This is a study of the changes that occurred in the parish of Snave (SE Kent) during the course of the 19th century.



Snave is a parish of 1494 acres situated on Romney Marsh, eight miles south of Ashford in Kent.


Romney Marsh is a sparsely populated wetland area covering about a hundred square miles.



The population of Snave fluctuated wildly over the course of the nineteenth century, with a minimum of 52 in 1851 and a maximum of 116 in 1871. The population density was between four and seven people per hundred acres.


For over three decades the household size in the parish of Snave significantly exceeded that for the county of Kent as a whole. It reached a peak in the 1820s. The population had been steadily increasing since the turn of the century, with only a couple of new houses being built. The problem was that the land was owned by people who lived outside the parish and cared little about the lives of the inhabitants as long as the rent was paid.


There were something like two hundred acres of arable land and twelve hundred acres of pasture land in the parish when the Tithe Award was compiled (c.1840). The area has long supported a high density of sheep and to this day Romney Marsh sheep are considered one of the most successful and important breeds.



At the beginning of the seventeenth century, a typical Marsh farmer would have had a flock of around 170 (the largest was 1130). By the end of the century, this had grown to around 375 (the largest was 3365).

In the same period, a typical Romney Marsh farmer would also have had around a dozen cattle, producing a surplus of butter and cheese to take to the local market.


At the time of the 1841 Census, most of the inhabitants of Snave were making a living as agricultural labourers, but there were also farmers and graziers. Some of the ag labs were probably shepherds, but this wasn’t a category available to the enumerator in 1841.



For the period 1813 to 1840, we can get information on occupations from the baptismal registers. Thirty-two couples, resident in Snave, had children baptised at Snave during this period. Two of the fathers were graziers, four were lookers (shepherds) and the rest were labourers. Snave was too insignificant to feature in Pigot’s 1824 Directory of Kent.


The 1851 Census records just three farms with more than 5 acres: Peter Tickner at Stockbridge Farm farmed 284 acres, his son (also Peter) farmed 32 acres and Frederick Fisher farmed 43 acres. The average farm size in Kent at this time was 143 acres.
Much of the land was rented by people who lived outside the parish. The Tithe Award (c.1840) shows that Thomas Dawes (Sevenoaks) occupied 274 acres and Thomas Butler (Brenzett/Ivychurch) occupied over 170 acres. These people hired local men to act as shepherds, mend fences, etc.


The parish church, dedicated to St Augustine, is one of the most remote churches on Romney Marsh. It consists of a chancel with a north chapel, a nave and a crenellated west tower. For the most part, the church dates from the 13th century, but the upper part of the tower was added later. The church was eventually declared redundant and its upkeep and maintenance was placed in the care of the Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust in 1984.



Snave had no school and no pub, but there were pubs in the neighbouring hamlets of Brenzett and Ivychurch.


Most people travelling to and from Snave would have used the road that runs SE through Ivychurch to New Romney or NW to Ham Street (now the B2070).

Migration and mobility

The parish registers show a significant excess of baptisms over burials for most of the period, but not a corresponding increase in population, suggesting that considerable migration out of the parish took place:


Looking at the age distribution at the time of each Census clearly shows that it was largely people in the age range 20-29 who left the parish in the 1840s:


If we look at the five properties that are consistently named in the Census returns, we see that, with the exception of the Tickner family at Stockbridge Farm, no family stayed very long at one address:


Of the eleven families listed in the 1851 Census, the heads of nine of them were born outside Snave; three of them outside Kent.

The destination of people leaving the parish is not as easy to discover, but the fact that there was only really one road for them to use makes the task rather easier. Some may have gone to New Romney and on to more distant parts, but the majority probably migrated in a northerly direction. The small hamlet of Ham Street (less than 3 miles from Snave) grew into a sizeable village by mid-century due to the presence of a railway station and it seems likely that a large proportion of the young men leaving Snave in the 1840s found work as navvies constructing the Ashford & Hastings Branch of the South Eastern Railway. The indications are that they lived in temporary accommodation and returned to Snave when the job was completed.

Families & Notable People

Seven families maintained a presence in the parish for thirty years or more: Tickner (1841-91), Austin (1841-91), Bennett (1841-91), Fisher (1841-91), Stretten (1841-81), Godden (1841-71) and Packham (1851-81).

Three generations of the TICKNER family farmed in Snave. Peter Tickner senior was born in Wittersham, just west of Romney Marsh. He married Maria Pankhurst at East Guldeford, on the edge of the Marsh near Rye, in 1815. Their four children were all baptised at the Baptist Church in Rye. By 1841, they were farming at Snave (presumably Stockbridge Farm) and employing four servants. The Tithe Award Schedule shows that he was a tenant, not an owner. His holding in Snave was only around 60 acres, but he also occupied land in Ivychurch (22a), Ruckinge (21a), Orlestone 41a) and Warehorne 75a). The 1851 Census tells us that it was a farm of 284 acres and they employed six labourers. By 1861, the farm had increased to 330 acres and the workforce to nine men and two boys. Peter was buried at Snave in 1878.
Peter Tickner junior never married, but lived with his parents until his father died. He is recorded as a grazier of 32 acres in 1851 & 1861.

Thomas Tickner senior, of Snave, farmer & grazier, married Elizabeth Killick of Orlestone in 1850. The 1851 Census shows him living at Ham Street with his wife and young son, Thomas. They are living at Stockbridge Farm in 1871 and are still there in 1891, by which time his son is living at an adjacent property and making a living as a farmer and stock salesman.
Thomas Killick Tickner, son of Thomas & Elizabeth, was born at Ham Street in 1850. He married Isabella Marshall in 1877 and in 1891 is living next door to his parents in Snave and earning a living as a farmer and stock salesman. He is immortalised in the parish church:

ThomasKTickner.jpg Memorial in Snave church


Two generations of the FISHER family farmed in Snave. Fisher’s Cottages in Snave take their name from this family. Edward Fisher married Sophia Terry of Snave in 1798 and moved from Brenzett to Snave in about 1825. He was described as a grazier in the 1841 Census.
Frederick Fisher was born in Brenzett in 1814. His father, Thomas, was a yeoman of that parish. Frederick farmed 43 acres at Snave in 1851. He married Jane Ruth Burn of Buckland in Hampshire in 1855, describing himself as a yeoman. The marriage took place at Portsea, which is where Frederick was living at the time. By 1871 he is a farmer of 30 acres employing three men and four boys. He died in 1899.

The AUSTEN/AUSTIN family make a few early appearances in the Snave parish registers, but it was not until the 1780s that they established a serious presence in the parish. John & Mary Austin produced a large family and their four sons, George, John, James and Thomas, all raised families of their own in the parish. George and his wife Ann had eight children. John and his wife Harriet had four children. James and his wife Eleanor had fourteen children. Adam Austin, 1st son of John and Harriet, was the parish clerk for a period around 1841. Abel Austin, 2nd son of John and Harriet, had eight children and worked as a shepherd until his death in 1874.

Three generations of the BENNETT family lived and worked in Snave.
Daniel Bennett senior married Ann Edwards at Bilsington in 1797. They set up home in Newchurch (where their first son was born) before moving to Snave. They had four sons (Daniel, Edward, Charles and Thomas) and two daughters (Amy and Harriet). Daniel was an agricultural labourer all his life.
Daniel Bennett junior was born at Newchurch in about 1804, but lived in Snave for most of his life. He married Louisa Godden of Ruckinge in 1831. They had six children before Louisa’s death in 1843. Daniel never remarried. His mother, Ann, became his housekeeper when her husband died. Daniel was an agricultural labourer all his life.
William Bennett, first son of Daniel & Louisa, lived with his wife Phoebe at Nest Cottage in Snave in 1881. He was an agricultural labourer all his life.

David STRETTEN married Sarah Pentecost at Snave in 1814. He was a looker (shepherd) for over twenty years, but by the time his last child was baptised in 1838 he had graduated to become a grazier. The Tithe Award Schedule shows him as the occupier of over forty acres of pasture. David and Sarah had eight children and six of them are still living at home in 1841. David died in 1848, but Sarah continued to run the farm and is listed as a grazier of 67 acres in 1871.
Their son John Stretten assumed the post of parish clerk on the death of Adam Austin in 1846. He married Sarah Ann Austin of Shadoxhurst and they had three children: Albert, Alfred and Kate.
Benjamin Stretten, last child of David and Sarah, was born in 1838. He is listed as a farmer of 31/4 acres in the 1881 Census. 


Sources consulted

O.S. maps
Census returns
Parish registers
Tithe Award Schedule
C.W. Chalklin, Seventeenth-century Kent, 1965
The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 8, originally published by W Bristow, Canterbury, 1799.
Shaw-Taylor, L. Family farms and capitalist farms in mid-nineteenth century England. The Agricultural History Review, 2005, Vol. 53/2