The origins of the parish of Nonington.
The old parish of Nonington was some three miles across in each direction with St. Mary’s Church roughly at its centre with the hamlet of Nonington proper surrounding the church. A survey made for Archbishop Lanfranc in the early 1070’s refers to “Nunningitun” church as a subsidiary of “the mother church” at Wingham, this appears to be the earliest reference to Nonington. The settlement evolved on a cross-roads formed by a direct route to Christ Church in Canterbury via Ratling, Adisham, Bekesbourne and St. Martin’s Hill, and the road from Chillenden and Rolling through Nonington to Womenswold and beyond.
Some three quarters of a mile to the north-east of the church along the old way to Chillenden was the small estate of Monkton, the Monk’s farm, part of the Manor of Adisham given to ChristChurch in 616 and now called Gooseberry Hall farm.
Monkton also stands on a cross-roads, this one formed by the old roughly south to north Nonington to Chillenden way and an ancient roughly west to east track-way or “pilgrim’s road” running from Canterbury through Bekesbourne, Bossingham, near Adisham, through the present Goodnestone Park and then along the present Cherry Garden Lane on the north-eastern boundary of Nonington parish and on towards Eythorne and beyond.
It’s therefore very possible that the Nunningitun and Monkton evolved to differentiate between the land held by “the Nun’s” of Suthminster and “ the Monk’s” of ChristChurch.
Earl Aldberht (also: Ealdbeorht, Ealdberht), and his sister, Selethryth (also: Seleðryth ,Seleðryð), Abbess of Lyminge and Southminster held Oesewalum at the end of the 8th century. King Offa of Mercia had awarded them extensive properties in East Kent for their support in quelling a Kentish revolt against him during the mid-780′s, but whether Oesewalum was granted to them by Offa or was inherited from their father, a Kentish noble and land-owner, is not at present clear. Aldbert is recorded on some documents as being a minister or advisor to Offa.
Around 805 Aldberht and Selethryth made a grant of Oesewalum to Wulfred (also Uulfred),the Archbishop of Canterbury, whereby Wulfred was to gain possession of the manor after their deaths. Selethryth died shortly after the grant was made, but Aldberht lived on for many years. He eventually entered a monastery at Folkestone and died there around 820. After Aldberht’s death the deeds of Oeswalum were seized by Oswulf, a relative of Aldberht and Selethryth who appears to have inherited their interests and later became an earldorman. Oswulf gave the deeds to Cwoenthryth who had succeeded Selethryth as Abbess of Southminster Abbey.
Cwoenthryth was the daughter of Coenwulf (also Cenwulf, Kenulf, Kenwulph), king of Mercia and overlord of Kent, who, along with her father, was then engaged a long running dispute with Archbishop Wulfred over whether laymen or clergy should control religious houses.
Despite claims by Wulfred Cwoenthryth retained possession of Oesewalum until 824 by which time Coenwulf had been succeeded as king of Mercia and overlord of Kent by Beornwulf. The King agreed to settle the dispute between Cwoenthryth and Wulfred over the ownership of various manors and estates, including, at the Council of Clofso (Cloveshoe) where Oesewalum , referred to in the settlement as Oesuualun, was amongst the property returned to Wulfred.
After Wulfred’s death Oesewalum was inherited by his kinsman, Werhard, who in turn left it to ChristChurch in Canterbury. It is then absorbed into ChristChurch’s extensive possessions and seems to disappear as a separate identity. By the time of King Edward the Confessor Oesewalum appears to have been divided into three smaller manor: Eswalt, Essewelle, and Solys (Soles).
The Chapel of Nunningitun was a chapel of ease of its mother church at Wingham and recorded as such in a list of parish churches compiled for Archbishop Lanfranc soon after his appointment in 1070. It stood on land belonging to the Manor of Wingham which in turn was part of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s holdings.
Nonington was one of four parishes created from the formation in 1282 of the College of Wingham from the Manor of Wingham by Archbishop Pecham. ‘The Chronicles of Wingham’ by Arthur Hussey give the following description of the College’s origins. “On August 2nd 1282 Archbishop John Peckham founded the College of Wingham, a college of secular canons consisting of a provost and six canons, divided into four parishes as follows: Wingham; Esse (Ash); Godwyneston (Goodnestone) with the hamlets of Bonnington, Offington (Uffington in Goodnestone parish)), Rolling, Newenham, underdone together with parts of Tuicham (Tickenhurst near Knowlton?) and Chileden (Chillenden) and, lastly, the church of Nonington with the chapel of Wymelingewelde (Womenswold) and the hamlets of Rittlynge (Ratling), Freydeville (Fredville), Hesol (Easole), Suthnonington (South Nonington),Hakeholt (Ackholt), Catehampton (Kittington), Attedane (Oxenden ?), Wolshethe (Woollege, now part of Womenswold parish), and Vike (Wick, also now part of Womenswold) ‘some of which have been fixed in well proportioned parts, which vicars are so far held without hindrance’.
On June 7th, 1290, King Edward I gave his consent to the formation of the College. The six canonries were: Bonnington, Chilton, Pedding, Ratling, Twitham, and Wymlingswold (Womenswold), “so named after the places of their endowment”.
Until its division in the early 1950’s into the present parishes of Aylesham and Nonington the old parish of Nonington consisted of the hamlets of Ackholt, Holt Street, Frogham, Easole Street, Nonington proper, and Ratling along with the once manorial farmsteads at Soles Court, Kittington, Curleswood Park, and Old Court.
Womenswold was originally administered jointly with Nonington and only became separated in the 1850’s.