The Old Parish of Nonington

A small place in East Kent history

Month: March 2018

Akholte (Ackholt or Acol) windmill-revised

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 known reference to a windmill in Nonington is in a 1309 Latin document recording the transfer of ownership in the Manor of Ackholt from John (1), the son of Stephen de Akolte (Acholt) to John (2), 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 (the Manor ofFredville) land and two shillings and two hens free rent (duos solidos et duas gallinas de libere redditu)  from Thomas le Kete of Holestrete, who was presumably the miller. The Fredvile land in question was almost certainly Cookys, later Cooks Hill, which  was recorded as being a part of the Akolte estate in the 1440’s.

Probable location of the 14th century Ackholt mill

The windmill appears to have been located just to the north of the site of the old Snowdown Collier  pit baths and car park  on the brow of the hill on the west side of the road up from Holt Street. The site would have been well served by roads to Ackholt, Holt Street in Nonington, and to Womenswold and Woolege Green. As can be seen on the 1859 Poor Law Commisioners map below, the road up from Ackholt which now joins the main road from Holt Street on the south side of Snowdown railway bridge then joined the Holt Street road some two hundred yards or so closer to Holt Street approximately where the gate now goes into the field. The road was re-routed when the railway line was actually built in 1860, a year or so after the map, which only shows the proposed route of the railway, was drawn up.

In 1341 John de Acholte granted the mill along with other property and rents in Nonyngton, Rollynge (Rolling) and Wimelyngewelde (Womenswold) near Crodewode (Crudeswood or Curleswood) to Peter Heyward. After this transfer there is no presently known reference to this mill, so it would appear to have gone out of service and was not replaced.

These early post mills were usually constructed with two crossed beams resting on the ground and four angled beams coming up to support a central post, usually wooden, around which the superstructure of the mill was built. These cross beams were often buried stop the mill blowing away in a storm. This style of construction allowed the mill to be turned to face the wind by using a long beam attached horizontally to the body of the mill. Often the windmills were built on a specially constructed mound, although sometimes an existing barrow (burial mound) was used, to increase exposure to the wind. The sails on the early mills were sometimes only six or seven feet long, much smaller than those on later mills.

Gavelkind, a Kent custom-free socage tenure of land

Gavelkind as a form of free socage tenure and of inheritance is an example of ancient customary law in England. Before gavelkind tenure was abolished by the passing of the Administration of Estates Act of 1925, all land in Kent was presumed to be held by gavelkind until the contrary was proved. Some ancient legal authorities state that all land in England was once held by gavelkind, but after the Norman conquest of 1066 it was then generally superseded in most parts of England by the feudal law of primogeniture with gavelkind continuing, in the main, only in Kent. Gavelkind is said to have been one of the customary rights the people of Kent were allowed to retain by William I, the Conqueror, in return for their peaceful submission to his rule.  

Gavelkind is believed to derive from the Saxon word gafol or gavel, which signifies either the cash payment of rent, or a customary performance of agricultural work in lieu of cash. Gavelkind tenure was more correctly described as free socage tenure subject to the custom of gavelkind, and meant that the land was held in socage, not in chivalry. “ It is certain, that all lands in this county which were antiently and originally holden in socage tenure, are of the nature of gavelkind, of which sort were most of the terre tenants of the several seignories in it, who held by that tenure, notwithstanding their chief lords held by military service”.
[General history: Socage and gavelkind tenures Pages 311-321 The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. By W. Hasted].

 Ranulf de Glanvill and other ancient legal authorities called tenants in free socage “liberi sokemanni.”  De Glanvill was Chief Justiciar of England during the reign of King Henry II (1154–89), the probable author of “Tractatus de legibus et consuetudinibus regni Anglie” (The Treatise on the Laws and Customs of the Kingdom of England), the earliest treatise on the laws of England. Free socage could mean the rendering of a defined monetary rent; payment in livestock, agricultural produce or goods; or specific agricultural and manual services in payment to the lord of the manor, but did not include any military service as with a knight’s fee or knight’s service. Knight’s fees continued to exist until the reign of Charles II, when an Act of Parliament was passed in 1672 whereby all tenures by knight-service were, with one or two minor exceptions, converted into free and common socage.

The holder of land in gavelkind tenure could freely give, sell, or let his land to whom he wished during his lifetime provided all the rents and services due to the lord were properly secured and  could be included within a knight’s fee, as was the case in the knight’s fee of Essewelle and its constituent manors of Easole and Fredville. In the two aforementioned manors service to the respective lords of the manor consisted of payment of a fixed cash rent on four specified days of the year and suite of service [attendance] at the manorial courts leet and baron, usually every three weeks, and non-attendance was subject to a small fine.
In the 1280’s gavelkind tenure holders in the adjoining manor of Wingham were recorded as completing various kinds of agricultural and manual services and payments in poultry and eggs to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord of the Manor of Wingham, as well as paying suite of court.

Gavelkind tenure could only be altered by Act of Parliament. An early example of this occurred when in 1202  King John gave Hubert, Archbishop of Canterbury, a charter allowing Hubert to exchange the gavelkind tenures held of the see of Canterbury into tenures by knight’s service.

The accession of the Tudors to the throne of England saw the passing by Parliament of a number of disgavelling acts. In the eleventh year of Henry VII and the fifteenth year of Henry VIII to acts were passed to disgavel land held by Sir Richard Guldeford and Sir Henry Wyat. Then in 1539, the year in which legislation to dissolve the remaining monasteries was passed, an act was passed disgavelling the lands of thirty four gentlemen, many of whom would increase their land holdings when these monastic lands came up for sale.

Amongst those whose lands were disgavelled were Sir Christopher Hales, the Master of the Rolls, and the Culpeppers. Sir Christopher had received St. Alban’s Court by grant of the Abbot of St. Albans and had the grant confirmed by Parliament in 1539, and the St. Alban’s Court estate was disgavelled later that year.  On Sir Christopher’s death in 1542 his three daughters sold the estate to Alexander Culpepper, who in turn sold it to his brother, Sir Thomas Culpepper, who sold it to Thomas Hammond, the sitting tenant, in 1555 (1556).

Generally the gavelkind land holder could dispose of their land in their will, and inheritance through the custom of gavelkind only applied where no will existed. Gavelkind was a system of partible inheritance whereby property was divided amongst all heirs, not just males, in the event of the intestacy of the owner. This resulted in the sub-division of land holdings and accounts for the large number of small pieces of land held by various people throughout Nonington and the adjoining parishes and very obvious when reading the various Esole manorial rolls. From the mid-16th century onwards these small pieces of land were gradually bought up by increasingly wealthier Nonington yeoman farmers such as the Creake family, and later the Paines in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, to make larger and more economically viable farms. Many of these yeoman farmers were in their turn bought out by the larger land-owners such as the Boys’ of Fredville, who in their turn were superceded by the Hammonds of St. Alban’s Court and the Plumptres of Fredville. However, as late as 1859 Esole Fields still had some narrow strips of land owned by small-holders recorded on the Poor Law Commissioners map of that year, and other small-holdings are evident across the parish. Most of these remaining small-holdings gradually disappeared as they became more uneconomical to farm in the prolonged agricultural recession of the late 19th century caused by cheap imported grain coming in from North America and the small-holders sold up to larger land-holders, after which they often used the money received to move to the towns or emigrated, especially after the railway arrived in Nonington in 1861.

In case of intestacy, lands in gavelkind descended to all the sons alike in equal portions, and if there were no sons, then equally among the daughters. With regard to the deceased persons chattels, providing the deceased left “lawful issue” it was formerly part of the custom of Kent that after the funeral had taken place and the debts of the deceased had been discharged  the chattels would be divided into three parts. One portion was to the dead, for the performance of legacies; another to the deceased’s  children: and a third to the wife, for her support and maintenance.

Some other salient features of gavelkind tenure were:

“The husband, after his wife’s death, enjoys a moiety [half] of her inheritance in gavelkind by courtesy, whether he has children by her or not, until he marries again”.
[General history: Socage and gavelkind tenures Pages 311-321 The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. By W. Hasted].

A dowager was entitled to one half of the land.
“The wife, after the death of her husband, has for her dower a moiety of his lands in gavelkind, for so long time as she shall continue unmarried and in chastity; after which, faith the custom.
He that does turn or wend her,
Let him also give unto her or lend her”.
[General history: Socage and gavelkind tenures Pages 311-321 The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. By W. Hasted].

A widow who had no children was entitled to inherit half the estate, as a tenant, as long as she remained unmarried.

A gavelkind land holder could pass on part or all of their lands as a fiefdom from fifteen years of age.

”The tenant of gavelkind lands is kept in ward one year longer than is permitted by the common law; that is, till he is fifteen years of age, at which time he is of sufficient age to alien his estate by feoffment”
[General history: Socage and gavelkind tenures Pages 311-321 The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. By W. Hasted].

On conviction of committing a felony the convicted persons lands were not subject to corruption of blood, one of the consequences of attainder, which entailed losing not only one’s life, property and hereditary titles, but typically also the right to pass them on to one’s heirs. The descendants of an attainted person could not inherit either from the attainted person whose property had been forfeited to the Crown by the attainder, or from their other relatives through him.
“Lands in gavelkind, if the tenant commits felony, and submits to the judgment of the law, are not forfeited, nor do they escheat to the king or other lord of whom they are holden, which has given occasion to the proverbial expression,
The father to the bough+,
And the son to the plough*”.
[General history: Socage and gavelkind tenures Pages 311-321 The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent: Volume 1. By W. Hasted].
+ condemned to the gallows. *impoverished by the loss of his inheritance.

Eswalt, later St. Alban’s Court: before the Domesday Survey of 1086

Eswalt and the neighbouring manor of Essewelle had once been part of of the manor of Oesewalum, also Oeswalum and Oseuualun, which had belonged to Christ Church Cathedral Priory in Canterbury  and then came into the possession of the Crown, probably during the latter part of the 10th century.

The Domesday Survey of 1086 records that during the reign of King Edward the Confessor [1042-1066] Eswalt was held by Alnoth Cild or Cilt, also known as Alnod or Aethelnoth Cild or Cilt. Some 19th century, and later, reference books state that Cild or Cilt refers to royal birth and that Alnoth was a younger brother of Harold Godwinson, briefly king of England before his defeat and death at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Other more recent works believe Cild or Cilt, translates as “the young or younger”, or possibly “noble”, and that he was not a brother of Harold.

Young Alnoth, also Alnoth of Kent and Alnoth of Kent, was a major landholder in 1066, with several very large estates in Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire and Oxfordshire, totalling over 180 hides. His estates in Kent and eastern Wessex alone had a value of £260. Eswalt was his only estate in East Kent, the others: Chart Sutton; Eccles; Boxley; Bilsington; Pimp’s Court in Loose; West Farleigh; Hawkhurst,; and Merclesham were all in the west of the county. Possibly the fact that Eswalt straddles the road running from Sandwich to Eastry through Nonington and on through the Elham Valley to Lyminge and Lympne is of some relevance. Also the northern edge of Eswalt there is a possible estate boundary formed by Cherry Garden Lane, referred to in the 16th century as St. Margaret’s Street, which runs from Canterbury to St. Margaret’s Bay. Cherry Garden Way crosses over the Sandwich to Lympne road forming a cross-roads which again may be relevant to the importance of Eswalt.

Alnoth was a friend and protégé of Harold Godwinson and in the Kent Domesday Book there is a reference that “’Through Harold’s violence AlnothCild stole from St Martin [of Dover] Merclesham and Hawkhurst, for which he granted the canons an unequal exchange”. Harold provided support to Alnoth enabling him to hold on to the two estates taken from the canons of St Martin’s Church at Dover for which the canons claimed they had been given an unfair exchange.

Alnoth was an important man in Kent, especially in and around Canterbury, and he may have had ancestors who had been ealdormen. The Kent Domesday refers to the fact that when the King came to Canterbury or Sandwich he was obliged to provide food and drink for members of a bodyguard provided for him by Alnoth Cild and other landowners of similar status. It’s possible Alnoth was the portreeve of Canterbury, which would at least in part explain the often used “of Canterbury” suffix to his name. The office of portreeve was a Royal appointee with its origins in the reign of Edward the Elder [899-924]. A pre-Conquest portreeve was responsible for the collection of taxes and to ensure that trade was not conducted outside of the port without the supervision of the portreeve or his deputies. A port was a town or borough with a designated market, and was not necessarily a sea-port.
At this time the English system of civil administration and its efficiency in collecting taxes to provide the Crown with an impressive regular annual revenues was the envy of Scandinavia and Northern Europe. The large sums raised annually were certainly one of the main reasons for Duke William of Normandy wanting the English throne. King Edward the Confessor’s income has been calculated to have been some £6,000 per annum, and Earl Godwin, Harold’s father and by  far the richest of the great earls and the most powerful man in England, had an annual income of some £4,000. Rich pickings indeed for William.

After the defeat of Harold Godwinson at the Battle of Hasting’s by William of Normandy in October of 1066 Alnoth was allowed to retain his holdings, and when the newly crowned William I, the Conquer, returned to Normandy in March of 1067 Alnoth was one of several prominent Englishmen who accompanied William as “honoured guests”, in reality hostages. When he returned to Normandy William left Odo of Bayeux and William FitzOsbern as regents of England.

There are conflicting reports of what happened to Alnoth. One report records he never returned from Normandy, another that on his return he was imprisoned at Salisbury until his death. However, what is known is that William I gave all of Alnoth’s estates, including Eswalt, to Odo, Earl of Kent and Bishop of Bayeaux, and also half-brother of the King. Whether or not Alnoth had some connection with the 1067 Kentish Rebellion against Odo is not known, but if he had supported it that could explain why he disappeared.

The Domesday survey of 1086 records that Eswalt was one of the holdings of Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux and recorded as: “In Eastry Hundred………….Aethelwold held ESWALT from the Bishop (Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux),  It answers for 3 sulungs. Land for… In lordship 1 plough. 6 villagers with 2 smallholders have 3 ploughs. 2 slaves; a little wood for fencing. Value before 1066 £9; now £15. Young Alnoth held it from King Edward”, (translation from “History from sources, Domesday Book of Kent”, by Phillimore, published in 1983).

Bishop Odo, William I, and Robert de Mortain. From the Bayeaux Tapestry.

Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux was the half-brother of William I, the Conquerer, their mother was Herleva of Falaise. Odo was created Earl of Kent by William in 1067 to reward his support during William’s invasion and subsequent conquestof England. The earldom gave Odo an annual income of £.3,000 from 184 lordships in Kent and numerous manors in 12 other counties making him by far the richest tenant-in-chief in England. He was also given the custody of Dover Castle, the “lock and key” of England and then probably the most important castle in England. However, this was not enough for Odo and he set about increasing his wealth by taking whatever he wanted by force.

In Dover, Odo confiscated homes and took the Old Guildhall for his household, as well as allowing one of his tenants to build a tidal water- mill at the harbour entrance in Dover which caused the harbour to silt up which had devastating impact on shipping. Odo’s misdeeds quickly made him many enemies in Kent, and by the autumn of 1067 there was open revolt against him mainly in and around Dover. Such was their hatred of Odo the Kentish rebels appealed to Eustace, Count of Boulogne for help. Eustace was himself a hated man in Dover, but apparently less hated than Odo. In 1051 there had been a brawl in Dover between Eustace’s retainers and the citizens of Dover which had caused a rift between King Edward the Confessor and Harold Godwinson which resulted in the temporary exile of the Godwinson family.

Eustace had been a loyal supporter of William I and had fought alongside him at the Battle of Hastings. However, Eustace was dissatisfied with his reward from and decided to support the Kent rebels in their fight against Odo in the hope of gaining more wealth. Eustace crossed the Channel to support the rebels in their attempt to besiege and take Dover Castle, but he soon realized the siege would fail and he returned to Boulogne. As a result of his support for the rebels his English property was confiscated by William I, but was later returned when the two were reconciled. After Eustace’s retreat to Boulogne the Kent rebellion soon failed and Odo regained control of Kent.

Now secure in his tenure Odo continued to increase his wealth by whatever means he saw fit which soon brought him into direct conflict from Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also had extensive land-holdings in Kent. In 1076 this confrontation led to Odo being brought to trial on Pennenden Heath near Maidstone accused of defrauding the Crown and Diocese of Canterbury. After the trial Odo had to return some of the illegally obtained land holdings whilst other assets were re-apportioned.
Odo’s greed and ambition led to his downfall in 1082 when William arrested and imprisoned him for seditiously planning without the King’s permission a military expedition to Italy, supposedly in pursuit of the Papacy. Odo’s earldom and remaining estates were confiscated by the Crown and he was imprisoned until 1087 when William was persuaded on his deathbed to release him.

The Royal Oak in The Drove in Lower Holt Street-revised 2.3.2018

The Royal Oak sign hand-carved by Steve Finnis.

The Royal Oak sign hand-carved three dimensional pub sign hand-carved in the 1990′s by Steve Finnis, a pub regular.

The last of Nonington’s alehouses to be licenced was The Royal Oak in The Drove, Lower Holt Street, Nonington, which was also the last of the old alehouses to carry on business. The pub is sadly closed at present and leaves Nonington without a pub. Hopefully it will re-open in the very near future.

William Wanstall junior was licensee of The Hawks Head, formerly The White Horse, next to St. Mary’s church when it closed in March of 1832. The closure was possibly because William Osmund Hammond, the owner, had become opposed to the sale of alcohol because of his religious convictions, but more likely it was due to his concerns about the effects of alcohol on the working abilities of the lower classes.  Alehouses at this time opened at six o’clock in the morning and closed at ten o’clock at night.

For some six months or so after the closure of The Hawk’s Head the only alehouse in the parish was “The Redd Lyon” at Frogham.  William Wanstall and John Wood obviously saw the need for an alehouse, or two, in the more heavily populated Church Street, Holt Street and Easole Street area.   At the next annual Wingham licencing sessions in September of1832 William Wanstall and John Wood were both granted a licences, William for The Royal Oak and John for The Walnut Tree, both premises being a couple of hundred yards apart in Lower Holt Street.

The Royal Oak was most probably named after the ‘Majestie Oak’ in nearby Fredville Park.  The new Royal Oak premises was owned by by J. P. Plumptre, Esq., of Fredville as was the long established Redd Lyon at Frogham. The road running from Holt Street past The Royal Oak over the hill to the church was then known as Church Hill, later renamed Vicarage Lane, but is always referred to by locals as Oak Hill.

With the granting of the licence William Wanstall became liable to pay the Parish Poor Rate on the premises. His father, also William, was the Parish Clerk in the mid-1830’s and listed for many years in parish records as a shoemaker and cordwainer. William senior first had a house and shop premises in Easole Street but later moving to premises, now called The Old Post Office, in The Drove which adjoined the southern end of the Oak garden.

The Parish Vestry, an early form of the Parish Council had met in The Hawks Head, previously The White Horse, since at least the early 1700’s and after its closure in March of 1832 the Vestry’s fortnightly meetings were held at The Royal Oak after its opening in September of that year. Vestry meetings normally began at “eleven of the clock in the forenoon” and decided on such important matters as raising revenue through parish rates for the administration of the Poor Laws and the maintenance of the roads within the parish. Inquests had also been held in The White Horse, most likely since its opening, and they continued to be held at The Royal Oak.

William Wanstall the younger died during his tenure as licensee. The Kentish Gazette of Tuesday 18th October, 1836, contained the following notices concerning his estate.
“The estate of William Wanstall the Younger. Notice.
All Persons who have any claims or demands on the Estate of William Wanstall the younger, of Nonington, in the county of Kent, Victualler, who hath executed a deed of assignment for the benefit of his creditors, are desired, within one month from the date of this notice, to send an account thereof to Mr. Chalk, Solicitor, Dover. And all persons who stand indebted to the estate of the said William Wanstall are requested to pay the amount of their respective debts to Mr. Chalk, who is duly authorized by the assignees of the said William Wanstall to receive and give discharges for the same.
Stephen Chalk, Solicitor to the Assignees. Dover, Oct. 18, 1836”.

In the same issue of The Kentish Gazette was notice of an auction of goods from the estate of William Wanstall the younger which were presumably from The Royal Oak and most likely sold in situ by Whites and Goulden, auctioneers of Canterbury, who themselves ceased trading in December of 1844.
Items of household furniture, glass, china ect., the property of Mr. William Wanstall in the Parish of Nonington listed to be sold by auction on Thursday, the 20th of October, 1836 were as follows: four-post bedsteads and hangings; feather beds; mattresses; blankets and counterpanes; mahogany double and single chests of drawers; dressing tables and glasses; night chair; mahogany wardrobe; mahogany dining, Pembroke, tea, and card tables; mahogany and painted chairs; beaufet*; Kidderminster carpets and hearth rugs; mahogany bureau; eight-day clock; pier glass; register and other stoves; fenders and fire irons; bed and table linen; a variety of glass and china; kitchen and washing utensils; beer casks; kneading trough; plate rack; meat safes; brine tubs; dairy utensils; mangle; and many other useful articles. All of these items were for viewing on the day of the auction, which was to commence at mid-day precisely.
* beaufet (plural beaufets). A counter for refreshments. A niche, cupboard, or sideboard for plate, china, glass, etc.; a buffet.

The type and apparent quality of the furniture listed indicates that the Royal Oak was a fairly high class establishment providing food as well as drink to locals and travellers alike. When renovations to The Oak were carried out in the 1960’s a spy hole in the form of a small trap door which looked down into the main room below was found in the floor of an upstairs room, most likely to allow the landlord to see who had entered the premises without having to go downstairs.

John Hopper, who had previously been the landlord of The Redd Lyon at Frogham, took over the Royal Oak from William Wanstall on November 1st, 1836.  John Hopper was licensee for some nine years or so until he was succeeded in 1845 by John Nash, who in addition to being the licensee was also the receiver of mail at The Oak. Prior to its closure The Hawks Head had fulfilled a similar function. It was common for village alehouses to serve as parish post offices during the 1840’s and 50’s.

The provision of good quality dining continued under the new licensee, the Kentish Gazette of Tuesday, 28th February, 1843, recorded the third annual meeting of the Nonington Agricultural Association as follows:
“The 3rd annual meeting of this Association took place at the “Royal Oak Inn,” Nonington, on Thursday, 16th instant, where the accounts were audited, and the officers and committee were unanimously re-elected. The members sat down to an excellent dinner at 4 o’clock, provided by Mr. Nash, the wines were of the best quality. After dinner the chairman, Mr. W. H. Harvey, propose the health of the Queen, which was followed by “God Save the Queen,” performed by Messrs. Holtum, Nash, and Maxted. Many other loyal and patriotic toasts followed, interspersed with glees. Previous to the meeting breaking up, it was resolved: “That the Secretary do convene a special meeting of the members to take into consideration the propriety of petitioning Parliament for the repeal of the malt-tax. A liberal collection was made in aid of the funds of the “Shipwrecked Mariners’ Society.”

The 1851 census records John Nash, aged 44,  as being the Registrar of BD [births & deaths] & Marriages, victualler, and surveyor of highways [a parish vestry appointment] who employed seven men. On his death in 1855 John Nash’s widow, Harriet [née Sladden], took over and ran The Oak until her death in 1867. Harriet’s daughter, Fanny Charlotte Nash, had married Leonard Woodruff, a brick layer from Walmer, in 1863 and he took over the licence when Harriet Nash died.  It was very common for a licensee to have a full time job or profession and for his wife to run the pub from day to day. During Leonard Woodruff’s tenure The Oak continued as a venue for various meetings and diners. On 22nd January, 1870, the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald reported the following:
“Nonington. Rabbit shooting.
On Tuesday Last the tenants on the Fredville estate with a few of their friends, enjoyed their annual day’s rabbit shooting in Frogham Wood, by the kindness of Charles J. Plumptre, Esq., of Fredville Park, in this parish. After a most excellent day’s sport the friends adjourned to the “Royal Oak Inn,” and partook of a most sumptuous dinner, capitally supplied by the worthy hostess in a style that reflected great credit on her, and gave general satisfaction. The rest of the evening was spent in songs, toasts, &c”.
The hostess referred to in the newspaper report was presumably Fanny Nash, and when Leonard died in 1873 Fanny took over the licence from her late husband.

Richard Jarvis Arnold, born in the parish and resident there in the 1880’s and 1890’s recalls in his memoirs which were taken down 1936 by Dr. Hardman, a local historian, that: “the public houses were The Royal Oak  kept by Woodruff and The Walnut Tree beer house kept by Sheaf”. Dr. Harman noted that “The Oak had since been rebuilt”  indicating that the pub underwent alterations at some time from the late 1890’s to the early 1930’s when the memoirs were taken down. These must have been mainly internal as the building appears to have retained its original external features including windows and doors. In January of 1987 the ground floor interior underwent extensive alterations, with the unusual horse-shoe shaped bar installed during the previous alterations being replaced.

The widowed Fanny Woodruffe married James Stow in 1876 and her new husband became licensee and continued as such until in 1896 when Fanny again held the licence in her own right until 1899 when William Henry Sayer became the new land-lord.

In 1918 William Sayer’s nephew, also William Sayer, opened a cycle repair and taxi service in stable buildings to the rear of the pub [now the car park]. The business expanded to include motor vehicle repairs and fuel sales and in 1926 to the younger William Sayer moved the business to its present premises in Holt Street which had previously been the public laundry. He continued to run the business until his retirement in 1948 when the business was taken over by his nephews, Charles and Arthur Betts. Since Arthur’s retirement the business has been run by his son, Terry.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Oak became a tied house leased by local brewers at some time in the late 1800’s. The earliest known brewer was Gardener & Co. Ltd. of Ash whose brewery in Sandwich Road in Ash dated from 1837.  In 1951 Tomson & Wotton Ltd or Ramsgate amalgamated with Gardner & Co Ltd of Ash to form Combined Breweries (Holdings) Ltd. which was acquired by Whitbread & Co Ltd in 1968.

Subsequent landlords of The Oak included William George Hoare, who was at the pub  from September of 1923 to October of 1926, and Walter Henry Purbeck, a former Metropolitan Police officer, who was licensee of The Oak until 1939.

Arthur Balcombe was landlord from 1939 until 1945, the Second World War years.  During the war Canadian soldiers stationed in Fredville Park and other parts of Nonington used to go into the pub. This sometimes caused friction with locals as the soldiers often consumed large quantities of beer which caused the pub to run out, and new supplies were difficult to obtain due to rationing. Margaret Balcombe, his daughter,  married Frank Webb, my uncle, Arthur Balcombe was landlord from 1939 until 1945, the Second World War years.  During the war Canadian soldiers stationed in Fredville Park and other parts of Nonington used to go into the pub. This sometimes caused friction with locals as the soldiers often consumed large quantities of beer which caused the pub to run out, and new supplies were difficult to obtain due to rationing. Margaret Balcombe, his daughter,  married Frank Webb, my uncle, when he was on home leave from overseas wartime service in the R.A.F.

After the war Reg Reynolds took over, and his daughter Coralie married Ken Theobald, a local man. Coralie still lives in Nonington. Reg Reynolds was followed in the late 1950′s by Charles Kerr, who in turn was followed by Tony Usher, an ex-Royal Navy diver. In the late 1960’s Nick Larsen, an ex-Metrolpolitan policeman, took over until 1975 when The Oak went from being a tenancy to a Whitbread managed house with several mangers who included Nigel Turnbull and John Nicholson.  The pub reverted back to a Whitbread tenancy when Roy Faye became licensee from 1979 until September of 1988 when Peter Addis became landlord of the now free house.

Until the early 1960’s The Oak also had ta tea garden, serving teas to cricketers and the general public in a building at the end of the garden. For many years it was the ‘local’ for students at the nearby Nonington College of Physical Education until the College’s unfortunate closure in the mid-1980’s.


An edited version of this article by Peter Hobbs, the present owner of Old St. Alban’s Court, was previously published in Archaeologia Cantiana Vol: 138-pages 291-299.

Since 1519, the Hammond family had lived at what appears to have always been known locally as St Albans, substantially adding to and changing the original fourteenth century hall house built for their tenants by the Abbey of St Albans in Hertfordshire, owners of the ancient Saxon estate since 1097.(1)    William Oxenden Hammond – see Fig 1 – formerly a soldier and now a successful banker, in 1875 wrote in the diary called ‘MSS Family Histories’ that he had consulted his brothers and “…decided to rebuild a new mansion (see Fig 3), the old one . . (Fig 2) . . . having naturally fallen into a decayed state.”(2).

5-20-62-01 - William Hammond
Fig 1 – William Oxenden Hammond.
5-20-62-02 - St Labans Court in 1839
Fig 2 – An 1839 print of the building subsequently demolished.
5-20-62-03 - St Albans Court in 1878
Fig 3: The new St Albans Court occupied by W.O.Hammond in 1878

He had already commissioned a new stable block and associated buildings as well as estate cottages from his friend the architect George Devey,(3) and appears to have added a tower and a new bay to the South East side of the existing house,(4) but it clearly left him dissatisfied, because he then commissioned an entirely new Elizabethan style mansion on a rise to the North of the old house.(5)   He had also been improving and ornamenting his newly inherited estate with substantial tree planting around the new site – during which he unearthed human remains and reburied them under a stone pyramid (6) – so what was more logical than to consider other ways of enhancing the attractiveness of his property?

To the South of the old manor house there was a substantial hole in the ground – the first reference so far to this is as a property marker in the 1501 Court Roll of the Abbot of St Albans,(7) and it is present on a 1629 Estate map.(8)    Given the ample presence of brick earth as well as documented and recorded brick clamps in the immediate vicinity,(9) it seems reasonable to assume that it was probably extended in 1556, when the old house was partially rebuilt in brick – and perhaps even further extended when the house was substantially remodelled in 1666.(10)    Situated next to the Home Farm, the cavity then seems to have been used as a tip for what could not be spread advantageously on the land, and considerable fragments of eighteenth and early nineteenth century domestic refuse were recovered in 2001.(11) It may even have been further enlarged in 1790 when the mansion was again remodelled and extended.(12)    At that time, a large brick built soakaway was inserted at the bottom linked by a substantial brick lined conduit to the rain water drains around the manor house.
This large cavity lay beyond the old roadway leading to the rear of the manor, immediately in front of the new 1869 Stable Block designed by George Devey, and adjacent to the Tudor walled garden.   This had been re-equipped as a parterre with paths and glass houses in 1790, and refurbished at least in part in 1869 (13) with the completion of the new Stable block, and lay at the back of the old manor house.   Hammond had also commissioned a new entrance to this walled garden from Devey which is dated 1869, and the 1872 Ordnance Survey(14) shows linked walks.   It was again logical for Hammond to look to continue the enhancement of his inheritance by utilising the excavation for further display and linking it to his walks amongst the rose beds of his Tudor walled garden.
Where would he go to seek ideas and find contractors to carry out this sort of garden improvement?   Presumably, he would have talked to his architect and friend George Devey, who would have been aware of appropriate names of which probably the most notable since the 1840s would have been that of the family firm of James Pulham & Son, based in Broxbourne in Hertfordshire.   Devey had executed a series of commissions for the Rothschilds from the early 1860s, (15) and would have been aware of Pulham’s work for Rothschild at Waddesdon Manor(16).   In 1877, Devey was also building the (later celebrated) Eythrope Water Pavilion for Alice de Rothschild in a bend in the Thames when the lady was persuaded that water was inimical to her sleep, so no bedrooms were provided, and she slept each night at Waddesdon!(17)
Rock gardening had developed in the earlier part of the nineteenth century as a fusion of the concepts of ornamental design and scientific interest.   Some designers preferred to work with natural rock but the Pulhams exploited their own technology to enable large scale construction at a cost which allowed much higher expenditure on plants.   Pulhamite – a render for artificial rockwork and in the form of a stone coloured terracotta material used for precast garden or architectural ornamentation – was the source of their reputation.(18)   Although Pulham seems to have had only a dozen or so commissions in Kent by the 1870s – Barham Court near Canterbury had work done on Dropping Wells and pools in 1870 (19) – but Hammond’s commission appears to have been for the more expensive and conventional banks of natural rock although the formation of a Dropping Well and two associated pools could be Pulhamite.   James 2’s Plan of the garden at St Albans Court is shown in Fig 4.

5-20-62-04 - Pulham Garden Plan
Fig 4 – Pulham Garden Plan c1877

In the 1877 Pulham Brochure,(20) the work was categorised under ”Ferneries, rocky banks, alpineries and conservatories.”   The South West side of the excavation was a shallow slope with rocks amongst grass as far as can be seen from the photograph in the 1937 Sale Catalogue for the Estate 21 – Fig 5, with the picture showing it as it is today in Fig 6.   Within this, areas were linked by steps and paths of stone slabs.   There was a prominent Toad or Frog stone to the West with small round planting holes appropriately placed to add to the illusion and another overlooking one of the Dropping Wells – see Fig 7.   The Pulham Business Records show the work being carried out for Hammond in 1877,(22) – a year before he was able to move into his new mansion – so this represented but one strand of a vast construction project.

5-20-62-05 - Rock Garden to South in 1937 Sale Catalogue
Fig 5: The view to the South in the 1937 Estate Sale Catalogue
5-20-62-06 - Rock Garden to South in 2018
Fig 6: The present view to the South.

According to local accounts, the rock came by train to Adisham – then the nearest station – and then by horse and cart to Nonington – a distance of about three miles.(23)   The rock itself is Wealdon level sandstone, most probably from one of the quarries at Maidstone.   Pulham drew on local sources, and this appears to have been the nearest with rail connections.(24)   The water for the Dropping Well came via a two inch cast iron pipe from a reservoir in the then kitchen gardens to the South East, closer to the hamlet of Easole.(25)   Puzzlingly, no evidence of any link or drain to the large brick 1790 soakaway was found, although the soakaway itself is shown on the 1872 ‘25 Miles to the Inch’ Ordnance Survey, so it must have been known about.   Devey himself directed all the roof water of the 1869 Stables Buildings – not into the old soakaway but into a large new cistern he had designed for the Stable Yard.   In one hundred years, presumably, the emphasis had changed from eliminating waste water to saving it, something to reflect on with the current obsessions with climate change.

5-20-62-09 - Frog Stone
Fig 7: The Frog Stone which figured in College memories with the empty Pulham planting holes.

It is assumed that it was also at this time that a rectangular area of some eighty yards by thirty yards was cleared between the North Westerly end of the excavation and an existing walk extending from the Walled Garden.   Excavation in 2001 (26) showed a depth of approximately two feet of soil on top of about twelve inches of compressed peat below which was a bed of gravel.   The original chalky alkaline soil had been removed and replaced – probably with acid soil, although now it is neutral.   Into this had been planted rhododendron of which only the toughest specimens still survive.

The immediate subsequent history of the garden is unclear.   A tenant in the early 1900s may have extended the area of the garden – there are brick walls holding back banks of earth on the East side of the Dropping Well and forming a crescent containing another pool which could be later.   However, the detailed survey carried out in 2013 (27) – Appendix 1 – showed up more brick crescents and banks on the West side.   All were formed of the same machine brick, most probably from the Sittingbourne brickfields, and their siting in conjunction with and under rock makes the case for them to be part of the original construction. (28)
The 1937 Sale Catalogue states that the Margate Water Company had by then provided a tap at the end of a three-inch water main which is also remembered as providing two stand pipes on the slope to the South West.   However, this was not connected to the Dropping Well.

Mrs Ina Hammond lavished care and attention on what the youngest of her grandchildren knew as ‘Grannie’s Garden’ where frogs abounded in the 1920s.   They still do but her elder sister recollects only being chased off the rocks by Sayer the Gardener. (29)   There are some grainy photos of small conifer planting in sites where there are now large trees and there are local recollections of children opening the sluice in the old kitchen gardens and running along the road to watch the water surge out of the Dropping Well in the sunken garden. (30).   The 1937 Sales catalogue describes the area as “Large Sunk Garden with wide grass slope in centre and dripping well sheltered by large beech and chestnut trees …”and is accompanied by the photograph shown in Fig 5.

The next pictures date post war, after Mrs Hammond had sold that part of the estate to the English Gymnastics Society, and female students of what became Nonington College of Physical Education are shown in Fig 8 engaged in rituals of dramatic performance under the “frog” stone.

5-20-62-07 - Students in 3K Glide
Fig 8: Nonington College students engaged in rituals of dramatic performance

Some former students remember only sunbathing there!   However, others remember classes being taken down there and student artists drawing plants as exercises. (31)   The Head Groundsman recollects the difficulties in getting a mower down to the bottom when he was expected to mow it every week, and, in high summer, he was wary of the numbers of adders enjoying the warm rocks. (32)
Then came a major intervention: in 1951,   Miss Wright and Miss Kreuger – the co-owners of the College – sold it to Kent County Council.   Miss Wright – who had been Principal since the College started in 1937 – moved into a substantial newly built house (called St Albans) off Mill Lane in Nonington which overlooked her former demesne.   She took with her not only a four-roomed Finnish Sauna (which she said had been a personal gift from a Finnish admirer, (33) but also transported and created there a large rockery from the stone imported by Hammond and used by Pulham to shape the long slope out of the garden to the South – Figs 10 and 11.

Ian Sayer suspects that more rock was also taken from the North Easterly side of the garden flanking the track to the rear of the Stables.   A crude estimate (34) is that the new rockery absorbed between 10 – 15% of all the original imports.   The area she cleared was filled by a large herbaceous bed surrounded by lavender, according to Ian Sayer.   The extensive vegetation then in the garden shows up in a photograph taken before 1971,35 which shows a musical event taking place – see Fig 9.   There is an orchestra of about twenty and a young audience of at least one hundred and fifty, which gives a good sense of the versatility and capacity of the garden at that time.

5-20-62-08 - Concert in Progress
Fig 9: Concert in progress

In 1972, Kent County Council began the work to expand the College with a large-scale building programme (36) which included a large block of student flats, as well as a restaurant off a new roadway, extending the ancient track leading to the rear of the old manor house.   In the area largely cleared of Pulham stonework by the depredations of Miss Wright, the College built four staff bungalows which were to the South and South West of the sunken garden, but sufficiently close to require making a platform for the foundations, thus forming a cliff-like South and South West side, and cutting off old vistas.   This radically changed the garden by closing it in, and the steady spread of the yew and conifer trees began to cut down the light and started to drive out the grass sward.   However, children from the bungalows played amongst the rocks, and both staff and students used the area for barbeques.

5-20-62-10 - N W End of Sunken Garden
Fig 10: North West end of the Sunken Garden

The College closed in 1986 and maintenance was reduced to zero leaving only a multitude of rabbits trimming the grass.   Sometime before, ploughing had cut the old Dropping Well pipe in the adjoining field, and the Great Storm of 1987 uprooted numerous trees, one of which fractured the water main which was then cut off.   The closure of the College meant the abandonment of the space to nature and invasive Knotweed, and nothing happened until the arrival of developers in 1990 who replaced the pathways to the bungalows with roadways, dumping the spoil on the rhododendron bed – by then itself an overgrown, almost impenetrable mass of self-seeded and gale-felled trees and brambles.

5-20-62-11 - West Corner of Sunken Garden
Fig 11: West corner of Sunken Garden

Groves of Japanese Knotweed flourished – possibly a legacy of the Victorian planting – as well as swathes of bracken.   At some stage during the College tenure, the name had been changed from the ‘Sunken Garden’ to ‘The Dell’.   This name was perpetuated by the developers who had taken over the College, but its form and purpose were lost and forgotten, and became a matter of indifference other than as a potential hazard to its owners.   A further problem was that the developers’ work in transforming the old student accommodation into some forty modern flats meant heavy construction traffic up the trackway from the main road and onto the site, which resulted in the roadway itself starting to subside into the sunken garden.
In 2000, the usefulness to the developers of the old bungalows and the sunken garden as a tax haven expired, and, due to a fortuitous incidental comment in a telephone conversation, the present owners were able to step in before it came on the open market.   The first task was to erect a wall of stone-filled caissons along the length of the sunken garden flanking the roadway to prevent further collapse.   This steepened the North West side of the garden and eliminated the path opposite the entrance to the Stable Yard down which Ian Sayer had brought his mower in College days.
The first inkling of what we had really bought came only in 2008, when the postman delivered a letter addressed to Mrs Hammond at St Albans Court – the postman said that it could only be for us! – from English Heritage concerning Pulham and the data base they were building of their work.   By then, the area has been opened up, cleared and made safe, in so doing revealing the mixture of rubble and brick used to underpin the rocks.   Rain and animal activity had largely emptied the obscuring mixture of peat and soil which had provided planting pockets.
A rectangular concrete pit was unearthed close to the Dropping Well, but the materials look different from those used in the other constructions and, when found, was still functioning as a marsh garden.   The last College Head Groundsman remembered it as always being a fixture there which makes the construction well before 1956 when he began to work there officially.   He recollected a further pool on the other side of the Dropping Well which had been abandoned when the rock that dammed the water had collapsed down the slope below, and this site was recovered under some feet of earth and stone which had washed down from above in the intervening years.   No water source was detected during the excavations. Paths and steps were mostly in situ although slipped and eroded in some places by tree roots, rabbit activity and weather, but the plan of the nineteenth century construction remained clear.

The planting which initially would have been Victorian (37) was surveyed by Mr and Mrs Richard Hoskins, and the detail is contained in Appendix 2.   Some of the original planting remains, but essentially we have the legacy of relatively intensive cultivation in the 1920s, followed by more institutional work by the College.   The Japanese Knotweed has (hopefully) been exterminated by a sustained program of digging, burning and poisoning, and the bracken has been tackled similarly.   The Dropping Well has been linked to a permanent water supply from a cistern installed by the College in the 1950s to service the Caretaker’s cottage.   The water from the Dropping Well flows to a small pond, and from there by gravity into the 1790 sump now converted to a large cistern from which it is pumped into Devey’s cistern in the Stable Yard for garden use.   The rediscovered pool has been repaired and linked into the same system.
The overgrown yews which overshadow the garden are being steadily trimmed back to allow light again and a replanting program commenced. Grass snakes as well as a multitude of frogs, newts and other pond life multiply, and even Adders have been sighted again whilst birds multiply.
There was one last surprise; the winter and spring of 2013 -14 were extraordinarily wet for an area noted for its dryness – even compared with immediately surrounding villages.   The garden began to flood – not from waters flowing into it, but because the ground itself was saturated. The normal ground water level in the immediate vicinity was at about 36 feet, but in this period rose to within 5½ feet of ground level, and the centre of the garden was under some 9 feet of water for nearly three weeks before receding – by then to the dissatisfaction of a family of ducks who had taken up residence.   The trees and shrubs proved to be unaffected. The evidence of records and from village memory was that this was unprecedented.

5-20-62-12 - Probing the edged f the flood
Fig 12: Probing the edges of the flood.


Although the basic content and materials of the Pulham execution remain, the nature of the garden has changed from being a substantial excavation – but fully open with a slope upwards to the South – to one which is now contained on all sides by walls of rock and greenery to the point that it has acquired an air of secrecy due to its presence being completely hidden and obscured until the entrance gate is opened. Not perhaps William Oxenden Hammond’s idea of a garden, but one with which certainly the later Pulhams 38 would be well pleased .

Peter Hobbs


1. E.Hasted, The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent,2nd ed., ix (1797-1801), 251-262.
2. MSS. A vellum bound notebook, 8 1/4 x 6 1/2in. The front cover is headed : MSS Family Histories, above which is written: This Book contains a good deal of broken family history commenced by my grandfather William Hammond & continued by my father William Osmund Hammond, & further by myself Wm Oxenden Hammond. The book was in the possession of the late Mrs Peta Binney, the elder grand-daughter of Mrs Selina Hammond, wife of Egerton Hammond who was last in the direct line of Hammonds. John Newman in Kent: North East and East (2013 ) 470-472 provides a description of both houses.
3. Jill Allibone, George Devey, Architect, 1828-1886 (1991); British Architectural Library, Geo Devey 125,56-57.
4. Photograph c1870 provided by the late Mrs Pete Binney in possession of the writer.
5. Jill Allibone, Op cit. Keith Parfitt, Anglo Saxon Cemetery at Nonington; Kent Archaeological Review 147 ,154-157.
6. CKS, U442 P30.
7. KAS Archive of Past Members Box 28 Transcription of rental information for the Manor of Essole 1501. The reference is to a Borsate Pit which, as far as we can determine, means a pit below the brow of a rise which accurately describes the position before the College constructed student accommodation and altered the lie of the land.This appears to be a large pocket of brick earth in an area which is otherwise solid chalk so it could be that brick earth was already being extracted for brick making. The fireplace and chimney in the Hall of Old St Albans Court are dated to this period so this could be the evidence for the start of what became a substantial local industry.
8. Peter Hobbs, Old St Albans Court Nonington, Arch Cant CXXV 2005, endnote 50.
9. Op cit. The Dover Archaeological Group have since excavated brick clamps dated to the 1660s approximately150 yards to the West. In this area, there is no chalk but brick earth of what appears to be excellent quality from the limited trials carried out by the Dover Archaeological Group.
10. Op cit
11. Noted by the owner in 2000.
12. MSS op cit.
13. Photograph op cit
14. Ordnance Survey 1872, 25 in to the mile, 1sted.
15. Allibone op cit
16. Durability Guaranteed – Pulhamite Rockwork – Its conservation and repair; English Heritage 2008, App A; A Gazetteer of Pulham sites.
17. Allibone op cit 55-56.
18. Durability Guaranteed op cit. London Landscape No 20, 2000, London Parks and Gardens Trust. Claude Hitching, The Pulham Legacy, Hertfordshire Countryside 2004. Claude Hitching found whilst researching his family tree that no less than five of his direct ancestors had worked for the firm of Pulham and this persuaded him to research the firm and its activities directly and publish the definitive work on the activities of his forbears which in turn generated the interest for the rediscovery of many more forgotten works.
19. Durability Guaranteed op cit.
20. Op cit.
21. John D. Woods Co. Residential and agricultural Estate of St Albans Court, Nonington, 1938, 24.
22. Durability Guaranteed, A Gazetteer of Pulham sites.
23. As related to the author by Ian Sayer, the last Head Groundsman for Nonington College whose grandfather was noted on the In Memoriam note of 1903 as one of the gardeners who had prepared the burial vault at Nonington Church for William Oxenden Hammond. His father and his uncle were also later employed as gardeners on the estate and one or other of these would have warned off the young Hammond sisters. See Note 26. It is suggested that this form of transport was remembered because old fashioned horses were used rather than agricultural traction engines.
24. Peter Jeens, Geologist, Meetings Secretary, Kent Geological Group.
25. As shown to the author by Aubrey Sutton, the Head Caretaker for Nonington College who lived in the cottage adjoining the sunken garden and who, as a child, had played there, as had in turn his children. His daughter remembered being in constant trouble for going home coated in duck weed from the pools which remains a problem despite our cleaning efforts, presumably being reseeded constantly by the numbers of birds that bathe and drink there.
26. By the author.
27. This very substantial piece of work was organised by Richard Hosking aided by Graham Hartley, Les Moorman, Donna Lambert, Barry Sheridan and Marie- Charlotte Wahl. This may be the only Pulham garden which has ever been surveyed.
28. Some of the walls were concave structures to hold back earth but in other cases, convex, possibly for planting beds. Ends were unfinished and simply tapered off into the earth banks. The bricks are yellow machine bricks, presumably from Sittingbourne Brick Fields and were visible. Yet Devey had used locally hand made red brick for his 1869 Stables and was using vastly more for the new Manor House and all the terracing there. Was he not interested or was the Pulham contract entirely separate? Hammond must have been content or he would have surely changed it : after all, he had no qualms in making vastly greater changes to the old house.
29. As related to the author in a letter from the late Mrs Peta Binney, Mrs Ina Hammond’s elder grand-daughter.
30. Aubrey Sutton op cit.
31. As related by a number of former students to the author. Ian Sayer op cit.
32. Nonington College Kent, England 1938-1986 Edited by Judith A Chapman and Jean M Whittles 2004. Newspaper cuttings from the 1960s in the Aubrey Sutton Collection. The College was the first to award degrees for dance and became a major source of PE Teachers.
33. By Gareth Daws, Stone worker and archaeologist, and the author. This included an assessment of the amount of rock at the St Albans house. The survey of the garden revealed quantities of rock in situ not previously observed in any detail.
34. From the Aubrey Sutton Collection.
35. Nonington College op cit.
36. James Pulham, Picturesque Ferneries, and Rock-Garden Scenery, in Waterfalls, Rocky Streams, Cascades, Dropping Wells or Cavernous Recesses for Boathouses, &c, &c, Penfold and Farmer , London 1877; Appendix.
37. Do go and see the Grade 1 listed Pulham surprises at the labyrinth at Dewstow Gardens & Grottoes at Caerwent in Monmouthshire! Or the waterfall on the cliffs at the centre of Ramsgate Harbour front.

Appendix 1 – Survey of Pulham Garden

5-20-62-12 - Sunken Garden at St Albans Court 1
Fig A1 – 1  –  Plan of Sunken Garden at St Albans Court
5-20-62-13 - Sunken Garden at St Albans Court 2
Fig A1 – 2  –  Ground levels of Sunken Garden at St Albans Court

Appendix 2  –  The Plants in the Dell, St Alban’s Court Nonington

Richard and Mary Hoskins

The first known reference to the rock garden at St Alban’s Court, Nonington appears in a promotional booklet published circa 1877 by James Pulham II (Pulham, c.1877).    In the appendix of the booklet Pulham lists

“… a few of the most choice, hardy plants, shrubs, conifers, and flowers …. I find that many want to know what plants are most suitable …… not for professional and experienced gardeners” (Pulham, c.1877).

This list of trees, shrubs, ferns, climbers and herbaceous plants is quite comprehensive and includes more than 400 named species or varieties, as well as referring more broadly to families of plant used in gardens designed by the Pulham family.   Each Pulham garden would have included a selection from this list, varying in number according to the size of the garden.   The rock garden at Nonington, now known as ‘The Dell’, is not large and the selection of plants would therefore have been relatively modest.

A general survey of the plants currently growing in The Dell was carried out during several visits during 2012 and 2013.   Seventy-five species of plant were identified and listed during these visits (see Appendix 1 below), excluding known recent additions.   Comparing this list with Pulham’s list produced 30 matches of plant species or families.

After more than 140 years a low number of matches would not be surprising, especially as the garden went through a 60 year period of neglect during the 20th century, so at first sight 30 matches seems quite a high number.   Included in this total are seven species of large tree, including three varieties of yew, Common Yew (Taxus baccata), Golden Yew (Taxus aurea) and Irish Yew (Taxus fastigiata); two of Cypress (Cupressus lawsonii and one other), one of Spruce (Picea) and one of Holly (Ilex aquifolium).   Yew is slow growing, and it is quite possible that the three species were all introduced by Pulham.   Cypresses grow relatively quickly, and if these species were planted at Nonington by Pulham, it is perhaps more likely that the existing trees are descendants of the originals.   On the other hand, the Spruce (probably Picea abies or Norway Spruce) is a large tree that is prominent in photographs of the Dell taken in the 1960s, so might therefore be original.   The Pulham plant list includes variegated hollies and dwarf rock holly but does not specifically mention Common Holly (Ilex aquifolium), of which several mature specimens are now found in the Dell.

There are four species of smaller tree, or shrub, common to both lists.   These are: Spotted Laurel (Aucuba japonica variegate), Deutzia (probably Deutzia crenata), Elder (Sambucus nigra) and Common Dogwood (Cornus sanguinea).   The last two are species which occur locally in the wild and are immature specimens which have probably been introduced recently and naturally.

Any rock garden worthy of the description would be incomplete without a selection of ferns.   All five species of fern now growing in the Dell are found on Pulham’s list.   These are Royal Fern (Osmunda regalis), Hartstongue Fern (Asplenium scolopendrium), Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare), Prickly Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum) and Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas).   Most of these ferns grow locally in the wild, but it is very likely that all were included as part of the range introduced into the Dell by Pulham.   Of particular note is the Royal Fern which has now become rare in Britain as a result of wetland drainage but survives in profusion in the Dell.

Pulham includes a separate list of climbing or trailing plants . . .

“. . Suitable to grow up, or trail down, especially over the thick strata of the rocks”   (Pulham, c.1877).

Remarkably few different climbers or trailers survive in the Dell.   Of those which do, by far the most abundant is Ivy.   Pulham recommends obtaining ivies, including . . .

“. . very good small Ivies…. from the banks and hedges, growing wild” (Pulham, c.1877),

. . and there is no reason to suppose that the ivies in the Dell did not arrive in this way, as most appear to be Common Ivy (Hedera helix).   One patch of Ivy has exceptionally large leaves – up to 20cm in length – and may represent a less common variety.   Of the other climbing or trailing species currently found in The Dell, three, Rock Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster horizontalis), Pheasant Berry (Leycesteria Formosa) and Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) are all included in the Pulham list but all could easily have been introduced naturally.

The remainder of the plants currently growing in The Dell consist of at least 46 different species of flowering herbaceous plant, of which eleven are also included in the Pulham Plant List.   Some of these are common species of locally found wild flowers such as Bugle (Ajuga reptans), Wild Arum (Arum maculatum), Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea), Primrose (Primula vulgaris), and Dog Violet (Viola riviniana).   Two others, Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) and Babies Tears (Soleirolia solierolii) are species that were introduced to Britain as garden plants during the nineteenth century, and have since become notorious invasive plants.   These may therefore be remnants of Pulham’s original planting.   Four further flowering plants may also be descendants of the Pulham planting: Acanthus (Acanthus montanus), Autumn Cyclamen (Cyclamen coum), Small-leaved Periwinkle (Vinca minor) and Shining Crane’s Bill (Geranium lucidum).   The last-named is widespread in The Dell with its striking, bright pink flowers and dark green, glossy leaves.

There are several plants that grow prolifically in The Dell but which are not named in the Pulham list.   Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatum biflorum) is an uncommon wild flower of the local Kentish woodland which is also often grown as a garden plant, flowering in the early spring.   Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) is another wild plant also common in gardens, the species growing in The Dell being the silver-leaved variety.   Finally, a very striking plant in The Dell is Indian Rhubarb (Darmera Peltata), a native of North America which grows as thick, spreading rhizomes in the wet and boggy areas at the bottom of The Dell and produces metre-tall inflorescences of five-petalled bright pink flowers in late spring.   These are followed by even taller stems bearing large, round, green leaves that give the plant its common name and which turn deep red in the autumn.   Despite their absence from his list it would not be surprising if Pulham had introduced one or more of these three plants to the Dell.

In conclusion, the 30 species of plant currently growing in The Dell that are also included in the Pulham list of c.1877 are unlikely to be all original Pulham plants or even direct descendants thereof.   It is probable that most of the smaller shrubs and herbaceous plants have not survived to the present day and that similar species have been planted and re-planted since then.   Some of the original conifers may well have survived, together with a handful of ferns, a few shrubs and climbers, and a small number of the more tenacious flowering plants.   Apart from these few remaining plants, the Pulham legacy is contained in the rockery itself which remains as an oasis of 19th century gardening endeavour which can still be appreciated in the 21st century.

Pulham, James c1877, Picturesque Ferneries and Rock-Garden Scenery, in Waterfalls, Rockystreams, Cascades, Dropping Wells, Heatheries, Caves or Cavernous Recesses for Boathouses,
&c, &c. Broxbourne and Brixton: James Pulham & Son (Lindley Library, RHS)

Appendix 3  –  Chronological Gazetteer of Pulham Sites in Kent

Sources: Rock Landscapes ,The Pulham LegacyClaude Hitching , Garden Arts Press 2012 ;   Pulham Legacy Newsletters at Guaranteed, English Heritage,2008. Viewable – *

1854-6 Broomhill, Tunbridge Wells Rocky pass and banks
1860 F.Wilson, Tunbridge Wells Fernery, cliff to bank.
1862-4 Dunorlan Park, Tunbridge Wells Substantial works. *
1865-70 Civic Centre ,Bromley Some rockwork *
1866 J.Stewart,West Wickham Fernery.
1867 J.Batten, Bickley Fernery.
1867-9 Rosherville Gardens, Gravesend Cavern with Dropping Well.
1868-80 Court Lodge, Lamberhurst Substantial works.
1870 Staplehurst Hall, Staplehurst Rocks on lake margins.
1870 Barham Court, Canterbury Dropping Well and pool.
1870s Roydon Hall, Yalding Fernery and Dropping Well .
1873-4 Sundridge Park, Bromley Chasm, Fernery, Cliff. ? *
1874-5 J. Ridgway,Goudhurst Fernery.
1875 Preston Hall,Maidstone Unknown
1876 Downham, Bromley Fernery.
1877 St Albans Court, Nonington Fernery and rocky banks.
1894 Madeira Walk, Ramsgate Substantial works. *
1897 Beechy Lees, Rochester Rock works.
1910 Lower Leas,Folkestone Caves. *
1912 Marl House, Bexley Water and Rock Garden.
1914 Penchullee,Bromley Unknown.
1920-21 The Leas, Folkestone Substantial works. *
1923-36 St Lawrence, WestCliff, and
Winterstoke Gardens, Ramsgate Substantial works. *
? Colesdane, Harrietsham Unknown.
There are other unidentified sites in Kent known only by the name of the customer or the town.   Hundreds of sites of Pulham work exist across the country, many still viewable.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

Return to top of page
%d bloggers like this: