Nonington and the railways


The London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR)

The Canterbury to Dover extension of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway (LCDR) was finally opened to traffic on 22nd. July, 1861 after almost a decade of planning. At least two railway companies, the South Eastern Railway (SER) and the East Kent Railway (EKR) which transformed into the LCDR during construction, had initially been involved in planning the construction the line with the War Office expressing an interest for strategic military purposes, but this interest did not extend to the Government investing any money. Several schemes using different routes were put forward at various times prior to the EKR  eventually beginning construction  in 1857. The work initially progressed slowly, in May 1859 only 250 men were employed on the whole length of the new line, which lead to criticism of the contractor, T. R. Crampton, and in the following September Joseph Cubbit, the chief engineer, felt it necessary to report his dissatisfaction with Crampton to the board of directors.

Adisham Station, circa 1916, just before Snowdown Halt was built.
Adisham Station, circa 1916, just before Snowdown Halt was built.
Shepherds Well Station,the tunnel taking the track to Dover is on the right
Shepherds Well Station,the tunnel taking the track to Dover is on the righ








During the line’s construction decisions had to be made regarding the siting of stations. A request had been made for a station at Adisham by  November 1858, and in February, 1859,  the board of directors received a deputation from the parishes of Nonington and Sibertswold (Shepherdswell) asking for the building of stations at Adisham and Butter Street, Sibertswold, to which the directors agreed providing the land for the stations was given free of charge with an additional £.500. to cover the costs. Similar conditions also applied for the provision of a goods only station at Bekesbourne, which the directors had initially decided in December, 1858, was not warranted, and which by November, 1859,  they had decided to make into a proper station.

Nonington Parish Vestry met on  10th March, 1859 at “The Royal Oak”  and decided “after notice duly given to consider a recommendation of Mr. Thurston as to insertion of the line of Railway in the new Parish map” to include the railway line on the recently commissioned parish tithe map, for which the survey cost  £ 156 19/- 9d., for the rating of property for the Poor Law rates. The map accurately recorded the railway’s route and its acreage allowing for the calculation of the rates payable.

Several bridges were built in the parish of Nonington to carry existing roads across the deep railway cuttings. A bridge was built on either side of Soles Court Farm, West Court and Ruberry Bridges, with another next to the present station at Snowdown, two more in the present village of Aylesham on what was then Curleswood Park Farm, and another at what was then the extreme western edge of the parish to carry what is now the B2046 across the line close to Adisham station.  A single arch viaduct was built at Acol to carry the railway over the then Womenswold to Nonington road, now a bridle way, and the expense involved in its construction gives some idea of this road’s importance at the time.

The construction of West Court Bridge also led to a slight re-routing of Long Lane, also known as The Roman Road, which is part of the North Downs Way, as the bridge was sited on a cross-roads formed by Long Lane and the West Court road and slightly angled to allow both roads to cross with each requiring only a slight “S” shaped detour.

Typical railway "navvies" of the 1860's.
Typical railway “navvies” of the 1860’s.
A navy hut, built from whatever came to hand. Employers had no legal responsibility to provide accomadation until the end of the 19th centuryaccomodation
A navy hut, built from whatever came to hand.








The arrival of the railway had quite an social effect on the parishes through which it  passed.  Many of the experienced “navvies” employed to build it came from all over the British Isles, especially Ireland, which was at this time suffering from the effects of the Great Famine which resulted in a large number leaving Ireland for other parts of Britain in search of employment, and many more migrating to North America and Australia in search of a new life.

The interior of a "navvies" hut
The interior of a “navvies” hut

Navvies were not always welcomed by the community in general as they had  a reputation for hard drinking and violent behaviour which was not always justified.Usually single men who often lived under atrocious conditions in temporary accommodation that they built for themselves alongside the railway they were constructing, “navvies” worked hard and played hard and their arrival must have been welcome by alehouse and beer shop proprietors. Married men with families often lived under the same conditions with their children receiving little or now education (see 1861 cencus below).
Employers had no responsibility to provide accommodation for their “navvies” until the 1890’s, and many modern day “traveller” families are descended from these itinerant labourers who built the canals and railways in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In the late 1850’s Walter Webb, my paternal great-great grand-father, had moved from High Halden, where he had been a butcher and grazier,  to Newington-next-Sittingbourne to work initially as a labourer on the LCDR railway (1861 census) and later becoming a plate-layer (1871 census). The building of the LCGR helped many seasonally employed agricultural labourers to find regular employment with better rates of pay.

The 1861 census returns for Nonington record some railway workers as lodging in private houses at Ratling and at “The Phoenix” public house and the Round House at Frogham,  all close to the railways route, whilst other “navvies” and their families appear to have lived in a “shanty town” on West Court Downs.  Some Nonington parishioners were listed in 1861 as labourers on the railway, and later census returns show Nonington residents as railway employees such as clerks and maintenance workers.

The following is an extract from the 1861 cencus listing railway workers and their families in Nonington.

The Round House, ,Frogham. (See Nonington windmills).

GILHAM     George       Head         Marr  68     Ag Labourer        Nonington

GILHAM     Frances      Wife  Marr  68     Labourers wife         Nonington

GILHAM     Sarah Ann Niece Single        9       Scholar         Nonington

JACKSON George       Lodger       Single        47     Railway Labourer    Blandford Dorset

SEAL         William       Lodger       Single        20     Railway Labourer    Northampton

BETTRIDGE       William       Lodger       Single        55         Ag Labourer        Southampton

MILES       James        Lodger       Single        24     Railway Labourer    Northampton

West Court Downs (temporary accommodation).

COLLARD William       Head Marr  34         Railway Labourer Nonington

COLLARD Eliza  Wife  Marr  30     Labourers wife     Weal, Essex

COLLARD Emily Dau   Single        7       Scholar         Coventry, Warwick

COLLARD William       Son   Single        4       Scholar         Milton, Kent

COLLARD Harriet        Dau   Single        11     Scholar         Hitchen, Herts

COLLARD Susannah  Dau   Single        4       Scholar         Milton, Kent

COLLARD Maria Dau   Single        1                Nonington

BAKER      James        Lodger       Single        33     Railway Labourer    Patcham, Sussex

MATCHETT        Francis       Head Marr  46     Railway Labourer    Stickney, Lincoln

MATCHETT        Elizabeth    Wife  Marr  43     Labourers wife   Bugbrook, Northants

DAY  Henry         Head Marr  30     Railway Labourer City of Gloucester

GOODALL George       Head Wid   50     Railway Labourer         Wolburton, Bucks

GOODALL Charles      Son   Single        9       Scholar         Wolburton, Bucks

The Phoenix Inn (see Nonington alehouses)  WEBB       George         Head Marr  54     Innkeeper   Nettlestead, Kent

WEBB       Sarah         Wife  Marr  42     Innkeepers wife         Nonington

CRITTENDEN     Harriet        Sister in law        Single         55     Assistant shepherd      Nonington

SMITH       Joseph       Lodger       Single        40     Railway Labourer    Whitechurch Dorset

DICKINSON        William       Lodger       Single        44         Railway Labourer Trumpington Cambs

MOODY     William       Lodger       Single        35     Railway Labourer    North Stoneham Hants

BANKS      Robert        Lodger       Single        35     Railway Labourer    RyeSussex

GODDEN   William       Lodger       Single        40     Railway Labourer    Saltwood Kent

BROWN    Joseph       Lodger       Single        27     Railway Labourer    Kettering Northamptonshire

CLARK      William       Lodger       Single        45     Railway Labourer    Newport Pagnell Bucks

MOOR       Godfrey      Lodger       Single        32     Railway Labourer    Uckfield Sussex

MONDAY   William       Lodger       Marr  36     Railway Labourer    Stansted Deal Hants

The railway was a mixed blessing to the inhabitants of Nonington and the surrounding parishes. Some, especially land-owners and farmers, would have benefited as the railways made for easier and cheaper movement of their produce and livestock to a wider market offering better prices, whilst other small local businesses  such as tailors, shoemakers and black-smiths, would now have to compete with more readily available and cheaper mass produced clothing, foot wear and metal goods and tools.

When the railway was built, through Nonington there was no station built especially for the people of the parish., they had to travel to either Adisham or Shepherdswell, with Adisham the best option for the majority of them, In January 1874  Nonington Parish Vestry discussed the possibility of the building of a more direct road from NoningtonChurch to Adisham Station via Old Court Hill and Ratling. However, this scheme was abandoned when the compensation payable to the land-owners on the proposed route was estimated to exceed £1000, making the proposed road’s construction much too expensive. The then  Archbishop of Canterbury, who owned Curleswood Park Farm, demanded the highest rate of compensation.

The population of the Nonington and other East Kent parishes declined as it was now easier and cheaper for local people to travel to escape from the grinding poverty of a seasonal rural economy in the grip of an extended agricultural recession, which lasted for the rest of the century and beyond, and move to regular and better paid employment in the growing towns of North Kent and further afield.
In 1861, the year the railway opened, the population of Nonington was 896, by 1901 it had dropped to 740, and only the opening of Snowdown colliery led to a recovery of the population of Nonington and Womenswold  as can be seen from the cencuses of 1911 and 1921. Snowdown and Nonington Halt was built in 1914  to make it easier for coal miners employed at the recently opened Snowdown Colliery to get to work, the majority of miners came from the Dover area and many walked to and from work at the colliery from Shepherdswell station.

After Snowdown Colliery was bought by Dorman, Long, the railway was used to help with the building of the mining village of Aylesham in the late 1920’s with a spur being built from the main line to bring in the huge quantities of building material needed to build dozens of modern new houses in the countryside. The building of the village led to an influx of hundreds miners and their families and Aylesham railway station was built in 1928 giving Nonington parish two stations for some twenty-five years or so until the parish was divided into the present day parishes of Nonington and Aylesham.









Snowdown and Nonington Halt viewed from underneath the  road bridge. Dover bound on the left, Canterbury to the left
Snowdown and Nonington Halt viewed from underneath the road bridge. Dover bound on the left, Canterbury to the left
Snowdown Colliery signal box, 1950's
Snowdown Colliery signal box, 1950’s








Until the mid-1970′s Snowdown and Nonington Halt station was manned and older long term residents of Nonington will remember the tiny ticket collectors hut perched at the top of the stairs leading down to the Dover platform where there was a large wood and corrugated iron shelter for passengers, whilst the Canterbury side had a smaller shelter made from of the same materials.

 The East Kent Light Railway.

Knolton Halt just before closure, looking towards Shepherdswell,the station master house is of to the left
Knolton Halt just before closure, looking towards Shepherdswell,the station master house is of to the left
Knolton Halt looking towards Eastry
Knolton Halt looking towards Eastry








Some Nonington parish inhabitants has access to another railway line.  Literally a few yards outside of the extreme eastern parish boundary out beyond Kittington was Knolton Station, a stop on the single track East Kent Light Railway which ran from Shepherdswell Station to Eastry  and then Wingham, with another line running from Eastry to Richborough.

Knolton station opened on 16th. October, 1916 and closed on 30th October, 1948, and the platform was demolished and the track taken up in 1954 but the station masters house is still there, and still lived in, on the right at the top of the hill.


  • john morriss

    Hi iam asking for information on who holds the copyright to the photo of Aylesham station ,i would like to do a painting of this .Thankyou

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