The Old Parish of Nonington

A small place in East Kent history

A brief history of Nonington College of Physical Education

Mrs. Ina Hammond, the widow of Captain Egerton Hammond, put the St. Alban’s Court estate up for sale in late 1937, the estate was divided into more than eighty individual lots to be sold by auction by John D. Wood and Co. of 23, Berkely Square, London, who published a catalogue of the property and land to be sold.

Miss Gladys Wright, founder and first principal of Nonington College.

Early students at the college.

The new St. Alban’s Court house built in the 1870’s plus two “Tudor cottages” that had previously been the old St. Alban’s Court house and some fifty acres of the surrounding land was purchased by the English Gymnastic Society (EGS) for use as both head-quarters and a training centre for women who wished to teach gymnastics. The EGS had been founded by Miss Gladys Wright, who had trained in Denmark and Sweden, and taught a modernized style of gymnastics evolved from the pioneering work in the early 19th century of Per Henrik Ling.

The college which was opened on 23rd July, 1938 by Cosmo Gordon Lang, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, with Miss Wright as Principal and Stena Kreuger, a Swede, as Vice-Principal. The links with Scandinavia were strengthened through the activities of the English and Scandinavian Summer School of Physical Education with Miss Wright visiting Scandinavia before and after the Second World War.

The Duke of Kent on a tour of the college in June, 1939, accompanied by Miss Wright and her deputy. The flag carrier was the senior student, Miss Jessie Bennett.

In the June of 1939 the Duke of Kent visited Nonington, Snowdown Colliery and Aylesham. He was shown around Nonington College by the Principal and Vice-Principal and watched some displays by the students.

During the War the establishment was evacuated to Bromsgrove in Worcestershire and the buildings were taken over to aid the war effort. During Miss Wright’s tenure a Swedish Gymnasium, later known as the Swedish Dance Theatre, was built. The theatre is now listed

The Swedish Dance Theatre.

Miss Wright retired as Principal in 1952, and the college was taken over by the Kent County Council’s (KCC) Education Department with Winnifred Whiting as principal. The college became one of the principle teacher training colleges in the U.K. providing training for students from all over the world to become physical education teachers. Until 1966 the college was a women only establishment and the students were easily recognizable by their blue capes with the college badge embroidered on it. Many of them were “in digs” in Nonington and the surrounding villages and this close relationship with the local population often led to marriage.

The KCC invested a lot of money in the college during Winnifred Whiting’s tenure as Principal and during that of her successor Miss Eleonor Hinks. A new gymnasium was opened in 1959 and a swimming pool was built soon afterwards. Many local children from the schools in the villages surrounding Nonington, including myself and my sisters, learnt to swim here under the guidance of Mr. Rogers.

The main building and the early student hostels seen from the Sandwich Road, 1964

The main entrance to the college on Sandwich Road, there was a letter-box just inside the gate.

Old Court House and St. Michael’s in Easole were used as annexes and some small hostel blocks had been built to the east of the main house during the early 1960’s but due to the demand for P.E. teachers in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s the number of students increased and on site and off-site accommodation proved inadequate and additional residential hostels (now converted into privately owned flats). A sports hall; performing arts centre and new kitchen and dining room facilities were also built and another forty plus acres of land adjoining the grounds to the west were purchased to provide additional playing fields.

This demand for PE teachers was short lived, apparently the then falling birth-rate meant that less PE teachers would be needed,  and in the late 1970’s teacher training came to an end and the college’s then principal Stanley Beaumont diversified the colleges activities into none teaching qualifications in partnership with Christ Church College. Sadly further cuts in Government spending saw the closure of the college in 1986 (along with the sale at premium prices of many school sports grounds for re-development).

 

1985, the Country Life advert for the sale of the college estate.

A 1985 Country Life advert for the sale of the college estate.

However, to the everlasting shame of KCC, the college estate was left empty for nearly a decade at a time when property and land prices were booming (although for some reason the road lights were still turned on every night) with some occasional use for the training of the police and other services. Various alternative uses for the premises were put forward over the years, some more credible than others (at the time it seemed to the local population that the less credible the scheme, the more credence the KCC gave it) until it was sold very cheaply to property developers who re-developed the various buildings and sold them for a substantial profit. Several of the old college’s sports facilities have now been demolished and replaced by industrial units, something that the KCC had previously said was not possible.

They also frequently stated that the estate was not suitable for housing development, even in part, as the local infrastructure (ie. sewage and water) could not cope with an increase in population. In conjunction with the industrial units, the 1870’s mansion and other nearby buildings (those that have not been demolished) now usually house two hundred or so people of all ages, with frequent requests to the local authorities for more accommodation to be allowed.

 

63 Comments

  1. Lucy edlin

    I’m trying to find out if anyone knew my parents they met here between 1972/1975 Terry harris and Susan ward they are amazing parents and are celebrating the Ruby wedding anniversary this August!

  2. Simon Place

    Hello everyone. My mother was at Nonnington from 1950 to 1953 Joan Richardson. She died this week of MND and as is often the case it has stemmed an interest from me in her time here, which she always said were very happy days. Might anyone remember her? All the best Simon

  3. Diana Hammond

    Egerton Hammond is my 2nd Great Uncle

  4. Diana Hammond

    Egerton Hammond is/was my 2nd Great Uncle

  5. Kath

    Thank you for putting this information on the web. I am Barbara Jones’ daughter who was at Nonington from1946 – 49, and was one of the Elite Team that went to Stockholm for the 1949 Lingiad – which you can now find on YouTube! She is now living in Devon and we are planning to visit Nonington in 2018.

  6. Rev. John-Henry Bowden

    I’m impressed by the very happy memoires you all have of the College. Some of your readers will have known Joy Bridger-Rye, née Joy Howard, who was, I understand, a teacher at Nonington College for some years in, I guess, 1960s-70s, prior to her marriage to Henry Charles Bridger-Rye. You will want to know that she died recently, on 16th December 2017, and her funeral is to be held at St. Mary’s Westerham on 18th January 2018, 3 days after this post, and I am to give the address. Although not directly related, she was connected with my wife’s family by marriage, and we tried to keep up with her. She suffered dementia in her final years but that never dimmed her lovely spirit. I would be glad to hear from any reader who knew her at the College. I know she loved her work there.

    • Lesley Malone

      Just reading this. Joyce was my wonderful lecturer at noningtonians . Great memories . Kind regards Lesley Malone MBE

  7. Katy Springett

    I am one of Stan Beaumont’s daughters (Principal in the 70s and 80s); I have a painting of the college main building and wondering what to do with it! It was painted by Effie West (a student in the early 1970s I think) and presented to mum and dad. Anyone got any thoughts?!

  8. Could this web site administrator please advise Elizabeth Showan that I have posted news of Tim Showan’s passing away on the NCPE Facebook site today and there a several posts there from ex students with fond memories of Tim when he was lecturing at Nonington College.

    “Thanks for this link. It is a lovely digital book to flip through. I have put a copy of these posts on the Nonington College of Physical Education Facebook site.
    Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/53763257820/ to see it – You may need to ask for permission to see it as it’s a closed site, but there’s lots of NCPE content on this site and lots of names that people might / should remember. I hope his family know that some of us remember Tim.”

  9. elizabeth showan

    perhaps some of his students would like to know that Tim Showan died in 1014
    He was appointed in 1963 to run the art department , then only offering only painting .
    He developed the disciplines including sculpture ,pottery ,siversmithing and graphics until the closure of the college

    • John Hansell

      Very sorry to hear that. I went to Tim’s Art Lectures and got Main Level Art at Nonners. I learned a lot from him – especially working in oils. Tim also introduced me to landscape photography and developing and printing photos in dark rooms. A very nice, if a bit of an absent minded sort of bloke, who had a lot of patience – often with students who didn’t have a clue about Art. I was also be grateful that he got me some extra money doing Saturday morning teaching at Dover School of Art, (when it didn’t clash with College football away fixtures.)
      He used to drive vintage car (I think it was a Lagonda) around with a Light Ale bottle label on as road tax. One of the nicer, more human lecturers there, I have very fond memories of him.

    • Gavin Johns

      Died 2014. Here is a wonderful book on his art and life: http://fliphtml5.com/gtzq/dwni
      Photo page 8 is familiar. I was at Nonington 76 to 79.

      • John Hansell

        Thanks for this link. It is a lovely digital book to flip through. I have put a copy of these posts on the Nonington College of Physical Education Facebook site.
        Go to https://www.facebook.com/groups/53763257820/ to see it – You may need to ask for permission to see it as it’s a closed site, but there’s lots of NCPE content on this site and lots of names that people might / should remember.
        I hope his family know that some of us remember Tim.

        • John Hansell

          More stuff cut and pasted here from the NCPE Facebook page.

          Dave Anderson
          Dave Anderson : Did a great job, notably with those “jocks” who knew little or nothing of the artistic life, very kind man.
          LikeShow More Reactions · Reply · 36 mins

          John Hansell
          John Hansell 16 November 08:42
          As has been pointed out, Tim’s car was a Lagonda, Facebook predictive Yankee spelling again screws up the English Language.

          John Hansell 16 November 08:50
          Tim even managed to get Malkie “Football Crazy” Cook through main level Art – although all Malkie ever painted were football matches. Malkie even submitted an oil painting of a football crowd and an empty pitch for his finals. Tim said “How can that be still life?’ Malkie said “Aye, it’s half time fitba at Ibrox!”

          Alison O’Connor 16 November 08:56
          Lovely man . I didn’t do art but the music block was down there where Peter Wastall taught me to play the flute . I’m a bit rusty now tho . X
          Original post

  10. I was a student at Nonington from1958_61.The best 3 years of my life.Great colleagues and wonderful surroundings.We were in Kent 8 years ago and took a memory trip into the village and drove past the college was very upset at the state of “The Dell”.It was my quiet place for thinking.I still think fondly of my time at Nonington.

    • Helen Henderson ( knight)

      I was a lab assistant for Miss Everett( Biology Teacher) at Nonington college. 1956- 58.
      I lived in Dover, and caught the train to Nonington Staton. I picked up my bike, and cycled through the country lanes to work- then hitched my bike onto the old horse hitching post. The lab was a little bit away from the main building, the old manor house. In the summer, I would be given free range of the college. I would walk around as though I was lady of the manor!
      I am 60 years older now, but have never forgotten my time there. I have been living in California since 1967.

      • Mick (fatty) Ross, also known as teddybear, thumb, and other rude bits

        Hello
        I’ve just come across your email about Nonington PE College. I went, 1967 – 70, the second intake of men. I remember the Dell, thats where I composed all my essays about movement and stuff like that.
        Our year group have two reunions every year. 1: the first Saturday in december meet and eat/drink at Covent Garden, London; 2: 4 day before the easter break at The Leam Hotel in Weymouth, Dorset. usually about 40 old sods turn up – great fun though. Join us next time.

    • Rosemary King

      Hello Pauline, long time no hear. Hope you’re keeping well. Would love to hear from you again. Rosemary King

  11. Betty Dell

    My good friend, Audrey Pearce, and I (Betty Waterman), maiden names, were at Nonington from 1947-1950 and are still good friends.We have wonderful memories of our time at college and especially our trip to Stockholm as part of the British gymnastic team.
    We would love to hear news about others of our time. It would be good to hear news of our friends Joan Lee and Paddy Gardner as we sadly lost touch after we left.
    Betty Dell

    • susanna serlachius

      Would you happen to remember the Finnish sauna and maybe bathed in it?

      Susanna

  12. Guy R Wilson

    I visited what was Nonington College yesterday evening and had a meal with the Bruderhof Community people as they open up Saturday evenings to visitors.
    I had never been before but was very impressed by what they do making furniture mainly for children’s bedrooms.
    I knew a lecturer called Miss Smythe in the 1960’s at the college. She was probably in her fifties then when I was about 24. Quite a character and a member of the Plymouth Brethren. I was as well at that time.
    The Bruderhof folk are very similar to the Brethren who keep themselves to themselves.
    By the way it is now called Beech Grove. Also the gymnasium has gone but the swimming pool is still there and actively used.

  13. Mark Cowey

    This is for Tony Hall. Can you please let me have your email details it would be great to get back in touch after all these years. I don’t do Facebook or any of those accounts. Look forward to hearing from you perhaps??

  14. Mick Ross

    I went to Nonington 1967-70. I’m holding a 50th reunion next year at The Leam Hotel, Weymouth. Have a look on Facebook as we have our own site and you may find someone from your years.

    • Dave Adams

      Hi Mick,
      Would very much like to hear what some of our year have been doing & where they are now.

      • Mick Ross

        I live in Dorset, near Lulworth Cove. I married Pookie Wines. Now a retired head teacher I’m enjoying the grandkids, gardening and still drinking beer.

      • John Hansell

        Is that Dave “Magnet Hands” Adams, from North Harrow? The fearless goalkeeper of the fantastic world beating 1970 NCPE football team? This is the left sided mid-field dynamo, (Number 8) replying – also known as NBGZ. Of course, I’m ignoring our loss to Waverley FC in the Kent Junior Cup Final, which I blame on the snowstorm that cancelled the original fixture at Snowdown Colliery. Remember that?? Send your email address to me at johnhansell1@me.com and I’ll get you up to date,

      • Mick Ross

        Dave
        Why not visit sunny Dorset, we have space.

  15. Mick Ross

    Gosh! I’ve just found this as I was looking for the College badge.
    I went 1967 – 1970, the second set of 24 men – wonderful times. I’m running a reunion and 22 ex-students are coming to The Leam Hotel, Weymouth from Tuesday 15 March to Friday 18 March. we are all retired now so we usually meet up before Easter when its much cheaper to stay in a hotel.
    Check out my email.
    Later

  16. I was a student at Nonington 1975-1978 and they were very happy days. I kept in touch with a few students particularly Pam Peters. I still visit Nonington and kept in touch with the retired couple in the village who provided ‘ digs’ in my 2nd year until they died in 2004. The old house still remains and the Swedish dance studio, but sadly the playing fields have been put to allotments and small holdings.
    Going to Nonington completely transformed my life and those happy times will always stay with me. The Royal Oak is still open and serves great meals. I was there last week!! Happy Days.

    • Linda Dalton

      I was a student at Nonington from 1975-1979. Fantastic time!

    • Fraser Thomson

      Hi Lesley I do remember you, you prob don’t remember me. Fraser Thomson. I know Pam well and as she lived around here I saw her a few times to do some aerobics with my rugby squad.

  17. Nina Balloch

    My mother, Dorothy Newell , was at the college from 1945 to 1948. It is even possible she is in the dance photo. She thinks it is a Greek dancing class. She had the honour in her first year of holding the college flag and finished with the highest marks for gymnastics in the college history.

  18. Jenny Crighton (nee Wright)

    I am Gladys Wright’s great niece. My father, Leslie Wright, was her nephew. My mother, Thea May, was a student at the college from 1947-1950 and she met my father when he came to visit Gladys once. He was in the Royal Navy. They married and I was born in 1961. I remember Gladys, and visited her in her flat in Canterbury when she retired. My father died in 2007, but my mother is still going strong. After she graduated she taught PE in Plymouth all her life.

    • Susanna

      Hello Jenny! My great-grandfather donated a Finnish sauna to The Gymnastics School in 1939. He had quite a lot of correspondence with Gladys Wright and I have all those letters. It would be interesting to talk to you more. Could we be in e-mail contact, the admin has my e-mail? I’d love to hear more about her!

  19. Mark Cowey

    I was at the college in the late 1970s. I often wonder what happened to all those folks I knew all those years ago. I can remember the facilities for P.E. were superb. Happy days well most of the time anyway as far as I remember.

    • Tony Hall

      Hiya Geord (Mark),

      Many of us are still going. It would be good to catch up. How do we do this? Happy if admin can facilitate this.

  20. Elizabeth

    My mother was at Nonington from 1949-1952. She has great memories of it. Thank you for this. I was delighted to be able yo show it to her.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m glad the item was of interest to your mother.

    • Jenny Crighton (nee Wright)

      I wonder if our mothers remember each other. My mother was there at the same time. She was called Thea May then. She married Gladys’s nephew Leslie Wright.

  21. Ester

    Thank you, very interesting. Is the Swedish Dance Theatre -building still there or is it also one of the demolished ones?

  22. Fraser Thomson

    I was luckily enough to attend Nonington during the 70s and am so grateful for all the friends I made and still have.The best years of my life !
    If you’d like to get in touch I’d like to hear from you,
    fraser.thomson12@ntlworld.com
    Happy days indeed!!!

  23. Judith Barton (nee Allen)

    I was at Nonongton college 1980-1983. Sorry to hear that the facilities came to a sad end. I did visit in 1985 for the final gym display and have good memories of being a student there.

  24. I was very interested to find this site of information regarding Nonington College. I would like to receive further information -thanks. I was at Nonington from 1972-75 and I had a long career teaching PE.

    • Thanks for the comments. If you fill in the box on the right hand side of the page you will receive updates by email.

    • Maggie

      Hi Lynda,
      Maggie (Lawes) here, in Surrey. Remember me?

      Great times, great friends still with Bonny (Atherton) Keep in touch with Mary (Barton) and one or two others.

      • Lynda Bell

        Hi Maggie, Yes of course I remember you and Bonny and Mary. I have been trying to look for you so perhaps we could meet again after all these years. Are you on facebook??? I am so perhaps we could link up through that?

    • Guy R Wilson

      Do you remember Miss Smythe who was a teacher there in the 1960’s and early 1970’s.
      I often wondered what became of her?

  25. Gavin Johns

    What a sad end to such a beautiful campus. I have so many memories from my time 1976-79.

  26. Eilish MacBean

    On behalf of the England Hockey Museum at Woking Surrey, I am undertaking research into the influence of Women’s P.E. colleges on the development of women’s Hockey. I would be very interested to hear from anybody who has any information.

    Thank you

    • Thanks for the enquiry. You could try looking on Friends Reunited or Facebook, I believe there are some old Nonington students on them.

    • Anita White went to College and she played for England. Judy Kemp was also very involved.

  27. Liz Furner

    so KCC mess up big time yet again!

  28. Very pleased to have found this information and web site. I was at Nonington college 1971 to 1975. Back then I was not very interested in the history but I did love the place. Now 40 years on and almost retired the history of Nonington is so interesting and reawakening long lost memories. Thank you

    • Many thanks for your kind comments, I’m glad you like the site. Hopefully there is more of interest to be discovered.

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