they had their own courts. For instance the 'Court of the Mayor of the Staple' was of considerable antiquity, and it is quite possible that this was held at Grove, this being the oldest property site in the area. Here customs duties upon the wool trade would be levied. This tax, established in 1276 A.D. was to remain until the decline of the wool trade in 1678 A.D., with the popularity of cotton.
One object of the 1283 'Statute of Acton Burnell' was to remove the Staple from Calais to 15 appointed places in England, Ireland and Wales. This is where the Royal Appointment decreed that 'All wool for export should be gathered at the Staple, if not the selling there.' One local (in this area) government regulation of 1200 A.D. was that - 'No tradesman be allowed to lend anything to the spinners of wool'.
The picture of changing commerce in the vicinity is very clear, for in 1286 A.D. most of the living was earned by catering and leatherwork, the latter would have qualified to be sold or exported through the Staple also.
A record of the number of dwellings at this time could not be found, but many were watering and resting places for pilgrims and drovers. Indeed we have 'Drainless Drove' and 'Flemmings' recorded en-route to Woodnesborough and sandwich.
In 1588 A.D. there were 148 communicants, fifty years later the same, but, by the late 1700's only ten dwellings are recorded with The Groves. Perhaps this indicates that from the 13th to 18th Centuries depopulation had occurred, maybe of commercial disaster, famine or pestilence. If the latter, a new village would have grown away from the church, which may give reason why our 21st Century Staple has no nucleus.
By 1363 A.D. the living had changed nearly 100% to that of the textile trade. Presumably life was quite good for this mediaeval society, but this middle ages state of affairs was not to last. Edward III caused many troubles in the wool trade. Despite great profits previously made from wool there was a feeling that more could be made of the industry. So Edward invited Flemish weavers to work here under his protection. The industry did prosper again, but a price was paid. Capitalist employers emerged and there was destruction of the Guild system. The trade became the King's chief form of taxable wealth, which must have affected everybody. Crixhall House was 'diminished to the size of a common farmhouse' and economic policies were complex. Edward never mastered the situation, but he did find the cloth industry easier than wool production, and the country rose from a primary producer to a large scale manufacturer.
During Edward's reign the Staple for this area was removed to Queeensborough (Approx. 1368) on the Isle of Sheppey, but nine years later it was returned because it was considered better to be near Sandwich, making export to Calais easier. But the Staple systems continued to decline, and by 1617 A.D. it was abolished, along with the export of wool. New measures were introduced to save the industry, one being the tax of 1678 on burial shrouds. Anyone buried in a flax or cotton shroud was taxed but not if in wool!
Crixhall House was a 'gentleman's seat' from which knights were bred. As was the family at Grove. Sir John Grove, it is recorded, died in 1450 A.D. and is buried in St. Peter's Church, Sandwich. By 1511 one Symon Quilter occupied the property. He was obviously a man of strong views, for it is recorded he refused to pay tithes on four or five cartloads of barley. He denied this and withdrew land from the parsonage in protest. The problem wrangled some months until 1512, but in the meantime Symon had died and the matter was remitted to common law. Later the family Lynch occupied Grove House.
Sir Symon Lynch was granted Coats of Arms in 1572. Unfortunately Grove House did not survive the centuries, as did Crixhall, it was demolished in approximately 1836, and the materials sold for re-building. However, its grand semi-circular drive from Twitham to Staple Church can still be witnessed in aerial photography. Another coursed to Pedding, giving connection with Canterbury and Sandwich. It is now hard to imagine the grand park of 500 acres, with a gaming lake Henry VIII liked to frequent.
A Fayre was held twice a year, on December 28th and July 25th. There were 'toys and pedlary' for sale. Profits from the December Fayre in 1524 amounted to six shillings and eight pence, and were received by one Clement Roberth of Wingham, who also had a 'vinyerd' at Wingham.
It was most probably William Lynch who had the semi-circular drive constructed at Grove, enabling access from Little Twitham and the church. It was his widow who gave the gift of a clock to the church and for the use of the people of the parish approximately four years after his death. It was most probably situated on the West side of the tower, instead of the South so it could be more easily observed from this drive and the 'main' road. In common with clocks of that time, it only noted the hour and so required one hand. An amusing vestry minute of 1864 notes the clock required cleaning and an estimate of expenses to be obtained, including the addition of a second hand. This was amended to read 'additional hand'. Fortunately, the modernisation of the period was never carried out. Perhaps good taste prevailed, or the old problem of finance!
Until 1862 Staple Church was a Chapel of Ease to the Holy Innocents, Adisham. Staple then had 44 houses recorded, had one hamlet, that of Shatterling, in which there were 14 houses. Adisham had 40 houses in all and no 'family of note'.