Black Grouse in Nonington

The Black Grouse: a chromolitho by Lydon, Alexander Francis as an Illustration for Sketch Book of British Birds by R Bowdler Sharpe (SPCK, 1898)

I’ve just been looking through a copy of some estate papers for the old St. Alban’s Court estate at Nonington and I’ve found the following reference to a game bird no longer found in Kent.

In May of 1810 William Osmund Hammond of St. Alban’s Court in Nonington recommended that William Oxenden Hammond, his son and heir,  plant some areas of rough land in the vicinity of Pinners Wood, then extending to around 10 or so acres, “in some parts gorse may be sown as a harbor [sic] and protection for grouse”. These would have been black grouse [Tetrao tetrix], which were to be found in Kent until the mid- 19th century when  the last Kent black grouse, two grey hens, were  respectively shot at Hever and Montreal, near Sevenoaks, in 1851.

Large parts of Pinner’s and Long Pinner’s Woods were grubbed up at the end of the 1950’s. Long Pinner’s wood originally extended from where the present “High Lees” now stands to the Pinner’s Hill road. Pinner’s Wood also originally extended up as far as the Pinner’s Hill road which was the boundary between the manors of Wingham and Eswalt, later St. Alban’s Court. Pinner’s Wood belonged to the manor of Eswalt, and is most likely the woodland referred to in the Eswalt entry in Domesday Survey of 1086.
“In Eastry Hundred………….Aethelwold held ESWALT from the Bishop (Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux),  It answers for 3 sulungs. Land for… In lordship 1 plough. 6 villagers with 2 smallholders have 3 ploughs. 2 slaves; a little wood for fencing. Value before 1066 £9; now £15. Young Alnoth held it from King Edward”, (translation from “History from sources, Domesday Book of Kent”, by Phillimore, published in 1983).
When the St. Alban’s Court estate was owned by the Hammond family Pinner’s Wood was preserve for pheasants and other game. The present “Pinner’s Farm” was once the home of the estate’s game-keeper. Game shooting was a major pass time for most land-owners and during the winter shooting seasons of the early 1900’s Nonington School records refer to pupils being absent to go “beating” on the St. Alban’s estate.

There are also records of black grouse being shot in “the home wood” of the adjacent Knolton [Knowlton] estate during the early 19th century.

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