The Old Parish of Nonington

A small place in East Kent history

Month: March 2013

From Nonnington to London by sea, a weekly service

In the 1830′s Nonington was served by a weekly service to London via the port of Sandwich allowing residents, especially the shop keepers, to have goods brought in from outside of East Kent.  I only became aware of this service when I was recently fortunate enough to find a copy of a hand-bill for “The first hoy for Sandwich”  at a local boot-fair. The service departed every Saturday from Chester’s Quay, near the Tower of London and took in “goods and passengers for Sandwich, Walmer, Wingham, Eastry, Mongham, Goodnestone, Deal, Ash, Littlebourn, Tilmanstone, Nonnington, Eythorn”.  Nonington was therefore in much closer contact with the capital than was previously thought and those residents who wished, and could afford too, could keep up with the latest news and fashions. This may explain in part why so many minor gentry and wealthy merchants lived in East Kent.

This service possibly ran until the London, Chatham and Dover Railway came through Nonington parish in 1861 which subsequently meant large quantities of goods destined for Nonington residents could be more easily and cheaply delivered to nearby Adisham station.

fortune-hoy 1

A hoy was a small sloop-rigged coasting ship or heavy barge which carried goods and occasional passengers. In the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, English hoys plied a trade between London and the north Kent coast that enabled middle class Londoners to escape the city for the more rural air of Margate.

William Stokes appears to have been the master of the Fortune circa 1835, and earlier, as the ship appears on the Ramsgate register for that year registered as coal/coasting vessel. Barber and Smith, warfingers, are in Kent’s registry of 1823 at the London address shown.

A scene aboard the Margate hoy

The coast of Kent was busy with hoys which often loaded and unloaded on the beach if there was no quay, sometimes small boats ran out to meet the ships at anchor. Many hoys served the markets in London and merchants with access to the service these vessels provided grew rich as the demand for goods increased.

Jane Austen’s visits to Nonington


Jane Austen, 1775-1817

In the early 1800′s Jane Austen was a frequent visitor to Fredville. She often stayed with her brother Edward and his wife Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Brooke Bridges, at Rowling House on the Bridges estate in neighbouring Goodnestone parish.   In 1797 Edward inherited Godmersham Park from some childless relatives who had adopted him as their heir, as part of the adoption Edward changed his surname from Austen to Knight, and he left Rolling House and moved to Godmersham.

Goodnestone Park , the home of Sir Brooke Bridges, 4th baronet.

After her brother’s move to Godmersham Jane continued to visit Goodnestone and frequently wrote to Cassandra, her only sister, of the visits and short stays she made to Fredville with Mr. John Plumptre and his wife and their children, John Pemberton and Emma.  Jane often referred to John Pemberton Plumptre as ” J.P.P” in her later letters.
In one letter written to Cassandra in September, 1813 Jane said of her her friend George Hatton, ”He is so much out of spirits, however, that his friend John Plumptre is gone over to comfort him, at Mr. Hatton’s desire. He  (J.P.P) called here this morning in his way. A handsome young man certainly, with quiet, gentlemanlike manners. I set him down as sensible rather than brilliant. There is nobody brilliant nowadays”.

The Canterbury race course at Ileden on Barham Downs

There are indications that J.P.P. was a suitor of Jane’s niece Fanny Knight, the daughter of her brother Edward. Fanny makes reference to him in letters written to Jane from Goodnestone.

Regular visits were also made to see William Hammond and his family at nearby St. Alban’s Court. She often commented on how keen both men were on shooting and hunting, and reported how she and members of the Plumptre,  Bridges and Hammond families  visited the races on Canterbury race course and then attended  balls and soirees in Canterbury.
The racecourse was at Ileden on Barham Downs just across on the other side of the Wingham Road from Nonington parish. (For more information on  Canterbury race course go to

Jane Austen died after a long illness on 18th July, 1817, aged 42, and was buried in Winchester Cathedral.

Oesewalum and the Vikings

Oesewalum was held by Earl Aldberht (also: Ealdbeorht, Ealdberht), and his sister, Selethryth (also: Seleðryth ,Seleðryð), Abbess of Lyminge, Minster on Thanet, and Southminster (Suthminster), and was either inherited from their father, a Kentish noble and land-owner, or granted to them along with other extensive estates by King Offa of Mercia for their support in quelling a Kentish revolt against him during the mid-880′s. Aldbert is recorded on some documents as being a minister or advisor to Offa.

Southminster is now believed by some authorities to be a “lost” abbey in or near Eastry, which lies to the south of Thanet, that was subsidiary to the abbey at Minster-in-Thanet and was not Minster Abbey itself as was generally held.

For political reasons Aldberht and Selethryth made a grant of Oesewalum to Wulfred (also Uulfred), the Archbishop of Canterbury, around 805 with the grant entailing that the Archbishop was to gain possession of the manor after both their deaths. Selethryth died around 805, and Aldberht eventually entered the monastery at Folkestone and died there around 820. After his death the deeds of Oesewalum were seized by Oswulf, a relative of Aldberht and Selethryth, who appears to have inherited their interests and later became an earldorman.  Oswulf took the deeds to the Southminster Abbey and gave them to Cwoenthryth, the daughter of King Coenwulf of Mercia (also Cenwulf, Kenulf, Kenwulph) and overlord of Kent, who was then the abbess.

Cwoenthryth had succeeded Selethryth as Abbess of the Abbeys at Southminster, Minster and Lyminge and her father was at that time involved a long running dispute with Archbishop Wulfred over whether laymen or clergy should control religious houses.
Ceolwulf,  Coenwulf’s brother, succeeded to the throne of Mercia in 821, but only reigned until 823 when he was usurped as King of Mercia by Beornwulf, and Baldred (Bealdred), possibly a Mercian kinsman of  Beornwulf’s, became the king of Kent.
Cwoenthryth  had retained possession of Oeswalum for some four years or so under the protection of her father and uncle but in 824 Beornwulf, the new king, agreed to resolve the dispute of ownership of various manors and estates between Cwoenthryth and Wulfred at the Council of Clofso (Cloveshoe) where Oesewalum, Oesuualun in the charter, was one of the estates returned to Wulfred.

This protracted struggle over the possession of Oesewalum, which Wulfred apparently referred to in at least one contemporary document as a small piece of land, may indicate the previously unrecognized importance of the manor to the abbeys of Minster and Southminster. Dr. F. W. Hardman, a respected East Kent antiquarian of the early 1900’s alludes to this importance in the manuscript of an unpublished book on Nonington held in the Kent Archaeological Society (KAS) archives at MaidstoneMuseum. He believed that Oesewalum was in fact an inland refuge for the inhabitants of Minster Abbey from raids by Vikings. By inference it would also have served the same purpose for inhabitants of Southminster as Dr. Hardman, in common with other antiquarians of the time, believed that Southminster and Minster on Thanet were one and the same. Dr. Hardman also believed that this use as a refuge was the origin of Nonington, (probably deriving from something like Nunningatun, the Nun’s manor).

In Roman times the Wantsum Channel, which separated the Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent was two miles wide in places, the first bridge to Thanet was not built until 1485, and a ferry ran from Sandwich to the island until the mid-1700’s. Minster had been an active port until the Wantsum silted up in the 13th to 15th centuries. Oesewalum would have been well suited for use as a refuge, far enough from the Wantsum, five miles or so, to be safe from a quick raid from the sea and easily accessible from Minster via the port of Sandwich and then by road via Woodnesborough to Eastry, the site of Southminster Abbey, then on to Chillenden and a mile or so from here was Oesewalum.

The exact location of this sanctuary is not yet known but an ideal site would have been the promontory now called Beauchamps, just behind Old St. Alban’s Court, which overlooks the road and valley looking towards Thanet and would have been easily defensible from any casual raiders who came this far inland as well as controlling the road. The ancient route from Sandwich runs to the west of Beauchamps and continues on past St. Mary’s church in Nonington to Womenswold, across to the east side of Barham and then on through the Elham Valley through the old market “town” of Elham and on to Lyminge Abbey, successively under the control of Selethryth and Cwoenthryth.

The churches on the route also have the name of their patron saint in common with the first Minster Abbey, St. Mary the Virgin. Sandwich’s oldest church and the site of a lost convent on Strand Street which was on the Wantsum’s edge, Eastry, Nonington, Elham, and Lyminge are all dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, with Lyminge being jointly dedicated to St. Mary and St. Ethelburgha, its founder.

A Saxon (left) tries to repel a Viking raider (from a contemporary manuscript)

A Saxon (left) tries to repel a Viking raider (from a contemporary manuscript)

The first Viking raid on Kent recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was an attack on the Isle of Sheppey in 835, but it appears that Kent had been subjected to raids from the sea since at least the 790’s as can be seen from a charter of King Offa of Mercia.
Probably given to help placate the church in Kent to accept his rule King Offa of Mercia issued a charter in 792 confirming the exemption of the Church in Kent from various services with the exception of “an expedition within Kent against sea-borne pagans arriving with fleets, or against the East Saxons”, evidence that raids were already well in progress. These “sea-borne pagans” were presumably Scandinavian in origin, either Danes or Norwegians.

The raids appear to have quickly become a problem to the nuns of  Lyminge Abbey as in 804 they were granted land for a sanctuary in Canterbury, and Lyminge suffered so badly from “Viking” incursions that the nuns moved to Canterbury taking Ethelburgha’s relics with them.

There were some reports of Vikings building fortifications in Kent by 811, and the situation must have become serious because when King Coenwulf  granted Archbishop Wulfred land in 822 he maintained an obligation for Wulfred to destroy fortifications built on the land by pagans, by this time almost certainly Danes.

In 825, Beornwulf attacked the West Saxons but was badly defeated by Ecgbert, King of Wessex, in battle at Ellandun, fought at Wroughton near Swindon, Wiltshire. This defeat ended Mercian supremacy and changed the course of English history.  Æðelwulf, King Ecgbert’s son, invaded Kent and expelled Baldred which brought Kent under the control of Wessex.

Wulfred left his property to his kinsman, Werhard, with the specific instruction that Werhard should in his turn leave the property to ChristChurch, Canterbury. In his will written in the early 830’s Werhard states that a charity was begun by Wulfred, and that he intended to continue it as Wulfred wished. Wulfred specified that Oesewalum, again written Oesuualun, should provide seven paupers with “enough to eat be given each day as is convenient and over the year let each pauper be given twenty-six pence for clothing”.
Werhard also instructed that a mass be celebrated for his soul every day and that on his anniversary 1,200 paupers should each be given food of a loaf of bread, some cheese or butter and one penny (£.5.00 in total for 1,200 paupers, a large sum).

After Werhard’s will Oesewalum seems to disappear as an entity, the name does not appear in any surviving documents possibly because of the ravaging Danes as by this time any sanctuary at Oesewalum would have been of little use.
In 851 and 854 the Danes overwintered on the Isle of Thanet and by 865 the raids were so bad and East Kent was so badly ravaged that the inhabitants offered the Vikings a large bride to leave them in peace, however, during the negotiations the Danes changed there minds and rampaged through East Kent. Along with other minsters and abbeys in Kent Minster in Thanet fell into decline because of the Danes incursions and its lands either fell into disuse or were sold off, but it must have taken a real “frontiersman’s” mentality to have wanted to own and work land within reach of the Danes.

Perhaps this is what happened at Oesewalum as it became untenable and therefore virtually worthless, as at some point during the next two centuries the manor ceased to be part of ChristChurch’s possessions and eventually came into the possession of the Crown which appears to have divided the manor into three smaller manors.

The Domesday Survey of 1086 records the manors Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles as held from the king, William I, by Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux and Earl of Kent.

However, Nunningatun, the Nun’s manor, left its name which became Nunningitun around 1070 and eventually evolving through the centuries into the modern Nonnington or Nonington.

Essewelle and the Barony of Maminot, later the Barony of de Say-revised 15.3.13

After Odo’s downfall his holdings were reclaimed by the crown, and were thereafter held directly from the Crown. Ralph, ‘a noted despoiler of women’, was the brother of Gilbert Maminot, the  Bishop of Lisieux and King William’s personal chaplain and doctor as well as being a large landowner in his own right, and Ralph’s and the Bishop’s   holdings were inherited by the Maminot, also Mamignot, family and subsequently evolved into the Barony of Maminot and held directly from the Crown.

The first recorded holder of the barony was Hugo Maminot, who was succeeded by Walkelin Maminot, his son, who around 1138 had the barony taken away from him by King Stephen during  the civil war between Stephen and the Empress Matilda which lasted from 1135 until  1153 when Stephen  ended the conflict by naming Henry, the son of Matilda,  as his heir. Henry succeeded to the throne as Henry II on Stephen’s death  at Dover in October, 1154, and returned the barony to Walkelin around 1155. After Walkelin died in 1170 the barony seems to have been administered by Juliana, his widow, for some years until her death, the date of which is unclear. At some time after her death the barony passed to Galfrid de Sai (Geoffrey de Say) by way of Adelidis, his wife and an heiress of Walkelin Maminot. The exact date of Galifred’s gaining possession of the barony is unclear, but he was in full control of it by 1194 and its holdings remained in his families possession until the early 1400’s.

The barony become known as the Barony of de Say and was one of the eight baronies which owed duty of Castleguard to DoverCastle, supplying three knights for four week periods of duty. This duty was divided amongst twenty-four knights, some fifteen from Kent and the remainder from other parts of the kingdom.

Essewelle owed one knights fee under Walkelin in 1166, but unfortunately the holder of the fee is not specifically recorded. Prior to 1243 half of the fee was held by Hamo Kalkyn, and the other half by Geoffrey Conquester and William Nicola who sold their half of the fee in  January, 1243, to Rogerus de Kynardinton (Roger de Kennardington). The half of the knights fee was to be held in scutage of 42 shillings yearly, payable half at Easter and half at Christmas and in ward of DoverCastle.

Scutage was a cash payment in lieu of military service. After the siege of DoverCastle of 1216-17 by the Dauphin of France and rebellious English barons changes were made to the fabric and administration of the castle. One of the principal changes was that Castleguard, whereby the holder of a knight’s fee owed a period of military service at the castle, became Castleward rent. This discharged the holder of a knight’s fee’s from all personal service and attendance allowing the King used the money received in rent to garrison the castle with professional soldiers. The rent payment was 120 pence (10 shillings, now 50 new pence) for each period of service expected of the holder of a knight’s fee.

Soon after the sale of the half fee the Kent Rolls of 1242-3 recorded: “Hamo Colekyn, Rogerus de Kynardinton’ j. feodum in Essewelle de Willelmo de Say, ipse de domino rege”,  “Hamo Colekin and Roger de Kynardinton’, hold one fee at Esewelle from William de Say, who holds it from the King”.

Early windmills in Nonington: Soles, 1227 and Ackholt, 1309

A post mill, taken from a King's Lynn, Norfolk, funeral brass, 1349

A post mill, taken from a King’s Lynn, Norfolk, funeral brass, 1349

The earliest windmills in Europe had a post-mill structure where the main structure sits on a post, usually a wooden post, that allowed the entire structure to be turned turn to face the wind by a long beam attached horizontally to the body of the mill. The mills usually sat upon a tripod made of two crossed beams resting on the ground and four angled beams coming up to support the post, these cross beams were often buried stop the mill blowing away in a storm. Often the windmills were built on a specially constructed mound, although sometimes an existing barrow was used, to increase exposure to the wind. The sails on the early mills were sometimes on six or seven feet high, much smaller than those on later mills.

Recently,  records of windmills in Nonington going back to the early 1200’s have come to light. Soles manor appears to have been the site of the earliest mill most likely located on a site that is just inside the  parish of Nonington right on its eastern boundary with the parish of Barfeston. This early mill appears in a record of a knight’s fee for the manor of Soles of 1227  which mentions a capital messuage cum grana and a half site of a windmill, which was presumably on the same site as the much later 18th century Barfreston mills. The other half of the mill may have been owned by the manor of Fredville, although there is no presently known record from the time to confirm this.  A later windmill at Barfreston, almost certainly built on or very near the site of the early 13th century mill, is mentioned in a “Grant in tail male to William Malyverer, esq., for services against the rebels, of the lands called Hertang (Hartanger) , and Paratt’s landis, in the parish of Berston (Barfreston, Kent); also a windmill called Berston Mylle………”  made by King Richard III in 1483.

It is also most likely that the wind mill mentioned in the 1548 will of John Boys of Fredville, of which he left a half share of the profits to his wife possibly indicating that ownership of the mill was still shared, was also on or near the Barfreston site.  However, it may be an early record of the mill site at the top of Mill Lane in Easole, where a mill was recorded in a Boys family document in 1626.

A mile and a half or so from the manor of Soles is the manor of Ackholt where another early windmill was mentioned in a transfer of property written in  Latin in 1309.  The  document recorded the transfer by John, the son of Stephen de Akolte (Acholt) to John, the son of Thomas de Akholte, and Lucia, his mother, of a windmill (unum molendinum ventifluim) in the parish of Nonington near Holestrete (Holt Street) on Freydviles (Fredville’s) land and two shillings and two hens free rent (duos solidos et duas gallinas de libere redditu)  from Thomas le Kete of Holestrete, presumably the miller. To confirm the grant John, son of Stephen de Akolte, was to receive 20 marks sterling (£.12 13s 4d) gersuman (payment-it literally means treasure or riches in Old English, and often appears in documents of this period and earlier). The charter also noted that because he was under age and did not have his own seal, he had signed under the seal of John de Grenchelle, a local land-owner who appears to have held land in or near Bekesbourne, and may have been a relative or guardian of the young John.
In 1341  John de Acholte, probably the son of the John de Akholte mentioned above,  granted the mill along with other property and rents in Nonyngton, Rollynge (Rolling) and Wimelyngewelde (Womenswold) near Crodewode (Crudeswood or Curleswood) to Peter Heyward.

The most likely location of this windmill would  be on or near the car-park and pit-head baths of the now closed Snowdown Colliery where it would have been on the junction of roads from Ackholt and Ratling, Holt Street, and Woolege and Womenswold, although grain from Fredville  manor lands would have gone to the Soles mill if it was half owned by the manor of Fredville.


View Nonington’s historical places in a larger map

Cookys or Cooks Hill-updated.

Cookys  or Cooks.

The Cookys farm house was the present Holt Street Cottage, which is just above the Holt Street cross-roads, and the accompanying land seems to have originally been some 14 or so acres to the rear of the house,  and some 14 or more acres of the large field across the Snowdown Road, which is still called Cooks Hill. The Cooks Hill acreage was enclosed by a ditched bank and hedge, which was grubbed out in the 1950’s but the ditch is still visible, and the land to the rear of the house also had banks and hedges, some of which are still visible from Nightingale Lane, the remainder are buried underneath the old colliery tip. In the early 1600’s a brick house was built, which probably replaced an earlier medieval timber and lathe house, and as a farmhouse for a small-holding until the end of the 19th or early in the 20th. In 1940 the old thatched Holt Street Cottage along with three other houses in nearby Johnston’s Terrace (now Nightingale Terrace) and a cottage in the field opposite, were demolished after being severely damaged by a German parachute mine. A new house was built on the foundations of the old one and some of the  original 17th century brickwork is still visible in the foundations.

There are references to the transfer of ownership of land in “Nonyngton” in the early 1400’s which may refer to Cookys, but earliest mention of Cookys by name so far found is in a grant of 1448, which refers to “a tenement called Cookysplace in Nonyngton”. At this time the owner of Cookys also held “Achholte” (Ackholt) manor and half of a manor in “Chelyndene” (Chillenden) and “Nonygtone”.

By 1516 Cookys, consisting of a messuage and 28 acres,  had come into the possession of  Robert Austen of Nonnington, one of the chief parishioners at the 1511 visitation of Archbishop William Warham, and he sold it for £.10.00 to Richard Mockett of Nonnington, his step-son, who held owned and rented land scattered over Nonington and neighbouring parishes.
A messuage was a portion of land intended to be occupied or actually occupied as a site for a dwelling house and its appurtainences.  In modern legal language, a dwelling house, its out-buildings, curtilages and assigned adjacent land.

Cookys was bought by the Boys family of Fredville from Richard Mockett’s heirs in the mid or late 1500’s and became part of the Holt Street estate which remained in their possession until the late 1600’s. When the Holt Street estate was sold by Edward Boys to Geremy Gay and Robert Kingsford in 1670 Cookys was part of the purchase. It stayed with Holt Street through several changes of ownership, but when Holt Street was bought by the Plumptre family of Fredville around 1800 Cookys house and a small portion of land remained with the Brydges of Goodnestone whilst the majority of the land went with Holt Street. The house was finally sold by the Goodnestone estate in the 1970’s.

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