The Boys family, also de Bois & de Bosco, claimed descent from R. de Boys, or de Bosco, a companion of William the Conqueror who fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 who had been rewarded with gifts of land by the grateful King William. In 1357 John Boys was known to have held Bonnington in Goodnestone parish, part of the Manor of Wingham. In the following decades members of the family acquired land in and around Nonington parish.
A feet of fines of July of 1484 records William Boys as purchasing “The manors of Fredeuyle and Beauchamp’ and 2 messuages, 405 acres of land, 3 acres of wood and 76 shillings and 4 pence of rent and a rent of 8 cocks, 30 hens and 1 pair of gloves in Nonyngton’ and Godneston’ “. One of the messuages was the Esol manor house at the present Beauchamps site, while the other may have been on the site of the later Fredville mansions, although there is at present no known documentary evidence to confirm this and so the site of the other messuage remains unconfirmed.
Hasted, in his history of Kent, states that William Boys “removed thither” to Fredville and made it his main residence, but returned to Bonnington at some time before his death in 1507. However, in June, 1496, William Boys signed a land transfer document as “William Boys of the parish of Goodnyston” possibly indicating he had not moved to Fredville, but had remained at Bonnington. Further confirmation of this may be the gift he made in the year he died to the Church of Nonington of 40/- (£.2.00) towards buying a Antephonar (religious music book), which he signed William Boys of Goodnestone.
It had been thought that Holt Street Farm house was possibly the other messuage purchased in 1484, but a grant by Robert Suaneden to Thomas Nedysole (Nethersole) and others in 1486 indicates that the Holt Street estate was not part of the 1484 Fredeuyle and Beauchamps’ sale. Thomas is believed to have been the father or brother of the John Nethersole mentioned in the 1484 sale. Nethersoles, whose main residence was at Womenswold, appear in the records of several land sales in and around Nonington in the late 1400’s and early 1500’s. In the early 1500’s the Boys’ did acquire Holt Street and it became the residence of the eldest son.
It was also previously believed that Beauchamps’ had been separated from Fredeuyle at the time of, or shortly after, the sale but the 1501 Abbey of St. Alban’s manorial rent roll for Essesole, [previously Esol manor] records William Boys as holding Bechams (Beauchamps) then consisting of a messuage and some fifty acres of land from the Abbey for an annual payment of £2 2s 9d payable once a year at Michaelmas (29th September), but without suit of court (held in freehold).
The Boys’ sold Beauchamps at some time after 1501 as by 1555 it had passed into the possession of Edward Browne of Worde (Worth) juxta Sandwich, yeoman, who on 2nd March of that year conveyed it to Thomas Hamon of Nonnyngton, gentleman. By then it consisted of: “All that messuage or tenement called BEACHAM situated in Nonnyngton, with all barnes, houses and edifices, now in the occupation of Thomas Hamon and all…. rents, services, …ect…containing 50 acres”.
William Boys died in 1507 having, according to Hasted, returned to Bonnington just before his demise and was buried in Goodnestone Church. He had obviously been very astute at seeing which way the wind blew as his apparent lack of opposition to Richard III had not caused him any problems with the succeeding Henry VII, the first Tudor, and he continued to prosper under the new regime. He left five sons and three daughters.
John Boys, his eldest son, was born at Bonnington in the mid to late 1470’s and inherited Fredville, which was considered the “fairer”, from his father. He was the founder of the Fredville branch of the family and may have built the first house on the Fredville mansion site . Why Fredville was judged to be fairer was not made clear, possibly the estate provided a larger income. Thomas, the second son, was left the ancient family seat of Bonnington and served as Captain of Deal Castle.
John was born at Bonnington in the mid to late 1470’s . Over the years he continued to add to his holdings. In 1512 he acquired property in Sandwich and in 1528 bought a quarter of the manor of Soles along with 200 acres of land, 200 acres of pasture and 60 acres of woodland in Nonington and Barfreston for £40 from Thomas Norton.
He was one of the two members of Parliament for Sandwich at the time of his death in March of 1533. John’s death occurred half way through a Parliamentary session and it is not clear whether he died in London or Nonington as his death pre-dates the Nonington church register. He had entered municipal service in Sandwich in 1528, qualifying to stand for election to Parliament as a result of being a burgess of the borough. A near neighbour of John’s, Vincent Engham of Goodnestone, served in Parliament as M.P. for Sandwich at the same time.
William Boys, born at Fredville around 1500, inherited Fredville on John’s death and added to the Boys of Fredville lands. In 1537 Archbishop Cranmer granted William Boys a messuage and 161 acres at Kittington, part of the Manor of Wingham, other property may have been acquired from the Manor of Wingham at this time as a 1591 survey of the manor records Edward Boys, William’s grand-son, as holding South and North Nonington, the Three Barrows [Three Barrows Down, part of Oxney manor], Ackholt, and Kittington from the manor.
In his will, written in 1548, the second William Boys of Fredville bequeathed: “To the marriage of my three daughters, Elen, Mary and Elizabeth £40 each, also 100 ewes each the which their uncle Sir Edward Ringley bequeathed them. My four sons Thomas, William, Vincent and John £20 each at their age of 21. That Edward Boyse (sic) be coadjutor to his mother in the administration of this my Will, but not to meddle as Exor (executor), and he to have £20. Edward, my eldest son….. …..to suffer his mother and Aunt Margaret to have their dwelling whilst they live in the mansion of Fredfields (Fredville) with free coming and going into a chamber commonly called the ‘Nursserye’ with the chambers over the buttery, also allow his mother to take half the profits of the Wind Mill”.
William’s will mentions a Fredville mansion and appears to refer to an early to mid-16th century brick built house, possible similar in appearance to the “new” part of the Bonnington manor house. After his death at Fredville in December of 1549 William was buried on 22nd December at Nonington Church. Edward Boys, William’s eldest son, inherited his fathers estates.
Edward Boys was born at Fredville in 1528 and grew up as a strict Protestant which led to his becoming one of the “Marian Exile” in 1557 and 1558. Marian Exiles were strict Protestants who fled England to escape persecution by the staunchly Roman Catholic Queen Mary Tudor, who after her death became known as Bloody Mary because of her executions of Protestants. During her short five year reign between 1553 and 1558 Mary and her equally staunch Catholic husband, Philip of Spain, tried to lead England back into the arms of the Church of Rome.
Edward Boys and his family spent most of their exile with other Protestant refugees in Frankfurt until Mary’s death in November of 1558 when her succession by her Protestant half-sister, Elizabeth I made it safe for Edward and his family to end their exile and return home to Fredville and a once again Protestant England.
Edward served as a High Sheriff of Kent and a Commissioner for Dover Harbour and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. A charitable man, he gave 40/- from fifteen acres of land in Nonington and Barfreston to be distributed yearly amongst the poor of Nonington parish (see Nonington Charities). Sir Edward was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Nonington, on 18th February, 1597 (1598).
Another charitable legacy was made by William Boys of Tilmanstone, one of Edward’s younger brothers, who in his will of 1600 bequeathed one and a half acres at Frogham Hill (now Nightingale Lane) to provide two poor house keepers with two houses and an acre and a half of land with a sack of wheat each at Christmas (see Nonington Charities). The cottages were on the site of the present Nightingale Cottages and the one and a half acres now make up the field and a part of the wood (Humphry’s Wood) to the rear of the cottages. The original houses and land were bought with the consent of the Charity Commissioners by Mr. H. W. Plumptre in 1903 and the proceeds of the sale invested and administered by four Trustees of Nonington as the Nightingale Trust. The almost derelict cottages were replaced by the present ones soon after the sale.
Sir Edward’s eldest son, also Edward (I), was baptized at Nonington in 1554. From 1597 he served as a magistrate for Kent, and was a friend of the puritan divines Thomas Walkington and Richard Sedgwick.
Edward’s (I) heir, also Edward (II), was baptized at Nonington in 1579. The younger Edward (II) went on to serve at various times as a member of Parliament for several places, including Sandwich, but without distinction.
Both Edwards were knighted by the newly crowned James I in 1603 and Edward junior replaced his by then elderly father as a magistrate in 1632 and inherited the family estates on his father’s death in 1635.
Sir Edward (II) the Younger represented Dover in both the Short and Long Parliaments (respectively 13th April to 5th May of 1640 and 3rd November of 1640 until 16th March of 1660), and also served as Warden of the Cinque Ports and Lieutenant of Dover Castle until his death at Fredville in 1646. John, his eldest son and heir, then fulfilled these offices until 1648.
John Boys was born in February of 1604 (1605) and was the eldest son and heir of Sir Edward Boys the Younger of ffredvile. He was to be the last of the Boys family to own Fredville. When John married Margaret, the daughter of John Miller of Wrotham in 1626 his grand-father, Edward (I) Boys the Elder of Fredville, gave him a very generous marriage settlement of land and property in Nonington, Ash, Eythorne, Shepherdwell and Womenswold parishes. On his father’s death in 1646 John Boys inherited Fredville and other extensive family estates and properties in several East Kent parishes which made him an important land-owner. He also took over his father’s posts as Warden of the Cinque Ports and Lieutenant of Dover Castle which he held until 1648 (see Nonington and the English Civil War for further details). During his service in the Civil War on the Parliamentary side he was awarded the rank of Major.
During the English Civil War the various branches of the Boys family were involved in both the Parliamentarian and Royalist causes (see Nonington and the English Civil War for further details).. Authors of 18th and 19th century histories of Kent believed that loyalty to King Charles I had incurred Major John Boys severe financial penalties that eventually resulted in the loss of Fredville. William Hasted wrote in “The History and Topographical Survey of Kent, vol IX”, that “Major Boys, of Fredville, being a firm loyalist, suffered much by sequestration of his estates. He had seven sons and a daughter, who all died s.p. Two of his elder sons, John and Nicholas, finding that there was no further abode at Fredville, to which they had become entitled, departed each from thence, with a favourite hawk in hand, and became pensioners at the Charter-house, in London”.
However, the truth appears to be somewhat different as the Major was in actual fact a Parliamentarian and the author of his own woes as, according to William Boys in his 1802 biography and pedigree of the Boys family, ‘by his own extravagance he much encumbered and wasted the estate of Fredville’. Hasted, along with other writes, appears to have confused Major John Boys of Fredville with Sir John Boys of Bonnington, the staunch Royalist defender of Donnington Castle.
Major John Boys had severe financial difficulties well before the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660. In 1658 he and his son Nicholas had mortgaged “the manor of Elmington (Elvington) and the appurtenances of Nonington, Eythorne and Wymblingswold (Womenswold) and the avowedson of the Church at Eythorne” to Thomas Turner, the Major’s brother-in-law, for £1,550.00. This mortgage was renewed in 1668.
The Major’s financial problems persisted and in July,1673 ‘the mansion house called Fredville, wherein the said John Boys then lived and lands ect. unto the said manor belonging and situated in the several parishes of Nonington, Barfrestone and Knowlton together with a farmhouse called Frogham farm and several closes thereunto belonging containing two hundred acres, which farm was already mortgaged to one William Gilbourne’ were conveyed to Denzil, Lord Holles, a prominent politician during the Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration periods ennobled by Charles II in 1661, as security for an advance of £ 3,000. It would appear the money was not repaid as the Kings Bench at Southwark imprisoned the Major and son Nicholas for many years. Nicholas Boys died in 1687 and the octogenarian Major John Boys in March 1688 and was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Nonington. James Boys, one of the Major’s younger sons, tried without success in 1689 to retrieve the estates.
The Holles of Ifield peerage became extinct on the death of Denzil’s grandson, Denzil Holles, 3rd Baron Holles, in the early 1690’s and Fredville was one of the estates which passed to John Holles, 4th Earl of Clare and Duke of Newcastle.