Swineherds beating down acorns for their pigs-Queen Mary Psalter, 1310-1320.

Crudes Wood, later Curleswood Park & now the village of Aylesham in Kent

The village of Aylesham now covers most of Curleswood or Curlswood Park. Once an old deer park belonging to the Archbishop of Canterbury, later it constituted a large part of the six hundred acres of farmland acquired in 1924  from Henry FitzWalter Plumptre of Goodnestone by Pearson & Dorman Long for the building of houses for miners then working at the nearby Snowdown Colliery and a proposed new mine at Adisham, which was never developed.

The information contained in this post regarding the Anglo-Saxon charter of 873  referred to below has only recently been found.  For more details, maps & illustrations on the revised known history of Curleswood Park in its entirety, please go to the website page Curleswood or Curlswood Park: originally Crudes Wood

The name Curlswood, or Curleswood, evolved over the centuries from its  Anglo-Saxon name: ‘Crudes silva’, meaning Crudes Wood. The earliest known  reference to Crudes Wood is in a charter of 873 in which King Alfred of Wessex, better known as  King Alfred the Great,  and Ethelred, Archbishop of Canterbury, granted land at Gilding, [evolved to Ilding and is now called Ilden], to Liaba, the son of Birgwine, in return for a payment of 25 mancuses of gold. A mancus was a gold coin and unit of account with an equivalent value to 30 silver pennies.

Grant of King Alfred of the King Alfred of Wessex & and Archbishop Æthelred of Canterbury to Liaba, son of Birgwine in 873 [S 344]. Soon after it was made, a different hand added in English, ‘Leafa [another spelling of Liaba?] bought this charter and this land from Archbishop Æthelred and from the community at Christ Church, with the freedom as that given to Christ Church, in perpetual possession’.
On the back [dorse] of the document, a contemporary scribe wrote, ‘This is the charter for Gilding’ [Ilden], so that it could be easily identified.

In the charter the piece of land at Gilding is described as being bordered by land held by Sevres, a monk from Christ Church in Canterbury, to the south and west; by land at Bosingtune, now Bossington, to the north; and by Crudes silva, or Crude’s Wood, to the east.

The origin of the name Crudes or Crude’s  is  not clear, but the English Placename Society believe that Crude’s Wood most likely takes it name from a person called Cruda, a now lost Anglo-Saxon name.

This reference to Crude’s Wood in a charter of 873 proves beyond reasonable doubt that the land on which Aylesham stands, and continues to expand over, was woodland some twelve hundred years ago at the time of King Alfred  and was therefore almost certainly   woodland when the Romans arrived in Britain eight hundred or more years before King Alfred’s reign. 

Barratt Homes and Persimmon Homes, the present developers of “Aylesham Garden Village” have employed a team from the Faversham-based Swale and Thames Archaeology (SWAT) to undertake an  ongoing archaeological investigation in advance of the building of houses as part of the “Aylesham Garden Village” development. The SWAT investigations of the land that was once Crudes Wood have revealed Anglo-Saxon burials, evidence of Roman military occupation and pottery making, and pre-Roman artifacts.

In a widely reported  general press release by SWAT in 2020 Dr. Paul Wilkinson said:
“It will be some time before we know much more about the skeletons and their graves. However, the other items we have found have helped to fill in some big gaps in our knowledge of post-invasion Roman life.

“We are quite certain we have discovered what was a military supply depot on the Aylesham site. This would have been set up a year or two after the Romans invaded Britain and we believe would have been manned by soldiers of a Roman legion.

“Not all of them would have been fighting men but specialists in a range of support roles – similar to the British Army of the Victorian era – and would have been posted around an area to concentrate on infrastructure tasks.

“At the center of the Aylesham site were three kilns for firing pottery which was bordered by trenches and ditches.

Local clay would have been used to make the army’s pots, plates, and urns. We have found glass items from Gaul, now France, and other pottery from Germany in Aylesham as well.

“We have discovered some of the urns found in Aylesham were made in the Medway area and these, with local-made items found, suggest the Romans were mass-producing everyday items quickly and efficiently.

“The site sits on the high ground offering sweeping views of the countryside in a triangle with Canterbury and the Roman ports of Richborough and Dover. It isn’t far from the strategically important Roman Watling Street connecting Dover and Richborough to Canterbury and beyond to Roman London.”

Since this 2020 press release little has been  generally released of any further archaeological discoveries.

At the time of the Roman occupation of the site Crudes Wood would have provided wood to make the charcoal needed to fuel the pottery kilns and timber for the construction of the military buildings and associated structures.

In his press release Dr. Wilkinson refers to the site’s location on high ground and  its “offering sweeping views of the countryside in a triangle with Canterbury and the Roman ports of Richborough and Dover”. This elevation was put to good use in later years for the defence of England against such threats as the Spanish Armada and the post-Revolutionary French under Napoleon Bonaparte.

At the Womenswold turning off of the B2046 road to Wingham is a modern reproduction of a warning beacon which was part of a chain of  built in the 16th century, probably replacing earlier ones,  to give warning of invasion.
A few hundred yards along the B2046 to Wingham a building know as Telegraph Cottage used to stand in the field on the eastern side of the road just before the Spinney Lane and Well Lane turning.
Telegraph Cottage was originally part of a chain  of ten  shutter telegraph stations traversing Kent from the Admiralty telegraph in Southwark to the naval yard at Deal  which opened in 1796 to allowed rapid communication between London and the naval anchorage in the Downs off of Deal. It was said that a message could be transmitted from London to Deal in less than fifteen minutes. The next station in the chain of stations in the direction of Deal was at the present Telegraph Farm at Tilmanstone. Telegraph Cottage belonged to the Admiralty until the mid eighteen hundreds when it was sold off after the widespread introduction of the electric telegraph. Sadly, the cottage was demolished in the 1970’s.

Over the centuries the name Crudes Wood evolved and variations of the original name were used in medieval and later documents and  maps:  Crudeswod; Curlswood; Curleswood Park: Turleswood Park: Crowds Wood Park, Charles Wood Park and Curleswood Park  being  but a few.  Some maps dating from the early 19th century even refer to it as Nonington Park, but  later in the 19th and early 20th centuries it was generally referred to as Park Farm, with the Park suffix as a reminder of its use as a deer hunting park by late medieval Archbishops of Canterbury.

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