Molly and Tommy Smith, cave-dwellers
The Kentish Gazette of the 30th November, 1886, reported:
“The death has occurred at the Eastry Union of ‘Molly’, who for half a century or more has lived in a cave at Womenswold. ‘Molly’ or Mary Anny Smith, as her real name was, was about 70 years old and lived with her son Tommy, who earns his living as a chimney sweep. Mrs. Smith was found ill on the road some weeks ago and was taken to the Eastry Union, where she has since died”.
The ‘cave’ Molly and Tommy lived in is believed to have been behind the wall on the south side of the bend in the road from Woollege Village to Womenswold a hundred yards or so before the turning into Womenswold. This was the site of Nethersole House which once belonged to the Nethersole family and was demolished in the late 1700’s. The ’cave’ may have been connected with the house, possible a cellar, or the result of the excavation of chalk for making lime.
Molly may have had some family or well-wishers in Nonington as another (unfortunately unknown) local paper reported that she was buried at Nonington church (see below). One well-wisher may have been the Reverend Sargent, the vicar of Nonington and a man noted for his acts of charity to those he thought to be in need, who in addition to conducting the burial service may possibly have had Molly buried at his own expense to avoid her having to go into a pauper’s grave at the Eastry workhouse.
Little else appears to be known about this couple, and I would be very grateful for any more information.