The Hammonds of St. Alban’s Court
The 1555 purchase by John Hammond began an ownership of the St. Alban’s estate by the Hammond family which continued until the late 1930’s, during which time the family continued to acquire additional land and property in Nonington and in neighbouring parishes. By the time the St. Alban’s Court estate was sold off in 1938 it amounted to just over 1,000 acres in Nonington and Chillenden parishes.
John Hammond was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, and he in turn by his eldest son, William, who was knighted by King James I in 1608, the same year as his eldest son, Anthony, was born. When Sir William Hammond died in October of 1615 Anthony Hammond was a minor and the family property and land was held in wardship until 1633 when Anthony came into possession in his own right.
Documents concerning the the estates drawn up in 1615 when Sir William died and in 1633 when Anthony became of age to inherit record that in addition to the original Abbey of St. Alban’s Manor of Eswalt he also held Essesole manor and Beauchamps by knights service from Dover Castle; the manor of Gustons Fleete and forty acres of marshland in Ash of the Archbishop of Canterbury by knights service; messuages and land in Chillenden of the Manor of Hame (Hamill, near Woodnesborough) in free socage by fealty; and Muncke, (later Mounton and now called Gooseberry Hall Farm) from the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church in Canterbury of their Manor of Adisham in socage by payment of rent.
Two of Sir William’s younger brothers had become adventurers and notable soldiers. Francis, born in 1584 and Robert, born in 1587, both joined Sir Walter Raleigh, who held them both in high regard, in his second South American expedition to search for the fabled city of Eldorado which Raleigh believed to be in Guyana. However, the quest failed and, whilst Raleigh was suffering from fever, men under his command ransacked a Spanish outpost which outraged the Spanish authorities. Consequently Raleigh was arrested on his return to England and was beheaded in 1618 to appease the Spanish. The brother do not appear to have suffered any punishment for taking part in the expedition but at least one of them may have thought it wise to enter military service on the Continent.
Francis served in the “German Wars”, the bloody Thirty Years War of 1618-48 fought in central Europe largely between the Catholic southern and Protestant northern states of the Holy Roman Empire which eventually encompassed most of the states of Europe and caused the deaths of millions of people and laid waste to entire regions. During his service, presumably on the Protestant side and possibly with renowned cavalry commander Prince Rupert of the Rhine later to the cavalry of his uncle King Charles in the English Civil War. During his German service Francis Hammond reputedly fought fourteen single-handed combats. During the English Civil War Francis fought for the King and commanded a regiment under the command of the Earl of Northumberland in the Scottish Expedition of 1640 and later led the Forlorn Hope, the first troops to attack an enemy position and subsequently having only a slight chance of surviving an action, at the Battle of Edgehill in Warwickshire on Sunday, 23rd October, 1642.
Colonel Francis Hammond was obviously a fearless man who enjoyed fighting and although well advanced in years, he was in his late fifties, took part in the English Civil War. During the early part of the Civil War Francis fought for the King and commanded a regiment under the command of the Earl of Northumberland in the Scottish Expedition of 1640 and later led the Forlorn Hope at the Battle of Edgehill in Warwickshire on Sunday, 23rd October, 1642. The Forlorn Hope were the first troops to attack an enemy position and subsequently had only a slight chance of surviving an action. Francis also joined his brother and nephew in the East Kent Royalist’s rebellion of 1647-48.
He survived the Civil War and was said to have ended his days quietly living the life of a country gentleman at Nonington and adding to the buildings there.
Robert Hammond, Francis’s younger brother, was christened 23rd June, 1587, at St. Mary’s Church, Nonington. What he did after his return from Raleigh’s failed expedition until 1648 is unknown, there is no evidence so far come to light of his having served in the Thirty Years War.
Robert took part of the 1648 Kentish revolt, a precursor to the Second English Civil War of 1648, which had its origins in part in the Canterbury riots of Christmas Day,1647, caused when the Puritan Mayor and officials of Canterbury tried to forbid traditional Christmas celebrations. After the end of the Second English Civil War Colonel Hammond gave his parole not to fight against Parliament, but he broke this when he became Governor of Gowran Castle in Ireland during a rebellion against Parliament. When Cromwell took Gowran Robert Hammond and all but one of the garrisons officers were shot. [See Nonington and the English Civil War].
Colonel Robert Hammond of St. Alban’s Court should not be confused with his name sake Colonel Robert Hammond (1621– 24 October 1654), best known for acting as Charles I gaoler at Carisbrooke Castle from 13 November 1647 to 29 November 1648, for which service Parliament voted him a pension. He served an officer in Cromwell’s New Model Army during the early part of the Civil War and sat in the House of Commons in 1654.