The following series of articles written by Peter Hobbs of Old St. Alban’s Court in Easole, Nonington, record the progress of the continuing archaeological excavation of the site of the old Esol or Esole manor house, situated in pastureland known locally as “The Ruins”, from 2010 onwards. These articles were originally published in the Nonington Parish Magazine.
Please remember that interpretations of discoveries both archaeological and documentary may have changed during the duration of the dig.
Those of you who have walked up there hopefully are impressed with the amount of earth that the Dover Archaeological Group have shifted although the building that is being revealed has been heavily robbed of stone over time and not just in the 1960’s. The basic shape is confirmed as that shown on nineteenth century maps but the finds are scanty. There is part of an expensively crafted window lintel in good ragstone which has been dated to the 14th C but the pottery finds have mostly been later. There is ample evidence of the consumption of large quantities of shellfish and we know that the building had a tiled roof and windows with glass in them.
A geophysical survey has been done of the whole field which has shown up a number of anomalies which will be investigated but since they represent , in effect, soil compression or rubble spread, we may simply have the sites where the instructors stopped the tank trainee drivers during the war to make a cuppa! Or where brick earth was taken out in earlier centuries. Or indeed they may be long forgotten buildings. This is but one of the reasons that those of you who may have old pictures of the Baptist Church sausage sizzles up there should dig them out – there just may be something in the background which could help us now.
We have almost completed a survey of Beauchamps Wood. This shows a complex series of mounds within it, probably of different periods, and we shall have to wait for completion before we can set it alongside our other evidence to try and work out what actually went on. Whatever it was, it was over many centuries.
So we may have discovered what is probably an early manor house, previously unrecorded, but the site is much older so we are not really sure what else is there or indeed if this was the main house on the site at all! Basically, we still have all the questions to answer.
Work obviously did not start again in September and will not start again until the end of October at the earliest. This is because the significance of the discoveries at the Roman villa site at Folkestone (or to be more precise under the Roman site) are such that every potential working moment is being squeezed out of the budget for archaeology before the site has to be closed down and re filled. No more funding is available certainly for the moment and perhaps never so they are going for broke! What they have unearthed is a completely unknown but large and prosperous Iron Age pre Roman settlement with extensive trading links including directly with Rome. Large quantities of Roman wine as well as tableware were coming through the port which suggests the country had a lot of sophisticated customers rather keen on Roman luxuries as well as the painted crazies who saw off Julius Caesar. Or perhaps that was what Roman wine did for you.
Anyway, when the Dover Group do return, they have a little more excavation to do on that part of the site and, providing that does not lead to any unexpected developments, the site will be filled in and left protected for posterity. So, if you want to see a bit of Nonington history from the fourteenth century, then go and look soon because that will be your last chance. And similarly, if any children want to see the outcome of a real archaeological dig (as opposed to the somewhat glamourised ones from Time Team), then they should come and see this. We might try for an open day on the first Sunday the archaeologists are back but that date is still unknown and it can be pretty bleak on the hill when the wind blows.
The photographs in the gallery were taken by Clive Webb in early May of 2011.
Early this year because we thought we were almost at the end of this phase of excavation and therefore about to cover over the diggings again, numbers of people came to see our site including several groups from the school at Beechgrove. Then we proceeded with the last of the tidying up and straightening trench edges before the final photos were taken and we started to fill in the site before opening the next tranche of digging.
But it did not quite work out that way. A stubborn flint on the North West side was not loose at all but turned out to be attached to a rather large lump of masonry. And there proved to be a lot more where that was situated – walls of greater thickness than anything else previously seen on site. As the excavation progressed, it gradually became clear that these large lumps of masonry were not in situ but had been slighted and then buried. The expert verdict was that the walls belonged to a large building, probably Tudor based on their construction, which gave us a span of about 1480 to
1600’ish. However, all this was somewhat open to question because only a few inches above one of these great lumps, we came across a 1970s metal ring pull. Had it been dropped down a rabbit hole? Was it the remnant of one of the church barbecues? Were these walls not Tudor but war works by the army? Worse, as we excavated medieval bits of broken pottery, beneath them we came across empty Heineken cans! And they were at the bottom of this great hole which looked as though it had been machine dug. Yet we also could see that there were no machine marks on our slabs of masonry. A mystery indeed! It increasingly looked as though we had two holes, one early in which our masonry had been buried and a second, relatively modern, in which a lot of modern rubbish had been buried right at the side of our big blocks.
Fortunately, we still have witnesses around who were involved in the clearing and levelling of the site in the 1970s and also knew what was there before the War. There was indeed some earth moving around on that bit in the 1970s and possibly a bulldozer engaged in clearing, burying old barbecue waste, and levelling but, more importantly, no one had known of our buried walls. All the earlier maps we have show accurately the main shapes of the buildings we have already excavated but nothing else. So it looked as though the theories about a Tudor building stood. We were also encouraged by the discovery of a fragment of an elaborate and expensive wood burning stove which would have been imported from abroad in the period we are looking at.
But who would have invested money in a big building on top of our hill at that period of time? We know that the Hammonds at St Albans Court purchased the property in 1558 from Edward Browne at Worth. The Hammonds were using it as a tool store within a few years and someone living in Worth was hardly going to build themselves a new house in Nonington. So if someone did build on our site, it would probably be Edward Browne’s predecessor and we are not yet sure who that might be.
We – or to be more precise – Clive Webb has traced the ownership of this piece of land from its AngloSaxon origins as far as 1484 when ” the manors of Fredeuyl and Beauchamp and 2 messuages, 405 acres of land, 3 acres of wood and 76 shillings and 4 pence of rent and a rent of 8 cocks, 30 hens and 1 pair of gloves in Nonyngton and Godneston ” was sold by a Thomas Quadring to John Nethersole, William Boys and others . In 1485, it looks as though William Boys might have got sole possession…..and at some point sold it on. Was it to Edward Browne or someone else? We keep searching.
But who knocked our big walls down and buried them? We may have a potential candidate for this. In 1556, Edward Hammond had spent a fortune rebuilding his manor house at St Albans Court in brick , adding a fine bay to the front as well as a tower to the rear, and also adding a new courtyard enclosed in a new wall with a gatehouse to the front. He bought Beauchamps two years later and although he might have been content to have an ancient ruin in full sight of his newly refurbished gentleman’s residence, would he have been happy with the newish Tudor house at the side of it? Unlikely! And he could afford to flatten it. So perhaps he did just that. But we do not know and an equally valid guess could be that the building was unstable and had to be pulled down – or it was something else altogether!
So we went looking for more foundations and walls to the North West and indeed have found lots of them. None of them fit out big wall dimensions! However,it looks as though there was a large barn perhaps with a chalk floor onto which the tiled roof at some stage collapsed. But at the moment we have more walls than buildings that we can tentatively identify so we are in the position that we know less than when we restarted the excavations this time round. The excavated site is now twice the size and the spoil heaps twice as big but we are still far from understanding what actually the site is all about. So we dig on – we had a team of 17 last weekend and we needed them all!
We are still looking for pre-1970s pictures of what it looked like on the hill. Surely there must be one somewhere? We have the evidence for a lot of parties up there: surely someone must have taken a photo or two? Please dig out your old albums and have a look!
Initially, this year has been depressing. We had soldiered on through the mud but have since lost a number of digging days because of frost making the ground too hard, snow covering everything up and rain too heavy to attempt anything at all. However, we have been persevering with the essential but humdrum work of cleaning up the exposed walls and stripping out chalk floors to see what was underneath. As a result, we now realise that we have a number of rebuildings on site. Chalk floors overlie older walls and we have layers of broken tile within these. Walls start and stop without much rhyme or reason that we can see and some are clearly of better quality than others which look as though they might have been thrown together on the most casual basis. Within this, we have several rectangular holes apparently containing nothing but in some cases dug through an existing wall. These holes are probably late because those that dug them did not realise what they were digging through but to what purpose is most unclear since they are empty of anything other than earth! We are also uncovering shallow tine marks in the clay which probably date to when machinery was used to clear the copious brambles which used to grow up there. All in all, it is a very complex story we are beginning to unfold.
All these walls and floors are being cleaned up so that they can be surveyed, drawn and photographed, a slow and laborious process but essential if we are to understand the site. However, we have encountered a problem in that walkers passing through have taken it upon themselves to remove artefacts, some even telling us that because no one was present at the time, this was an obvious license to liberate what they could find ! If you would like a 700 year old piece of brick or tile or some Tudor feasted mussel shells, we are happy to oblige but please do not remove items which may look as though they have been dumped but are often piled to be recorded. Or any other item please. None of it has a real intrinsic value but the record may have (or so we hope). And the dog walkers who are carefully collecting their animals’ deposits in plastic bags before dumping them in the field have clearly lost the plot as well as putting at hazard the animals which will be grazing there later in the year.
We have found an Inventory of 1616 which suggests that there was some equipment which could have been used for brewing and preparing hemp up there as well as a “moulspere” for disposing of the moles whose presence in ample quantities is on display right now and was obviously an issue then. And Clive Webb and I have been across at the Kent Archaeological Society Library at Maidstone going through the recently archived papers of Dr Hardman. He had been Town Clerk at Deal but had a deep interest in the history of Nonington and collected and copied in the 1930s large quantities of documents which have now either disappeared or are too fragile to be handled at all. A respected scholar, he had significant theories about the origins of our site which we will share with you once we understand them better ourselves. Of the other papers he had copied, there were Court Rolls dating back to the 1600s and even to the days when the Abbot of St Albans Abbey was the landlord which show some continuity of land names with the 1349 Rental Roll we already have. We may through these be able to work out where the pieces of land itemised in the 1349 Roll were, something we could not do before because once the Court went out of existence, the land came to be known by the name of its owners rather than by what it was called in the the centuries old lists. Clive is also beginning to distinguish the beginnings of Fredville and its separation from our site in the sixteenth century as well as the presence of several previously unknown mills around the village. We are also beginning to understand that every landholder in the area had numbers of widely scattered small strips of land which they farmed and how, from the earliest times, the richer land holders were striving to put together bigger blocks of land to allow them to gain the advantages of size for efficiency.
On the photo front, Mrs Theobald has come up with a picture which shows the shape of the land below the vast conifer by the site in the early 1950s. This is very helpful indeed and there must be more around to give us a better feel for the lie of the land before the clearances in the 1970s when people had barbecues and fireworks up there. Please look.
I read through what was written in May and began to wonder what had changed. The painstaking work of gently scraping layer after layer of material away to the point that we reach the natural soil level has continued through rain and shine. Those that lived and worked up there must have been pretty tough since the North and North Easterly winds seem to blow straight through you and the sun can beat down on the exposed earth with a quite fierce intensity. Nevertheless, it is clear that no one in Nonington in the last 250 years at least had a clue as to the amount of walling existing just below the surface of the ground because it is indeed virtually undisturbed – except by the activities of at least the 350 years before that!
How do we know about the timing of such activities? Because they have all taken place below the layers of tile, chalk and flint covering the site which have first to be painstakingly removed. There is plenty of evidence of fires but even one big bonfire a year for one hundred years leaves a lot of burnt earth and clay; there is no evidence of metal working and precious little of bone. We continue to find numbers fragments of pottery and ultimately, when all these have been washed and cleaned, we ought to get some sense of the time scale over which this part of the site was occupied or at least used for some purpose.
We have had two major disturbances on site: one was that the young beef put in the field to graze started to take a keen interest in our activities of which the only productive result was that their impact on our chalk floors when wet meant that we had tangible evidence that our buildings were unlikely to have been used for stock. Farmer John Smith of Beaute Farm at Ash provided us with a fence although to our astonishment, we found that some animals were still getting in by stepping under the insulated bits of wire imitating where we ourselves secured access! So we had to put in a proper gate instead. The other setback, very disheartening, was that someone took apart an unrecorded Tudor wall and smashed up the bricks by hurling them at the large masonry walls we had uncovered, in turn knocking bits off them too. Sad.
We are reaching the end of what we can do with the spade and trowel until everything has been mapped, drawn and photographed. There may then be some further checking by removing more wall to ascertain what may be underneath but the next stage is some trial trenches in other parts of the area to see what else we may find. For example, we suspect that we have yet to find the first home for our 13th and 14th Century bricks and most certainly we do not know where our big blocks of masonry come from (pictured). Not from the South, East or North we are pretty sure. So, go West young man.
However, in the event, the first new trench went across the southerly line of our rectangle, visible as a bank from the footpath through Beauchamps Wood ,and surveyed there, and continued in the field on Google Earth ( although not on the latest edition – a function of grass growth and the time of day ). What showed up was what looked like a negative lynchett , the bank thrown up as the plough turns at the end of a furrow. We had anticipated a bank and silted up ditch reflecting an early enclosure which just goes to show how archaeology can inject a different reality. Amongst other things, this excavation suggests that the ages of the wood on either side of the bank may be different and poses hard questions about the real age of our enclosure. Clive Webb came up with the tenant of the Abbot of St Albans who rented that piece of ploughland, three acres in extent, in 1501: she was a lady, probably a widow, called Joan Gaylor. The rent paid was 12 pence and one farthing (1/4 of one penny pre decimalisation when 12d was one shilling – 10p today) which is now equivalent approximately to about £310. I am told that arable rents are currently between £90 and £ 140 per acre depending on the quality of the land and the piece we are talking about is far from prime arable, so rents have not changed very much over 500 years even if the face value of the £ in our pocket has !
We also trenched across the boundary mound in the wood. There, in addition to confirming the negative lynchett, we found a metre deep trench cut down to the chalk with a flat bottom. We have also found a similar ditch in the shallow depression that surrounds Beauchamps Wood on the Ruins Field side. Dating this may give us the date that Beauchamps Wood itself was planted – perhaps later than we thought although the amounts and position of the quantities of early medieval pottery we found have yet to be evaluated.
At one level, on the documentary side, as with Joan Gaylor, the coincidence of the historical record with the archaeology reinforces the thought that we were making great progress. It is like a giant puzzle with each piece representing a different piece of information. One section of it is painstakingly assembled showing an apparently cohesive story only for a new piece to emerge to prove that we must start again. For example, we now have assembled quite a lot of information on people like Sir Henry Beaufuiz in the 14thC and the Quadring family in the 15thC who owned the site but tantalizingly not – yet anyway – quite enough to see them firmly in place and what impact they had within local society. And the discovery of the ditch around the wood raises a series of questions about when the wood was established as suggested above.
We still hope for more old photos of the site or the surrounding area. Do check the attic please before it is too late. The death of John Theobold who played as a boy on our site, worked on it from time to time as part of his job and was most generous with his time and stories sadly deprives us of yet another prime source of information.
Only by looking back did I realize that the last progress report was in June 2014 and a lot of earth has been shifted since then. Some of it has gone into backfilling the existing trenches after time consuming and meticulous work in removing further layers of floor and closely examining the flints in the walling to secure a better understanding of the sequence of buildings on the North West side of the site. In addition to photographing every detail and putting it onto a plan, every wall has also been drawn.
We still remain pretty unclear because the large amounts of broken pottery found at every level has yet to be washed and assessed and if you pause for a moment to consider how many new floor coverings there will have been over some hundreds of years, then you begin to sense the complexity of the task. It is not helped either when you think about the ordinary farm yard before the arrival of concrete floors and modern machinery where animals plodded through winter mud and any old rubble to hand was thrown into the worst holes. Our site ran down from the 1600s but we know from Will Inventories that cattle and sheep were around even if there was precious little of value in the buildings themselves as the timbers rotted and the roofs fell apart. Disintangling what happened when will require a detailed scrutiny of all the evidence including the written record and we are some way off from that point yet.
The archaeological work was interrupted by a mass exodus to dig the massive Anglo Saxon site at Lyminge as well as, later, the Convent Well at Woodnesborough. Lyminge, now thought to have been the base for South Kent royalty, may have a connection in that one philologist at least argues that there are links in language between Nonington and the inhabitants at Lyminge, and another prominent historian suggests that the owners of Oeswalum ( broadly what were the combined estates of St Albans Court and Fredville ) in the 790s were linked by kinship to the South Kent Royal line.
Be that as it may, we carried on trenching about 20 yards out from the side of Beauchamps Wood revealing nothing until almost due West of our main site, we came across a well flinted road surface. A series of trenches were then dug back to our main site which traced it, badly eroded and patched ,to the main site. In so doing, we dug through the flat area where I was sure we would find the foundations of the expensive house I thought built in the 1400s from which the big masonry walls found in the big hole had come. Absolutely nothing – not even much old tile – so bang goes that theory which just leaves us still with the mystery of from where they did come.
The roadway itself almost loses itself before it gets to the main site so we are currently excavating a large area to see where it does go, not easy when the wind blows so cold and the rain has left a slippery mush. There are quite a lot of pottery finds– broadly interpreted as medieval and late medieval – so waste has been cast on this surface for a long period.
So we keep digging!
As promised in the last newsletter, the Dover Archaeological Group laid on site a day of display of archaeological finds and pictures together with people to act as guides and explain what we thought had gone on in the previous nine centuries there. It was advertised in advance on the village notice boards, at the garage and on the footpaths around the site. It would be fair to say that we were not overwhelmed with interest.
We then cleared that site which now has been mostly filled in thanks to Adrian Ovenden, not yet completely because winter rain had so softened the soil that even a JCB was in trouble in moving around. The contrast with the rock hard consistency in summer was extreme. The only other observation we could make was that some of our excavated dwarf walls had run over older holes in the ground without subsidence and therefore how elective in weight carrying were such walls with a beam on top of them to distribute the weight.
We moved to what was going to be a brief excavation of a trial metre square hole which had been started in the South East corner of the field when an archaeologist had spotted fragments of brick in a molehill close to the path up to the other excavations. At that stage, we thought we had virtually completed on the top site – little were we to know then that the job was not half done! Anyway, we had found in the hole a number of bricks which looked very similar to those used on the 1666 extensive rebuilding of Old St Albans Court and further excavation unearthed large quantities of broken or badly burnt brick both whole and in fragments. We also excavated a nearby dip in the ground which proved to be rubbish and discarded elements of building work, not modern. Ian Sayer provided the answers: when the greenhouses and other buildings belonging to the kitchen gardens of Old St Albans Court which lay behind the Malt House immediately below our site but on the other side of the road had been demolished to make way for the Seed Warehouse which preceded the existing Double Glazing factory, the rubbish had been brought by truck up to Ruins Field and used to fill in a number of the hollows and dips which were then a feature of the field. Earth was dumped on top to seal it in and allow it to revert to grazing again.
On the North East side of our excavation and directly abutting our layer of discarded brick, we discovered an hole about a metre and a half deep from which we concluded the brick earth had been removed presumably to make bricks. There had been little endeavour to fill it in until probably the 20thC judging from with what it had been filled. We concluded that what we most probably had was the remnants of a clamp for making bricks dating from the latter half of the seventeenth century. The physical dating evidence was slight – one clay pipe bowl dating closely to that period – but the documentary evidence was strong. We had a 1663 Rental Agreement referring to “burning fields “close to the main house and reference to a newly built stable which we can identify on maps preceding our existing 1869 Devey stable block. We also know that in 1666, the manor house was massively enlarged and that would have required hundreds of thousands of bricks.
Where did these come from? Railways were two hundred years away and roads were not of high quality to facilitate the transport of a large volume of heavy material. The brick earth around Nonington is present both in quality and quantity so, as with the brick for the 1556 rebuilding of Old St Albans Court, we presume they were made locally. The most likely mode was that having been made and dried, the bricks would have been fired in a clamp, a relatively simple if labour intensive process which was in use in Kent up to the 1930s and is still in use in many poorer parts of the world. The whole process was and is arduous. Tons of brick earth have to be dug up and overwintered before being puddled in the spring, a process of breaking and treading it into some consistency. Flints would have been removed and possibly sand added although that technical refinement tended to be a century later. Then , using wooden moulds, the mixture is turned into brick shapes which are transported to sheds to dry out, again a process which required double handling as the shapes dried to the point that they could be stacked a finger apart on a hard surface together with a combustible material – hedge cuts, tree branches, bracken, straw – and then set alight.
Depending on the size of the pile and weather conditions, the clamp could take ten days or more to burn through, pungent and unpleasant by all accounts, before it was allowed to cool and taken apart and the bricks sorted. Quality and colour would be variable and the wastage rate as high as 40% but everything usable would have to be stored under cover before being taken for site use. Every stage of the process required labour and a lot of the work would have been done by women and children, and there would have been a lot of buildings required, even if only for a short period.
Our brick clamp does not seem overly large and it seems that the remnants as well as the excavations for brick earth then lay undisturbed other than being overgrown by grass possibly for a couple of hundred years until William Oxenden Hammond planted the field with sweet chestnut in the 1870s. Possibly it did supply the bricks for the newly built stable in 1663 because this was not a large building. However, the late Aubrey Sutton reported evidence of brick manufacture being unearthed when the present Nonington Court was being built by the College in the 1960s and this is confirmed by Ian Sayer. The 1666 extension of Old St Albans Court would have required many thousands of bricks, a big manufacturing task but there is no evidence to suggest that this particular site had that capacity. Some skill would have been needed to fill the moulds swiftly and the burning would also have required some expertise both in laying the materials to be burnt as well as in observing temperatures and adjusting draught probably by adding or subtracting quantities of mud externally. Clive Webb identified a bricklayer in the village in 1600 and brick layer was then an ambiguous title which could mean brick maker. The 19thC censuses for Nonington show considerable employment associated with bricks and they were manufacture in Easole until the beginning of the 20thC. In between, the amount of brick building in the village is relatively small and would not have supported a continuous industry. Clive on his website identifies some other sites around the village but they were also making bricks in situ we think and not for wider use,
Again, having completed we thought our brick explorations, the site threw up another question. Beneath our brick clamp, there is evidence of ditches. We have to dig further to see what they are –land boundaries or ploughing boundaries perhaps? All that we do know is that they are pre 1629because we have an estate map which shows the land boundary along the present fence line to the South.
So what changed and why?
Wait and see!
I had not appreciated that it was a year since I last added to the record. I wrote then about the 17thC brick clamp we had excavated. We also located another to the South which we also excavated. Checking for evidence in the copious mole hills, we think there is nothing more to the South, South East or West of the excavated site but almost certainly more to the North and East. We assume that the whole area must have been extensively used in the 17th C to produce the large numbers of bricks for the New Buildings in 1666 at Old St Albans Court, a stable block which replaced a Tudor construction, and also for the Malt House on Sandwich Road. For all works that came after that, for example the walled kitchen gardens on the site of the Double Glazing factory and College Cottage, we assume on the basis of the nature of the bricks themselves that they were either imported or made at the local brick works in Easole Street.
One other curiosity was that we discovered a ditch underneath the clamp site which was possibly a land boundary running approximately SW/NE but not one that appeared on our earliest map, a land survey of 1629. We were unable to date this.
We then moved on to a long trench running SW/NE, the preliminary excavation for which had kindly been done by Adrian Ovenden. We dug deeper. There was a general spread of flint flakes from the tools which early man had worked but the surprise was a find of pottery sherds dating from the late Bronze Age or possibly early Iron Age. Crude in construction, nevertheless it was an indication of potential settlement nearby. Further along, we dug through a low bank which can be seen when the grass is down and also shows up on Google Earth but found absolutely nothing to indicate its origin or purpose.
Attention was then transferred to another trench also started for us by Adrian which ran NW/SE across a large dip immediately to the North East of our first major excavation by the large conifer called the Punch Tree in Ruins Field. It ran through a large bowl in the sward and up the sides at each end. We have yet to find any source of water on the whole site which carried substantial human occupation from the 1200s to the 1500s at least and certainly cattle thereafter because we have the record. Was this a collapsed well or some sort of pond? We dug over several weekends ……. and then some weekends more ……. and found nothing archaeological at all. What eventually became clear was that we had a geological phenomenon, a naturally occurring form of sinkhole called a solution doline where, over many years, the underlying chalk dissolves leaving a sunken saucer. Nothing as dramatic as the sinkholes which appear in limestone areas but just a gentle subsidence which can be a kilometre in diameter or much smaller as in this case. As the grass died back in the Autumn and we knew what we were looking for, we could then distinguish at least three others, smaller and more shallow, in the area. We then excavated further to the NW to see if we had any form of track across the end heading from the main site to the N along the edge of the ridge but there was no evidence to suggest this. So nothing archaeological at all but we consoled ourselves with the thought that at least we had definitive evidence that no discernible human activity had taken place across that area and that in itself was concrete information about land use in the context of the development of the main site.
Adrian then filled in the trenches for us, an onerous piece of work for which we were indeed grateful to have been relieved. The late Ian Williams, an inveterate enthusiast for many causes and always an eager adventurer when his curiosity was aroused, also came on site to assist in our quest for a water source because he was aware that he had divining skills in that respect. His divining rods reacted firmly in a number of spots each of which was marked and then excavated. In each case, there was, sometimes at a depth of as much as 12 inches, brick, tile or pottery. These were remnants scattered from the main site and the common characteristic was that the material was a form of burnt clay. Ian secured no reaction from mortared flint walls and located no water. Throughout he was uncomfortable with his ability to exercise a power that he did not understand and could not control although the information we gleaned was that there had been no building development further to the NW of the main site.
At this stage, we felt that we had pretty much bottomed what Ruins Field was likely to yield archaeologically by digging and, before we started work again in the confines of Beauchamps Wood, it was time to assemble, clean and begin the analysis of the material we had collected from the site over quite a number of years. It is all very well exposing walls and floors and ditches but unless their contents are scrutinized, catalogued and categorized and the information published, then the accumulated knowledge is lost not only to the local community but also to the wider academic community which will interpret it and place it in a wider background of knowledge and understanding. It took a number of van journeys to bring back the accumulated material to Old St Albans Court and nearly three months to wash every item and mark it to identify exactly from whence it had come on site. The materials were then grouped into categories such as brick, tile, flint, shell, bone, pottery, metal etc and the material within each category again grouped under individual find numbers. Tile and brick where possible were measured. The catalogued materials await more expert analysis of which probably the most important will be the pottery because it is the most dateable.
However, we now already are pretty certain that the large quantities of peg tile we have came from Tyler Hill in Canterbury where Christchurch manufactured profitably on a grand scale from the 1100s onwards, and the most substantial quantities of our brick dates back to the 1300s and is imported from Flanders. We also have a little later Tudor brick, probably from the brick clamps we excavated in the adjoining land.
We were then able to scrutinize the detailed and accurate maps of our excavations for the first time. This has led to a series of other questions not apparent when we were on the open site as the result of which we are back up the hill reopening trenches so that they can be extended into unexcavated territory to check for further building and roadways. So far, we have trenched under what was the site of the original main spoil heap and confirmed the existence of the ditch edging the South side of the site. As yet there appears to be no evidence of earlier building there but we still have quite a bit of new trenching to do on what we had thought was a worked out site.
Meanwhile, Clive Webb has been slowly and meticulously collecting and piecing together the land occupancy which is complicated to say the least. The over-lordship of this manor is of course entirely separate from what became St Albans Court and in possession of the Abbey of St Albans from1096 ( although the Abbot seems to have got his sticky fingers on part of it as a tenant later on ). From the 1100s , the over-lordship is in the hands of the De Say family who had responsibility for part of the defences of Dover castle. It is doubtful that any of them ever set foot on the site but let it out to a series of tenants who in turn sublet. Some of this information is already posted on the Nonington Village Web Site but it is still in a process of refinement because new bits of information often cause a reinterpretation of an aspect we thought clear. We also have issues in that the documentary evidence appears to be contradicted by the archaeological evidence and vice versa. But we press on !