The name Ratling is said to derive from the Old English (O.E.). ryt hlinc; literally a rubbish slope which was an area of little use for agriculture. The Manor of Ratling was in the far northern corner of the old parish of Nonington, bounded by the Wingham road to the west, the Go odnestone estate to the north and the old Curleswood Park, now Aylesham village, to the south.
“The Ratling Fireball:– On December 11, 1741, a fire-ball appeared soon after noon-day, and the sun shining, but few people saw it, and they could only guess at its course; which, however, was observed to be from north-west by north, to south and by south, and right over Littleborne from Westbere, and towards Ratling, near which place lord Cowper, who was hunting, heard but one explosion (for there were two); the other most probably happened at such a distance, as to be in one with that so near him. Mr. Gostling, of the Mint yard, who gave the account of it to the secretary of the royal society, says, that he found his house violently shaken for some seconds of time, as if several loaded carriages had been driving against the walls of it, and heard a noise at the same time, which he took for thunder, yet of an uncommon sound; though he thought thunder, which could shake at that rate, would have been much louder, therefore he concluded it to be an earthquake; the sky, he found, was cloudy, but nothing like a thunder cloud in view, and there was a shower of rain from the eastward presently after, the coldest that he ever felt”.
The “Ratling Fireball” was almost certainly ball lightning, an unexplained atmospheric electrical phenomenon and observers of it frequently refer to luminous, usually spherical objects, which vary in size from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. It is usually associated with thunderstorms but the phenomenon often lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt. Many historical reports refer to the ball exploding, often with fatal consequences to persons and livestock, and leaving behind the lingering odour of sulphur.
William Hasted mentions Ratling in his chapter about Nonington in The History and Topographical Survey of Kent, volume IX, published around 1800.
“The MANOR OF RETLING, usually called Ratling, in that part of this parish adjoining to Adisham, which was antiently held of the archbishop by a family of the same name, who bore for their arms, Gules, a lion rampant, between an orle of tilting spears heads, or, as they were on the surcoat of Sir John de Ratling, formerly painted in one of the windows of this church, in which it continued down to Sir Richard de Retling, who died possessed of it in the 23d year of king Edward III. leaving a sole daughter and heir Joane, who marrying John Spicer, entitled him to it. After which, by Cicely, a daughter and coheir of this name, it passed in marriage to John Isaac, of Bridge, who died possessed of it anno 22 Henry VI. and his descendant Edward Isaac, esq. in king Henry VIII.’s reign, alienated it to Sir John Fineux, chief justice of the king’s bench, whose son William Fineux, esq. of Herne, alienated it to Thomas Engeham, gent. of Goodneston, who by his will in 1558, gave it to his second son Edward, and his son, William Engeham sold it to William Cowper, esq. who afterwards resided here, and was first created a baronet of Nova Scotia, and then, in 1642, a baronet of Great Britain. His great-grandson Sir William Cowper, bart. was by Queen Anne, being then lord keeper of the great seal, created lord Cowper, made lord chancellor, and afterwards, anno 4 George I. created earl Cowper, and in his descendants, earls Cowper, this manor has descended down to the right hon. Peter Francis, earl Cowper, the present owner of this manor. (fn. 1) There has not been any court held for it for many years past.
ARCHBISHOP PECKHAM, on the foundation of Wingham college, anno 1286, endowed the first sub diaconal prebend of it, which he distinguished by the name of the prebend of Retling, with the tithes of the demesne lands, which Richard de Retling and Ralph Perot held of him in Nonyngton, between the highway which led from Cruddeswode to the cross of Nonyngtone, and from thence to the estate of the prior, of Adesham (Adisham). (fn. 2)”.
The Earls Cooper had never had a residence at Ratling and by 1800 Ratling Court had become a farmhouse. The seventh Earl Cowper was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland from 1880 to 1882 and during his tenure in Ireland Punch Magazine said of him, “However a meagre court he holds at Dublin Castle he has a Ratling Court in Kent.”