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Sir John Mayne


(this article has been kindly provided by David Malpas)

The story of a distinguished soldier of the Civil War and his steadfast loyalty to his King which so impressed the parishioners of Linton that they recently raised 12,000 for the conservation of a memorial to his family that has stood in their church for nearly four centuries.

Motorists barely notice the peaceful little village of Linton as they speed south on the A229 from Maidstone towards the coast. There seems nothing to detain them. It's a good road, the village shops and its school have long since closed; they might admire the smartly quartered village sign, the five neat almshouses and the imposingly large parish church; and then they are away down the escarpment with a magnificent view across the Weald of Kent towards the sea.

But Linton's glory lies in its long, sometimes turbulent, history, much of it hidden behind the 19th century facade of St Nicholas' church. There among its finest memorials are some to the family of a distinguished soldier, a great champion and benefactor of the royalist cause during the Civil War. Sir John Mayne, whose home was at Linton, was among the most dedicated and selfless in the support he gave to his King throughout the long struggle against "a disloyal and seditious parliament", and against what he saw as the bigotry and cheerless austerity of the puritans.

He was an able and experienced soldier who had fought at Edgehill, led a Brigade at the Battle of Marston Moor and been active in the campaigns in the North of England and later in Wales and the West Country between 1642-46. At a time when there was little cheerful news for the King, it was Sir John's Brigade that raised the sieges at Carlisle and Pontefract "pursuing the enemy 16 miles, killing 500 of them and taking six colours".

Back in Kent on his home ground, it was he who commanded the Royalists in their gallant defence of Maidstone on 1st June 1648 facing General Fairfax's "whole strength". Heavily outnumbered and unsupported by the main Royalist force which was held back until too late, Sir John Mayne's troops put up a fierce defence of the town. After fighting desperately street by street late into the night they were finally overrun. Parliamentarian accounts of the Battle describe it as "one of the most murderous conflicts of the war" and "scarce any action ... was more bravely fought than this". At the end Sir John was badly wounded and counted among the dead but managed to slip away in the darkness, reaching London disguised as a rough countryman "with a hare at his back".

He was clearly a hardy and resourceful man. In a colourful career, Sir John was frequently wounded. At Pontefract (1644) he was shot through the thigh, and in a skirmish at Daventry (1645) he was cut from mouth to ear. On numerous occasions he was taken prisoner and the stories of his escapes rival those of Houdini.

Early in the war his estate at Linton was plundered by Cromwell's Roundheads. Despite spending all his effort and fortune in the Stuart cause, he received no recompense after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. Sadly, this most loyal Cavalier died in 1676 in poverty and obscurity and is now almost forgotten by history. His demise also meant the end of what had been one of the most powerful and wealthy Kent families of the Middle Ages. By the time of Sir John's death the great estates in the County which had been held by his forbears, some of them since the 14th century, were dispersed. Of this once illustrious family there remains today only the memorials and some handsome effigies of Sir John's ancestors. These can be seen not only in Linton church but also at Staplehurst and at Biddenden where the manor houses in which they lived still stand. There also remains evidence of their patronage in the almshouses that the family endowed at Linton and in the school they founded at Biddenden in 1522, now the John Mayne Primary School.

The demise of poor Sir John and his family meant that no memorial was ever erected to him. Nevertheless in Linton church there still stands the beautiful alabaster effigies of his grandparents. They have knelt opposite each other in prayer for nearly four hundred years, with the damage caused by the swords of Roundhead soldiers still visible. With the passage of the centuries this fine monument has had to be propped up by girders and unsightly iron ties to prevent its disintegration. Happily, thanks to the generous efforts of those in Linton parish who are interested in their colourful local history, sufficient funds were raised for the conservation of the memorial which is now complete. For generations to come it will stand as a reminder of the loyalty and generosity of Sir John Mayne, that forgotten Cavalier, and of his ancient and devout family who for several centuries held sway across the Weald of Kent.

Primary Sources
"Services Performed by Sir John Mayne of Linton, Kent..." Anon. Circa 1661
(Alnwick Castle archives)
"Royalist Officers in England & Wales 1642-60 - A Biographical Dictionary" by
"The History of Maidstone" by JM Russell 1881 (Reprinted 1978)
"The Battle of Marston Moor 1644" by Peter Newman (Antony Bird Publications) 1981

Other Sources
"The Community of Kent and the Great Rebellion 1640-60" by Alan Everitt 1966
"Kent and the Great Civil War" by HF Abell 1901
"The Diary of Sir Henry Slingsby....." Edited by Rev. Daniel Parsons 1836
"Commentaries of Sir Henry Slingsby 1638-48..." Edited by Sir Walter Scott 1806
"Cromwell - Our Chief of Men" by Antonia Fraser (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) 1973
"History of Maidstone" by Newton 1740

Villages Referenced

Linton  -   (Cavalier loses House)

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