The Old Parish of Nonington

A small place in East Kent history

Category: Farms and manors Page 1 of 7

Sir John de Beauchamp at Esole-revised 10.01.19

John de Beauchamp, one of the founding Knights of the Garter. Pictured in The Garter Book, 1435

John de Beauchamp, one of the founding Knights of the Garter in 1348, along with his brother Thomas, 11th Earl of Warwick. Pictured in The Garter Book, 1435

In 1349 the Abbot of St. Alban’s was the Lord of the Manor of Esol, and his manorial rent rolls for that year show that Sir John de Beauchamp held at Esole:-‘one messuage [now called Beauchamps-my note] with dovecot, 60a arable, 12a pasture at a total annual manorial rental of 52 s.6d payable to the Abbot of St. Alban’s’.
John de Beauchamp was born in 1315,  the second and youngest son of Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, and Alice de Toeni, a wealthy heiress in her own right and the widow of Sir William Leybourne, who had died in 1307.  Juliana de Leybourne was the only child from this brief marriage and accordingly her father’s sole heiress and,  like her mother, was also very wealthy in her own right.
Guy de Beauchamp had been a staunch supporter of Edward I and one of the leading opponents of Edward II’s misrule.  When  Guy died in  1315 Thomas de Beauchamp, his eldest son and the heir to the Earldom of Warwick, was only two and John de Beauchamp was a very young baby.

During his long military service Sir John was one of the most successful of King Edward III commanders in the wars in Northern France and the Low Countries. He fought in Flanders in 1338; was present at the array at Vironfosse in October of 1339 when the armies of the English and French kings met but did not come to battle; and took part in the sea battle of Sluys on 24th June, 1340.

The French defeated before Calais by Edward III. From Jean Froissart:“Les Chroniques de France”. The British Library.

Edward, Prince of Wales and eldest son of Edward III, played a key part in the great victory over the French at Crécy on 26th August, 1346, even though he was only aged 16 at the time. He was known as Edward of Woodstock during his life time and as The Black Prince after his death, possibly due to the black armour he wore. During the Battle of Crecy Sir John carried the Royal Standard whilst fighting alongside his brother, the Earl of Warwick, and his brother-in-law, Lord Say.
Sir John was also present at the successful siege of Calais which lasted from September, 1346, until August, 1347, and gained possession of Calais for the English Crown which retained it until 1558 when it was finally lost in the reign of Mary Tudor. On hearing of its loss Queen Mary reputedly said “When I am dead and opened, you shall find “‘Calais’” lying in my heart”.

Scene from the Battle of Crecy, 1346. Fierce fighting between soldiers and knights in armour during the Battle of Crecy, Picardie,France. From "Les Chroniques de France" ,The British Library, London, Great Britain

The Battle of Crecy, 1346. During the battle Sir John carried the Royal Standard, seen on the left of the illustration. From From Jean Froissart: “Les Chroniques de France”. The British Library.

After the Battle of Crecy Sir John de Beauchamp (often referred to as Bello Campo in contemporary Latin documents) began acquiring various land-holdings in and around the parish of Nonington.  Esol was in his possession by 1349, as was part of the manor of Fredville and some land on that manor which Sir John held from his sister, Maud de Say, the dowager Lady de Say. These and other land acquisitions in mid-Kent around Rainham were possibly paid for with money received from ransoming French prisoners taken at the battle.
After Sir John’s death in 1360 his Inquision Post Mortem taken at Canterbury on 4th  March [ 35 Edward III] 1362 (1363) recorded his holdings in and around Nonington as:
Nonyngton. Tenements at Easole [later known as Beauchamps Manor], consisting of a messuage with dovecot, 60a. arable, 12a. pasture, held in gavelkind of the abbot of St. Alban’s by service of rendering 52s. 6d. yearly at his court of Easole in equal portions at Michaelmas, Christmas, Mid-Lent and Midsummer, and doing suit at the same court every three weeks.

Monketon[now called Gooseberry Hall Farm]. 8a. arable held in gavelkind of the prior and convent of Christ Church, Canterbury, by service of rendering at their court of Adesham 20d. yearly at Mid-Lent and doing suit there every three weeks.

Fredevylle[Fredville]. 12a. arable held in gavelkind of the lady of Say by service of rendering at the court of Fredevyll 4s. 8d. by equal portions at Michaelmas and Palm Sunday and two hens at Christmas.
Freydevill’[Fredville]. 24s. rent of free tenants [free holders who paid various manorial rents to Sir John for land they held on the Manor of Freydevill’.
[Note the use of Fredevylle, Fredevyll’, and Freydevill’ within the same document].

Nonyngton. 40a. land called ‘ten’ atte med’  held in gavelkind of the archbishop of Canterbury by service of rendering yearly at his court of Wyngeham 11s. and doing suit there every three weeks.

Godweston[Goodnestone]. 5a. land held of the same archbishop by service of rendering yearly at the court of Wyngeham 20d” “.

At the time of his death Sir John had also held the manors of Silham and Mere which were both in the southern part of the parish Rainham in mid-Kent. The latter manor was held from his half-sister, Juliana de Leybourne, who was known as the “Infanta of Kent” because of her extensive land-holdings in the county which she had initially inherited and then added to with land and property entitlements from three marriages and subsequent widowhoods. 

Baynard’s castle is perhaps the lesser known of the three Norman London castles after the Tower of London (established 1066) and Montfichet’s Castle (by 1136). Baynard’s has a rich history as both a castle owned by the Duke of Gloucester and, after 1446, the crown when it became a royal palace.

Sir John primarily resided in a large house he had had built in the Parish of St. Andrew in the ward of Castle Baynard in London, some forty miles or so from Rainham on the old London to Dover road, and Esol was a further thirty-five miles or so closer to Dover and Sandwich. This would have meant two days of easy travel by horse between London and Esol, with an overnight break at Rainham, or, where speed was of the essence, less than a days hard ride between the two places in either direction with a change of horses at Rainham.   Sandwich is some six miles distant and Dover is less than ten miles away, so Esol would have been a comfortable place to wait for suitable weather to cross the Channel from either port or to recover after crossing from the Continent en route to London or other inland destinations. Esol may also have provided a more comfortable residence to Sir John when he was made Warden of the Cinque Ports.
King Edward III was constantly campaigning in Northern France and the Low Countries in pursuit of his claim to the French throne, so in addition to providing accommodation for travellers the Kent estates, and especially those in and around Nonington, would also have supplied provisions for the de Beauchamp fighting men and horses campaigning across the Channel, and later to Sir John when he was Captain of Calais

The large St. Andrew’s parish house was later purchased by the Crown for use as the King’s Wardrobe. In his 1598 survey of the cities of London and Westminster John Strype noted:
“Then is the King’s great Wardrobe. [I have not read by whom the same was builded, neither when, or for what Cause; but only that] Sir John Beauchamp, Knight of the Garter, Constable of Dover, Warden of the Cinque Ports, Son to Guido de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, builded this House, was lodged there; this House then bearing the Name of the King’s Wardrobe, in the 5th of Edw. III. The said Sir John Beauchamp deceased in the Year 1359. and was buried on the South side of the middle Ile of Pauls Church. His Executors sold the House to King Edward III. unto whom the Parson of St. Andrews complaining, that the said Beauchamp had pulled down divers Houses, in their places to build the same House, whereby he was hindred of his accustomed Tithes, paid by the Tenants of old time; granted him 40s. by the Year out of that House, for ever. King Richard III. was lodged there in the 2d of his Reign.

In this House, of late Years, was lodged Sir John Fortescue, Kt. Master of the Wardrobe, Chancellor and under Treasurer of the Exchequer, and one of her Majesty’s Privy Councel. The secret Letters and Writings, touching the Estate of the Realm, were wont to be inrolled in the King’s Wardrobe, and not in the Chancery, as appeareth by the Records”.
The house was near the old St. Paul’s Cathedral and along with the cathedral was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and now remembered as Wardrobe Place, EC4.

Arms of John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp -d.1360- Gules, a fesse between six crosses crosslet or, a mullet for difference. Differenced for a third son.

Edward III made Sir John a Knight Banneret in 1347  with an annual allowance of £140 to enable him to support this title. A Knight Banneret was entitled to bear a small square banner rather than the swallow-tailed pennon of a Knight Bachelor and he commanded a body of officers and men, i.e. knights, esquires and soldiers, whom he raised to serve under his banner, but who were paid by the Crown.

The following year the King further honoured Sir John by making him Captain of Calais, and soon after this Edward III appointed Sir John as Admiral of the Fleet; Constable of the Tower of London; and Warden of the Cinque Ports.  For a time Sir John was deprived of the position of Constable of the Tower in 1354 because of rumours against him, but the King subsequently reappointed him when these proved unfounded.

THE MONUMENT OF SIR JOHN BEAUCHAMP, POPULARLY KNOWN AS DUKE HUMPHREY’S TOMB. After W. Hollar.

The monument of Sir John de Beauchamp, popularly known as “Duke Humphrey’s tomb”. After W. Hollar.

Sir John was summoned to Parliament by the King as Baron Beauchamp of Warwick in 1350 where he served until his death from plague at Calais on 2nd December of 1360. His body was returned to England, possibly via Nonington where it may have rested in the church, to be buried between two pillars before the image of the Virgin on the south side of the nave of Old St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The monument to his memory is commonly, but incorrectly, called “Duke Humphrey’s Tomb”. John had no legitimate children so his title of 1st Baron Beauchamp of Warwick became extinct and his property, including that in and around Nonington and Rainham, was in the most part inherited by Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.

The Knight’s Fee of Essewelle: Wischards, Hotots, and Colkyns at the Manors of Esol and Freydevill’

New information and a re-interpretation of information already available has shed new light on  the chain of ownership and occupation of Essewelle from around 1215 to the mid-1340’s. This article supersedes the previous one regarding the tenure of the Colkyns at Essewelle.

The Wischards at Essewelle
In 1166 King Henry II commanded that persons holding knights fees by barony were required to certify them in the Exchequer. The tenants in chief were instructed to clearly distinguish between fees of old feoffment, a fee in existence before the death of King Henry I in December, 1135, and of new feoffment.

Henry II and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine holding court.

A knight’s fee was a fiscal unit of land value held by a knight from an over-lord in return for specified military service, usually forty days a year After the Norman Conquest all land was owned by the King, who then allocated land to his barons in return for the provision by each baron of a specified number of knights for annual military service. To fulfill this quota that barons divided their land amongst their followers with each division being held from the baron in return for annual military service. The amount of land needed to support a knight was dependent on the location and type of land held. The richer the land, the smaller the fee.
A knight’s fee was created by the process of subinfeudation, the division of the initial grant of land by the King, in to two or more smaller fees, which in their turn could be divided into smaller units by the over-lord or the holder of the fee. This meant that a knight holding a fee could create his own feudal retainer who would pledge fealty to him rather than to the overlord. This type of holding was known as a sub-fee.
The practice of sub-division by over-lords was outlawed by the statute of Quia Emptores in 1290, but sub-division through inheritance by the daughters of a fee holder in the absence of a sole male heir continued.

After the certification of knights fees by the Exchequer the Barony of Maminot became one of eight baronies owing duty of Castleguard to Dover Castle with the Barony of Maminot duty bound to provide three knights for four week periods of service.  This duty of thirty-two weeks annual service at Dover Castle service was shared by knights who held fees from the Barony of Maminot knights of whom some fifteen were from Kent with the remainder coming from other parts of the kingdom.
These knight’s fees were mainly derived from the estates confiscated from Bishop Odo by King William II in 1088 and redistributed amongst the English barons and Essewelle was one such property.

The Exchequer return for the Barony of Maminot in 1166 recorded that Alan Wisc’ [Wischard] held one knight’s fee which, although not recorded by name, was the knight’s fee of Essewelle. Either he or an heir of the same name continued to hold Essewelle until the early 1200’s as this name appears in connection with a civil case in Kent brought before the King John’s Justices of the Bench at Easter of 1203. Alan Wischard and other members of his family also held land in Bedfordshire.
Alan Wischard died at some time after 1203 leaving a widow, Dionisia [Dionysia] Wischard, who held Essewelle in her own right from the Barony of Say, and two daughters. These two daughters were joint heiresses of Dionisia and therefore each entitled to one half [moiety] of the fee.  Isobel, the elder of the two daughters, married Hugh de Hotot [Hotoft] with whom she had a daughter named Nichola. Hugh de Hotot appears to have become the principal tenant of Dionisia’s knight’s fee of Essewelle through his marriage to the eldest of Dionisia’s daughters, and he also held land in his own right in Bedfordshire where in April of 1219 he made a grant of land to Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] when Geoffrey married Nichola.

The name of Alan and Dionisia Wischard’s younger daughter is not at present known, but she married Ralph [Ranulph] Colkyn [Colekyn,Colekin, Calkin, Kulkin, Kalkyn], a member of a wealthy Canterbury mercantile family, and through this marriage to the youngest of Dionisia’s daughters Ralph became the sub-tenant of Hugh de Hotot at Essewelle. Ralph and his wife had a son, Hugo, heir his mother’s Essewelle inheritance.

The Hotots and Colkyns inherit
Hugh de Hotot was summoned to appear before the Justices at Westminster on Kent on the Morrow of All Souls [3rd November] of 1219 as “chargeable as tenant of lands in Eswell [Essewelle] that had belonged to Dionisia Wischard, with part of a debt due by her to the King upon Jewish account”. This meant that Dionisia was indebted to a Jew, most likely from Canterbury, and the debt had been seized by the king in payment of taxes owed to the King by the Jewish lender. The fact that it is stated that is was property that had [in the past] belonged to Dionisia Wischard in Essewelle [Eswell], and that Dionisia did not appear before the Justices in person indicates that she had died and a claim for payment of the debt had been made against her estate by the King.
Ralph Colkyn produced evidence that he had himself paid the money claimed by the King to Reginald de Cornhill, one of King John’s administrators, and Robert the Clerk who were in turn summoned to reimburse the King for this and other money they had collected on his behalf but had retained for their own use. This they failed to do and their property was distrained.
Thomas de Retling, who had bought 216 acres of land at Estretling [Old Court] in 1196 and was therefore a close neighbour of Ralph Colkyn’s, was also alleged to owe a debt to the King upon Jewish account at the same time as Ralph. Quite possibly he had borrowed money from a Jewish moneylender to purchase the land at Estretling.  Fortunately for Thomas he was also able to show that he had settled his debt to the King by paying Reginald de Cornhill who once again had kept it for his own use. These thefts of Royal revenue were made possible by the widespread loss of King John’s authority brought about by the First Baron’s War.

For further information about the First Barons War, please go to
:The Knight’s Fee of Essewelle-from Domesday to the end of the First Barons War.

The Jews in England.
The Jews were legally the personal property of the King and enjoyed royal protection, and as wards of the crown they had the freedom of the King’s highways and could hold property directly from the King. At this time Jews were barred from virtually all professions and Christians were prohibited from the business of usury, the charging of interest on loans, so usury was left to Jewish merchants whose financial acumen as bankers soon made the loaning of money a very profitable business. Their legal status left Jews open to the seizure of taxation [tallage] by the King, and this taxation could be very heavy and was often arbitrary with the King taxing the Jews whenever he needed money. Around the time that Hugh de Hotot was summoned before the Justices at Westminster the Jewish community made up less than 0.25 per cent of the population, but provided some 8 per cent of the King’s income.
There is no evidence of Jews in England before the invasion and conquest by William the Conqueror in 1066.  Jews from Rouen, in William’s Duchy of Normandy, arrived soon after the conquest and quickly established a network of credit and trading links between William’s English and French possessions.
After the outbreak of the English Civil War between the Empress  Matilda and Stephen of Blois the subsequent breakdown of centralized law and order made travel for trade purposes extremely dangerous and it is thought that Jews abandoned trade almost entirely in favour of banking and loaning money during this time.  Christians at this time were prohibited from the business of “usury”, the charging of interest on loans, so it was left to Jewish merchants whose financial acumen as bankers soon made the loaning of money a very profitable business. After the end of “The Anarchy” successive English kings profited greatly from the wealth generated by Jewish financiers.
Borrowing money from Jews was by no means unusual for members of the landed classes at this time, and even the Church borrowed money from them. Many of the great Christian cathedrals and churches of the time were built with money borrowed from Jews.

Jews being expelled from England in 1290

However, the increasing indebtedness of the landed classes and the Church to the Jews led to great resentment resulting in sporadic orchestrated outbursts of anti-Semitism which, despite their supposed royal protection, often resulted in massacres of the Jews and the destruction of their loan records. During the reign of Edward I the Lombard bankers from Northern Italy became more prominent in the international banking business and the King became less dependent on Jewish financiers for loads and taxation. Edward also brought in more legislation which restricted the Jews ability to make any profits from business which greatly reduced the usefulness of the Jews to him. Eventually political pressure and huge financial inducements from his barons led to Edward I expelling the Jews from the kingdom in 1290, and Jews were not officially re-admitted to England until 1655, during Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth.

The end of the First Barons War and beyond

King Henry III, born 1207, reigned 1216–1272. He succeeded King John, his father, at the age of nine.

After the end of the First Barons War in 1217 changes had been made to the fabric and administration of Dover Castle, one of the principal changes being that Castleguard, whereby the holder of a knight’s fee owed a period of military service at the castle, became “ward of Dover Castle” or Castleward rent. This discharged a fee holder from all personal service and attendance and enabled the King to use the rent money received to garrison the castle with professional soldiers. The rent payment was 120 pence (10 shillings, now 50 new pence) which was payment in lieu of the service and exactions of providing guards for Dover Castle, which in the case of the Barony of Say, which included Essewelle, was for eight months every year.
This commutation of military service into cash payments allowed wealthy  non-members of the knightly class, such as merchants,  to purchase estates held by knight‘s fee which they had previously been barred from owning as they could not perform the relevant military service owed. Many wealthy town based merchants and tradesmen took advantage of this and purchased country estates they were then able to own in their own right.

Although Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] was married to Isobel de Hotot’s daughter Isobel and her son-in-law appear not to have got on at times. They were at odds in 1223 when Geoffrey was involved in a suit against Isobel concerning her laying waste to land he owned in Houghton, Bedfordshire.
However, their differences appear to have been resolved by 1227 as that year Isabel de Hotoft used Geoffrey Cunquest as her attorney to petition against Hamo Colkyn [Colekyn], the heir to Ralph Colkyn and his Wischard wife’s property at Essewelle. Isabel claimed that Hamo should pay service to her for the customs of the tenement he held from her in Esewaut [Esole at Essewelle] as she was the elder sister and Hamo was the child of the [unknown] younger sister.
This seems to confirm that  Hamo had inherited what became the manor of Esole, and that Isobel de Hotot, and later her daughter Nichola, held that moiety of the fee that became the manor of Freydevill’.

Around 1240 to 1242 Geoffrey Conquestor and Nichola’s heirs, the date of Nichola’s death is not at present known and neither are the names of the heirs, sold their half of the Essewelle fee to Roger de Kennardington [Rogerus de Kynardinton], a member of a West Kent landowning family whose Manor of Kynardinton, from which the family took their name, lay on the borders of the Weald of Kent between Tenterden and Romney Marsh. The half sold may have actually been a moiety of the Essewelle fee, which is a half but not necessarily an equal half. Roger may have in fact bought one quarter of the fee with three-quarters remaining in the possession of Hamo Colkyn, something which the later Kent knight’s list of 1253-54 appears to confirm.
The sale document records that this half fee at Essewelle was held in payment to the Barony of Say as Essewelle’s over-lord of annual scutage of 42/-, with half paid at Easter and half paid at Michaelmas [29th September]. The holder of the half fee was also liable for the previously mentioned annual charge of 120 pence [10/-] for “ward of Dover Castle”.
Holders of a knight’s fee, or part thereof, originally had had to carry out specified military services for their over-lord. However, by early to mid-13th century the payment of scutage, literally shield money, had generally replaced military service and over-lords used the revenue from scutage to employ professional full time soldiers to replace the previously “part-time” knights who held their knights fees.

The Colkyns of Essewelle
Not long after de Kynardinton’s purchase of the half fee at Essewelle the Kent Rolls of 1242-3 recorded: “Hamo Colekin and Roger de Kynardinton’, hold one fee at Esewelle from William de Say, who holds it from the King”. However, it was not to be a happy relationship between Hamo and Roger.

In 1249 Roger de Kynardinton’ borrowed money from the Prior and Chapter of Canterbury Cathedral Priory and used the £10 annual revenue he received from Freydevill’, the moiety of the knight’s fee of Essewelle he had purchased in 1244, in part security for the loan. This revenue appears to have derived from manorial rents and fines. This loan document contains the earliest known use of Freydevill’, or any of its many variant, to describe the one of the two manors that made up the knights fee of Essewelle and confirms that Nicola Conquest had inherited the part of Essewelle that constituted the manor of Fredydevill’.

The following year Hamo Colkyn [Kalkin] was summoned to court by William de Say, Baron of Say and Hamo’s over-lord, for the non-payment of feudal dues owed for tenure of Freydevill’. Hamo asked William to acquit him of this debt as it was in fact owed by Roger de Kynardinton’ who was actually in possession of Freydevill’. This appears to show that Roger was in fact the sub-tenant of Hamo, the holder of the fee of Essewelle from the Barony of Say.
William de Say stated that Hamo should pay the dues for the whole fee and it was up to Hamo to get payment from Roger de Kynardinton’ for the dues owed on the sub-fee of Freydevill’ that he held.
Hamo was not the only person pursuing Roger for payment. At the same time John, the son of William de Frogham, and Richard Prit were also pursuing a claim against Roger, but unfortunately the claim was not specified in the court records. Roger did not turn up in court, despite being given time to do so, and an attachment on Roger’s property was made in favour of his creditors.

Roger de Kynardinton’ appears to have at least temporarily resolved his problems and retained his holding as the 1253-54 Kent lists of knight’s fees records that Ralf [Radulf] Colkyn, presumably Hamo’s son, held three parts of one fee and Roger de Kenardynton’ held one part of one fee in the Manor of Essewelle [Eswall] from Willelm de Say. 

In 1268 Ralph Colkyn was summoned by King Henry to appear before the Exchequer of Jewry, as had his late grand-father and namesake Ralph Colkyn in 1219, but this time the charges were much more serious. Ralph was accused of being was one of nineteen men that, in April of 1264, “came and entered the house of Simon Paable at Canterbury [bailiff (‘Ballivus’) of Canterbury], and by force and arms thence took and carried away the King’s Chirograph-Chest against the King’s peace”. Ralph’s alleged crime had taken place during the Massacre of the Jews of Canterbury in April of 1264 which had been instigated by Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester. During this bloody event many of the city’s Jewish inhabitants were killed and a lot of Jewish property was looted and destroyed. Those Jews who survived fled the city.
A chirograph was a medieval document, which has been written in duplicate, triplicate or very occasionally quadruplicate (four times) on a single piece of parchment, with the Latin word “chirographum” (occasionally replaced by some other term) written across the middle, and then cut through to separate the parts.
The King’s chirograph chest, or archa, contained records of transactions between Jews and Christians under the provisions of the 1233 Statute concerning Jews which specified that: “Loans contracted with Jews shall be by “chirograph only, not tally”. The Jew shall have the 1st part, with the seal of the Christian debtor attached; the Christian debtor the 2nd part; the 3rd part, the pes [foot] shall be put in the chest for safe keeping by both Christian and Jewish chirographers. A chirograph whose foot is not in the chest shall be invalid”. An archa had three padlocks and three sets of seals. Orignally archae were located in six or seven towns in England, including London, Oxford, and Canterbury.

Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester

At this time of the massacre Gilbert de Clare was an ally of Simon de Montford, Earl of Leicester, in his rebellion against King Henry III. Simon de Montford was the initial instigator of widespread attacks on Jewish communities by supporters such as Gilbert de Clare. The main cause of these widespread attacks was the fact that de Montford, de Clare, and many other barons had large outstanding loans with Jewish financiers which were cleared when the lenders were killed and their loan records destroyed.
Gilbert de Clare, 6th Earl of Hertford and 7th Earl of Gloucester, was one of the most powerful and brutal of all English nobles and held the castle at Tunbridge in Kent. He was known as “Red” Gilbert de Clare or “the Red Earl”, probably because of his hair colour and also for his  terrible temper and bloodthirsty demeanor. Although at the time of the Canterbury massacre  he was a supporter of Simon de Montford in his rebellion against Henry III, de Clare fell out with de Montford and went over to the King’s side just before the Battle of Evesham in August 1265 where de Montford was killed and the rebellion ended.

Despite exhaustive inquiries at the time of the alleged offence the Sheriff of Kent failed to apprehend any of the culprits, nor were any of the contents of the chest ever found.
The trial of the Ralph Colkyn and the other nineteen accused began some four years after the crime was committed and the proceedings finally ended in 1270 when no evidence was offered against the defendants.  As the chest and contents were never recovered any debts that Ralph Colkyn or any  other of the accused owed to Canterbury’s Jews were therefore erased.

King Henry III died in November of 1272 and was succeeded by King Edward I. The last years of his father’s reign had been very tumultuous due to the Second Barons War and its aftermath and the new king wanted to restore law and order and begin to raise revenue from taxation.

Edward I, also known as Longshanks and Malleus Scotorum-the Hammer of the Scots

In order to do this the Hundred Rolls were commissioned by King Edward I to inquire into the rights of land holders. The Kent Hundred Rolls of 1274-75 recorded: “Item: Then Ralph Kalekin holds half a fee in Freydevile of William de Say and the same William of the king in chief, by what service they do not know”.
This inquiry took place only a few years after the breakdown of law and order caused by the Second Barons War and many records had been destroyed in the ensuing prolonged disruption of civil administration and tax gathering. Possibly only half a fee at Freydevile is referred to because of inaccurate recording, or perhaps there was a deliberate effort on behalf of Ralph Colkyn to evade taxation on a whole fee which also included Esol.

Some thirty years later the Aids and Scutages Roll for Marrying The King’s Eldest Daughter for Eastry Hundred of 1303 records one [knight’s] fee held by John [Johan] Colkyn at Esol and Fredevill’ from Geoffrey [Galfrid] de Say. This John Colkyn was presumably the son and heir of Ralph Colkyn and had inherited the one unified fee from Ralf.
John Colkyn [1] died three years after the inquiry and his Post Mortem Inquisition of 1306 recorded his having “died possessed of property at Esol and Freydevill’” which was to be inherited by his son, also called John.
Inquisitions post mortem, usually written as Post Mortem Inquisition [PMI], were local inquiries into valuable properties, in order to discover what income and rights were due to the crown and who the heir should be. These inquiries took place when people were known or believed to have held lands of the crown, and therefore involved individuals of considerable wealth and status.

John Colkyn (2), held property at Freydvill’, Esol and Nonyngton during the early 1300’s until his death, the exact date which is not known but it is believed to have been between 1316 and 1326. The Nonyngton property would have been in the North and South Nonington manors of the Manor of Wingham.
The heir to John Colkyn’s (2) was his son, another John Colkyn (3), who was in his minority when he inherited his father’s property. As a minor inheriting property held from an over-lord John (3) became a ward of his over-lord.

Edward II, a weak king defeated by the Scots at Bannockburn in 1314

In 1315 Sir Henry Beaufuiz [Beaufitz, Beaufiz], a King’s Justice, purchased by enrolment of grant a messuage and 25 acres in Esewele from Walter atte Bergh [Walter Abarowe] who had inherited the  property from family members. The exact location of this messuage is at present not certain, but it would have made Sir Henry a near neighbour of the Colkyns at their Esol manor house.
After the death of John Colkyn (2) Sir Henry appears to have acquired the wardship of the minor John Colkyn (3) in the following way.
Geoffrey de Say was the overlord of the knight’s fee of Essewelle which he in turn held, as tenant-in-chief, directly from the King as part of the Castleward Barony of Say. De Say died and left a son and heir, Geoffrey de Say, who was in his minority, and as a minor Geoffrey became a ward of his over-lord, the King.
The situation now becomes more complex. The young John Colkyn inherited the knight’s fee of Essewelle from his father but due to his minority became the ward of his over-lord, who in this case was the young Geoffrey de Say, who was himself in his minority and therefore a ward of his over-lord, the King. Therefore, when Sir Henry acquired the wardship of the young Geoffrey de Say, he also acquired control of the wardship of the young John Colkyn.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica defines the rights of an over-lord [lord of a fief] regarding wardship as follows:
“Wardship and marriage, in feudal law, rights belonging to the lord of a fief with respect to the personal lives of his vassals. The right of wardship allowed the lord to take control of a fief and of a minor heir until the heir came of age. The right of marriage allowed the lord to have some say as to whom the daughter or widow of a vassal would marry. Both rights brought the lord increased revenue. In the right of marriage a woman would often pay to have a suitor accepted by the lord or to get out of marrying the lord’s choice for her. This was particularly true in medieval England, where these rights became increasingly commercial and were often sold. Wardship rights were generally exercised in fiefs held by military service but sometimes also in fiefs held by socage, or agricultural service. The lord received the income of a fief belonging to an heir in his minority until the heir was old enough to render the military and other services required of him, at which time the lord released the fief to him in the material condition in which the lord had originally received it.
“In theory, the rights of wardship were instituted to protect a minor heir or a widow from unscrupulous relatives who might wish to gain control of the property. In France, for example, the lands of a minor heir were often administered by those who might later inherit them. Custody, on the other hand, went to someone who could not inherit the property and who would, therefore, have no interest in seeing the heir lose the land or die. Elsewhere in Europe a system of simple guardianship by close relatives prevailed. Gradually, however, the system of wardship began to take hold, particularly in Normandy and England, under the theory that since the minor could not provide military service, the lord should be able to use the revenues of the fief to provide it.
“The lord could control the marriages of both male and female wards, as well as those of widows and daughters of tenants. Marriage without the lord’s consent was not void, but certain legal rights over the land were then open to challenge. In general, if a tenant wished to marry off his daughter, he had to have the approval of his lord or of the king. A widow could not, however, be forced to marry against her will”.
The overlord enjoyed the profits of the estate until the wardship ended, which was the ages of twenty-one for a male ward and sixteen for a female ward.

Edward III, first English king to claim the throne of France

Sir Henry died in 1325 but John Colkyn (3) did not have his property returned to him until Sir Henry’s executors were ordered to do so by King Edward III in February of 1337 [1338] when John Colkyn (3) proved he had reached his majority. The property returned was a messuage and a carucate of land  held in his demesne [the land retained on a manor by the lord of the manor for his own use] in Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton and held as of fee  from Geoffrey de Say by the service of a moiety of a knight’s fee, possibly the same moiety [three parts of the whole] referred to above in the sale of moiety of Essewell to Roger de Kennardington in the early 1240’s.
If the land held in desmesne was the same as that held by Sir John de Beauchamp, who held the land, but not the knight’s fee or manor at Esol after the Colkyns, then this would have amounted to around 136 acres.

Geoffrey de Say, over-lord of Essewelle, at the Battle of Crecy, 1346

The year after Sir Henry’s death Alice, his daughter and sole heiress, and her husband Sir William de Plumpton, a Yorkshire knight, sold “2 messuages, 90 acres of land, 70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs, with appurtenences in Nonynton” to Richard de Retlyng (1), these were presumably her father’s Esewele property with another messuage and some 65 acres of land and what appears to be a part of the knight’s fee of Essewelle along with manorial rents and dues. Sir Henry could well have purchased a large part, if not all, of the Manor of Fredville moiety of Essewelle and the rights pertaining to it previously held by Roger de Kennardington, which must have changed ownership at some time over the previous eighty years or so. Unfortunately no records of any such sale or sales are known at present.

Some twenty years later Richard (2), son of Richard de Retlyng, (1) was recorded as being one of several people responsible for payments owed for the Essewelle fee in the Eastry Hundred Rolls of 1346.
Richard de Retlyng (1) [who should not to be confused with Sir Richard de Retlyn(g) of Retlyng/Ratling Manor, a relative but not directly connected to the following events] was a trusted servant of the Crown and served Edward II and Edward III from the 1320’s until his death around 1349. Royal service was well rewarded and Richard’s Post Mortem Inquiry records holdings in “Staple; Nonyngton; Kyngeston [Kingston]; Berfraiston [Barfreston], and Godwyneston juxta Wyngeham [Goodnestone-next-Wingham]”.

John Colkyn (3) appears to have died shortly after regaining possession of his inheritance as his Post Mortem Inquiry was held in September of 1338 and recorded holdings in “Frydewill, Esole, Nunyngton”. After the death of John Colkyn (3) the manorial and land tenure becomes a bit confused as it is not very well recorded.

It would seem that John Colkyn (4) was probably still a minor when he inherited the holdings at Freydevill, Esole and Nunynton from his father in 1338. The 1346 Eastry Hundred Rolls record  that John (4), son of John Colkyn (3); the Abbot of St. Alban’s;  Edmund de Acholt; Richard (2), son of Richard de Retlyng(1);  and their co-owners [parceners] as being responsible for the fee that John Colkyn (3) had held at Esoll and Freydevill from Geoffrey de Say for 40s (£2) annually.
[De Johanne filio Johannis Colkyn, abbate de Sancto Albano, Edmundo de Acholt, Ricardo filio Ricardi de Retlyng, et parcenariis suis, pro j. f. quod Johannes Colkyn tenuit apud Esol et Freydevill de Galfrido de Say    –    xl. s.].

It’s already known that due Richard de Retlyng’s (2) father’s purchase from Alice de Plumpton of the property she had inherited from Sir Henry de Beaufuiz that Richard de Retlyng (2) was in possession of: “70s. rent, and rent of 2 cocks, 20 hens, and 200 eggs” in manorial rents, almost certainly from Freydevill’, and most likely held as a subtenant of the young John Colkyn [4]. The Abbot of St. Alban’s, Edmund de Acholt  and the other  unknown “parceners” could also have purchased a part of the fee over the years.

John Colkyn [4] was the last Colkyn male to hold the knight’s fee of Essewelle. It appears that John Colkyn [4] no longer held any part of the fee of Essewelle or the Manor of Esol and its manorial revenues very soon after the 1346 roll. The 1349 Abbey of St. Alban’s manorial rent roll for Esol confirms that the manorial rights and rents were by then in the possession of the Abbot of St. Alban’s whose Eswalt estate [later St. Alban’s Court] bordered directly on to Esol, and that the Abbot therefore held the moiety of the knight’s fee for Esol. The rent roll also confirms that the messuage and land that John Colkyn [4] had inherited from his father in 1338 was by then in the possession of Sir John de Beauchamp who paid the manorial rents due to the Abbot. The Fredvill’ manorial rights and rents reverted back at this time to the Barony of de Say where they remained until the early 1400’s.

What happened in the case of John Colkyn [4] is unclear.  There were family heirs to his property living close by, his father’s brother Thomas lived nearby at Ratling until at least 1345, when he sold land in Nonington to Thomas de Retlyngge. There are also records of “Isabella filia de Retling de Nonington”, the daughter of Richard de Retling “by the daughter and heir of Colkin” marrying “Johannes Oxenden de Wingham” later in the century. So it’s possible that John Colkyn [4] had a sister married to Richard de Retlyng [Retling] who was his heiress and who sold his holdings, or that the unnamed daughter of Colkin was the heiress to Thomas and Alma Colkyn of Ratling.

It’s quite possible that John Colkyn [4] was a victim of the Black Death which swept through England between 1348 and 1450 with sporadic outbreaks continuing into the 1360’s. The Black Death killed between one third and a half of the population of England and as a result of this high mortality land was readily available, but the returns from agriculture were greatly diminished as the cost of employing a now scarce labour force rapidly increased and the market for agricultural produce correspondingly shrank. To counteract this state of affairs the Statute of Labourers was passed in 1351 in an effort to stop labourers taking advantage of the shortage of workers and demanding more money. The statute forced them to work for the same wages as before the Black Death and allowed landowners to insist on labour services being performed instead of accepting money (commutation) in lieu of service. Landowners accordingly profited from the food shortages, whilst the labourers standard of living declined due to substantial increases in the price of basic food stuffs such as bread and ale. A consequence of the shortage of labour was that much of the land previously used in food production was used to rear sheep as wool became more profitable, especially when shipped to Continental markets.

Accordingly, John’s heirs, whoever they were, may have come to the conclusion that the inheritance was not worth keeping due to economic circumstances in the aftermath of the Black Death and simply sold up.

Whatever happened, the Abbot obviously thought that the Manor of Esol and its revenues and rights was worth purchasing, most likely because it was contiguous with the Abbey’s own Manor of Eswalt and its manorial rents had to be paid whether farming was profitable or not and were therefore a guaranteed regular revenue stream.
Sir John de Beauchamp must also have thought that the messuage and land was a good prospect, but probably more for its location near to the ports of Sandwich and Dover than for its revenues. The manorial rent rolls showed Sir John de Beauchamp’s holding at Esol [Esole] as:-‘one messuage with dovecot, 60a arable, 12a pasture at a total annual manorial rental of 52 s.6d payable to the Abbot of St. Alban’s’. This messuage and land became known as Bechams, which in  recent times has reverted to Beauchamps, so the ruins of the manor house and the surrounding land still retain his family name nearly 700 years after he bought them.
As the Lord of the Manor of Esol the Abbot of St. Alban’s owed a half of the knight’s fee for Essewelle, a liability transferred to subsequent owners of the manor up until such fees for the “Manner of Eastwell alias Essoles alias St. Albans Court [in Nonington]” were “extinguished by purchase” by William Hammond in 1738.

The Knight’s Fee of Essewelle-from Domesday to the end of the First Barons War-revised 24.12.18

Odo will robt bayeaux tap

Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux, half-brother of King William I.  From the Bayeaux Tapestry, now generally held to have been commissioned by Odo and possibly made at Canterbury in Kent.

Bishop Odo holds Essewelle.
The Domesday Survey of 1086 records the manors of Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles as part of the holdings of Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux,  who was the half-brother of King William I, the Conquerer. Odo was created Earl of Kent in 1067 as reward for his support during William’s invasion and subsequent conquest of England. The earldom gave Odo an annual income of £.3,000 from 184 lordships in Kent and numerous manors in 12 other counties which made him by far the richest tenant-in-chief in England.

Essewelle was one of Odo’s many Kent manors and the Domesday records: “Ralph de Curbespine holds ESSEWELLE from the Bishop (Odo). It answers for 3 sulungs. Land for… In lordship 3 ploughs. 1 villager with 7 smallholders have ½ plough. 1 slave. Value £6. Molleva held it from King Edward (the Confessor)”.
Molleve (Malleue), believed to be a widow, also held the nearby manors of Danitone (Denton), Ewelle (Ewell), and Colret (Coldred) from King Edward.
By 1086 Ralph, or Radulph, de Curbespine [also Courbepine, Curva Spine, Crookshorne, Crooksthorne, and Crowdthorne], a protege of Odo and noted as “a great despoiler of women”, benefited greatly from Odo’s patronage and held Molleve’s  and other manors in Kent from Odo in addition to property in Canterbury and Dover. Ralph de Curbespine also held manors from other over-lords in several English counties.

The King’s seemingly generous rewards were not enough for Odo and he set about increasing his wealth by taking by force whatever he wanted. This soon made him the most hated man in Kent and bought him into direct conflict with Lanfranc, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who also had extensive Kent land-holdings. In 1076 this confrontation led to Odo’s trial on Pennenden Heath near Maidstone for defrauding both the Crown and the Diocese of Canterbury which resulted in Odo having to return some of the property he had illegally obtained whilst other assets were re-apportioned.
Odo’s greed and ambition eventually led to his downfall and in 1082 King William arrested and imprisoned him for seditiously planning a military expedition to Italy without the King’s permission, supposedly in pursuit of the Papacy. Odo’s earldom and remaining estates were confiscated by the King and he was imprisoned until William was persuaded on his deathbed to release Odo from prison.

After William the Conquerer’s death in September of 1087 the newly crowned William II, who was the second surviving son of the Conquerer and known as Rufus because of his ruddy complexion, returned the earldom of Kent to his uncle and in 1088 Odo showed his gratitude to his nephew by organizing a rebellion to overthrow and replace him with Duke Robert of Normandy, also called Curthose, the older brother of William Rufus.
After the failure of the rebellion William II took back his uncle’s earldom and its numerous lordships and estates and allowed Odo to take service with Duke Robert in Normandy. Odo died in Palermo in Sicily in 1097 whilst en route to Palestine with Duke Robert to take part in the First Crusade. After the confiscations King William II redistributed some of Odo’s lordships and estates to other barons as rewards for service or to buy their loyalty.

Essewelle: the Barony of Maminot and the Anarchy
Ralph de Curbispine, who held Essewelle from Essewelle from Odo, was the brother of Gilbert Maminot, Bishop of Lisieux, who had been William the Conquerer’s personal chaplain and doctor. Bishop Gilbert was a large landowner in his own right and his and Ralph’s holdings were assimilated by the Maminot [Mamignot] family into what became the Barony of Maminot, which was held directly from the Crown. The first recorded holder of the Maminot barony was Hugo Maminot and he was succeeded by his son, Walkelin Maminot.

In December of 1135 King Henry I, the fourth son of William the Conquerer, died without a direct male heir. William Adelin, Henry’s son and heir, had drowned in “The White Ship” disaster of 1120, and as a consequence of William’s death in 1125 Henry I nominated his daughter Matilda, sometimes referred to as Maud, as his successor to the English throne. A female ruler of England at this time was unprecedented and the succession was not widely accepted.

Matilda and Henry’s wedding 12th century depiction

Matilda had been betrothed to Henry V, the Holy Roman Emperor, in 1110 when she was eight and he was twenty-four, and they married in 1114, and after the marriage she was known as the Empress Matilda. Her husband died in 1127 and she returned to England at her father’s behest. The following year Matilda married Geoffrey of Anjou, a marriage that gained little favour in England, and the couple had three sons.

When Henry I died in 1135 Matilda’s succession to the English throne was immediately challenged by Stephen of Blois, the dead king’s nephew, who claimed that when the late king was on his deathbed he had named him as his successor. Stephen of Blois then had himself crowned King of England.

King Stephen;[centre figure with crown] directing Baldwin Fitzgilbert to address the
army of his behalf before the Battle of Lincoln, 1141

Stephen’s claim was supported by the Church and most of the barons, while Matilda was supported by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, her half brother who had fallen out with Stephen after initially supporting him,  and her uncle, David I, King of Scotland. Matilda and Robert landed at Arundel in September 1139 and England subsequently descended into a civil war which became known as “The Anarchy” that was frequently used as a cover for the settling of local feuds and resulted in widespread lawlessness throughout England which lasted from 1135 until 1153.  The conflict finally came to an end when Stephen confirmed Henry, Matilda’s son and the grand-son of Henry I, as his heir. Stephen died at Dover in October of 1154 and Matilda’s son succeeded to the throne as Henry II.

Walkelin Maminot appears to have sided with the Empress Matilda as around 1138 Stephen confiscated the Maminot barony, which included Estewelle.  The confiscated barony, including Essewelle, was restored to Walkelin by King Henry II around 1155.
In 1166 King Henry II commanded that persons holding knights fees by barony were required to certify them in the Exchequer. The tenants in chief were instructed to clearly distinguish between fees of “old feoffment”, a fee in existence before the death of King Henry I in December, 1135,  and of “new feoffment”.
After the certification of knights fees by the Exchequer the Barony of Maminot became one of eight baronies owing duty of Castleguard to Dover Castle with the Barony of Maminot duty bound to provide three knights for four week periods of service.  This duty of thirty-two weeks annual service at Dover Castle service was shared by knights who held fees from the Barony of Maminot knights. Of these some fifteen were from Kent with the remainder coming from other parts of the kingdom.
These Castleguard knight’s fees were mainly derived from the estates confiscated from Bishop Odo by King William II in 1088 and subsequently redistributed amongst the English barons.  Essewelle was one such property.

After Walkelin’s death in 1170 the barony seems to have been administered by Juliana, his widow. Juliana’s administration lasted for some years until her death, the date of which is unclear.  After her death the barony passed to Galfrid de Sai [Geoffrey de Say] by way of Adelidis, his wife, an heiress of Walkelin Maminot. The exact date of Galifred’s gaining possession of the barony Maminot is unclear, but he was in full control of it by 1194 and it subsequently became known as the Barony of Say and its holdings remained in the possession of his successors until the early 1400’s.

Essewelle: the First Barons War.
After being forced by his barons to sign the Magna Carta in 1215 King John refused to honour and accept its terms and consequently he faced a rebellion later that year by many of his most powerful barons.

King John, known as Lackland, who lost the Duchy of Normandy and other hereditary lands in France.

The First Barons War began in the summer of 1215, the last year of the reign of King John, and ended in September of 1217. So great was their dislike and distrust of King John  the barons opposing him invited Louis the Lion, Dauphin of France and son and heir apparent of King Philip II of France to take the throne of England. Louis had a tenuous claim to the throne as he was the grandson-in-law of King Henry II of England. Most of Kent fell to Louis but Dover Castle stayed loyal to King John. Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle, and a well-supplied garrison of men were besieged by Louis from 19th July, 1216, until some three months later when Louis called a truce on 14th October that ended the siege. The castle remained in Hubert de Burgh’s possession and Louis returned to London.

King John died of dysentery at Newark in October of 1215 and was succeeded by his nine year old son, Henry III. After John’s death many of England’s barons were gradually persuaded by William Marshal, 1st Earl of Pembroke, to support the newly crowned Henry. Marshal, who was the child king’s regent, eventually gained enough support and began a successful campaign to wrest control of England from the Dauphin.
Louis suffered a defeat at Lincoln on 20th May, 1217, which proved to be a turning point as many of the barons  who supported Louis and supplied him with troops were captured by the pro-Henry forces led by William Marshall. Some three months after the defeat at Lincoln Louis suffered another overwhelming defeat in a sea battle off of Sandwich [also known as the Battle of Dover] on 24th August, 1217, in which he lost most of the  supplies, equipment and troops en route from France to  London to replace losses suffered at Lincoln. Within three weeks of this defeat Louis agreed to renounce his claim to the throne of England which Louis did formally by signing the Treaty of Lambeth on 11th September, 1217.  In return for signing the treaty Louis accepted 10,000 marks, and then returned home.

The Battle of Sandwich, also called the Battle of Dover, took place on 24th  August, 1217, during which an English fleet loyal to Henry III commanded by Hubert de Burgh, Constable of Dover Castle, attacked and defeated Louis the Lion’s French fleet led by Eustace the Monk and Robert of Courtenay off of the port of Sandwich. De Burgh’s fleet captured the French flagship and most of the supply vessels along with the troops and supplies they carried. During the fighting the English used lime to blind their French opponents, and Eustace the Monk, a much hated former pirate, was captured and beheaded.

During the First Barons War Geoffrey de Say, who held the Barony of Say, was the over-lord of the knight’s fee of Essewelle and therefore owed military service by the holder. Hugh de Hotot held Essewelle as the tenant of Dionisia Wischard, his mother-in-law and holder of the knight’s fee of Essewelle. Hugh would have therefore been liable to fulfil the military service owed to Geoffrey de Say by Dionisia, who as a women would not have been able to perform the service herself.
Geoffrey de Say sided with Louis the Lion and the rebel barons in the First Barons War. As a young knight he had fought for both King Richard the Lionheart and King John in their defence of the Duchy of Normandy and when Normandy, with the exception of the Channel Islands, was lost in 1204 Geoffrey lost property he held there. Geoffrey’s family had long claimed an inheritance that both Richard and John had failed to confirm and still carrying this grievance he supported Louis and the rebel barons in the of the barons war until after the decisive defeat of the  baronial forces  at the Battle of Lincoln in May of 1217. After the battle he made his peace with the young King Henry III and retained the Barony of Say. Geoffrey de Say died in August of 1230 while campaigning with Henry III in Poitou.
After the end of the First Barons War changes were made to the fabric and administration of Dover Castle, one of the principal changes being that Castleguard, whereby the holder of a knight’s fee owed a period of military service at the castle, became Castleward rent. This discharged a fee holder from all personal service and attendance and enabled the King to use the rent money received 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 a fee holder. This commutation of military service into cash payments allowed wealthy  non-members of the knightly class, such as merchants,  to purchase estates held by knight‘s fee which they had previously been barred from owning as they could not perform the relevant military service owed. Many wealthy town based merchants and tradesmen took advantage of this and purchased country estates they were then able to own in their own right.

Essewelle: the Wischards, de Hotots, and Colkyns.
The Exchequer return for the Barony of Maminot in 1166 recorded that Alan Wisc’ [Wischard] held one knight’s fee which, although not recorded by name, was the knight’s fee of Essewelle. Either he or an heir of the same name continued to hold Essewelle until the early 1200’s as this name appears in connection with a civil case in Kent brought before the King John’s Justices of the Bench at Easter of 1203. Alan Wischard and other members of his family also held land in Bedfordshire.
Alan Wischard died at some time after 1203 leaving a widow, Dionisia [Dionysia] Wischard, who held Essewelle in her own right from the Barony of Say, and two daughters as joint heiresses of Dionisia.  Isobel, the elder of the two daughters, married Hugh de Hotot [Hotoft] with whom she had a daughter named Nichola. Hugh de Hotot appears to have become the principal tenant of Dionisia’s knight’s fee of Essewelle through his marriage, and he also held land in Bedfordshire where in April of 1219 he made a grant of land to Geoffrey Conquest [Conquestor, Cunquest] when Geoffrey married Nichola.
Hugh de Hotot, as the tenant of Dionisia Wischard, his mother-in-law and holder of the knight’s fee of Essewelle, would have been liable to fulfil the military service owed to Geoffrey de Say by Dionisia because as a women she would not have been able to perform the service herself.
The name of Alan and Dionisia Wischard’s younger daughter is not at present known, but she married Ralph [Ranulph] Colkyn [Colekyn,Colekin, Calkin, Kulkin, Kalkyn], a member of a wealthy Canterbury mercantile family, and through this marriage Ralph became the sub-tenant of Hugh de Hotot at Essewelle. Ralph and his wife had a son, Hugo, who was heir to his mother’s inheritance at Essewelle.

The Ancient Manor of Oesewalum. Revised and updated 26.11.2018

The origin of the name Oesewalum has been the subject of discussion for many years, J. K. Wallenberg in his “The place-names of Kent” published in 1934, believed the name to derive from ōs or ēs;  a deity/deities or semi-deity/deities and walu; a bank or ridge, giving a literal meaning of the ridge or bank of the god(s). Wallenberg appears to be the first scholar to identify Osewalum as being the modern Easole in Nonington. This identification is now something I would question and I will state my reasons for this later in this article.

Oesewalum would therefore seem to have lain on the south-western boundary of the Hundred of Eastry and the south-eastern boundary of the Hundred of Wingham, and therefore would have been a part of the early kingdom, later a sub-kingdom, of Eastry [East rige-eastern province] which was absorbed into the larger Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent. After two centuries or so as one of the seven most powerful kingdoms in England (the Heptarchy) the independent Kingdom of Kent went into decline in the later part of the eighth century and eventually became a province of the Kingdom of Wessex around 825.

Offa, King of Mercia from 757-796

Towards the end of the eighth century Oesewalum, or at least some land there,  was held by Earl Aldberht (also: Ealdbeorht, Ealdberht), and his sister, Selethryth (also: Seleðryth ,Seleðryð), Abbess of Minster on Thanet and Southminster (also:Suthminster-Lyminge Abbey at Lyminge in Kent) The estate had either been 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-780′s. Aldbert is recorded on some documents as being a minister or advisor to Offa.

Saints of Minster Abbey.
According to an ancient legend, Ermenburga sent her tame deer on a free course, and the path the animal took determined the boundaries of the monastic lands. The deer has become the symbol for Minster, and the early abbesses of Minster are often pictured with a deer. St. Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, consecrated the new monastery in 670, dedicating it to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Ermenburga, now known as Domneva, became the first Abbess.[From The Benedictine Nuns of St Mildred’s Priory, Minster Abbey, Minster-in-Thanet, Nr Ramsgate, Kent, UK].

In her role as an abbess Selethryth had become involved in some disputes with Wulfred (also Uulfred), who had become Archbishop of Canterbury in 805. These disputes most likely concerned who had authority over various monastic houses, and to resolve these disputes she agreed around 805 to grant the estate at Oesewalum to Wulfred with the grant entailing the Archbishop’s possession of the estate after the deaths of both her and her brother, Aldberht. Selethryth is believed to have died soon after the grant, but Aldberht lived on for many years and eventually entered the monastery at Folkestone, dying there around 820.

After Aldberht’s death his and Selethryth’s interests were inherited by Oswulf, a kinsman of theirs who later became an earldorman. An earldorman was a high ranking official who represented the king’s interests.  Oswulf seized the deeds to Oesewalum and took them to the Southminster [Lyminge] Abbey and gave them to Cwoenthryth, who had succeeded Selethryth as the abbess of the Abbeys at Southminster and Minster.

Coenwulf , King of Mercia from 796-821

Cwoenthryth was the daughter of Coenwulf(also Cenwulf, Kenulf, Kenwulph), King of Mercia and overlord of Kent,  who was at this time involved in a long running dispute with Archbishop Wulfred over whether laymen or clergy should control religious houses. As the King of Mercia’s daughter Cwoenthryth was an ambitious woman and with the authority she inherited from her father she became very influential within the Kingdom of Kent. She was therefore able to retain possession of Oesewalum for some four years or so under the protection of her father and then Cwoenthryth, Coenwulf’s brother, who had succeeded to the Mercian throne in 821.  Cwoenthryth’s reign was short, he was overthrown in 823 by a Mercian nobleman, who made Baldred (Bealdred), possibly one of his Mercian kinsmen or a close associate, King of Kent.

Beornwulf, King of Kent from 823-826

In 825 Beornwulf went to war against Ecgberht, King of Wessex, who defeated Beornwulf at the Battle of Ellandun and ended Mercia’s supremacy over the other kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon Heptarchy.

Ecgberht, King of Wessex from 802-839.

Ecgberht then proceeded to take control of the Mercian dependencies in south-eastern England. In 826 he sent Æthelwulf, his son, to invade Kent and drive out Baldred, its pro-Mercian king, and bring Kent fully under the control of Wessex. In 829 Ecgberht defeated Wiglaf, King of Mercia, taking control of Mercia and ruling it directly, but Ecgberht was unable to maintain this dominant position and within a year Wiglaf had regained the throne of Mercia. However,  Wessex retained control of Kent, Sussex, and Surrey and these territories were given to Æthelwulf, Ecgberht’s son, to rule as a sub-king under his father. When Ecgberht died in 839, Æthelwulf succeeded him and the south-eastern kingdoms were absorbed into Wessex after Æthelwulf’s death in 858.

Wulfred, Archbishop of Canterbury from 805-832

The loss of her family’s protection proved very detrimental to Cwoenthryth in her dispute with Wulfred. Beornwulf, her uncle’s usurper, agreed to resolve the dispute over ownership of various manors and estates between Cwoenthryth and Wulfred at the Councils or Synods of Cloveshoe of 824 and 825 but the dispute was not fully resolved as Cwoenthryth withheld payments due to Wulfred and the property was not properly in Wulfred possession until around 827. Oesewalum, referred to in the subsequent charter as Oesuualun, was one of the estates returned to Wulfred and which he continued to own until his death in 832. Cwoenthryth was compelled to give up the offices she held and she subsequently disappears from view with no known record of when she died.

An English princess called Kwenthrith, said to be based on Cwenthryth, and played by Amy Bailey appears in the second to fourth seasons of the History Channel historical adventure drama series “Vikings”.

Archbishop Wulfred left a large property portfolio to his kinsman, Werhard, with the specific instruction that Werhard should in his turn leave the property to Christ Church, Canterbury. Werhard is recorded having become “priest-abbot” of Christ Church in the 830’s and continued to preside over Christ Church until around 845.

Werhard’s will, written in 830, recorded the details of charitable endowments founded by Wulfred to provide for the poor in various manors that he owned along with Wulfred’s instructions to continue with these endowments. The number of beneficiaries varied from manor to manor, at Oesewalum [written as Oesuualun in the will] seven poor people were to be beneficiaries under provisions which specified that “to each one be given daily to eat what may be suitably sufficient and annually to each poor person for clothing 26 pence”. In Werhard’s will Oesewalum is said to be ten hides of land, nominally some 1,000 to 1,200 modern English acres.

The will does not specify who these poor people were, so they could possibly be of any age. If the poor persons referred to were heads of household they would presumably be given enough food to feed their dependents making it possible that upwards of thirty-five people were in daily receipt of food. This would indicate that Oesewalum was a very productive estate and well able to supply the daily bounty to the poor. The Archbishop also required that a mass be celebrated for his soul every day and that on his anniversary 1,200 poor persons should each be given a loaf of bread, some cheese or butter and one penny.  This annual bequest amounted to £.5.00 in total, a large sum at a time when an acre of land could be bought for four pence.

After Werhard’s will of 830 there are no known further references  to Oesewalum. Christ Church was given the Manor of Wingham in the late 830’s by Æthelstan, made King of Kent in 839 by his father, King Æthelwulf of Wessex. At the time of the acquisition Werhard was “priest abbot” of Christ Church, and remained as such until his death sometime around 845 when his inherited property was passed on to Christ Church and the estate at Oesewalum was apparently absorbed into the Manor of Wingham and remained a part of it until the manor came into the possession of King Henry VIII some seven centuries later.

The Ancient Manor of Oesewalum-much revised. Also: Where was Oesewalum?

The origin of the name Oesewalum has been the subject of discussion for many years, J. K. Wallenberg in his “The place-names of Kent” published in 1934, believed the name to derive from ōs or ēs;  a deity/deities or semi-deity/deities and walu; a bank or ridge, giving a literal meaning of the ridge or bank of the god(s). Wallenberg appears to be the first scholar to identify Osewalum as being the modern Easole in Nonington. This identification is now something I would question and I will state my reasons for this later in this article.

Oesewalum would therefore seem to have lain on the south-western boundary of the Hundred of Eastry and the south-eastern boundary of the Hundred of Wingham, and therefore would have been a part of the early kingdom, later a sub-kingdom, of Eastry [East rige-eastern province] which was absorbed into the larger Anglo-Saxon Kingdom of Kent. After two centuries or so as one of the seven most powerful kingdoms in England (the Heptarchy) the independent Kingdom of Kent went into decline in the later part of the eighth century and eventually became a province of the Kingdom of Wessex around 825.

Offa, King of Mercia, 757-796

Towards the end of the 8th century Oesewalum, or at least a some property there,  was held by Earl Aldberht (also: Ealdbeorht, Ealdberht), and his sister, Selethryth (also: Seleðryth ,Seleðryð), Abbess of Minster on Thanet and Southminster (also:Suthminster-Lyminge Abbey at Lyminge in Kent), 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-780′s. Aldbert is recorded on some documents as being a minister or advisor to Offa.

Wulfred-A-of-C

Wulfred, Archbishop of Canterbury, 805-832, issued his own coins, but unlike those of Æthelheard, his predecessor, they do not bear any reference to the king of Mercia in the legend.

For political reasons Aldberht and Selethryth granted the property at Oesewalum to Wulfred (also Uulfred), the Archbishop of Canterbury, around 805 with the grant entailing the Archbishop’s possession of the manor after the deaths of both Aldberht and Selethryth. Selethryth is believed to have died soon after the grant, but Aldberht lived on for many years eventually entered the monastery at Folkestone and dying there around 820. After Aldberht’s 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, who had succeeded Selethryth as Abbess of the Abbeys at Southminster and Minster.

Cwoenthryth was the daughter of Coenwulf(also Cenwulf, Kenulf, Kenwulph), King of Mercia and overlord of Kent,  who was at this time involved in a long running dispute with Archbishop Wulfred over whether laymen or clergy should control religious houses. She retained possession of Oesewalum for some four years or so under the protection of her father and uncle. Ceolwulf, Coenwulf’s brother, had succeeded to the Mercian throne in 821,  but was overthrown in 823 by Beornwulf, who made Baldred (Bealdred), possibly one of his Mercian kinsmen, the King of Kent.

Coenwulf , King of Mercia,796-821

This loss of protection was to prove detrimental to Cwoenthryth in her dispute with Wulfred. In 824 King Beornwulf agreed to resolve the dispute over ownership of various manors and estates between Cwoenthryth and Wulfred at the Council of Clofso (Cloveshoe). At the council Oesewalum, referred to in the subsequent charter as Oesuualun, was one of the estates returned to Wulfred which he continued to own until his death in 832.

Archbishop Wulfred left a large property portfolio to his kinsman, Werhard, with the specific instruction that Werhard should in his turn leave the property to Christ Church, Canterbury. Werhard is recorded having become “priest-abbot” of Christ Church in the 830’s and continued to preside over Christ Church until around 845.

Werhard’s will, written in 830, recorded the details of charitable endowments founded by Wulfred to provide for the poor in various manors that he owned along with Wulfred’s instructions to continue with these endowments. The number of beneficiaries varied from manor to manor, at Oesewalum [written as Oesuualun in the will] seven poor people were to be beneficiaries under provisions which specified that “to each one be given daily to eat what may be suitably sufficient and annually to each poor person for clothing 26 pence”. In Werhard’s will Oesewalum is said to be ten hides of land, nominally some 1,000 to 1,200 modern English acres.

The will does not specify who these poor people were, so they could possibly be of any age. If the poor persons referred to were heads of household they would presumably be given enough food to feed their dependents making it possible that upwards of thirty-five people were in daily receipt of food. This would indicate that Oesewalum was a very productive estate and well able to supply the daily bounty to the poor. The Archbishop also required that a mass be celebrated for his soul every day and that on his anniversary 1,200 poor persons should each be given a loaf of bread, some cheese or butter and one penny.  This annual bequest amounted to £.5.00 in total, a large sum at a time when an acre of land could be bought for four pence.

After Werhard’s will of 830 there are no further references known regarding Oesewalum. Christ Church was given the Manor of Wingham in the late 830’s by Æthelstan, made King of Kent in 839 by his father, King Æthelwulf of Wessex. At the time of the acquisition Werhard was “priest abbot” of Christ Church, and remained as such until his death sometime around 845 when his inherited property was passed on to Christ Church and the estate at Oesewalum was apparently  absorbed into the Manor of Wingham and remained a part of it until the manor came into the possession of King Henry VIII some seven centuries later.

Where was Oesewalum?

I have previously postulated that Oesewalum was eventually divided into the late Anglo-Saxon period manors of Eswalt, Esewelle, and Soles at some time after the 830’s. This was mainly based on Wallenberg’s identification of Easole as originally having been Osewalum, but more in-depth study and thought has led me to now believe otherwise.

I now believe that the “bank of the god[s]”, if that is indeed what Oesewalum did originally mean, referred to is the western slope of the dry valley which runs from Womenswold on past Aylesham and Nonington and on to Chillenden. Aerial photographs and Google Earth show that this east facing slope, from where could be observed both the rising and the setting of the sun throughout the year, has many archaeological features, including barrows, which date back to the Roman period and well beyond.  Many of these features, and especially the barrows, would have still been very prominent when the early Jute and Anglo-Saxon settlers first moved into the area in the fifth and sixth centuries.  It is therefore very possible that this bank was held in some awe by these new inhabitants and that they may have held some form of religious ceremonies or gatherings there.

Excavations connected to the landscaping of parkland on this western slope in 1875 prior to the building of the new St. Alban’s Court mansion revealed fifteen burials believed at the time to be the remains of Britons killed by the Romans during their invasion and subsequent occupation of much of the British Isles, but were in fact Anglo-Saxons.  In 2001 further archaeological excavations in the same area by the Dover Archaeology Group revealed further burials appearing to date from the seventh or eighth century. This is around the time that the name Oesewalum appears to have been used for this area.
Other remains appear to have been discovered in the latter part of the nineteenth century in the vicinity of St. Mary’s Church. On the lower part of the slope just to the west of the church besides the road to Old Court is Bloody Bones Field and cut into the bank of the road was until recently Bloody Bones cart lodge, now sadly gone. Neither of these names appear on the 1859 Poor Law Commissioners map for the parish of Nonington so the name “Bloody Bones” would appear to originate from after this date.  It may have come about with the discovery of an old burial ground connected to signs of settlement further up the slope. It has been suggested that it was the site of a battle but there is no evidence for this, and I think it’s just a presumption similar to that made regarding the 1875 St. Alban’s discovery.

There are some references in the diaries of William Osmond Hammond of St. Alban’s Court to archaeological discoveries made on his property but none of them give enough details to definitely identify the discovery site or sites.
Aerial photographs from the 1980’s reveal the site of a barrow and other large features on the slope above Bloody Bones Field and at the top of the slope the road to Old Court cuts through what appears to be an enclosure. If these remains did hold some religious significance to early Anglo-Saxon settles this may go some way to explain the growth of the initial Anglo-Saxon settlement into “Nunningitun” and the subsequent building of a chapel and then church dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin.

There is a record of the church at “Nunningitun” [Nonington] in a survey of churches for Archbishop Lanfranc made just after his accession in 1070. It is recorded as being subsidiary to the mother church at “ad Wingeham”[at Wingham].  Nunningitun almost certainly means “the nuns manor, settlement, or farm”, in this case the nuns in question being the nuns of Minster and Suthminster Abbeys previously mentioned above. This indicates to me that this is the land referred to in the legal proceedings concerning the ownership of an estate of four sulungs of land “æt Oeswalum”, at Oesealum, in the early ninth century and that Nunningitun was the principle settlement of the manor from where it was administered. This dispute between Abbess Cwoenthryth and Archbishop Wulfred was settled in favour of the Archbishop who retained the estate until his death in 832.
Nunningitun’s location on an ancient direct road from Sandwich to Lyminge also meant it could have been used for accommodation for people travelling between the abbeys at Minster in Thanet and Lyminge. There is also a direct route from the settlement via Old Court Hill to Christ Church’s manor at Adisham and then on to Christ Church in Canterbury.

A sulung [Latin:solinus] was actually a unit of taxation used in Kent and was not a physical measurement of land. It was the amount of land which could be ploughed in a year by four pairs of oxen and was said to be equivalent to two hides. This gave a sulung a nominal area of 240 modern English acres, therefore four sulungs, or approximately eight hides,  could amount to some 1,000-1,200 modern English acres depending on where the land in question was situated and how productive it was.

Archbishop Wulfred left a large property portfolio to his kinsman, Werhard with the specific instruction that Werhard should in his turn leave the property to Christ Church, Canterbury. Werhard’s will, written in 830, recorded the details of charitable endowments founded by Wulfred to provide for the poor in various manors that he owned along with Wulfred’s instructions to continue with these endowments. The number of beneficiaries varied from manor to manor, at Oesewalum [written as Oesuualun in the will] seven poor people were to be beneficiaries under provisions which specified that “to each one be given daily to eat what may be suitably sufficient and annually to each poor person for clothing 26 pence”. In Werhard’s will Oesewalum was said to be ten hides of land.

The will does not specify who these poor people were, so they could possibly be of any age. If the poor persons referred to were heads of household they would presumably be given enough food to feed their dependents making it possible that upwards of thirty-five people were in daily receipt of food. This would indicate that Oesewalum was a very productive estate and well able to supply the daily bounty to the poor, if this were not so then the food would have to be brought in from another estate. This is very unlikely as why would Wulfred go to so much trouble to recover an estate which could not feed seven paupers, and why make the bequest to feed them if the food had to be brought in?

The Archbishop also required that a mass be celebrated for his soul every day and that on his anniversary 1,200 poor persons should each be given a loaf of bread, some cheese or butter and one penny.  This annual bequest amounted to £.5.00 in total, a large sum at a time when an acre of land could be bought for four pence.

Some years after Wulfred’s death Christ Church was given the Manor of Wingham by Æthelstan, made King of Kent in 839 by his father, King Æthelwulf of Wessex. After Werhard’s will there are no further references known regarding Oesewalum so the assumption can be made that Werhard’s endowment was absorbed into the Manor of Wingham and remained a part of it until the manor came into the possession of King Henry VIII some seven centuries later.

If Oesewalum was in fact the name given to the slope that I have previously described then these four sulungs could have later become the manors of Womenswold, Ackholt, and North and South Nonington which all lay on this slope and directly adjoining it and which were all sub-divisions of the Manor of Wingham.  When Archbishop Peckham had his manors surveyed between 1283 and 1285 the area of above sub-manors amounted to a total of some 1,187 acres, compatible with Oesewalum’s four sulungs in 824 or the ten hides of land in Werhard’s will of 830.

My conclusion is that Oesewalum was not, as I had for a long time previously believed, the basis for the manors recorded as Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles in the Domesday Book of 1086 and were part of the holdings of Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux, who held them directly from his half-brother, King William I.

I think that it is possible Eswalt and Essewelle, which I believe adjoined Oesewalum on its eastern boundary, may derive their names from their locations.
One possibility is that when the Manor of Wingham absorbed the estate at Oesewalum the name continued in use for the location in general and as both Eswalt and Essewelle are both respectively on and adjoining to the Oesewalum slope their names are simply derivations which evolved over two centuries or more into the names recorded in the Domesday Survey of 1086, but which pre-date it as they are the names by which these two manors were held from King Edward the Confessor. Essewelle later divided into the two manors Esol and Freydevill’ in the mid-thirteenth century.
Another possibility is that both names have their origin in the Old English “east walu or wale” meaning east bank, as they are to the east of Oesewalum forming a continuous boundary on that side. Once again they evolved through the centuries until the Domesday survey. After the Abbey of St. Alban’s  acquired Esol, having owned Eswalt since the mid-twelfth century,  the joint manorial lands then became known as Esole or Easole and continued to be so until the present day.

1086 Eswalt

Circa 1100:-Estwale.

Circa 1140’s:-Estwala.

1279:-Esewale

1440’s:-Eswale.

1086:-Eswelle.

1166-Essewelle

1254 Eswall’

1349 Esole

By the 1480’s Esole had become known as  Beauchamps

The Boys family of Fredville and the English Civil War-updated

Some information was kindly forwarded to me by Victor Judge regarding Edward Boys, a younger son of Sir Edward Boys of Fredville, and the younger brother of Major John Boys, the last Boys of Fredville.

Sir Edward Boys of Fredville served as Lieutenent of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. He was initially loyal to King Charles I, but in 1642 he went over to the Parliamentarian cause bringing the castle  under Parliament’s control where it remained until the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. Sir Edward died in 1646 and was succeeded as Lieutenent of Dover Castle and Lord Warden by his eldest son, Major John Boys of Fredville who held these positions until 1648.

Sir Edward Boys had a younger son, also called Edward, who also fought for the Parliamentary side and gave his life for their cause. The Nonington parish register records the baptism of Edward Boys the younger on 14th December, 1606, while his burial is recorded in  the parish register of Church of St. Nicholas  in Warwick. The St. Nicholas register records “Buried 22nd Jaunarie 1642 [1643] Edward Boyse ye sonne of Sir Edward Boyse of East Kent wounded at the Battell at Keynton”.

The Battle of Keynton, also Keyneton, [now Kineton in Warwickshire] was another name for the Battle of Edgehill which was fought over the countryside between Edgehill and Kineton in southern Warwickshire. The fighting between the Parliamentary forces, under the command of Earl of Essex, and the Royalist army, led by Charles I, began on Sunday 23rd October. The main battle was fought on the Sunday by fighting continued through Tuesday until it ended on the Tuesday morning when Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the King’s nephew and commander of the Royalist cavalry, led a strong force in a surprise attack against what remained of the Parliamentary forces baggage train at Keynton [Kineton] which resulted in the death of many wounded survivors of the earlier fighting. The battle had no clear winner, the Parliamentary forces withdrew to Warwick and reformed while the King and his army continued on towards Oxford, and then London.
In the opposing Royalist forces at Edgehill was Colonel Francis Hammond, whose family estate of St. Alban’s Court in Nonington adjoined the Boys’ Fredville home. Colonel Hammond led the Royalist’s Forlorn Hope at Edgehill, but whether or not the younger Edward Boys encountered Colonel Hammond during the battle is not known, but this does emphasise how the English Civil War made enemies of close neighbours and even family members.

Edward Boys the younger appears to have been wounded during the fighting in and around Keynton  and subsequently taken to Warwick.  Here he was most likely treated for his wounds and hospitalized at Warwick Castle, along with some 700 or so others wounded in the battle. Sadly Edward eventually died from his wounds and was buried at St. Nicholas’s church on 22nd January, 1643. The church stands outside one of the gates of Warwick Castle, which seems to indicate that was where he was when he died.

Fredville House School in Nonington-revised and with additional new photographs.

‘Big Fredville’ House was used as a girls boarding school from the mid-1920′s after the Plumptre family moved to the nearby newly built “Little Fredville” house.

Actress Googy Withers was a pupil at the Fredville School around 1929 before going to the Italia Conti stage school.

Actress Googie Withers was a pupil at the Fredville School around 1929 before going on to the Italia Conti stage school.

Actress Georgette  “Googie” Withers was a pupil there around 1929 to 1930 just prior to beginning her long career. She was educated first at Fredville Park School, and after a year or so moved to the Convent of the Holy Family in Kensington. Her professional training was undertaken with Italia Conti and then with Helena Lehmiski in Birmingham.

“Googie” was a successful stage, film  and T.V.  actress  known in the 1940’s as “the best bad girl in British films” and was still performing in the West End with Vanessa Redgrave in 2002. She died aged 92 in Australia in 2011.

Information is sparse regarding the girls boarding school at the old Fredville mansion during the 1920’s and 30’s, and I am therefore very grateful to have received some photographs and, more importantly, some information kindly supplied by Philip Rowett whose late aunt, Nancy Rowett, attended the Fredville House school from 1931 to 1933.

Philip informed me that the school was run by two sisters, known as “Aunt Maud” and “Aunt Mary”, who claimed to provide a “home from home” for the children of parents who were abroad. The school had a lot of pet dogs, ponies, and other animals, which, Philip said, would have suited his aunt. He also said the description he had received of the school was that there was complete absence of discipline. This is somewhat at odds with what “Googie” Withers was reported to have said of the school in an interview referred to in “Double-Act: The Remarkable Lives and Careers of Googie Withers and John McCallum”, by Brian McFarlane, and published by Monash in 2015”, where it’s recorded that the school was run by two Irish sisters who, Googie said, “had no qualms about meting out punishment. We got beatings on our bottoms, and quite frankly I think I deserved it”. Perhaps her self-confessed bad behaviour led the sisters to take extreme measures and was the reason for Googie’s short time at Fredville.

Many of the photographs below come from an album of photographs that appear to have been given to prospective pupils parents to show the school facilities kindly sent to me by Philip Rowett. Other photographs are ones belonging to the late Nancy Rowett.

Upper III class, summer 1933; (left to right) believed to be-back Nancy Mustard; middle row Peggy Green, Jean Garisford, Joan Latham; front row Dorothy Sampson, Nancy Rowett, Maureen Blood.

The school seems to have had some seventy or so pupils and the  inclusion of photographs of a nursery and kindergarten indicate that pupils attended from a very early age, while other photographs  show girls in their early to mid-teens.

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My late father, Ron Webb, and his boyhood friend, the late Ken Theobald, both told me stories of how they and other village boys use to try and ride bareback on the schools ponies, which were kept in a part of Fredville Park, and of how they were chased off by staff from the school for doing so. Apparently none of them were able to stay on any of the ponies for more than a few seconds. My father told me that the pond opposite “The Royal Oak” was divided in half by a fence and that the Fredville ponies drank from the coach road side half of the pond and farm livestock from the other half.

At the out-break of the Second World War in 1939  the old mansion house was requisitioned by the Government and soon occupied by the Canadian Army, but shortly after they moved in  the house was unfortunately badly damaged by fire and was eventually demolished in 1945. However, the clock tower, coach house, stable yard and out buildings escaped demolition and are now houses and workshops.

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.

A PULHAM GARDEN REDISCOVERED IN NONINGTON, KENT by Peter Hobbs.

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

END NOTES  

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.

References:
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 http://www.pulham.org.ukDurability 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.

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