William Boys and the Fredville purchase.
It has been held for several centuries by Thomas Philpott, Edward Hasted, and other historians, that a feet of fines dating from July of 1484 recorded the purchase by John Nethersole, William Boys, Thomas Butte and Robert Gerveis of : “The manors of Fredeuyle 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’” from Thomas and Anne Quadryng’.
However, this feet of fines was actually a legal manoeuvre to settle a court case to recover possession of the aforementioned properties which had in fact been purchased by John Nethersole and associates from the Quadryngs at some time shortly before the death of King Edward IV in April of 1483. These recovered properties then came into the sole possession of William Boys in 1485.
A manor was a fiscal and legal entity, not a physical one, so that the purchase of “the manors of Fredeuyle and Beauchamp’” did not actually involve the acquisition of land but the acquisition of the lordship of these two manors. This acquisition entitled the holder of these lordships to certain manorial rights, revenues, rents and fines.
A messuage at this time was a high status dwelling-house, and the grant of a messuage with its appurtenances not only transferred the house, but also all the buildings attached or belonging to it, along with its curtilage, garden and orchard and the close [surrounding land] on which the house was built.
One of the two messuages referred to in the purchase was the Esol [Esole] manor house at Beauchamps, and the other messuage referred to in the purchase is most likely to have been on the site of the present Holt Street Farm house.
Where was the Manor of Fredeuyle?
Edward Hasted, in his “The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent” stated that after the purchase William Boys “removed thither” to Fredville and made it his main residence but returning to live at Bonnington at some time before his death in 1507. In the year he died William Boys of Goodnestone, but not of Nonington or Fredville, gifted to Nonington Church 40/- [£.2.00] towards buying a Antephonar [a religious music book].
William’s will divided the bulk of his estate between his two sons, John, his eldest son and heir who had been born at Bonnington in the mid to late 1470’s, and Thomas. William bequeathed to John “all my lands, tenements, customs, rents, suits and services in Nonington, and to his heirs for ever”, and to Thomas “my lands and tenements etc. in Goodneston, and to his male issue, but if no issue to my son John and his male issue; if no issue to female heirs of Thomas for ever”.
It is worth noting that William Boys returned to his Bonnington property before his death. Was the Bonnington property then a more comfortable house than that at Fredville?
Perhaps the more pertinent question is that, if as Hasted states, William Boys did in fact relocate to Fredeuyle [Fredville], where did he in fact “remove thither” too?
At present there is no known documentary or physical evidence of there being a house pre-dating the Tudor and Georgian mansions in Fredville Park. So, if there was no Fredville manor house there, then where could it have been located?
There is some compelling evidence to indicate that at the time of William Boys’ acquisition of the aforementioned properties the Manor of Fredville [Fredeuyle] was centred upon the settlement of Holestreete or Holestrete [Holt Street] with the manor house on or near the site of the present Holt Street farmhouse.
When the parish of Nonington was founded by Archbishop Pecham in 1282 its constituent hamlets or settlements were listed. One of the hamlets mentioned was Fredevile, previously the name used to refer to one half of the Knight’s Fee of Essewelle, but there is no reference to Holestreete [Holt Street].
The earliest presently known reference to “Freydevill’” is in legal documents dating from 1249 and 1250 while Holestrete is mentioned in the 1283-85 survey of Archbishop Pecham’s manor of Wingham. The survey records Simon of Holestreete and Roger of Holestreete as holding land on the adjacent manor of Acholt, also a part of the Manor of Wingham, showing that Holestreet actually then existed as a hamlet or settlement.
“Freydevill’” most likely derives from is from the Old English [O.E.]: “ frith or frythe”, meaning a wood or wooded country, or the edges or outskirts of a wooded area, and “vill”, a Latin abreviation used to indicate a manor or farm in medieval documents. “Freydevill’”, could therefore be taken to mean the manor or farm on the edge of the woods or woodland.
Holt Street is a hamlet a half a mile or so to the south-east of Nonington Church, and its name derives from the O.E. ‘holt’, meaning a thicket or wood. Bordering Holt Street to the south-west is Ackholt or Acol, deriving from the O.E.: “ac”; oak & “holt” ; literally an oak thicket or wood, and bordering to the south is Oxney Wood, deriving from “oxena denn”; “oxena”, meaning cattle and “denn”, meaning woodland pasture. These names indicate that this area was once heavily wooded and therefore almost certainly cultivated after other parts of Nonington, such as Esole.
A quarter of a century or so after the Archbishop’s survey there is a reference in a 1309 indenture for the transfer of ownership of property in the adjacent manor of Acholt to a windmill “in paroch de Nonyngton juxta Holestrete in ter(re) de Freydvile”, [in the parish of Nonington, next to Holt Street on the land of Fredville]. This confirms that Holt Street was under the jurisdiction of the manor of Fredville, and would therefore be the main settlement of the manor due to its size and the number of its inhabitants at that time.
Another indication to the Holt Street farmhouse site having been the location of an early Fredville manor house is that much of the land now occupied by Snowdown Colliery and its spoil heaps is recorded on the 1839 Nonington parish tithe map as “the Great Field”, which lay between Oxney Wood and Holt Street Farm, only a hundred yards or so from the farmhouse. The Great Field is the name often associated with manorial demesne land or land lying close to a manor house. Manorial demesne land was land personally held by the lord of the manor and either worked directly by him for his own benefit or rented out.
Archbishop Pecham’s survey was made some sixty years or more before the Black Death swept through England. This epidemic possibly killed between one third and one half of the population of the Nonington area resulting in wide-ranging and long-lasting changes in the structure of land-holding and ownership and the use of agricultural land.
In 1670 the Holt Street estate consisted of a capital messuage [principal house], the present Holt Street farmhouse, and some eight or so other messuages and cottages. The earlier Holt Street may have had more dwellings than those recorded in the inventory made in 1670 as only those properties owned by the Boys family as part of the Holt Street estate are recorded. No record was made of any other free-hold property owners in and around the Holt Street estate.
After the building of the Tudor Fredville mansion in Fredville Park, almost certainly by John Boys in the late 1510’s or early 1520’s, it appears that the name Fredville became synonymous with the site of this and the later Georgian mansion, and not with the original manor house at Holt Street.
By the time Sir Edward Boys the Younger came to reside at the Holt Street house in the early seventeenth century the original manorial centre of Fredville at Holt Street had become known as the Holt Street estate. The present Holt Street farmhouse was built in the first decade or so of the seventeenth century, apparently as a new family residence for Sir Edward Boys the Younger. This new house would have been an ideal residence for the Boys’ oldest son and heir while their father lived at the Fredville Mansion on the hill some quarter of a mile or so to the east. It appears to have fulfilled this role during the Boys’ tenure at Fredville.
When the Holt Street estate was sold off in the 1670’s to pay the creditors of Major John Boys, the last Boys to live at Fredville, it consisted of the new house, the eight or so smaller messuages and cottages, 250 acres or more of agricultural land, and some woodland.
Beauchamp’ or Bechams, an alternative residence for William Boys.
There is another, and more likely, possibility as to where William Boys “removed thither”.
History, and the historians, seem to have forgotten, or ignored, the fact that in addition to Fredville, William Boys also acquired the manor of “Beauchamp’”, recorded as “Bechams” in the 1501 manorial roll for the “Manor of Essesole” [Esole] wherein it is recorded as consisting of a manor house and some fifty or more acres of land. The Abbot of St. Alban’s, of neighbouring “Saint Albons Courte” and the lord of the “Manor of Essesole”, received an annual manorial rent of £2 2s 9d [£2.14p] payable once a year at Michaelmas [29th September]. “Bechams” was free of suit of court as it was held in gavelkind [freehold].
The pasture land around the remains of the manor house are still known locally as “The Ruins”, and the wood and adjacent lane are still known as Beauchamps Wood and Lane respectively. The above shows Beauchamps appears to have been pronounced as “Bechams ” since at least the end of the fifteenth century.
“Fredeuyle” was a manor in its own right and held by William Boys as one half of the knight’s fee of Essewelle, whereas “Beauchamp’” was actually at this time a sub-manor of the other half of the knight’s fee and was known as “Esol” or “Esole” with the Abbot of St. Alban’s, of neighbouring “Saint Albons Courte”, in possession of the manorial rights. By the time of the 1501 manorial roll “the Manor of Esol” or “Esole” had become the “Manor of Essesole”
The manors “Fredeuyle” and “Beauchamp’” seem to have melded into one entity known generally as Fredville, possibly because “Fredeuyle” was the larger of the two manors purchased.
Under the broad umbrella of the Fredville name there is therefore a strong likelihood that William Boys resided for some time in the Beauchamp’ messuage and only returned to Bonnington just before he died in 1507, perhaps when he felt he was coming to the end of his time and wanted to spend the last of his days in his ancestral home.
The most compelling reason for William Boys to have resided at “Bechams” instead of Holt Street is that the Quadryng family were originally wealthy London mercers, although of varying fortune in the latter part of their occupancy, and recent archaeological excavation of the Beauchamps manor house site has revealed the remains of what was once a quite extensive and high status house and associated out-buildings which would have made a very suitable ready made residence for the William and, later, John Boys, William’s eldest son and the heir to Fredville.
After inheriting Fredville and its associated properties John Boys continued to add to his holdings during the following decades. In 1512 he acquired property in Sandwich, and in 1528 he bought a quarter of the Manor of Soles from Thomas Norton, a legal and administrative entity which entitled him to certain manorial rights, revenues, rents and fines in and around the present Soles Court, Long Lane farm, and the hamlet of Frogham. In addition to the manorial rights he also purchased from the same vendor 200 acres of land, 200 acres of pasture and 60 acres of woodland in Nonington and Barfreston.
As can be seen, John Boys had money to spend in the 1510’s and 1520’s, and this would have been the most logical time for him to begin the construction of a mansion at Fredville to replace a now ageing manor house at Beauchamps.
As his wealth and local importance increased John Boys would have aspired to establish himself as a presence in the locality, and what better way to do this than to build a new mansion on a spur overlooking both his inherited and his newly acquired land in and around Nonington. The new house would also have been visible for several miles in the general direction of Sandwich, where he had business interests and held public office.
Another possibility is that Bechams was sold after John’s death in 1533 by William Boys, his son and heir, who around 1537 acquired other large estates from the Manor of Wingham in Nonington and adjacent parishes and would therefore have needed money to fund these extensive land acquisitions. The sale of Bechams would have provided a useful sum to help pay for these acquisitions.
Whatever the reasoning, Bechams was sold before 1555 as by then the estate had passed into the possession of “Edward Browne of Worde (Worth) juxta Sandwich, a yeoman”, who on 2nd March of that year conveyed it to “Thomas Hamon of Nonnyngton, gentleman”. The property conveyed was: “All that messuage or tenement called BEACHAM situated in Nonnyngton, with all barnes, houses and edifices, now in the occupation of Thomas Hamon and all…. rents, services, …ect…containing 50 acres”, and which was apparently unchanged since the 1501 “Essesole” manorial roll entry.