“The Walnut Tree” beer house in Old Street, or Holt Street, Nonington.
John Wood the Younger held the licence for The Rose and Crown, now The Two Sawyers, at Woollege Green in Womenswold parish from 1820 to 1824 when he was convicted and fined for poaching partridges in the parish and shortly after his conviction John left The Rose and Crown. By this time a first conviction for poaching usually incurred a fine of £5, a considerable sum at a time when agricultural labourers earned 12/- (60 pence) for a six day week, and on conviction half of the fine went to the person who reported the poacher. John then appears to have returned to Nonington parish as the 1832 Nonington Parish Poor Rate roll records him as being the licensee of a “Public House and garden” in Old (Holt) Street and paying £.3 10/- in parish rates on the premises which were owned by his father, John Wood the Elder. The beerhouse was known as The Walnut Tree and was first licenced by Wingham Petty Sessions at the annual Licencing Session in September, 1832, the nearby Royal Oak also received its first licence at the same session and both premises opened October, 1832.
The Walnut Tree was part of a row of four cottage owned by John Wood the Elder, a master bricklayer and small farmer whose family had owned the Holt Street premises for some considerable time, having probably originally built them. Before it became a beerhouse the premises had been listed as a “house and garden” paying only £2 in rates. The Wood family had been small farmers for many years owning some small parcels of land in and around Old [Holt] Street and renting other land in Nonington. Daniel Wood, John the Elder’s father, had been a member of the Parish Vestry in the 1760’s and an earlier Daniel Wood had been Nonington Parish Clerk in the first decade of the 1700’s. Prior to this other family members had lived and held land in Chillenden and Goodnestone parishes.
William Wood, John the Elder’s brother, had been licencee of The Hawks Head, previously The White Horse, until May, 1831 and John Wood the Elder appears to have underwritten both brother William’s and son John’s businesses.
John the Younger ran the beerhouse until his death in 1870 when the beerhouse, the other three cottages in the row and the adjacent house built by John in the 1850’s [now called Park View Cottage] came into the possession of the Fredville estate. The change of ownership may have been bought about by either by the new licencing requirements bought in by the Wine and Beerhouse Act 1869 and the Wine and Beerhouse Act Amendment Act 1870, or, as the anecdotal evidence given to me by now passed on Nonington residents, to repay debts accrued by John the Younger.
I was told by my late father that a part of the sale agreement was that the Wood family would be allowed to continue to live in Park View Cottage as long as they wished, which they continued to do until the 1970’s when Mrs. Edith Rogers, John the Younger’s great grand-daughter, died. Mrs. Rogers, née Wood, and her husband Harry, a chauffeur at Snowdown Colliery, are both in the photograph on the right with Park View cottage where she lived to their right and the roof of the old alehouse and cottages directly behind them.
During the 1870’s and early 1880’s the Fredville estate owned all three ale and beer houses in the parish of Nonington until the closure of The Phoenix at Frogham in 1883 reduced the total to two.
After John Wood’s death in 1870 the licence was taken over by William Jesse Sheaf, but the type of licence had obviously changed to off-sales only as the following report from the Dover Express of Friday, 14th September, 1888 shows.
“WINGHAM PETTY SESSIONS
“The report of Superintendent Kewell showed that the ale houses, beer houses, and grocers, and others licensed to sell spirits, wine, and beer within part of the Wingham Division under his superintendence with the following exceptions have been well conducted.
“The exceptions were the “Walnut Tree,” off license, kept by William Jesse Sheaff, who was fined 2s. 6d. and costs for permitting beer to be consumed on his premises contrary to his license on the 8th October, 1887”.
In his memories of Nonington recorded by F. W. Hardman in 1936, Richard Jarvis, a Nonington born blacksmith, recalled “The Walnut Tree” beer house as being kept by Sheaf. William Sheaf died in 1891 and Sarah Ann Sheaf, his widow, ran the beer shop for a short time.
George Farrier became licensee in 1892 and three years later was also convicted of a similar breach of the licencing laws as his predecessor. On December 6th, 1894, he was convicted at Wingham Petty Sessions and fined one shilling with nine shillings costs for selling beer to be drunk on the highway near his premises. George Farrier’s conviction appears to have had serious repercussions as almost immediately the premises ceased to be a beer shop. I have been told by one of his descendants that Harry Steed, the tenant farmer at Holt Street Farm, was largely instrumental in permanently closing the beer shop.
I have a copper conical beer-warmer with a large loop handle, which came from The Walnut Tree via my great-grandfather Stephen Rogers, which would have been stood in the fire to warm beer in cold weather.
In the early 1960’s structural problems were discovered in the row and the original four two-storey cottages were converted into three single storey dwellings.
Renovation work in the summer of 2006 re-opened a barrel vaulted cellar directly under the kitchen of Walnut Cottage, once the tap room of the beer house, which had been bricked up and buried during the 1960’s conversion. A staircase from the cellar up into the tap room above was revealed, beer would have been bought up from the cellar in jugs and sold by measure for consumption on and off of the premises until the 1870’s when the licence was change to permit off-sales only. Beer was delivered to the premises from the brewery by dray and the barrels rolled from the road down into the cellar on a brick built ramp, which was also exposed.
The barrel ramp from Holt Street into the Walnut Tree’s cellar
The door to the stairs from the cellar to the taproom above
The brick built barrel vaulted roof at the front of the cellar
The roof at the back of the cellar