The old Gooseberry Hall Farm and the surrounding land appears to have been part of an ancient estate called Monkton, meaning the monks homestead or farm, and spelt variously through the years as: Monkton, Moneketon, Monckton, and Mounton. This last spelling may have evolved into “Mount Ephraim”, the name given to the present house, and its predecessor, further up Cherry Garden Lane. The original “Mount Ephraim” appears to have been a once much larger tumuli, or mound, which is now embedded in the shave bordering the lane just to the west of the present Mount Ephraim House. The remains of the previous Mount Ephraim house and appurtenances are just to the east to the tumuli and buried by the same shave [see the map below].
The old thatched Gooseberry Hall Farm house stands on a cross-roads. An old pilgrims road, referred to as ‘Saint Margaret Strete’ in a 1511 quitclaim but now known as Cherry Garden Lane, runs from east to west and an ancient road which linked Sandwich with Lyminge and beyond passes roughly north-east to south-west past the house. This ancient road was of some importance into the early twentieth century, the section of road from Nonington to Lyminge and beyond was included in plans to evacuate the inhabitants of Nonington in the event of a German invasion of England during the early part of the First World War.
Some three-quarters of a mile or so along this road in the southerly direction is Nonington proper, the hamlet surrounding St. Mary’s church. Nonington or Nonnington evolved over the centuries from Nunningitun, as recorded circa 1070, which in turn evolved from Nunn-ingtūn: which derived from the Old English “nunne”; which itself derived from the Ecclesiastical Latin “nonne”, and the Old English suffix “ingtūn”; farm, village or estate.
The name most likely has its origin in the late 8th or early 9th centuries when much of the land in the northern half of the present parish of Nonington was part of an estate known as Oesewalum which at that time was owned successively by two abbesses of the Benedictine Abbeys of Southminster [Minster on the Isle of Thanet] and Lyminge, namely Selethryth and Cwoenthryth respectively. Cwoenthryth lost possession of Oesewalum to Wulfred, Archbishop of Canterbury, in 824.
The will of Abba, the King’s Reeve, dating from the mid to late 830’s mentions a bequest of land at Ciollandene (Chillenden) which was initially willed to various members of his family and their descendants but in the event of their deaths the estate was to go to Christ Church, Canterbury, and Monkton appears to have been a part of this estate. The estate at Ciollandene seems to have eventually come into the possession of Christ Church and become a part of the manor of Adisham, which had been granted to the monks of Christ Church in year 616, by Eadbald, King of Kent.
Evidence of this is provided by Kent historian Edward Hasted in his record of the Parish of Chillenden in “The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent”: Volume 10 Pages 95-98, published by W Bristow of Canterbury in 1800, wherein he wrote that: “This estate [Chillenden] pays a quit rent to Adisham manor, of which it is held. It has no manerial rights, and it is much doubted, if it had ever any claim, beyond the reputation of a manor”.
The Christ Church manor of Adisham could not have acquired the land at Chillenden before Abbess Cwoenthryth lost possession of Oesewalum and the nuns farm or estate on or around the site of the present hamlet of Nonington. It is therefore most likely that Monkton’s name evolved to differentiate between the older nuns farm or estate at Nonington, and the newer monks farm at what was to become known as Monkton.
The earliest record of Monkton I have found so far is a grant dating from the mid-1200’s between Alwyn, son of William of Monkton, and the Prior and Convent of Canterbury Cathedral Priory [Christ Church]. The grant concerns one acre of land with a house on it and “a moiety [one half] of 1 hen and 5 eggs”, a manorial rent. The grant states that the house and land had “the king’s highway to north [Cherry Garden Lane] and the land of the monks of St Albans Abbey (‘monachi sancti albani’) to south”. This clearly shows that the house mentioned was not on the site of the present Gooseberry Hall Farm house, but on the opposite side of Cherry Garden Lane and possibly on or near the site of the old Mount Ephraim house further to the west along Cherry Garden Lane near the once much larger tumuli known as “Mount Ephraim” on present parish boundary with Goodnestone.
In the mid to late 1200’s there are records of two grants between Hugh, son of Jordan of Chillenden, and William of Monkton, most likely the son of the aforementioned Alwyn. These grants cover three roods of land [three-quarters of an acre], and in one grant reference is made to William’s capital messuage at Monkton. A capital messuage is the main messuage [house] of an estate in which the owner of the estate normally lives. This is an indication that William had a fairly substantial holding at Monkton, and his capital messuage may have been on the site of the present Gooseberry Hall Farm house.
Members of the de Moneketon [Monkton] family are recorded as witnesses on two later grants, as is Hugh de Chillenden. The de Chillendens are recorded as holding land in the present Chillenden parish up until at least the end of the reign of Henry III [1216-1272] and Adam of Chillenden was elected Prior of Christ Church in 1264,and ordained as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1270.
One of these grants from towards the end of the 1200’s or beginning of the 1300’s concerns payment by John and Elias, the heirs of William de Mortuo Mari [Mortimer], of the sum of eight shillings [40p], payable to the Prior and Convent of Canterbury Cathedral Priory after the death of William their father. This payment was the cost of their inheriting their father’s tenements [houses] “of Moneketon” in Nonington parish, but the locations of these tenements are at present uncertain.
The Mortimer family were prominent in late 13th and early to mid 14th century English politics and held the Earldom of March on the Anglo-Welsh borders and Ireland. Katherine, daughter of Roger de Mortimer, 1st. Earl of March, married Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick, and this family connection may be why Sir John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp of Warwick, and the earl’s younger brother, held eight acres of arable land at Monkton until his death in 1360. Sir John held Mounton in gavelkind (free hold) by service of rendering at the manorial court of Adesham (Adisham) 20d.yearly at Mid-Lent and doing suit there every three weeks.
Mounton acquired some notoriety in Wat Tyler’s Revolt of 1381 when “The jurors of the Hundred of Wingham and Eastry jointly inquired concerning malefactors who maliciously made insurrection against our Lord the King and his people, in the fourth year of the reign of Richard II., say upon their oath that on Monday next, after the feast of Holy Trinity (June l0th) in the year 1381, Lawrence Smyth, of Chylendenne, and John Gunne, of Monckton (Mounton), maliciously against the peace made insurrection at Chillenden against our Lord the King and his people, and continued that insurrection until Saturday after the Feast of St. Barnabas the Apostle (June 15th), in the aforesaid year ; and they say that Kichard atte Dene violently and maliciously killed William Wottone, at Wotton”.
The Mounton estate eventually came into the possession of the Hammond family of St. Alban’s Court, which lays between Monkton and Beauchamps. In 1549 there was a transfer of ten parcels of land from “John Derton of Tenham, Kent to Thos Hamon of Nonyngton” which included “The remainder of the 10 parcels (which consisted of approximately 25 acres) lie in a certain place called Mounton to lands of Thos Hamon E W & S, to Wm Norton N”.
St. Alban’s estate documents recorded Mounton in 1615 as “Divers lands in Chillenden and Nunningtun called Moncks alias Monnocktons are holden of the Dean and chapter of Christ Church Canterbury in socage by rent of 55s 1d”.
Mounton remained part of the St. Alban’s estate for three or more centuries after this, but on the way it became known as Gooseberry Hall Farm, the origin of this name is at present uncertain but it has been in use since around 1800.
An Roman discovery at Gooseberry Hall.