Nonington, Kent : a Contribution to its Early History By Dr. Frederick William Hardman, LL.D., F.S.A. with notes by Peter Hobbs of Old St. Alban’s Court, Nonington.

A verbatim copy of the draught manuscript of an unpublished history of Nonington written by Dr. F. W. Hardman in the early 1930’s. The page numbers shown are those of the copy, not the original manuscript.
Following the manuscript copy is a personal note by
Peter Hobbs of Old St. Alban’s Court on Dr. Hardman’s unpublished history. 

Page 1

Nonington (pronounced Nunnington) lies in the heart of the agricultural part of South- east Kent about equidistant from Canterbury and Dover. It is remote from towns and main roads and has been little influenced by outside events. Its little community has been self- contained and it has preserved in a remarkable degree the characteristics of an old English village. The discovery of coal in the twentieth century has come as a rude shock, but up to the present time the old-world serenity of the village has not been greatly affected. The village lies in a wide belt of chalk country and the chalk here has a depth of 740 feet.

But in the greater part of the village the chalk is covered to some depth with a bed of loamy clay and it has consequently always been a corn-growing country and a woodland country. Its two great parks of St. Albans and Fredville are modern and have been developed out of farm land. A picture of the life of the village half a century ago is supplied in the recollections of Richard Jarvis Arnold who now carries on the forge at Walmer. He was apprenticed at the Nonington forge in 1887 to Charles Morgan, proprietor of the forge and veterinary surgeon. Three men and two apprentices were then employed there and there was a good deal of work from the farms of Nonington and the surrounding villages. The forge was built against the churchyard wall and remains still in use there.

He lodged in the Elizabethan cottage near the churchyard gate [now Church Cottage, 1859 Ellen’s Acres] which was then occupied by a gardener named Ellen. Harlow was the village carpenter and wheelwright, Harry Maxted was the bricklayer and Groombridge was the carrier to Canterbury and Dover. The public houses were the Royal Oak (since rebuilt) kept by Woodruff and the Walnut Tree beerhouse kept by Sheaf. He recalled the hard winter of 1891-2 when the plough stood still for seventeen weeks.  He remembers the old box pews in the church which were removed when it was restored in 1887 by J. J. Wise of Deal.

There were two windmills: a pug mill belonging to the Harvey family, and a flour mill worked by Dilnot. The Harveys had a Malthouse.

The trees of Fredville were well known. In addition to the old oak there were some large chestnuts. One of them was called the “step” tree and had steps affixed to it. In the upper part of the trunk and branches twelve or twenty people could sit.

Page 2

He remembers the building of the present mansion house of St. Albans Court by William Oxenden Hammond, and did some of the smith’s work there. Adcock of Dover was the builder. When the foundations were got out some bones were dug up and these were reburied and a pyramid of stones erected over them.

1 Hammond was a notable figure of very upright carriage. He was a bachelor and thestory went in the village that he had been crossed in love. He was fond of horses and kept a carriage horse and three hunters. These horses were all shot when they became old and buried in “the Ruins”. 

A stone tablet in the new stable yard over the archway bore the words (as nearly as he can remember)

“What is it that carries me

My horse, my love, my horse” ᵃ

A part of the park was called “the Ruins”: here were the remains of old walls and it was believed there was an old chapel there. Not far away was a road called Beachams Lane.

1.Hammond farmed his own land. When he built the new house he enlarged the park by adding to it one of his adjoining farms. He was succeeded by his brother Capt. Egerton Hammond, husband of the present Mrs Hammond.

In a corn-growing district we naturally expect to find windmills. From Roman days the corn had been ground at home by the hand quern.  A quern was among the possessions left by Richard Creake of Nonington who died in 1560. But the days of grinding corn at home by this primitive device were then over or nearly over. The water mill had been in use from pre- Conquest days, but this was impracticable at Nonington where there were no streams.

Windmills are first met with in England in the twelfth century and had become common in the fourteenth century. They were often provided by the feudal lord who forced his tenants to bring their corn to his mill for grinding and the use of hand querns at home was discouraged and sometimes forbidden. The windmill reached Nonington at an early date. A grant of one in Fredville (which was then farming land) is recorded as early as 1309.ᵇ This was a post mill, the only kind then in use. The post mill is a box-like structure carrying the sails and all the machinery and supported on a single upright post. It is beautifully balanced so that it may be turned round the post for the sails to face the wind.ᶜ


ᵃ This is a quotation from Shakespeare First part of Henry IV, Act III, Scene 3 and actually reads:

Lady Percy – “What is it carries you away?”

Hotspur –“Why, my horse, my love, my horse.”

ᵇIndex to Charters & Rolls in B.M. I. 545.

ᶜ Batten, English windmills, I. 26.

Page 3

But it was troublesome to turn the whole windmill round and in the middle of the sixteenth century the tower mill was invented. In this type of mill the body remains fixed and the top or cap alone turns, carrying the windshaft with its sails and gearing.ᵃ

The tower mill is of two kinds. If it is built in brick and circular in shape it is called a tower mill:if built of wood with polygonal sides (usually octagonal) it is called a smock mill.ᵇ

The flour mill referred to by Mr Arnold is shown in the map of the village. It is a smockmill but unfortunately the cap and sails were blown off about fifteen years ago. The mill is now covered with corrugated iron sheeting and is worked by Mr E. Gasston with an oil engine. It was built about 1810. Close by this mill is the site of a pug mill which stood here a generation ago.

The pug mill was of simpler construction and was used for grinding the refuse corn and chaff for cattle. A mile from the village stands on a hill one of the finest mills in Kent at Chillenden. It is a post and open trestle mill built about 1870 and now in very good working condition. It is painted white.

The old-world atmosphere is also preserved by a number of timber-framed houses dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and especially in the numerous old barns. The Kentish barn has no walls. The roof is hung from a series of internal oak trestles fixed in the ground at intervals with bays between them, surrounded by smaller trestles and capped by king or queen posts to support the roof ridge. The sides of the barn are enclosed by weather boarding. None of the Nonington barns is of first rate construction and this fact points to local work in a self-contained community. The old carpenter’s shop of the village still remains in use and the “Hempespot” in Easole Street was in existence in 1750.

The Nonington of today retains one well-worked feature which is of the highest interest to the student of our early history: it is a parish rather than a village. The dwellings which lie within its boundary are scattered about in small clusters: it is a series of hamlets artificially grouped together into a single unit. Easole bears the appearance of being the oldest part, and round it lie Ratling, Old Court, Ackholt, Frogham, Soles, Fredville, Kittington. The village has no real centre. We do not here find a manor house, a forstall or village green, a church, an inn lying together, round which the village has grown and from which it has spread. What we do find is a number of centres which have not coalesced into a real village. If we compare Nonington with the neighbouring village of Chillenden, or with Bekesbourne we at once notice the difference. These are nucleated villages with only one cluster of houses.

It is to be noted that the name of Nonington does not appear in the pre-Conquest period and that when the name arrives it is not taken, as we might expect, from the principal hamlet of Easole, but in a new formation. The hamlet type of parish is common in East Kent and outnumbers the nucleated type of village.


ᵃIb. 27

ᵇIb. 28

Page 4

Many parishes are formed of only two or three hamlets, but Nonington with its comparatively large area of 3808 acres and eight hamlets may well be compared with Ash next Sandwich five miles away with its 7021 acres and twelve hamlets. The name of Ash is first met with at the period of the Conquest and here again the name was not taken from one of its hamlets. Ash has precisely the same lack of organic unity that we have noted in Nonington.

The distinction between the nucleated village and the parish of grouped hamlets is believed by many scholars to point to a very real difference of origin. “The outlines of our nucleated villages may have been drawn for us by German settlers, whereas in the land of hamlets and scattered steads old Celtic arrangements may never have been thoroughly effaced.”ᵃ

There is indeed evidence that Easole goes back to the prehistoric period and that one of its notable features was an ancient barrow. Among the deeds at St. Albans Court is a Conveyance of 10 th February 1550 (4 Edw. VI) by Edward Boyes of Nonyngton, gent. to Thomas Hamon late of Nonyngton, gent. of three pieces of land for £8.10.0. Edward Boyes was the owner of Fredville and the land had belonged to his great grandfather, William Boyes. It was in the tenure of the manor of “Estwell commenlie caulyed Seynt Albons Court”. Two of the pieces containing one acre and two and a half roods are said to “lye next Androstraw and Esollbarow”. No later mention of “Esollbarow” has been found, but “Andrewstraw” is shown on a plan of the Hammond Estate made in 1750 as arable land containing 6 acres 3 roods lying a little to the south east of the present mansion of St. Albans Court and on the opposite side of the road. Androstraw and Esollbarow must be read together and the former word seems to mean “the old strawing” and to indicate the land surrounding the barrow over which the raised mound hadbeen strewn or levelled by manual labour, ploughing, &c. “Ander” is a prefix signifying “formerly, past” and “strawen” is to strew or scatter.ᵇ By the side of the barrow lay a considerable stretch of arable land called “Esole Fields”.

This land lies slightly to the south of the hamlet of Easole between St Albans Court and Fredville and is shown on the estate map of 1750. It takes us back to the system of common field cultivation of the middle ages. The field was divided into numerous strips of approximately the same length lying side by side each containing usually half an acre but sometimes rather more or less. These open strips or furlongs were the agricultural land of the hamlet and were divided among the householders but at an early period a tendency had arisen to consolidate a number of them in the hands of one farmer. Each farm then consisted of a number of such strips intermixed with the strips of other farms. The position revealed by the estate plan of 1750 was that most of the strips had been absorbed into larger units but that some of them still remained.

The plan also shows that there had been another large common field on the N.E. side of Easole which extended into Chillenden.

Glimpses of the gradual absorption of the furlongs into larger holdings in the 15 th and 16 th centuries are found in the muniments preserved at St. Albans Court.


ᵃMaitland, Domesday book and beyond, 15

ᵇStratmann’s Middle English dictionary by Bradley

Page 5

In 1498 William Gyllot of Stowting mortgaged to John Welsch of Nonyngton:
“a messuage and three and a half acres and half a rod of land lying separately (divisim) in Nonyngton and in the villata of Essole within the liberty of the manor of St. Alban.

The said messuage and half acre are between the High Street E. and lands of Stephen Kreke S.and lands of John Castell W. and lands of John Feyrman N.

The three acres and half rod lie to lands of John Tayler E. and lands of William Boys S. & and lands of John Tayler and John Feyrman W.

To hold &c. except one camera on the S. side of the said messuage reserved until the end of the life of Cecilie Gerweys formerly relict of John Gyllet, with ingress and egress to the well and fire as appears in the will of John Gyllot my father”.

In 1548 John Derton of Tenham, yoman, conveyed to Thomas Hamon of Nonyngton for £27 tenparcels of land containing thirty acres and one virgate lying divided in Nonyngton and Chyllenden, of which:

“A quarter acre lies at a place called Hemstydd to land of Thomas Hamon E. & N. to lands of Thomas Engeham, gent.ᵃ W. to the common way S. Half an acre lies to land of Thomas Hamon W. & S. to land of Henry Franklyn E. to the common way N.

Half an acre lies to land of Thomas Hamon W. & S. to land of William a Ve & E. to the common way N.

One acre lies to land of Thomas Hamon E. & S. to land of John Norton N. to land of William Norton W.

Half an acre lies to the said acre at the head of the same acre to land of Thomas Hamon E., W. & S.

Three virgates lie to the land of Thomas Hamon E., W., N. & S.

One acre lies to land of Thomas Hamon E., N. & S. to land of John Norton W.

Half an acre lies to land of Thomas Hamon E., N. & S. to land of the heirs of Philipp Keler W.

Half an acre lies in Rowling Valley to land of Thomas Hamon E. to land of John Norton W. to land of Henry Franklyn S. and to land of William Courteman N.

The remainder of the ten parcels lies in a certain place called Mounton to lands of Thomas Hamon E., W. & S. to land of William Norton N”.


ᵃOwner of Old Court in Nonington

Page 6

In 1550 Edward Boyes of Nonyngton, gent., conveyed to Thomas Hamon late Nonyngton, gent., for £8.10.0:

“Three pieces of land which sometimes were William Boyes deceased, greagrandfather to Edward Boyes and now in the occupation of John Henegar three acres one rood in Nonyngton in the tenure of the manor of Estwell commenli caulyed Seynt Albons Court, whereof:

One pece lyeth in the Horse Close, one acre two roods, to lands of the said manor S., N. & W. and the bye waye E.

Two other pieces contain one acre two roods and half a rood and lye next Androstraw and Esollbarow to the lands of the said manor N. lands of Edward Boyes, Richard Creke and Robert Wallshe S. & E. the bye ways W”

The two common fields mentioned above were both attached to the manor of Easole and no evidence has been found that any of the other hamlets of Nonington employed this ancient system of cultivation.

The early history of Easole has not received much attention from the historians of Kent before Hasted. Lambarde (1570) does not mention it, Philipott (1659) does not carry it back beyond the days of St. Alban’s monastery and Harris (1719) does little but repeat Philipott. But since their days the knowledge of early records has greatly increased, and we have the means of going further back. The evidence afforded by place-names will first be considered.

A charter of 824 (B.C.S. 378) mentions Oesewalum (the second e is smaller than the other letters and has the appearance of being a later addition). Eight years later in 832 the name occurs again as Oesuualun (B.C.S. 402). We find no further mention until we come to the great Domesday Survey of 1086. Here among the estates which up to 1084 had been held in the hundred of Eastry by Bishop Odo, the half brother of the Conqueror, we find Eswalt and also Essewelle by Ralf de Curbespine. A little later we learn from the Domesday Monachorum (c. 1100) that Eastweald was held for three sulungs by Adelold the chamberlain. Before discussing these names we give a list of some of the later farms in which the identification with Easole is certain.

c.1141 Estwala Charter of Stephen

1211-12 Esselle Red Book of the Exchequer

1242-3 Easole Book of Fees

1253-4 Eswalle Aid of 38 Hen. III (XII Arch. Cant., 210)

1254 Eswelle, Eswole Assize Roll

1261-2 Essele, Aswelle Red Book of the Exchequer

1270 Easwole Assize Roll

1278 Heasuele Assize Roll

1279 Estwel Placita de quo warrants

1282 Hesole Peckham Register

1292 Essole Assize Roll

1293 & 1312 Estwell Placita de quo warrants

1318 Easewole Fine in XIV Arch. Cant., 257

1323 Easeole Inquisitions ad quod damnum

1324 Esole Fine in XV Arch. Cant., 289

Page 7

1346 Esol Assessment to Knight the Black Prince (Arch.

Cant. X, 121

1425 Eswale Liber memorandorum of St. Albans (Dug. Mon.

II, 210 c.1499

Esole do. do. 1548

Esole Fine. Charters & Rolls in B.M.I. 545 c.1141

Estwala Charter of Stephen 1211-12

Esselle Red Book of the Exchequer 1242-3

Easole Book of Fees 1253-4

Eswalle Aid of 38 Hen. 3 (Arch. Cant. XII, 210) 1254

Eswelle, Eswole Assize Roll 1261-2

Essele, Aswelle Red Book of the Exchequer 1270

Easwole Assize Roll 1278

Heasuele Assize Roll 1279

Estwel Placita de quo warrants 1282

Hesole Peckham Register 1292

Essole Assize Roll 1293 & 1312

Estwell Placita de quo warrants 1318

Easwole Fine in Arch. Cant. XIV, 259 1323

Easole Inquisitions ad quod damnum 1324

Esole Fine in Arch. Cant. XV, 289 1346

Esol Assessment to Knight Black Prince (Arch. Cant. X, 121)

1425 Eswale Liber memorandorum of St. Albans (Dug. Mon. II, 210)

1497 Esole Hasted’s Kent III, 710

 c.1499 Esole Liber. Mem. (Dug. Mon. II, 210)

1548 Esole Fine. Charters & Rolls in B.M.I. 545
1550 Esoll, Estwell Local deed *

1779  Yesill Street Andrews, Dury & Herbert’s map
1790 Isill Street Hasted’s Kent III, 710

1801 Hazle Street Col. Mudge’s map

1847 Esole or Aesole Bagshaw’s Gazetteer

It will be seen that though the variations of the name are considerable, a family likeness appears in all. The name is not Saxon but belongs to the oldest bed of British speech. It probably derives from an original Esqw-al, being a root esqw with the sonant -al. The Q was dropped at a very early date by most of the Indo-European peoples and sometimes also the following W. The Q could easily become C and C and T were often interchanged. But a simpler explanation of the rather numerous forms in Est- may be that the T was excrescent after S, both letters having the same dental place of enunciation and ST being a familiar English sound.ᵃ The variations have been largely the consequence of the efforts of a Germanic people to assimilate a sound which was strange to them. Throughout the forms from 832 downwards we find a typical form “Eswal” with various vowel changes.


ᵃSkeat, Principles of English etymology, Sec. 341

Page 8

The diphthongal Oe of the earliest form is a mere strengthening of the initial e (perhaps due to West Saxon influence), and it later becomes ea or simply e. The final t of the Domesday form Eswalt and the d of the Dom. Mon. Eastweald were attracted by the preceding l owing perhaps to the French habit of accenting the final syllable, l, t and d being all dental sounds. The separate D. B. form Essewelle appears to indicate that there was a second estate at Easole also given to Bishop Odo the name of which had been slightly differentiated.

The result of our inquiry is that from the etymological point of view there is essential agreement in the forms, and that the identity of Oeswalum, Eswalt, Essewelle and Eastweald with the later forms and with the Easole of today is established. The identification with Eswalt was made by Hasted in 1790. That with Oeswalum was first suggested by Prof. A. Mawer, and this identification has been approved and adopted by Dr. Wallenberg and Prof. Ekwall. In carrying back the history of Easole to the Anglo-Saxon period we have therefore the unanimous support of the place-name experts.

The Saxon charters relating to Oeswalum will next be dealt with. In 824 Archbishop Wulfred made a complaint to the Council of Cloveshoe and a record of the proceedings was then drawn up under his superintendence. The original charter (B.C.S. 378) is still in existence in the British Museum. It is indorsed in an eleventh century hand “Synod of Wllureth archbishop in the presence of Bernulf King of the Mercians in which he recovered land in the place called Oeswalum which to him Earl Aldberht and his sister Abbess Seledrith had given after their death” (translation). The translation of the charter is as follows:

“In the dominical year of the Incarnation 824, Indiction II, a Synod was assembled in the well known place called aet Clofeshoum under the presidency of Beornuulf King of the Mercians in the second year of his reign and there were also Uulfred the archbishop in the nineteenth year of his episcopate and other bishops and abbots inquiring and examining not only concerning the necessities of the secular authorities but also monasterial and ecclesiastical discipline and regular conduct in all serving God: with great solicitude exhorting and teaching them to be watchful and entreating in the churches of God a little moderation in divers things which without suffered by the laity.

Among these things the Archbishop Uulfred in the presence of the bishops and abbots who were assembled there stated that he had been unjustly deprived of a small piece of ground, that is to say of four aratri in the place called aet Oesewalum which Earl Aldberht and his sister the abbess Selethrytha had given to him after the day of their departure on account of their loving friendship for him to have and possess in his own possession and fruitfully in the day of his full enjoyment and after his day to bequeath in perpetual inheritance to whomsoever he pleased, and they had subscribed this gift with the sign of the Cross of Christ. Now after a certain time it happened that the aforesaid abbess Selethrytha departed from this life. Then the same aforesaid Aldberht in that famous monastery called Folcanstane with the witness of those men whose written names were contained in that book which in the commencement of their reconciliation had been given at this other time himself confirmed and subscribed. Now in the course of years it also happened that the aforesaid Earl Aldberht suddenly died.

Then indeed against this donation and reconciliation Osuulf Earl and kinsman of Aldberht fraudulently took possession of the book of this aforenamed land at Oesewalum and in the presence of Quoenthrytha the abbess and of the whole family of the monastery called Suthmynter placed it on the altar.

Page 9

 And when the bishop heard this he forthwith sent messengers to the abbess Quoenthrytha and the family at Suthmynstre strenuously seeking that this small piece of ground which Aldberht had granted to him in perpetual inheritance should be restored to him. But this they denied and objected to for the space of four years. At length the archbishop summoned to the Synodal Council the abbess Quoenthrytha and the family at Suthmynstre with the books of the aforesaid land and in the presence of these seniors and of Quoenthrytha and all the council he explained the whole course and truth of what had been done and the writing of the donation and produced it for the reading of this reconciliation andthese witnesses who were there present, that is to say, Wernoth, priest and abbot and Feologeld priest and abbot and Athelhun priest were called to witness and declared truly and by word of mouth the same that the writing recited. Then indeed by this Venerable Synod the justice and truth of this question was investigated and by it wasadjudged that it would be just that they should restore as well the book as the field to the archbishop who had living witnesses as well as the writing, all agreeing unanimously and with enthusiasm. And this it was settled with the consent and testimony of the whole synod who decreed and adjudged this judgment and with the sign of the holy cross of Christ with their own hands subscribed whose names are setout in the written letters below”.

The subscriptions include Archbishop Uulfred, King Beornuulf and many bishops, abbots and priests (29 in all) but not the abbess Quoenthrytha.

In the following year (825) the complaint was renewed in a vigorous form at the Council of Clovesho and a final settlement was reached. The original records of it in slightly varying forms are at the British Museum and the translation of one of them follows (B.C.S. 384).ᵃ It is endorsed in Anglo Saxon:

“This is the agreement of Cwaenthrytha and the bishop and their ministers in Canterbury …” :

“In the dominical year of the Incarnation 825 Indiction III from divers parts of Saxonia

was gathered together in synodal council in the famous place called aet Clofeshoum.

Archbishop Uulfred presided over this venerable council in the twentieth year of his

episcopate and there were also Beornuulf King of the Mercians in the third year of his

reign and other bishops and abbots and also ealdormen and the leading persons of all

ranks whether ecclesiastical or secular discussing and investigating the usefulness and

necessity of the churches of God and the monasterial rule of life and observance: also

taking counsel and inquiring into the excellence and stability of the earthly kingdom.

And further by all staying there in the same synod was weighed and inquired who with

justice and equity had been treated and who with injustice and violence had been

defrauded and robbed in his person.


ᵃThe charter is also printed in Kemble, Cod. Dip. no. 230 : in Haddan and Stubbs III, 596 and in Thorpe, Dipl. p. 73. Another version preserved in the Canterbury and Worcester Cartularies is also printed in Haddan and Stubbs III, 601 and in B.C.S. 385.

Page 10

Then at length among other things spoken of it was disclosed that the aforesaid

Archbishop Uulfred through the enmity and violence and avarice of King Coenwulf

whether displayed among our own people or carried beyond the seas to the apostolic

seat by his order and sending: that is to say that by the testimony of everyone he had

been deprived of all his special lordship in particular in his free monasteries at

Suthmynstre and to Raeculf: in all the matter and possessions which to them pertained

he had been despoiled by the violence and rapacity of the same aforesaid king. And not

alone the bishop in these and many other things had been dishonoured. But by the

same aforesaid accusations and discords the entire English people was deprived for well

nigh six years of its primordial authority and of the ministry of holy baptism. Also after

these things this aforesaid King Coenwulf with his wise men assembled at the royal

town of London and to this same council summoned the archbishop with his following

and the assistance of his chief supporters. Then in the same council with the utmost

harshness he commanded to the bishop that he should be committed to all those

things of which his lordship had been robbed and from the whole of this country

should be exiled and never again accept the dicta of the lord pope or of the emperor or

of any other person of whatever rank in this country: unless he was willing to agree to

these terms namely that he would give back the land at Iognes homme of 300

manentes and pay £120 in money. But the bishop was a long time reluctant and of his

free will altogether silent and unwilling to consent to this reconciliation but eventually

in view of the aforesaid demand of rapacity and compelled by threat of banishment he

unwillingly agreed to this reconciliation on this condition that he should be accounted

worthy in all the power and obedience which to his episcopal seat belonged according to

the authority of his rank just as his predecessors according to regular succession in the

ancient times gone by had all these things. In this way King Coenwulf reconciled himself

to the bishop that from all the aforesaid affronts and dissentions he would render him

guiltless and secure against the lord pope, or if he should not be able to do this he would

restore to the bishop the money which he was to pay. Yet no part of this expressed

condition was fulfilled but at once he was deceived in everything, since after this

reconciliation for three whole years at Suthmynstre he was defrauded both in

food and money and clothing and also in all the obedience which to the archiepiscopal

seat belonged without any recompense, and in many other places of his diocese he was


It came about afterwards in the time of the aforesaid King Beornwulf that the

archbishop Uulfred summoned to the celebrated synod at Clofeshoum the abbess

Cwoenthrytha, the heir of Coenwulf in the same inheritance and demanded the

amendment in his favour of all the aforesaid molestation and wrongs which the same

King Coenwulf to himself and the church of Christ and his diocese by unjust crookedness

had perpetrated. Then the whole synod found in fairness and unanimously

established this judgment: that to the bishop she should restore everything that had

been taken away by violence, also that in all matters in which by any unlawful act he had

been at any time despoiled and Equivalent recompense should be added, and that every

practice should be corrected which in the same period had been violated.

Page 11

Afterwards it pleased King Beornwulf owing to his friendship for the inheritance

of King Coenwulf and his heirs with the concurrence of his counsellors to decree to the

archbishop that he should diligently make reconciliation and correction of

these aforesaid things: and with humble prayer be requested that to the love of God and

his own friendship he should assent to this following reconciliation since the inheritance

and its heir desired him as mediator and patron: that is to say, he besought him to

accept the land of 100 manentes in four places namely aet Hearge, Herefrething lond

and at Wemba lea and at Geddincg gum. In the end the aforesaid archbishop, acceding to

the suggestions of the King, yet not by his voluntary wish but for the love of God and the

amiable friendship of the King, accepted this aforesaid reconciliation that the abbess

Cwoenthrytha, the daughter of Coenwulf and his heir, should hand over this aforesaid

land computed at 100 manentes to the archbishop with the related and ancient charters

and with the same liberty which he formerly had in perpetual inheritance to have and

possess and after his death to bequeath to whomsoever he would.

Thereupon King Beornwulf with the witness and counsel of the same synod

liberated this land which formerly had not been freed from the aforesaid donation with

the same freedom as other land also at Hearge which had been already liberated and in

another charter had been included. But immediately this aforesaid reconciliation was

violated since in twelve months from this aforesaid land 3 manentes had been

abstracted and the books of 47 manentes in three places had not been returned, that is

to say aet Boc lande and aet Wemba lea and at Herefrething londe, moreover in the

second year after these things had thus been done the same abbess demanded discourse

of the bishop and sought after him in the region of the Hwicci in the place called

Oslafeshlan, and confessed to him her folly in delaying the reconciliation, that is to say,

with regard to the land which previously she had failed to surrender; and then in the

same place the bishop explained in presence of the abbess that he was freed from all

ancient matters which they had previously reconciled since she had not carried out

what she had previously promised.

Then the abbess with all humility promised that everything which had not been

restored to him she desired with every most diligent devotion to amend and in the same

council she restored to him certain books which he had not had before: also a small field

of 4 manentes in consideration of his loving friendship she would add to the aforenamed

land at Hearge: likewise also in the province of Cantia 30 manentes of land at Cumbe

with the books of the same she would give to him as a recompense in inheritance for

ever: that the aforesaid reconciliation might remain stable and firm, and that the whole

inheritance of Coenwulf and his heirs might be securely liberated.

The bishop then consented in these terms: “on this condition that the pretext of

ancient privileges of Wincel cumbe and the aforesaid fields should be eliminated and

should not be raised again in future: and moreover that if again any dispute should be

raised in future by any heir of Coenwulf he shall know without any doubt that I and my

heirs and the church of Christ are discharged from any obligation of justice or correction

in favour of that heir. And all things above written which are not reconciled as a wrong

are to remain as they are”.

The first signatory is Cwoenthryth, abbess, and next came Beornwulf King of the Mercians

and Uulfred, archbishop, sixty two others follow.

Page 12

The next document is the will of Werhard the priest made seven years later (832) of

which the following is a translation (B.C.S. 402):ᵃ

“In the dominical year of the Incarnation 830 (for 832) I Werhard by the grace of

God priest by these letters desire to make known in what way after my death I wish to

divide my substance and lands which by the gift of God and with the help of archbishop

Wlfred my Kinsman I have acquired.

In the first place with great humility and humble devotion I restore to Christ

Church and to the monks my brothers serving God in the same place all the lands within

Cancia and beyond which so far I have held by the gift of the aforesaid archbishop and

the consent of the aforesaid family of Christ. For the same archbishop enjoined me to do

this because he had destined the same lands already to the work of the oftnamed family

and with great effort had acquired them for the reward of his eternal welfare. Now these

are the names of the lands which I restore: Hergas 104 hides, Otteford 100 hides,

Gravenea 32 hides, Burnan 44 hides, Oeswalum 10 hides, Bereham (which the same

archbishop and monks of Christ Church gave me in exchange for the land of Clive) 36

hides; one yoke which lies in the south part of Limene and by the inhabitants is

called Lambaham but it belongs to Burnan and renders 40 pensas of cheese: another

yoke lies at Northuuda and should render 120 measures which the English call “ambres”

of salt. With the aforesaid lands I faithfully restore all the marshes in the South part of

Limene and in the north; also the dwelling which is in the north part of the wall of

Dorobernia and the close which the English call “teage” which belongs to the aforesaid


Now I make this restoration partly on this account because my lord the

archbishop himself wrote out before he was enfeebled concerning the division of his

estate he laid down this same to be known. And in this writing he established a charity

which he ordered to be made daily in those lands which he had himself acquired for his

soul and for the souls of all those who might expend their means in any assistance to

Christ Church. And this he ordered to be done most intently for he said thus: “Let the

doing or neglecting of this charity ordained by me be between God and our succeeding

archbishops.” At Herga 5 poor persons, at Otteford 5, at Clive 2, at Gravenea 2, at

Oesuualum 7, in the City of Canterbury 6: to each one be given daily to eat what may be

suitably sufficient, and annually to each poor person for clothing 26 pence. Further be

ordained that daily mass be celebrated for his soul and for the souls of the above

memorable persons: on his anniversary he ordained that to each of 1200 poor

persons should be given one loaf of bread and cheese or lard and one penny.

The above is the direction of archbishop Wlfred. I Werhard the priest also grant

to the above named Christ Church in the city of Dorobernia for the deliverance of my

soul and that of archbishop Wlfred 32 hides of my patrimony which I am free to

give to whom I choose named Hyse. Also another estate called Megeldeuurthe

which the archbishop Ceolnoth had given to the monks of the aforenamed Christ Church

I give back again.

Further I add the land of 8 hides called Tuicham in the province of the

Middlesaxons. Therefore let the brethren and monks of my lord of Christ Church see to it

that my soul is remembered because freely I have returned what I was under obligation

to return and what was my own: with a most devout mind I have brought offerings to



ᵃAlso printed in Kemble, Cod. Dip. no. 230 and in Thorpe Dipl. p. 466

Page 13

The story told in the foregoing charters represents the point of view of archbishop  Wulfred. It is a series of en parte statements and puts the conduct of the abbess Quoenthrytha in a very unfavourable light. It will appear however that she was not so much to blame as the archbishop was pleased to make out. The key to the situation is to be found in the story of Selethrytha abbess of Suthmynstre i.e. of Minster, Thanet. Offa of Mercia (757-796) was overlord of Kent and Selethrytha and her brother Earl Aldberht were among his trusted friends. It seems likely that they were related to his queen Cynethrytha; they were at all events of noble birth and devoted to the Mercian interest. Their family had been resident for some time in East Kent, and in 786 Offa regranted to them jointly land in Ickham and Rucking which had been held by their father (B.C.S. 248). In the previous year he had given them other land in Ickham (B.C.S. 247). It is to be noted that these two grants were made in church councils and were attested by “multi religiosi testes”, and that Offa’s queen was a party to both. These circumstances and the facts that Selethrytha was an abbess and that Aldberht ended his days in a monastery make it probable that the grants were regarded asreligious benefactions. The brother and sister were also possessed of other estates in East Kent, and in particular, as we learn from Wulfred’s own statement, of one at Oeswalum.

The nunnery at Minster had for some time been going through a very trying period. During the abbacy of Sigeburtha (751-797) “the Danes coming every year were devastating the isle of Thanet and the nuns becoming few were excessively harassed by tribulation of misfortunes and by grief”.ᵃ After the death of Sigeburtha, Cuthred King of Kent and brother of his overlord Cenwulf of Mercia appointed Selethrytha as abbess of Minster “who strove to confirm the wearied minds of the sisters and to restore the monastery to its original state.ᵇ Thorn says she increased as far as she could the number of the nuns which had been diminished by the coming of the Danes.

There is no evidence that Selethrytha ruled as abbess in Minster itself, and it is unlikely that the family of nuns had for some time past been able to remain in that exposed position. Now Selethrytha and her brother had, as we have seen an estate in Oeswalum deep in the country and some ten miles away from Thanet. If another place of refuge had to be sought it would naturally occur to this benevolent abbess to provide it on her own property there and this is what was in fact done. It was still the monastery of Minster but housed in a safer spot until the times grew better.

ᵃChron. of St. Aug. by Wm. Thorn (A. H. Davis), 237

ᵇIb. 237

Page 14

In 804 we find from B.C.S. 317 that Selethrytha had become abbess of the nunnery at Lyminge. The Danish inroads had then widened: Lyminge was now threatened and Selethrytha and her family there were granted “a refuge of necessity” in the city of Canterbury. It is possible she retained her position as abbess of Minster until her death.

She was succeeded as abbess of Minster by Quoenthrytha, daughter of King Cenwulf of Mercia. This lady was the first abbess of the monastery of Wincelcumbe (Winchcombe in Gloucestershire) which was founded by Cenwulf in 811, and she seems to have retained this position and to have treated Minster as an appendage to Winchcombe. It is quite likely Quoenthrytha never saw the ancient seat of her nunnery at Minster and that it was only fromtime to time that she paid a visit to it in its new home at Oeswalum.

Archbishop Wulfred, a Kentish [man?], in the early years of his episcopate had maintained friendly relations with Coenwulf and the Mercian party. But at this time the Mercianhold over Kent was weakening and the Mercians were defeated by the Kentish people who favoured the cause of the West Saxons. The monastery of Minster under Selethrythe had exercised a [strong?] Mercian influence and this was continued under Quoenthrythe. Wulfred was a politician as well as a church man and saw an opportunity in the distress of Thanet due to the Danish raids of weakening the Mercian influence. Minster and apparently also Reculver had been forsaken and Wulfred as father of the church took upon himself to assume control of these “free monasteries” as he termed them. This action of the archbishop aroused the indignation of the abbess of Minster and she complained of it to King Cenwulf who in 817 took possession of the property of Minster and restored it to the monastery. Open war was now declared between the King and the archbishop and the latter retaliated by appealing to the pope with the consequence that the country was placed under an interdict for nearly six years. The emperor Charlemagne was also apparently invited by Wulfred to intervene but did not do so. The infuriated King summoned Wulfred to a council in London and there gave him the alternative of relinquishing his claim to the property of the monasteries and of forfeiting for his conduct a large estate at a place called Leogeneshamme or Jogneshomme and of paying a fine of £120, or of being permanently banished from the Kingdom. To avoid banishment Wulfred was forced toaccept these harsh conditions.

So matters remained during Cenwulf’s lifetime. He died in 822 and was succeeded after a short interval by Beornwulf whose hold on Kent had become weaker. Wulfred had bided his time and his opportunity had now come.

The abbess Selethrytha had been friendly with Wulfred in the early years of his episcopate and about 805 she and her brother Aldberht had granted to him an estate in Oeswalum to take effect after the death of the survivor of them. But she deeply resented his action in taking possession of the property of her monastery and took vigorous steps to recover Thomas of Elmham refers to her attempts to recover the possessions of the church which had been taken away and “with what labours and with how much opposition from archbishop Wulfred she recovered the abstracted lands.”ᵃ After her death, as Wulfred relates, the claim of the monastery to the land at Oeswalum was supported by Earl Oswulf her surviving relative and apparently her heir.


ᵃop. cit. 221

Page 15

We can now begin to understand the questions raised in the charters set out above. B.C.S. 378 deals only with the land at Oeswalum, but it is obvious from B.C.S. 384 that wider issues were raised. Selethrytha and her brother had made a reversionary donation of their estate at Oeswalum to Wulfred and until both of them were dead he was not in a position to assert his claim. Circumstances had changed in the lifetime of Selethrytha, and she had settled the nuns of Minster on a part of the estate. She had made over to them this part and the deed of gift was the “book” (landboc, title deed) which Oswulf placed with ceremony on the altar of the nunnery. This document was quite distinct from the reversionary grant to Wulfred which had remained in his own possession and which was produced by him to the council of 824. The two documents were competing and inconsistent. The grant to Wulfred would show no title in the nuns and would have been of no value to them. On the other hand it was important to Wulfred to obtain possession of the nuns’ grant in order to prevent claims being made under it in future. Selethrytha was probably aware of the difficulty that she had made two inconsistent grants of a part of her estate and perhaps expected that the later grant would eventually be challenged by Wulfred. She may have hoped that Cenwulf with his strong personality would be able to support this doubtful gift but his death removed this hope. It is clear that the two documents did not purport to cover the same ground. Wulfred under his grant claimed the whole estate, while the monastery claim was limited to a small part of it. The estate as Oeswalum as we learn from a comparison of the will of Werhard with B.C.S. 378 contained 14 aratri (or manentes or hides) while the contest was only over 4 aratri. The case of Wulfred seems clearly to have been stronger in law and it is not surprising that the council of 824 decided the matter in his favour. Up to this point the victory lay with Wulfred. It was a bitter blow to Quoenthrytha. She was prepared to submit to the sacrifice of estates and income, but to be deprived of the new home of her monastery was intolerable. She induced King Beornwulf to interest himself on her behalf. The King eventually made proposals for a modification of the Council’s decision and used his influence with Wulfred to obtain their acceptance. The main object of these proposals was to preserve the little home of the nuns at Oeswalum. The King proposed that the archbishop should accept in full settlement of his claim four estates in Middlesex having a total content of 100 manentes and Wulfred rather unwillingly accepted this compromise. Quoenthrytha had achieved her principal object, but she only partially complied with the terms of the new settlement and this [goading?] compliance was to cost her dear. As the result of a vigorous complaint from the archbishop she sought a conference with him in the following year in Worcestershire. Wulfred was in a vindictive frame of mind, and it was a thoroughly frightened abbess who met him at Oslafeshlan. She admitted her folly in delaying the surrender of part of the land she had agreed to give up. The archbishop “with great urbanity” (B.C.S. 385) pointed out that her failure of full compliance had set him free from any obligation under the settlement. This, as Quoenthrytha realised, was a threat that he was going to revert to the original judgment of the Council under which the home of the monastery at Oeswalum would be taken from her. To avoid this she then agreed to make further concessions, and to give up in addition further land at Harrow and an estate of 30 manentes at Cumbe in Kent (perhaps Wincelcumbe, now Winchcombe farm in Crundale). So she made her peace with the archbishop and the amended settlement was submitted to the council of 825 and confirmed by them.

Thus it came about after a severe struggle and much sacrifice that the house of the nuns at Oeswalum was secured to them. Wulfred quickly made over his part of the estate there to his Kinsman Werhard the priest who at his death returned it to the priory of Christ Church.

Page 16

Adjoining it the pious nuns carried on their work on the small part which they had succeeded in keeping. They gave it the name of Bedesham in thankful acknowledgement of the answer to their prayers, and we find it under this name in Domesday and in the Domesday Monachorum of 1100. The name is derived from the Anglo-Saxon bead, a prayer: Bedesham was “the home of prayer the prayed-for home”.ᵃ

In Domesday Book Bedesham is included, like Easole, among the possessions of bishop Odo, but it was a separate estate and held by a different undertenant, Osbert de Osbern. The latter kept in his own possession only a small part of it and sublet the remainder to ten thegns. Easole and Bedesham remained separate estates for a period of about 750 years, and were notreunited, as we shall see later, until 1558.

The later history of the monastery of Minster is very uncertain, and Thorn, who admits that his information is defective makes confused and contradictory statements about it. He mentions an abbess Leofryma in 1009 or 1011 and concludes that the monastery came to an end at that time. A charter of King Canute of 1027ᵇ gives to St. Augustine’s “the body of the glorious Virgin Mildred with all her land within the island of Thanet and without it with all customs appertaining to the church.” St. Mildred was the second abbess of Minster and had died about 700. The charter appears to include only the land of the original foundation and not to have covered the land of Selethrytha’s gift at Oeswalum which certainly never belonged to St. Augustines. It is possible that some of the nuns had returned to their original home in Thanet and continued the monastery at Minster until its final dissolution. But it seems certain that the establishment at Bedesham was continued, though it may have become limited to parochial work. We are told in Domesday that Bedesham had been held of Edward the Confessor by Godesa. This seems to be a woman’s name and possibly she was the head of the nunnery there.

The nunnery at Bedesham has left both remains and memories. A few hundred yards to the west of St. Alban’s Court there are remains of substantial flint and rubble walls from which all the masonry has disappeared. These are “the Ruins*” mentioned by Mr. Arnold (page 2) and it and it will be remembered that he recalls the tradition of an old chapel there. Before his time Harris in his History of Kent (1719) had referred to the tradition in a more explicit form. He says on page 221: “At a place called Beacham near this St. Albans the tradition goes that there was a nunnery.”

[*Editor’s note: recent archaeological investigation has shown that these ruins are in fact the remains of a series of manorial residential buildings dating from the late 13th to the late 15th centuries].


ᵃFormations from this word are not uncommon. It is found in the beads of a rosary used in keeping account of the number of prayers said, in bead-roll a list of persons to be specially prayed for, in beadsman a man of prayer, and in bidding-prayer. In the Saxon period it was a common first element in the personal names of ecclesiastics abbots abbesses, clerks, monks, priests (see Searle’s Onamasticon). It has been extensively used in the names of places which contained monasteries or monastic property, eg. Bedinton, Staff. given in 1004 to Burton Abbey, now Pillaton (Duignan, Staffordshire place names). Beadyngham, Sussex had a monastery in 801, now Beddingham (B.C.S. 302): Beadingum, Sussex, had a Benedictine priory in 1075, now Beeding (Lewis, Topographical dictionary): Beadriceswurthe, Suffolk the old name of Bury St. Edmunds had a monastery about 633 (Encyclopedia Britannica): Beedwinda, Wilts. was granted to the monastery of Abingdon in 968, now Bedwyn (Chronicon Monasterii de Abingdon): Beaddinctun, Hants. Belonged to the convent of Winchester in 901 (Thorpe, Diplomatarium anglicum, 161)

ᵇK.C.D. 1326: Thorn, op. cit. 43

Page 17

The name has varied. It was Bedesham in the Norman period: in 1558 it had become Beacham Hasted mentions an estate adjoining St. Alban’s Court “called Bedesham now Beacham”: and in the 6 inch Ordnance map of today it appears as Beauchamp Wood. It is unfortunate that the Victoria County History of Kent on quite inadequate grounds has identified the Bedesham of Domesday with Betteshanger and the same place in the Domesday Monachorum with Bodsham Green near Hastingleigh.

It was the nuns of Bedesham who gave the village its name: Nonington is “the tun or homestead of the nuns”. The name does not appear in the Saxon period and it is not found in Domesday. It is first met with in the Domesday Monachorum, an ecclesiastical source. The church at “Nunningitum” mentioned there may well have been established under the care of the nunnery, and it is significant that the dedication of St. Mary is the same as that of the nunneries of Winchcombe, Minster, Lyminge and Folkestone. Some of the later forms of the name are given below and it will be seen that the variations are slight.

{ Nonyntune }

1240 { Nunigtune } Assize Rolls

{ Nonintone }

1254 Nonintone do.

1270 { Nonintone } do.

{ Non(n)yntone }

1282 { Nonyngton } Peckham Register

{ Noningetune }

1291 Nonyntone Taxation of Pope Nicholas IV

1316 Nonyngton Feudal Aids

1460 { Nonyngton Local deedsᵃ

1498 {

The nature of the country is reflected in the place names of the village. Some of the hamlets have woodland names. The first element of Fredville is frit, frid, frith, wooded country (cf. Frittenden). Unfortunately most writers following a guess of that unreliable etymologist, Philipott, have connected it with the French froid, and have maligned this pleasant spot in their efforts to make out that it is a cold place. Ackholt (pronounced Aycol) and Holt Street contain the element holt, a wood.


ᵃPlace names formed in this way in the late Saxon and Early Norman periods are not uncommon. Nunthorp, Yorks. and was D.B. Tarp: Nunkeching, Yorks. had a nunnery and was D.B. Chelinge: Nunburnhohne, Yorks. had a nunnery and was D.B. Brunham: Nuneaton, Warw. had a nunnery and was D.B. Etone: Nunney, Som. in the island of the nuns: Nunwell, I. of W. is the nun’s spring: Nunwick, Northum. is the dwelling of the nuns.

Many similar formations in monk are found, Monkton, Monkwell, &c. Of the same class is Fryerning, Essex, the dwelling of the friars.

Page 18

Oeswalum itself in its Domesday form of Eswalt contains the element walt (cf. Walt-ham) which in its various forms walt, wald, wold, weald implies a wooded district.The first element of Ratling possibly goes back to an earlier *hrat a form of hart which is an old Teutonic root meaning forest.

The estates of Bishop Odo were forfeited in 1084 and reverted to the Conqueror. Some of them were devoted by him to the creation of nine baronies charged with the obligation of providing for the wardship of Dover Castle. One of the baronies was held in 1138 by Walkelin (Walchelin) Mamignotᵃ and, as we learn from the lists of 1211 and 1261, this barony included the manor of Easole (Esselle, Eselle, Aswelle) which was held as one knight’s fee, ie. land sufficient for the maintenance of one knight.ᵇ The manor was more extensive than the estate granted temp. Henry I to the monastery and included Fredvilleᶜ. The estate which had been held by the monastery was described in an extent taken in 1615 as being only half a feeᵈ.

Walkelin Mamignot was dead in 1198 (possibly he had been dead for many years) and the barony had passed to his heir Galfrid de Say ᵉ, whose descendants held it in 1242 and 1346ᶠ. In the reign of Henry I (1100-35) a part of the manor of Easole (Estwala) not including  Fredville was given by Nigel de Albini to the monastery of St. Alban in Hertfordshire. The grantwas confirmed by the King at the time, but in the unsettled period that followed Henry’s death the monastery deemed it prudent to obtain a further confirmation from Stephen. This second confirmation was granted about 1141, and the original document is now in the possession of Mrs. Hammond of St. Alban’s Court and is reproduced in facsimile here. As this document is possibly the oldest title deed in Kent in private possession it is worthwhile to print it in the original Latin. It runs:

“S[tephanus] rex Anglorum Archiepiscops Cantuariensi Justiciariis Vicecomiti Baronibus et omnibus ministris et fidelibus suis Francis et Anglis de Chent Salutem, Sciatis me concessisse et confirmasse in perpetuam elemosinam deo et ecclesie Sancti Albani et monachis in ea seruientibus donationem illam quam Nigellus de Albineis eis fecit in elemosinam pro salute anime sue de manerio de Estwala Quare uolo et firmiter precipis quod ecclesia prefata et monachi teneant manerium illud bene et in pace et libere et quiete et honorifice in bosco et plano et pratis et pasturis et aquis et stagnis et uiis et semitis et omnibus locis et cum omnibus aliis rebus et libertatibus et quietanciis et liberis consuetudinibus que ad illud pertinent cum quibus prefatus Nigellus uel aliquis aute eum unquam melius uel liberius tenuit et sicut ipse illud eis dedit et concessit in elemosinam et sicut rex Henricus illud eis concessit et per cartam suam confirmauit. Testibus Matide regine et Roberto de Ver et Willelmo de Ipro et Adam de Beln’. Apud Westmonasteium”.


ᵃRound, Geoffrey de Mandeville, 94

ᵇRed Book of the Exchequer, 617, 710, 721

ᶜFeudal Aids III, 24. In 1242-3 the one fee in Easole is said to have two under-tenants Hamo Colekyn and Roger de Kynardintone.

The Colkins, a Canterbury family, were the holders of Fredville throughout the 13 th and 14 th centuries (Philipott, Villare Cantianum, 252). In 1346 the one fee which John Colkyn had held at Esol and Freydevill of Galfrid de Say is said to have four undertenants, viz. John, son of John Colkyn, the abbot of St. Alban, Edmund de Acholt and Richard de Retlyng and his coparceners. In 1550 lands belonging to Fredville were said to be “in the tenure of the manor of Estwell”. Fredville was never a manor though it is termed one by Hasted.

ᵈDeeds at St. Alban’s Court

ᵉPipe Roll, 10, Ric. I

ᶠBook of Fees 655; Feudal Aids III, 24

 Page 19

Here is the translation:

“Stephen King of the English to the Archbishop of the Kentish people, justices, Sheriff, barons, and to all his thanes and faithful French and English of Kent, greeting. Know that I have granted and confirmed in perpetual alms to God and to the church of St. Alban and the monks serving God therein the gift which Nigel de Albini made to them in alms for the salvation of his soul of the manor of Estwala. Wherefore I will and firmly decree that the aforesaid church and monks may hold this manor well and in peace and freely and quietly and honourably in wood and plain and meadows and pastures and waters and ponds and ways and paths and in all places and with all other things and liberties and quittances and free customs which to the same appertain with which the aforesaid Nigel or any before him at any time better or more freely held, and just as he himself gave and granted it to them in alms, and just as King Henry granted it to them and confirmed it by his charter. By these witnesses Matilda, Queen and Robert de Ver and William de Ipra and Adam de Belnai. At Westminster”.

Little is known of Nigel de Albini. Weever calls him vir probus et illustris and says Henry I gave him most of the forfeited lands of Robert Mewbrayᵃ. He was tenant in chief of lands in Yorkshire and Gloucestershire, and at the date of the gift to the abbey he appears to have been a comparatively young man ᵇ. He may have been a cadet of the distinguished family of Albini, Earls of Arundel and hereditary butlers (pincerna) of the Norman kings. It is to be noted that the gift was not made by the lord of the barony but by a person who could only have been a mesne tenant. As time went on, owing to the growth of agriculture and the coming of more peaceful conditions, the substantial interest in manors tended to vest more and more in the mesne tenants. The obligations of military service continued but declined in importance.

The gift would in any case require the consent of the lord of the fee and may have been confirmed by him on more than one occasion. The monastery of St. Albans seems to have had occasion for gratitude to the family of Say as in 1476 the Abbot and Convent granted to Sir John Say fraternity in their abbey and participation in the masses and good works performed there and promised to inscribe his name in their obituary after his death and to offer special prayers on his anniversaryᶜ. The abbot of St. Alban exercised over his manor of Easole all the powers of a feudal lord. In 1279 when the King’s Justices held an Eyre in Canterburyᵈ he claimed to have in his manor of “Estwel” tol and team, sac and soc, grithbreach, hamsoca, forstall, stememfrith, ways, correction of the assize of bread and beer, warren and amerciaments of his men wherever they were amercedᵃ and said these liberties had been exercised without charter for an immemorial period.


ᵃAncient Funerall Monuments. 1631, 570

ᵇMadox, Hist. of the Exchequer, 309: Red Book of the Exchequer, 298, 420

ᶜMadox, Formulare Anglicanum, 336

ᵈPlacita de quo warrants, 346

Page 20

This statement was confirmed by the oath of twelve knights chosen for the purpose, and the Justices being satisfied that the claim did not infringe the prerogative of the king or his ancestors allowed it. At a later eyre at Canterbury in 1293ᵇ the abbot again claimed the aforesaid liberties and these were allowed. He further claimed view of frank-pledge and put in evidence a charter of Richard I of 1195 granting to his monastery of St. Alban in all its lands all the liberties and free customs which could be granted to any church “with sac and soc on strand and stream on wood and field, tol and team, grithbreach and hamsoken and everything relating to homicide [i.e. the pecuniary penalties for it], forestall, danegeld, infangenethef and utfangenethef and blodwyte”ᶜ. The further claim was allowed.

Called upon once more in 1312 to substantiate his claims over the manor of “Estwell” before the King’s Judges at Rochesterᵈ the abbot by his attorney stated them rather more extensively. On this occasion he claimed that the liberty of maintaining a tumbrel and pillory as instruments of punishment had been exercised from time immemorial, and that his right to have a gallows (furca) had been given by the charter of Richard I. The jurors, who said Estwell was in the tithing (borgha) of Soles, found in favour of these extended claims and they were allowed.

It is recorded in the “Liber Memorandorum” which was begun by John de la Moote prior and afterwards abbot of St. Albans and continued after his death, that in 1425 a letter in English was sent to the lord duke of Buckenham on behalf of the manor of Eswale in Kent for preserving the liberties of the said manorᵉ. The Liber memorandorum further records that an extent of the manor of Esole was made about 1496 (ib.)

Easole continued in the possession of the abbey until the dissolution of the monasteries. The abbot and Convent under the direction of King Henry VIII on the 8 th May 1538 conveyed the manor with its lands and appurtenances and all tythes belonging to it as well of corn, grain and hay as otherwise to Sir Christopher Hales, member of Parliament for Canterbury, a favourite lawyer of the King and grantee of other lands in Kent.

ᵃTol was the right of taking such payments as custom sanctioned on sales of cattle or other goods within his lands: team was the right of compelling the person in whose hands stolen or lost property was found to vouch to warranty i.e. to name the person from whom he received it: sac and soc was jurisdiction in matters of dispute: grithbreach was a breach of the local peace: hamsoca was the fine paid for an attack on a man’s house: forstall was a fine for an attack: stememfrith was a right of punishment for a breach of the peace.

ᵇPlacita de quo warrants, 360

ᶜFrank-pledge was an association for mutual security: infangenethef was jurisdiction over a thief caught within the manor and utfangenethef the like when the thief was caught outside the manor: blodwyte was the fine imposed for drawing blood.

ᵈPlacita de quo warrants, 317

ᵉDug. Mon. II, 210. The letter is stated to be addressed to the “domines dux Buk.” And with some doubt I have concluded that the addressee was John Fitz-Alan, Lord of Buckenham in Norfolk, 9 th Earl of Arundel and Duke of Touraine (1421-35). William de Albini founded Buckenham Priory in 1146 and the Albinis were Lords of Buckenham and Earls of Arundel. On failure of the male line in 1243 these titles passed through the female line to the Fitz Alans. The “Buk.” May possibly be a contraction of Buckingham. The Earls of Buckingham held the castle and manor of Tonbridge at this time and had other estates in Kent but the title of Duke was not conferred until 1444 (see Doyle, Official Baronage of England) but it seems more probable that the letter was addressed to the representatives of the original donor of Easole than to a magnate unconnected to the estate.

Page 21

The purchase money was doubtless received by the King, and the abbey was finally suppressed on the 5 th December following. The alienation was confirmed by a special act of Parliament passed in 1539. Hales died in 1541, and at his death was found to be seised (inter alia) of the manor of Esole alias St. Albans Court and 20 acres of arable, 8 acres of meadow, 60 acres of pasture and 6 acres of wood held of the King as of the honor of Dover by Knights serviceᵃ. By a family arrangement Easole passed in 1551 to Alexander Culpeper, the husband of one of Hales’ daughters, and he shortly afterwards passed it over to his eldest brother Thomas Culpeper Esq of Bedgbury, who in turn sold it to Thomas Hammond in 1555.

The monastery farm at Easole remained subject to the service of half a knight for wardship of Dover Castle, and part of the monastery land was subinfeudated for the maintenance of person to perform this service. A reminiscence of this obligation is found in the inventory of the goods of Richard Creake of Nonington who died in 1560 from which the following is extracted:

Item. one Almayne Rynet, a Javelyn, two bylles, a shefe of arroes, a sworde, a shredd coverlett, two old paynter clothes – Xs.

The first item is a German hauberk, the shredd coverlett is perhaps a slashed jacket and the paynter clothes may be coloured uniforms. Richard Creake seems to have been a treasurer of curios and as already mentioned had possessed an old quern. His ancestor Stephen Kreke had held land in Nonington in 1498ᵇ, and the item seems to indicate that Richard’s predecessors had served the monastery as men at arms.

The monastery of St. Alban did not maintain and establishment at Easole. They regarded it merely as a source of income and demised their demesne land to a farmer. Hasted says the occupier at the date of the sale in 1538 was John Hammond who held under a lease for ten years from the abbot and Convent at the yearly rent of £13 6s. 8d.ᶜ John Hammond however had died in 1525 and the actual occupier in 1538 seems to have been his son Thomas Hamon (he always spelt his name thus). Thomas Hamon continued as tenant under the succeeding owners until 6 th June 1555 he contracted to purchase “the manor of Esole otherwise Seynt Albans Court” from Thomas Culpeper for 800 marks and completed his purchase on 22 nd March 1556ᵈ.

The Hammond family would seem to have come from Canterbury where eight persons of that name died between 1487 and 1557: another died at Goodnestone in 1536 and one in Chillenden in 1542ᵉ. They appear to have been substantial people of the yeoman class. 


ᵃHasted III, 709

ᵇSt. Albans Court deed chest

ᶜ Hasted III, 709

ᵈMuniments of St. Albans Court

ᵉ Index of Wills &c. at Canterbury, Kent Records Vol. VI

Page 22

Prior to his purchase of Easole Thomas Hamon had been steadily acquiring an estate in the hamlet. We have seen (page 5) that by 1548 he had become owner of a considerable number of strips in the common fields. It was perhaps to enable him to consolidate his position at Easole that in the same year he disposed of a part of his holding in Goodnestone. By a deed of 26 th April 1548 he released to William Idley of Goodneston all his claim in”

All manors, messuages, suits, services, &c. in Goodneston which were formerly of John Hamon his father.

And in all manors, &c. which he the said Thomas Hamon had bought of William Roper Esq.

And in ten acres of land at [Cukkissole?-Crixhall] in Goodneston

And in all lands &c. in the villa Rollyng in Goodneston”.

In 1550, as we have already seen, he acquired further strips in the common fields from the owner of Fredville, and in 1555 the manor of Easole. In 1558 he bought from Edward Browne of Word Justa Sandwiche the small estate of Bedesham adjoining Easole, of which he was already the tenant, by the description of:

“All that messuage or tenement called Beacham situated in Nonnyngton with all barnes houses and edifices now in the occupation of Thomas Hamon, and all rents, services &c. containing fifty acres”.

Thomas Hamon had a grant of arms in 1548ᵃ. He was succeeded by his son Edward Hamond who died on the 26 th October 1615 (13 James I) when the following extent of his lands was taken:

“Mannor of Essole alias St. Albones Courte, 30 acres landᵇ, 8 acres mead, 60 acres pasture, 6 acres wood in Nonnyngton, held of the King’s majesty as of his Castle of Dover by Knight service half fee worth £9-6-8

A messuage and land in Nunnington knowne or reputed by the name of Bechams and held of Dover Castle but by what part of fee is not known worth £1-6-8 per ann.

The mannor of Gustone Fleete, a messuage, 24 acres land, 20 acres pasture, 160 acres march; £1-6-8 rent, 40 hens, 6 cocks, 160 eggs, in Ashe near Sandwich, held as half a knights fee of the archbishop of Canterbury. worth £22

40 acres of marsh in Ash, part of tenement aforesaid are held of the Archbishop, but by what part of fee is not known worth £2

A messuage, garden, 10 acres pasture and 60 acres land in Chillenden and Goodnestone are held of William Scott Esq. as of his manor of Hame in free socage by fealty only. worth £4

Two messuages, two tenements, 2 acres land and half an acre pasture and 9 acres land in Chillenden held as above of manor of Hame worth £1

Divers lands in Chillenden and Nunnington called Moncks alias Monnocktons are holden of the Dean and Chapter of Christ Church Canterbury as of their manor of Adsham in socage by rent of £2-15-1 worth £1-6-8 sum total £41″.


ᵃVisitation of Kent 1574, Harleian Society, 59.

ᵇ”Land” means arable land.

Page 23

Thomas Hamon rebuilt in 1556 the manor house of Easole which stood on the site of the present stables. Parts of the old building have been incorporated in the existing stables, and a stone in the wall bears the date 1556. The bell tower of the Tudor building still remains. About the end of the seventeenth century William Hammond built a new manor house on the higher ground to the east. William Hammond and Anthony Hammond (his brother?) appear to have farmed on a large scale and in 1704 and 1718 they held on lease from the Dean and Chapter of Canterbury the manor of Bramling in Ickhamᵃ. In 1716 William granted to Anthony at a rent of £230 per annum his Capital messuage or manor house called St. Albans, 27 acres near Easole Street, 5 acres in Chillenden and 15 acres of marsh in Ash-near-Sandwich. But William retainedfor his own use “all that forepart of the Capital messuage or mannor house called the New Buildings, the Kitchen and the larder with the rooms over them; and five rooms in the Old Buildings of the said mannor house up one pair of stairs (that is to say the Long Study and the room going through to it, the housekeeper’s chamber, Store room and nursery), the bedchamber with two closets on the ground floor and half the cellars under the New Buildings Together with the free use of the bakehouse and well, the courtyard, the two walled gardens adjoining to the front of the said mannor house and half the Kitchen garden being the lower part [thereof?] towards the woodhouse.”

The seventeenth century house was pulled down in 18[sic.] and the present mansion erected on the same site.

At the time of Thomas Hamon’s purchase in 1558 the buildings of Bedesham appear to have been still standing: in 1615 a messuage there is spoken of: and the plan of 1750 indicates the existence at that date of a building on the ground.* The present ruinous condition is perhaps partly due to the stone being used for the lower parts of the later house at St. Albans Court.


ᵃHasted III, 664

*The author excised the following sentence but it may be of interest to researchers: At the present time there are ruins consisting of remains of substantial flint and rubble walls from which all the masonry has disappeared.    



A note on Dr Hardman’s History of Early Nonington

by Peter Hobbs of Old St. Alban’s Court in Nonington.


This note is written on the basis that the reader  has already read Dr Hardman’ History  because it will make little sense otherwise.


  Dr Hardman’s paper on the early history of Nonington is the first draft copy of a major scholarly study setting out the early history. It is a scribbled but legible text assembled on a mass of scraps of paper, most of which was already used on one side. The latter years are only briefly covered and it is very clearly a work in progress. The first thought was to add notes to correct it or bring it up to date but on reflection, it seemed better to let it stand but put it in context given the volumes of further research and information which have emerged in the years since he wrote.

  Hardman died in 1942 at the age of 81, noted as an able scholar particularly in philology as well as being for many years on the Council of the Kent Archaeological Society. Clerk to Walmer Council, he had an extensive personal library of books, often rare, which he would lend freely to students. He published relatively little but corresponded and worked with other historians and archaeologists like WPD Stebbing and  Gordon Ward, both of whom had some preoccupation with Nonington and it’s history.[1] In correspondence in 1936, Hardman refers to his need to reshape his little book on Nonington and having tea with Mrs Hammond.[2] His papers are archived in the Kent Archaeological Society Library ( Boxes 26,27 & 28 ).

   His first draft – which is very obviously incomplete but to which he does not seem to have returned – dates to around 1935. Mining is mentioned only in passing although the mine at  Snowdown had been producing coal since 1912  (and that expansion with the provision of miners’ housing  led to the separation of Snowdown and Aylesham  from Nonington into a separate parish in 1951) and the Hammond estates had not been sold or Nonington College established by the formidable Miss Gladys Wright. Subsequently, Nonington College closed in 1986 and Snowdown Colliery in 1987 and at a stroke, the village changed from having hundreds of jobs and people at both ends to something of the rural tranquility that Hardman describes, albeit the abrupt halt to the employment which absorbed almost all residents one way or another caused substantial hardship..

   From the perspective of documentation and study, the period since 1935 has seen the discovery, publication and interpretation of masses of documentation unknown to Hardman and in particular the monumental studies of the Anglo Saxon charters of Kent by Brooks and Kelly and more locally, nearly twenty five years of archaeological excavation in the grounds and surrounding area of Old St Albans Court by the Dover Archaeological Group.

   Turning to Hardman’s text, the Hammond estate map[3] of 1750 to which he refers has been redated on internal evidence to 1629[4] which actually reinforces his point about the medieval origins of the land distribution. Secondly, Clive Webb[5] has found references to the Hamon family acquiring and disposing of land in the 14thC and 15thC so they were reasonably substantial people before there is the first mention of John Hamond in the context of St Albans Court in 1519[6]. Clive Webb has added to Hardman’s listings of the variations of Easole and Hardman’s conviction that identification of Easole and Eswalt with Oeswalum carries the support of all later experts[7].

   Hardman then not only accesses the documents in the British Museum but also translates the details of the court proceedings brought by Archbishop Wulfred to secure possession of the Anglo Saxon estate of Oeswalum.  In assessing his texts, he would not have been aware that it is now believed that Wulfred appears to have been compromised in some way by the assassination of the son of Coenwulf and heir to Mercia and Kent[8] and only when rejected by both the Pope and Charlemagne’s successor did Wulfred reconcile with the King, paying an enormous fine in compensation as well as yielding up vast estates. Nor that the original land deal in 804 had been with Wulfred’s predecessor[9] probably on behalf of Christchurch, not as a personal arrangement with Wulfred himself. Or the complexities of the reassertion of Mercian royal funding arrangements which had deprived Wulfred of the revenue from the Abbey at Minster – whatever the Danish threats, it had three ships trading with tax concessions in London. Hardman also did not realize the significance of the burial of the assassinated son and heir of Coenwulf  at Winchcombe, the centre of the Mercian family estates, and hence Coenwulf’s daughter and new heir Cwoenthryth became the first Abbess of the new foundation honouring her brother’s martyrdom. Moreover, despite what Werhard says about Wulfred’s will, Oeswalum is still in royal hands in the 1000s[10] without any claim or known protest from Christchurch (who were never slow in their land claims however far fetched) so it seems probable that Cwoenthryth did hold onto them for her nuns in line with Hardman’s hypothesis.

 In supporting his case, Hardman refers to Bedesham, an estate at Domesday that Hasted identifies as Beacham (or Beauchamps) adjoining St Albans Court. He deplores the Victoria County History asserting Bedesham to be  Betteshanger. To date, no deed or document associating Bedesham with Beachams has emerged – compared with the dozens of references we have to Easole in its varying forms –  so it does look at present as though that line of argument will not stand up.

   However, when it comes to the name Nonington, Clive Webb unearthed an 1070 version in a listing of Kent churches by Lanfranc . Hardman’s suggestion for it’s derivation is as plausible as the derivation from the homestead of Nunna. There was an early   church directive that burials should be in the vicinity of a church and the 8thC graves excavated near St Albans Court[11] and in Horseshoe Copse[12] therefore suggest that they were there because at that date there was no church. The 1070 listing implies that there was a pre 1066 foundation so the initial ecclesiastical build at Nonington was probably between those two dates under the auspices of the adjoining archiepiscopal estate at Wingham in which the site lay.

   The King Stephen charter has now disappeared but the seal was last recorded as a fragment attached to a late copy of the original in 1968[13], not the original document although the content was probably correct. Gordon Ward was able to date it’s signing to the 7th December 1141, a singular piece of scholarship[14].

  We now know from archaeological excavation that the rebuild in brick was of the original house in 1556[15] and the whole of the Stables complex replaced the Tudor originals shown on the 1629 Estate Map completely in 1869.[16] Hardman’s academic judgements do not seem to be paralleled with his architectural assessments on the ground in that respect! The 1716 lease was actually to James Nash  in 1663[17] , an unexpected error but this was a first draft, and the new buildings were a rebuild of part of the existing house. These were demolished only after the present St Albans Court was built and occupied in the 1870s on a completely new site overlooking the old mansion.[18] We now know that the assertion that the ruins in Ruins Field were bereft of stone was also not true but perhaps Hardman relied on Stebbing for that information since the OS in 1965 attributed that to an unpublished manuscript History of Nonington by WPDStebbing last recorded in Deal Library but since lost[19].

   Had he continued with his text, Dr Hardman would have identified some of the anomalies but some of the other points relate to much later research and scholarship. What does not change is the nature and extent of his personal scholarship.

[1]  Arch.Cant. vol 55, 1942, p79.

[2]  Hardman to Ward 10 Nov 1936. KAS Library, Nonington folder.

[3]  CKS U442 P30 Estate map of St Albans Court.

[4] Dr Jane Andrews ,Land, ,Family and Community in Wingham and its Environs. An Economic and Social History of Rural Society in East Kent  from c1450-1640. University of Kent thesis,1991.

[5]  Clive  Webb is the principal contributor to the Nonington Village Web site which contains a series of detailed articles inter alia covering the subjects in this note. His are researched  histories of  the area which  he knows intimately having always lived in Nonington.

[6]  CKS, PRC33/1/157v.

[7]  The  list reads Mawer; Wallenberg; Ekberg; Hardman; Cameron; Smith; Mills; Watts; and Cullen. Witney and Brooks accept it unquestioningly.

[8]  RNorth: Revenue and Real Estate: Archbishop Wulfred and the strange case of Cynhelm; J.Roberts & L.Webster (Ed) Anglo-Saxon traces, Essays in AngloSaxon Studies 4, Medieval  and Renaissance Texts & Studies 405, University of Tempe, Arizona 2011.

[9]  NP Brooks & SE Kelly ed: Charters of Christchurch Canterbury, Anglo-Saxon Charters (BritishAcademy ) 2013. 1 . 32,403,583.. The charter is witnessed by Coenwulf, his brother  Cuthred and Archbishop Aethelheardus so nothing lightweight about it.

[10]  Domesday Book Ed A Williams  & GH Martin, Alecto Historical Editions. Penguin 1992

[11] K.Parfitt:Anglo-Saxon cemetery at Nonington, Kent Archaeological Review 147 (2002 ) 154-159.

[12] K.Parfitt: Awaiting  publication 2021.

[13]  I.A.Cronne & H.W.C.Davis (eds), Regesta Regum Anglo-Normanarium, 1066-1114 ( Oxford) 1969.

[14] A single sheet , undated but in Gordon Ward’s hand. Presumed from his papers in KAS Library.

[15]  K.Parfitt, Investigations at Old St Albans Court at Nonington, Kent Archaeological Review,146 2001 132-135.

[16]  Peter Hobbs, Old St Albans Court, Nonington. Arch Cantvol 125 2005 273-290

[17] CKS. U442 T511 Wm Hammond to St Albans  to James Nash of Nonnington 1663.

[18] Ibid Hobbs.

[19] National Monuments Record  letter 4118/97-98 9April 1998 to Hobbs.