The Hammonds of St. Alban’s Court

The 1555 purchase by John Hammond began an ownership of the St. Alban’s estate by the Hammond family which continued until the late 1930’s, during which time the family continued to acquire additional land and property in Nonington and in neighbouring parishes.  By the time the St. Alban’s Court estate was sold off in 1938 it amounted to just over 1,000 acres in Nonington and Chillenden parishes.

John Hammond was succeeded by his eldest son, Edward, and he in turn by his eldest son, William, who was knighted by King James I in 1608, the same year as his eldest son, Anthony, was born. When Sir William Hammond died in October of 1615 Anthony Hammond was a minor and the family property and land was held in wardship until 1633 when Anthony came into possession in his own right.
Documents concerning the the estates drawn up in 1615 when Sir William died and in 1633 when Anthony became of age to inherit record that in addition to the original Abbey of St. Alban’s Manor of Eswalt he also held Essesole manor and Beauchamps by knights service from Dover Castle; the manor of Gustons Fleete and forty acres of marshland in Ash of the Archbishop of Canterbury by knights service; messuages and land in Chillenden of the Manor of Hame (Hamill, near Woodnesborough) in free socage by fealty; and Muncke, (later Mounton and now called Gooseberry Hall Farm) from the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church in Canterbury of their Manor of Adisham in socage by payment of rent.

Two of Sir William’s younger brothers had become adventurers and notable soldiers. Francis, born in 1584 and Robert, born in 1587,  both joined Sir Walter Raleigh, who held them both in high regard, on his second South American expedition in June of 1617 to search for the fabled city of Eldorado which Raleigh believed to be in Guyana. However, the quest failed and, whilst Raleigh was suffering from fever, men under his command ransacked a Spanish outpost which outraged the Spanish authorities. Consequently Raleigh was arrested on his return to England and was beheaded in 1618 to appease the Spanish. The brother do not appear to have suffered any punishment for taking part in the expedition but at least one of them may have thought it wise to enter military service on the Continent.

Francis Hammond  served in what were known as “The German Wars” or “The Thirty Years War”, the bloody religious conflict lasting from 1618 to 1648  which was fought initially in central Europe  between the Catholic southern and Protestant northern states of the Holy Roman Empire but  eventually encompassed most of the states of Europe and subsequently caused the deaths of millions of people and laid waste to entire regions. An inscription in the top right hand corner of his portrait records that during his service in various Protestant armies  during “The German Wars”  Francis Hammond reputedly fought fourteen single-handed combats.

Colonel Francis Hammond was obviously a fearless man who enjoyed fighting even when well advanced in years, he was in his late fifties when he took part in the English Civil War. Francis fought for the King during the English Civil War and commanded a regiment under the command of the Earl of Northumberland in the Scottish Expedition of 1640  and later led a Forlorn Hope of some six hundred cavalry at the Battle of Edgehill in Warwickshire on Sunday, 23rd October, 1642. The Forlorn Hope were the first troops to attack an enemy position and subsequently had only a slight chance of surviving an action. Colonel Francis Hammond was obviously a man who enjoyed fighting. In the opposing Parliamentary forces at Edgehill was Edward Boys, the younger son of Sir Edwards Boys of Fredville whose land adjoined St. Alban’s Court in Nonington. The young Edward Boys subsequently died of wounds received in the battle at Edgehill, whether or not he encountered Colonel Hammond during the battle is not known, but this emphasises how the English Civil War made enemies of close neighbours and even family members.

He survived the Civil War and was said to have ended his days quietly living the life of a country gentleman at Nonington and adding to the buildings there..

Robert Hammond, Francis’s younger brother, was christened 23rd June, 1587, at St. Mary’s Church, Nonington.  What he did after his return from Raleigh’s failed expedition until 1648 is unknown, there is no evidence so far come to light of his having served in the Thirty Years War.

Robert took part of the 1648 Kentish revolt, a precursor to the Second English Civil War of 1648,  which had its origins in part in the Canterbury riots of Christmas Day,1647, caused when the Puritan Mayor and officials of Canterbury tried to forbid traditional Christmas celebrations.  After the end of the Second English Civil War Colonel Hammond gave his parole not to fight against Parliament, but he broke this when he became Governor of Gowran Castle in Ireland during a rebellion against Parliament. When Cromwell took Gowran Robert Hammond and all but one of the garrisons officers were shot. [See Nonington and the English Civil War].

Colonel Robert Hammond of St. Alban’s Court should not be confused with his name sake Colonel Robert Hammond (1621– 24 October 1654), best known for acting as Charles I gaoler at Carisbrooke Castle from 13 November 1647 to 29 November 1648, for which service Parliament voted him a pension. He served an officer in Cromwell’s New Model Army during the early part of the Civil War  and sat in the House of Commons in 1654.

Recent renovation work by Peter Hobbs, the present owner, allowed extensive archaeological investigation to be undertaken of the existing old St. Alban’s house and gardens. These have revealed a 14th century house partially rebuilt in brick in 1556 and then greatly expanded in 1666 before being returned to its medieval size in 1876 by William Oxenden Hammond. Although a manor house was previously believed to have stood on the site since Norman times or earlier. However, no evidence of occupation of the site has yet been found from before the early 14th century.

A mention of an early manor house was made in St. Alban’s Abbey records in 1399, “Manerium etiam de Esole, pene collapsum, pro majori ejus parte noviter construxit”which translates as: “Also of the Manor of Esole, almost in ruins, for the greater part newly built”, indicating repairs and/or a possible extension to an existing manor house or buildings.

In 1663 William Hammond of St. Alban’s Court leased land to James Nash, yeoman and the lease specifically excluded ‘the liber to make and burn bricks in the ffield called Beechams’,  the lease is contemporary to the addition of the façade to the old houses north-eastern end in the 1660’s and indicates that bricks were needed at the time. Edward Wedlake Brayley in his 1808,  “The Beauties of England and Wales, Vol. VIII” notes that “ The original front of the house was to the south east, as appears by a porch with the Hammond arms bearing the date 1556, a façade was added to the north east about 1665″.

There are indications of an extension of the brick field some two hundred yards or so to the south of the old mansion at the western edge of Beachams, or Beauchamps,  Wood where there are noticeable depressions in the ground, possibly caused by the extraction of  brick earth for brick-making.  Wood for fuel was readily available and both water and straw could easily be bought in as needed, and nearby roads and tracks would have made for the easy transport of the finished bricks to where they were to be used.

William Osmund Hammond succeeded his father, also William Hammond, at the age of 31 in 1821. He inherited land and property in and around Nonington and in other parts of Kent. In the summer of 1830  agricultural workers in the Elham Valley, only some five or so miles from Nonington, began protesting against their low wages and poor working conditions and also the use of recently developed threshing machines which threatened their livelihoods and which would lead to lower wages. They began destroying threshing machines and setting fire to agricultural and other buildings owned by farmers and land-owners as well as parish work houses and Church tithe barns. By October of 1830 over 100 threshing machines had been destroyed in Kent. These Swing Riots, as the disturbances became known, spread throughout south-east England by the end of that year. As a result of these riots the East Kent Yeomanry Cavalry was re-formed and William Osmund Hammond received a lieutenant’s commission in the Yeomanry.
As a land-owner and farmer William Osmund Hammond, despite holding strong Christian beliefs, obviously had a vested interest in the rapid  suppression of the agricultural labourers and their demands  for better wages and improved conditions,  and later showed himself to also be unsympathetic to the “undeserving” poor in general.  As part of his duties as a justice of the peace William Osmund contributed to the Poor Law Commissioners’ Report to Parliament of 1834 coming out strongly against the system then in operation as being too benevolent to recipients and conducive to idleness.
It’s most likely that his support for temperance amongst the “lower classes” was the cause of the sudden closure in March of 1832 of The Hawks Head alehouse, previously The White Horse, next to Nonington church even though the alehouse appears to have been renamed The Hawks Head in honour of the Hammond family in 1826, a hawk’s head being the crest of the Hammond families coat of arms. 

William Osmund died on  the 7th  of February of 1863 and was succeeded by William Oxenden Hammond, his eldest his son who had been born in 1817. Other sons were Egerton Douglas Hammond, 1822-1897), a clergy man, and Maximillian Montague Hammond (1824-1855), a career soldier killed at Sevastopol during the Crimean War. There is a memorial him in St. Mary’s Church and he was the subject of a biography “Memoir of M.M. Hammond, Rifle Brigade”, written by his brother Egerton and published in 1858.

Captain Hammond left a widow, Anne Rose, whom he had married in 1850, and two young daughters, Nina and Millicent.

“In the quiet churchyard of Chilton Foliat Wiltshire waiting for the resurrection morning rests the tired body of EGERTON DOUGLAS HAMMOND for thirty one years rector of Sundridge Kent The second son of WILLIAM OSMUND HAMMOND of St Alban’s Court in this parish Born June 24th 1822 Died March 10th 1897”.

The Reverend Egerton Douglas Hammond was vicar of Northbourne from 1852-1859.The second son of William Osmund Hammond and his wife, Mary, he gained a BA at Merton College, Oxford, in 1845. A man of strong social conscience Egerton was keenly interested in the conditions of  local farm workers and published ‘Farm Servants and Agricultural Labourers: their moral and religious condition,’  in 1856. The original essay was awarded a prize by Sittingbourne Agricultural Association. In memory of his younger brother Maximillian was killed in the assault on the Redan at the Siege of Sevastapol on 8th September, 1855  he published an account of the life of his younger brother ” Memoir of M.M. Hammond, Rifle Brigade” in 1858.  The memoir proved popular and was in its eighth edition in 1860. Egerton Hammond married Maria Whitehouse in 1847 and they had two sons and three daughters, subsequently serving as Rector of Sundridge, Sevenoaks from 1859-1890. On his death in 1897 he was buried in St. Mary’s churchyard at Nonington where a memorial was erected which records:

William Oxenden  Hammond was a wealthy man by inheritance and from his partnership in Hammond, Plumptre & Co., the Canterbury bank, there were some 300 acres or so of agricultural land in hand at St. Alban’s in the 1850′s  farmed under the supervision of a farm bailiff, and by 1881 this had increased to 575 acres. In 1869 he commissioned George Devey, a prominent Victorian architect noted for designing country houses, to build a stable block and a home farm to the south-west of the St. Alban’s Court house and to refurbish the house itself. However, in 1875 William decided that the house had ‘fallen into a decayed state’ and instructed George Devey to design the new house which was built on the hill just to the north-east of the old house between 1875 and 1878.  The old house continued in use as servants accommodation and as a laundry and when part of the estate was taken over as a physical education college in the late 1930′s the old house accommodated the principle and other staff members whilst the mansion was used mainly for administration and teaching purposes.

Mr. Maxted, a local builder and brick-maker, is recorded in the 1871 census as having premises in Esole Street where he employed 16 men and boys. Locally made bricks appear to have used in part of the construction of the new St. Alban’s Court mansion, which would have provided much needed work to local people in a time of agricultural depression and high unemployment.

In 1936 Dr. Hardman wrote down the recollections of Richard Jarvis Arnold, born in Nonington circa 1875, a Walmer blacksmith who had served his apprenticeship in the village forge in Church Street. Mr. Arnold recalled life in Nonington during the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries including the building of the present St. Albans Court house for William Oxenden Hammond by Adcock of Dover and that when the foundations were got out some bones were dug up which were reburied with a pyramid of stones erected over them

Mr. Arnold remembered William Oxenden Hammond as a notable figure of very upright carriage and a bachelor, the story in the village said that he had been crossed in love, who was fond of horses and kept a carriage horse and three hunters which were all shot when they became old and were buried nearby in the ‘The Ruins’, (the local name for the area between Beauchamps Lane and St Alban’s Court). This fondness for horses was probably best shown by a stone tablet over the archway in the new stable yard that bore the words (as near as Arnold could remember):

“My horse, my love, my horse”

[ This is a quotation from Shakespeare, first part of Henry IV, Act II, Scene 3, and actually runs:

Lady Percy “ What is it carries you away?”

Hotspur, “ Why, my horse, my love, my horse]

In 1869 W.O. Hammond commissioned George Devey, a prominent architect well known for designing country houses, to build a stable block and a home farm to the south-west of St. Alban’s Court House house.

William Oxenden Hammond died without children on 17th May, 1903, and was succeeded by a nephew, Captain Egerton Hammond, the son of Egerton Douglas Hammond, William Oxenden’s brother.

The Captain, born in 1863, was to be the last of the Hammond’s to own St. Alban’s Court.  He had married Selina (Ina) Barrington in 1895, and their only son, Second Lieutenant Douglas William Hammond of the  2nd Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment), was killed, aged 18, on 24th May 1915 and is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate)  Memorial.

W.Oxenden Hammond bequeathed a collection of some 500 or so British birds and mammals made by himself and his father, W. Osmund Hammond, to the Beaney Institute in Canterbury, now The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge, which was just across the road from the Hammond Bank.  Some of William senior’s taxidermy specimens were very early and rare examples. One of the exhibits is a rook in a red coat which always fascinated me when I was a boy.

For some years before the death of Captain Hammond in 1923 the family had been living in Old Court House, which had been built as a dower house around 1910. The St. Alban’s estate was rented out to tenants such as the Penns, marine engine manufactures, who rented St. Alban’s Court during the Great War. During this terrible conflict two sons of the family were killed and the widow of Captain Eric Penn presented the parish with the Roll of Honour which is to be found on the yew tree by the Church Street gate to the old St. Mary’s church yard. The Penns were followed by the Slazengers, of sporting equipment fame, and they were succeeded as tenats by the O’Briens, who were noted equestrians and breeders of Alsatians (German Shepherds) and foxhounds. Some of the O’Briens horses and dogs are buried in the woodland at the rear of the new house.

Mrs. Hammond and her daughters finally sold the estate by auction in 1938. and St. Alban’s Court house, along with some parkland, and Old Court House were bought by Miss Gladys Wright on behalf of the English Gymnastics Society. During the Second World War part of the new house was used as offices for Eastry Rural District Council and the old house was the head quarters of the Dover Y.M.C.A.

In 1951 Kent County Council took over and founded Nonington College of Physical Education to train P.E. teachers. After some 35 years as one of the top teacher training colleges N.C.P.E was closed by K.C.C. in 1985 due to financial cut-backs.

Old Court House had been an annexe of the college and in 1986 it became the Promis Recovery Centre, a once renowned private rehabilitation clinic, which went into liquidation in 2008. Old Court House was then left empty and was subsequently badly damaged by fire in  late August, 2009.

Old Court House built around 1910 for the Hammond to live in while the mansion was rented out.

More pictures of the old St Alban’s Court and the new mansion can be found using these links:-Old St. Alban’s Court  and New St. Alban’s Court  galleries



  • Jorge F. Buján

    Dear Sir

    Thanks for your quick and gentle answer. Your site helped me with information and great historic images.
    If I can visit England next year I´ll try to get to Nonnigton and visit St. Alban´s Court.

  • Alan Burchett

    A very interesting and informative site, i have found the information on my 12 x great grandfather John Hammond and his descendants to be very useful


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