Curlswood Park, Nonington. Further revised plus new maps & illustrations 26.11.19

The name Curlswood, or Curleswood, evolved over the centuries from its  Old English name: ‘Crudes wudu’, meaning Cruds Wood. Crud was the surname of a tenant family who lived there at the time of Archbishop Pecham’s survey in the 1280’s.

Over the centuries several variations of the original name were used in documents and on maps with Crudeswod; Curlswood; Curleswood Park: Turleswood Park: Crowds Wood Park, Charles Wood Park and Curleswood Park  being  but a few.  On some maps dating from the early 19th century it is referred to 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, or hunting, park by late medieval Archbishops of Canterbury.
The village of Aylesham now covers most of the old deer park, which was 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 at nearby working Snowdown Colliery and a proposed new mine at Adisham which was never developed.

Old Park Farm 1877 OS map.
Curlswood Park, later Old Park Farm: from the 1877 OS map.

Curlswood Park had a boundary with the hamlet or vill’ of Ratling and may have been included in the vill’ in pre-Norman times. Ratling is said to derive its name from the Old English (O.E.). ryt hlinc; literally a rubbish slope, an area of little use for agriculture. Further evidence of the poor nature of the land within the park can be found on an 1807 map made by Thomas Pettman  for the Charles Manners-Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury., see below, which records the field enclosure names at the southern end of the park as “Small Profit” and “Little Gains”. These same names are recorded on the 1839 Nonington tithe and the 1859 Nonington Poor Law Commissioners maps.  “Small Profit” and “Little Gains” are now covered for the large part by the Aylesham industrial estate between Spinney Lane and the B2046 Wingham Road.

The Kilwardby Survey of 1273-74 contains the manorial accounts for most of the Archbishop Kilwardby of Canterbury’s demesne manors in South-East England;  a demesne was a holding directly under the control of the lord of the manor providing him with both food and income.  The following extracts refer in part to Crudeswood (Curlswood) as a demesne of the Manor of Wingham.
Amercements, farms, and pannage*:-
“And of 25s from John Dene, the reeve, for a false presentment upon the account and of 12s for the farm of a curtilage and of 9s for the farm of the same in the previous year and of 18s for pannage in the Weald, the tithe having been deducted and of 24s for pannage in Crudswood, the tithe having been deducted and of 18s for the pannage of Wlveche, the tithe having been deducted and of £11 13s 4d from wood at Sandhurst sold.
Wood, item underwood sold.
And of 59s 6d for 18 [acres -omitted] of underwood in Wlveche sold and of 10s for 3 acres of underwood at Crudswood and of 34s for 8 acres, half a perch of underwood sold there

*Ammercement was a money fine levied in the manor or hundred court for a misdemeanour and  Pannage was a tax paid for the right to graze pigs in woodland.

Swineherds beating down acorns for their pigs-Queen Mary Psalter, 1310-1320.
Swineherds beating down acorns for their pigs:from the Queen Mary Psalter, written between 1310 and 1320.

The cutting and sale of the underwood, such as hazel and ash, appears to have been quite lucrative. The woodland would have been harvested [coppiced] on a regular rotational basis and sold for use in fencing, wattling for building, and for fuel. Pigs would have been grazed in the woodland during the autumn when they would have fed on acorns and other autumnal fruits and fungae.

medieval coppicing
Medieval coppicing

Oak trees would have been allowed to grow to maturity for use in the building of houses and possibly ships, and as they grew to maturity the oak trees would have had their larger lower branches harvested for use when smaller pieces of oak were needed. Elm and lime were other important species of trees with a variety of domestic and other uses that would have been allowed to grow to maturity. 

In 1282 Nonington became one of the four separate parishes making up the College of Wingham. Shortly after this  Archbishop Pecham commissioned a survey of his possessions. Crudes Wood, as Curlswood Park was then known, was part of the Cotland of the College. Cotland was an inferior type of land tenure, usually in woodland, with some rights such as grazing attached. There appear to have been two large local woodland areas of the manor of Wingham, one of some 244 acres at Crudes, and another at Wolnuth (Woolege Woods near Woolege Green) extending to 296 ½ acres.
Curlswood was bordered to the east by the Wingham manor’s North Nonington holdings and by its holdings at Ackholt to the south-east.

A transfer of land in 1425 records:“Akholte, June 21, 3 Hen. VI. (1425) John Helar, son of John Helar, late of Akholte in the par. of Nonynton, Kent, grants to Thomas Hunte parcarius* of Cruddyswood a croft** of 5 acres with appurtenances at Akholte between the common way of the vill of Akholte on N. and land of Thomas Hopedey on E. and Court land of Lordship of Akholte on S. and W. Warranty against all men. Witnesses: John Orlyston, John Marchaunt, Thomas Hopedey, John Cook, John Veryar’, Gervase Dudeman, Richard Guodhyewe. Thomas Lewar’, John Bery, Richard Beniamyn and others”
*A parker or park-keeper; a pinder; a foldkeeper.  A pinder was an employee of a landowner who would go around and collect the rental dues from the tenants on the land. If the tennants could not pay in money, the pinder would take livestock in lieu of payment and put them in the pinfold until they could pay.
Also, the pinder would catch any livestock that had got loose and put them in the pinfold and would charge a price to the animals owner to get it back. 
**A croft:- a small enclosed field or pasture near a house.  A small farm, especially a tenant farm.

Thomas Hunte’s profession of “parcarius”  indicates that Curleswood had become a  park for hunting deer at some time prior to 1425.
To establish a deer park a Royal licence was required, known as a “licence to empark”. The purpose of a deer park was to keep deer, usually Fallow or Red deer, for the land-owner, usually the lord of the manor, to hunt for sport and to use as a source of fresh meat during the winter. The deer park was generally an area of mainly woodland that was usually totally enclosed by  banks with an inner ditch and with the bank having either a pale or thorn hedge, or sometimes sections of each, on top of it. The pale or hedge were to stop deer from escaping from the enclosed deer park or prevent two and four legged predators and foraging livestock from entering. A pale was a fence made by driving stakes close together into the ground to form a barrier.
These banks were known as deer leaps and substantial lengths of the deer leap bank enclosing Curlswood survive and are, at least at present, still clearly visible along the old estate’s north-eastern boundary with Ratling Court’s land and along its boundary with the B2046 Wingham road.

Curlswood or Old Park Farm, from the 1859 Poor Law Commissioners Map of Nonington. Just to the north-west of the farm buildings is the remains of the deer leap which formed the boundary there with the land attached to the Canonry of Wingham, part of the College of Wingham founded  by Archbishop Pecham in 1287.
Curlswood or Old Park Farm, from the 1859 Poor Law Commissioners Map of Nonington. Just to the north-west of the farm buildings is the remains of the deer leap which formed the boundary there with the land attached to the Canonry of Wingham, part of the College of Wingham founded  by Archbishop Pecham in 1287.

Edward Oxenden de Dene, the eldest son of Thomas Oxenden de Dene, of Dene near Wingham, was appointed Warden of Cruddeswood [Curlswood] in 1501. A warden was usually a favoured appointee chosen by the park’s owner from a local land-owning family to be  in overall charge of a deer park and to be in charge of the arrangements for deer hunts. Wardens usually had a deputy whom they paid to deal with the day to day administration and security of the park.  The Oxenden family originated from Oxenden, or Oxney, another of the vills on the Archbishop’s manor of Wingham about a mile and a half to the south-east of Cruddeswood.

Pursing a stag on horseback with hounds. Fallow and red deer were the usual quarry, and hunting them was exclusively the preserve of  royalty and the rich and powerful aristocracy. Strict laws governed who was allowed to hunt. When the quarry was brought to bay the chosen hunter would despatch it with a hunting spear or  hunting sword.

The College of Wingham was broken up during the reign of Henry VIII but the Curlswood deer park was retained by subsequent Archbishops of Canterbury and the land was leased out to a succession of lessees over the following centuries. The granting or leasing of land and property at favourable rates was frequently used by the Archbishop of Canterbury as a form of patronage. This appears to have happened with regard to Curlswood, which appears to have ceased to be a deer park in, or slightly before, 1586.

In 1586 Archbishop John Whitgift granted what appears to be the first lease for Curlswood Park, which then comprised of 180 acres of woodland and 60 acres of arable land, at a nominal rent of 20 shillings a year for twenty-one years to Miles Sandes, possibly a member of the Archbishop’s retinue who was the Member of Parliament for Queensborough on the Isle of Sheppey in that year.

Another recipient of this beneficial lease was Richard Massinger, who became lessee of Curleswood in 1595. He was a member of the Archbishop’s household and was elected Member of Parliament for Penryn in 1601. In 1604 “Charles Wood Parke House” was occupied by John Cox, presumably as  sub-tenant.

A survey of the Archbishopric of Canterbury’s lands in 1617/18 recorded Curlswood as consisting of 60 acres of arable land and 180 acres of woodland with 1 acre of woodland grubbed up. Curlswood was noted to not be part of any manor and leased from Archbishop George Abbot by William Selby, with Pownall as under farmer or sub-tenant. The lessee was probably Sir William Selby, who had inherited Igtham Moat in 1611. The lease was on the same beneficial terms as contained in the previous two leases.

However, it appears that Archbishop and his tenant fell out because there is a record for 1617 in the Exchequer Bill Book registering a legal dispute between the Archbishop and William Selby regarding Curlswood. The nature of the dispute is at present unknown, but the outcome seems to have been that William Selby lost his lease as another lessee is recorded in that same year.

The second lessee during 1617 was Sir Robert Hatton, another member of the Archbishop Abbot’s entourage who was knighted in 1617. Possibly the lease was taken in connection with his newly acquired status. Sir Robert served as Member of Parliament for Sandwich in the early 1620’s.

Subsequent Archbishops of Canterbury continued to lease out Curlswood, but at present there is a long interval of almost a century and a half during which time to whom and on what terms is was leased out is unknown.

From around 1758 Edward ffinch, a trustee of the estate of a Mr.  C. Fielding, took the land on a twenty- one year lease at a rent of £ 954. 8/-. However, after only five years or so the lease was surrendered and re-assigned in a document dated March 15th, 1763 for the same rent to Sir Brooke Bridges, bart., of Goodnestone.

The lease was for: “all that messuage or tenement called the lodge. And all that land and pasture enclosed by pale and hedge and sometimes therein is mentioned used as a park for deer commonly called Turlswood Park or otherwise Crowds Wood Park situated lying and being in the parish of Nunnington aforesaid in the county of Kent. Containing by estimation two hundred and eighty acres of arable and pastureland”.

It’s interesting to note that some two centuries after it had been “deparked” that reference is still made in the lease to “the lodge”, presumably used as the farmhouse, and also to the pale, or fence, and hedges enclosing the old deer park. This reference to both pale and hedge indicates that both types of barrier were used to enclose Curlswood.
To function as a deer park it would have been open woodland, to allow for the pursuit of the quarry  on horseback, with large trees grown for use in building [oak?] and under-wood [hazel, ash, and other useful species] for other purposes, such as fencing, wattle and daubing, or fuel for the Archbishop.In 1617 a survey recorded 60 acres of arable land and 180 acres of woodland, while this lease states that the estate contains “by estimation two hundred and eighty acres of arable and pastureland”. It is therefore apparent that the park was predominantly woodland well into the 17th century, if not later.

The 1758 lease refers to it as arable and pasture. Pasture would be the first use after the woodland was cleared. A possible reason for clearance could have been the sale of timber to the navy followed by use as grazing land and then arable as agricultural practices became more advanced and agriculture more profitable. The difference in acreage from the 240 acres at the time of the 1280’s survey to 280 acres in 1763 would be accounted for in the variations in the size of an acre over the centuries until measurements were standardised in the United Kingdom in the nineteenth century. The actual total of acreage recorded on the 1807 map adds up to a fraction of an acre over 284 acres in total, including the house and gardens.

The Bridges’ continued to lease Curlswood from the Archbishop until the later part of the nineteenth century when they purchased it outright. In later years Curlswood was known as Old Park Farm. Various members of the Pepper family, later tenants of the farm in the 19th century, are buried near the rear gate of Nonington church yard and have Park Farm on their headstones.

The village of Aylesham now covers most of the old deer park, which was 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 at nearby working Snowdown Colliery and a proposed new mine at Adisham which was never developed.
Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the renowned architect and town planner, was commissioned in the 1920’s  to design the new mining village of Aylesham, and he derived inspiration from new towns such as Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City in Hertfordshire. The building of houses to accommodate the expanding labour force at Snowdown Colliery began in 1926.

Henry Fitzwalter Plumptre had inherited the Goodnestone estate in 1899 as heir to Sir George Talbot Bridges, the eighth and last Baronet. He was the grand-son of Henry Western Plumptre, a younger brother of John Pembleton Plumptre of Fredville, who had married Eleanor Bridges, the only daughter of Sir Brook William Bridges, fourth baronet, in 1828.

Old Park 1920's
Old Park Farm  after the the building of Aylesham had begun. Aylesham Holt railway station, just below Curlswood Park Farm, opened in 1928.

The last occupants of the Old Park Farm house and remaining buildings were the Hillier family who ran a fruit and vegetable business from there until after the Second World War.  The house and farm buildings were eventually demolished in early 1950’s.

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