A lady who had sudden and alarming acts of faith
How to found a college with no money
By the late 1920s St Alban’s Court was being rented out to Commander Arthur O’Brien and his wife Marjorie. Carrying on the tradition of the Hammonds, the couple immediately took an active role in local life, attending and hosting many events, and sitting on various committees, on Armistice Days the Commander led the parade in the village to the war Memorial. The couple we noted for their love of horses and riding, and for breeding German Shepherds and other dogs for which they won lots of prizes at shows. Some of their dogs and horses were buried behind the house. Their country idyll was rudely interrupted when, on 30 March 1933, Marjorie returned to the house to discover jewellery worth about £500 had been stolen. A local newspaper report mentions that £1500 worth of jewellery had also been stolen from Chilham Castle, so perhaps a specialist thief or gang was operating in the area. By 15 February 1935 the O’Briens had left St Alban’s Court, and I assume St Alban’s Court lay empty as Mrs Ina Hammond considered what to do next.
Meanwhile as Linda showed last week, Gladys Wright appears to have become something of a gymnastics and dance entrepreneur. In 1923 she had set up the English Scandinavian Summer School of Physical Education, and held annual vacations at Milner Court, Sturry. In the late 1920s Milner Court became part of the junior school of The King’s School Canterbury, but I assume the School was happy to continue renting out its facilities during vacations. The tithe barn at the school was converted into a modern gymnasium probably on Gladys’s initiative, but who funded this I cannot tell. A newspaper report of the annual school in August 1934 stated that women of ten nations took part in a display of gymnastics according to the Bjorksten method, this was followed by folk dancing, some in national costume, and the event concluded with diving. The newspaper reported that Gladys’s ethos was “It is not only a brain, not only a body we have to educate, but a whole human being.” The public displays at these summer schools attracted large audiences, and some were recorded on film.
Now Gladys and Stina Kreuger decided to take their ideas to a wider audience. On 5 May 1934 The Citizen newspaper reported that Gladys had sold every seat, nearly ten thousand, in the Royal Albert Hall for a display of “recreational gymnastics”. This was during a sell-out tour that had taken in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Nottingham, Newcastle and Birmingham. Gladys and Stina had put together a team of 32 gymnasts composed of women students from Helsingfors, men from Stockholm YMCA, and British gymnastic teachers. Gladys and Stina booked the venues, organized travel and accommodation, and arranged the transport of 2 ½ tons of equipment, no mean feat. A Major General, who had been the senior British medical officer in WW1, spoke at one of their displays he was clearly impressed by what he had seen. Privately he had been concerned at the poor physical condition of British Army recruits he had seen during WW1, and thought something needed to be done about it before another war came along. In 1934 Gladys also founded the English Gymnastic Society to promote her ideas and to fundraise. At the time she was also probably working as a lecturer at Chelsea College, located close to her rented accommodation in Gunter Street, Chelsea. Gladys was running the tour and the annual schools presumably during her vacations, but clearly preparing for these was a round the year occupation, all this while holding down a lecturing post, no mean feat. Perhaps it was at this time that Gladys and Stina saw that they could make more effective use of their time and effort if they had a permanent base for their gymnastics.
Gladys’s pioneering work did not go unnoticed, in 1935 she was awarded the Golden Cross of the Order of the White Rose of Finland, by the president of the Republic of Finland in recognition of public service to the cause of gymnastics and Anglo-Finnish relations.
Meanwhile Ina Hammond had decided the time had come to sell the ancestral home and its large estate, spelling the end of a 500 year association between the Hammonds and Nonington. In the 16 July 1937 edition of The Dover Express and East Kent News there appeared an advertisement for a “BEAUTIFUL ELIZABETHAN STYLE RESIDENCE” which was “suitable for gentlemen’s occupation”. Further advertisements followed including a larger one with photo in Country Life where the price for St Alban’s Court was given as £8,000 to include 49 acres, a number of farms, cottages and a further 1000 acres were also available to purchase. Glady and Stina would have been at the summer school at Milner Court, Sturry when some of these advertisements were published, and it is perfectly feasible that they took a ride out to Nonington to look at the house and perhaps meet with Ina Hammond. By this time Gladys and the English Gymnastic Society had been fundraising since 1934 and had £300 in the bank. To establish a college at St Alban’s Court would require the £8,000 purchase price, plus £4,000 for a gymnasium, and further sums for the building conversion, beds, bedding, office equipment, staff recruitment and salaries, gymnastics equipment, books, and marketing, perhaps £20,000 in total. The English Gymnastic Society was £19,700 short of this target! It must therefore have come as a surprise to those in the know when, on 19 November 1937, The Dover Express and East Kent News reported “it has been possible with that sum in hand [£300], to sign the contract to buy St Albans Court.”
So far I have not identified where the remaining money came from, perhaps Gladys negotiated a lease arrangement with Ina Hammond, or more probably there were wealthy backers in the background. Of note is the fact that one of the College’s first teachers was Florence de Horne Bevington a physiotherapist who had run her practice from a desirable address in London. Florence was the daughter of a wealthy Lloyds underwriter who had died in 1929. Florence had inherited £20,000 in Great Western Railway shares alone (value in 1930), and on her death in the 1970s had considerable assets. I imagine that Florence and others were sufficiently impressed by Gladys and her plans to want to invest in them.
During the winter and spring of 1937-38 St Alban’s was rapidly converted from country pile to college with lecture rooms, offices, accommodation, a dining hall, and gymnasium (now a listed building). The gymnasium was designed by Miss Jocelyn F Adburgham L.R.I.B.A., A.M.T.P.I, and built by G.H. Dene and Son of Deal in just two months. The gymnasium was designed to last 60 years, and to be relatively maintenance free there being no painted surfaces to repaint, it was constructed out of a range of timber including Swedish red pine, western red cedar, and Tasmanian oak. The Dover Express and East Kent News reported that:
“The most interesting feature of the college is the new gymnasium, built to the rear of the house. Costing nearly £4000 to erect, it is claimed to be the largest all-timber building in England, equalled in size only by the famous theatre at Oberammergau.”
Versions of this short quote landed up in newspapers all over the UK including The Broughty Ferry Guide & Carnoustie Gazette! In the house the National Association of Teachers of Physical Education supported by the Hungarian government paid for a Hungarian room furnished in a peasant style. While Swedish and Danish rooms were also promised.
Finally on Saturday 23 July 1938 Nonington College of Physical Education was opened by the Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Gordon Lang, who gave a rousing if not controversial speech, he concluded with:
“With very good heart and high hope, I declare St Alban’s Court open, and I invite the guardian spirits of health and joy and comradeship to enter and progress it.”
There followed a speech by the secretary to the Finnish Legation who highlighted the close links between Gladys Wright and his country. Then Mr Barclay Baron (closely linked to the YMCA and Toc H) finished by highlighting the impressive work the team from Dene had done on the gymnasium, and then finished with:
“Miss Wright, the principal, was a lady who had sudden and alarming acts of faith. Taking St Alban’s had been one of these and it had been admirably justified. It was a great power house from which would go out a band of people whose powers would be exerted not only on the muscles but on the minds and spirits those whom they trained.”
The ceremony concluded with girls from Brentwood County School giving a gymnastic display. The local paper noted that the College could accommodate 60 students who would study for three-year diploma courses, with the first term starting on 29 September 1938. While the summer schools would also continue, with one already underway with 200 students taking a three-week course.
The College had now officially open, though its first intake of full-time diploma students had yet to arrive. By hook or by crook Gladys had achieved her aim of founding a centre for gymnastics.
In the next installment I will look at the challenges the College faced in its early days, how its students and staff fitted into local life, and then the turmoil of World War 2 which threatened to spell the end of Nonington College itself.
For this installment I relied heavily on the British newspaper archive on the Find my Past website.
Gill Clarke and Ida M. Webb. Gladys Frances Miriam Wright. (Oxford, 2007) available here by
www.nonington.org.uk This is a tremendous resource for Nonington and the College.
Although the United Kingdom and France both declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, to begin with not a huge amount happened on the western front and the period was dubbed the Phoney War. Gladys and her students must have carried on as normal hopeful that the war would not touch them. To begin with not a lot did change, the Dover Express reported on 10 May that the annual prize-giving of the Nonington (Aylesham) Evening Institute had taken place and that 18 students from the College had passed the First Aid Certificate. And on Whit Monday 13 May the College held an open day in aid of the District Nursing Association, with a demonstration of gymnastics and dancing, and “the opportunity of seeing the old-world mansion” and gardens, all for 1/-, a cup of tea was 1/- extra. However by this date the Phoney War had turned hot when on 10 May the Germans invaded Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Then just two weeks later Kent went from sleepy backwater to frontline evacuation centre for the troops rescued from Dunkirk. Nonington College was now just 29 miles away from the enemy, albeit with a handy body of water in the way, but within reach of bombers, long range guns and later in the War V1 flying bombs.
There now follows a dark age in the history of the College. The booklet Nonington College 1938 – 1986 A Short History in Photographs devotes just one short paragraph to the College in wartime. Hopefully when the lockdown lifts and Kent Local History Archives become accessible again we will be able to discover more. In the meantime contemporary newspaper reports do provide some insight. What is clear is that Kent became a fortified county, the beaches were mined, pill-boxes built and crocodile teeth deployed, anti-glider obstacles erected, and tens of thousands of Royal Navy, Army and RAF personnel were stationed in the area. People were evacuated from the frontline coastal areas, and strict exclusion zones set up. It was illegal to be found within five miles of the coastline without a permit, as one hapless motorcyclist discovered to his cost when he was fined £1 for being caught in Wingham, this seems a bit mean as the village appears to be seven miles from the nearest sea. The armed forces and the civilian administrations could and did requisition whatever they wanted for the war effort and the College was no exception. On 5 July 1940 it was reported that “it has been found necessary to remove the offices of the council to St Alban’s Court.” The council being Eastry and District Rural District Council which had been based at new offices in Sandwich. The Council was paying a “reduced rent of £400 a year” for St Alban’s Court, plus paying for the gardening staff. It was noted that the Council officers in St Alban’s were surrounded by portraits of the Hammond family, and some rather fine fixtures and furnishings. Some of the council members moved into the house with their families, and a small cinema was set up for the staff. In September 1940 the Council ordered 350 yards of anti-splinter netting at 9 ½ a yard (to protect against flying glass in the event of a bomb), had paid for new telephone lines to the house, and had purchased a new duplicator at £40.
Other buildings on the College site were also given over to the war effort. The stable block was used by the Army pay officer for the area, while Old St Alban’s Court was taken over by the local YMCA. The YMCA was delivering tea, refreshments and books to the troops based in Dover and other coastal areas throughout the War. We learn a little more from the 17 Dec 1940 edition of the Mid-Sussex Times which reported that Mr HF Forwood, in charge of the YMCA work in Dover, was looking for a cook for him and Mr HC Freeland his helper to: “cook for we two, and it would be very simple cooking – plain, English home fare. The domestic quarters are not large, and they are extremely comfortable, and the house is set amidst some of the most beautiful scenery in the country”.
A salary was not mentioned. In the 1939 Register Mr Horace Forwood was listed as the local secretary of the YMCA and was running its Dover hostel assisted by Mr Horace Freeland, both were Air Raid Precaution (ARP) wardens.
What had become of Nonington College its students and staff? First an important achievement, on 19 September 1941 the Dover Express reported that the College had been granted official recognition by the University of London, and students would henceforth be trained for the diploma in Physical Education of the University. This was quite an accomplishment for Gladys, Stina and their staff given the College was only two years old. The Express further reported that the College had recently moved from Avoncroft to Grafton Manor, but would continue to use the Worcestershire Education Committee model gymnasia and school teaching practice in the area. Avoncroft College was founded by George Cadbury as an adult education centre for the benefit of agricultural workers. So far I have not found out why Nonington College moved into and then out of Avoncroft so quickly, perhaps it did not have suitable playing fields. Avoncroft became a training centre for Jewish refugees later in the War.
Having left Avoncroft Gladys and her college moved into Grafton Manor, an impressive looking house with an equally impressive history. Today it is a restaurant, hotel and wedding venue. In 1939 Grafton Manor was owned by Alfred Willis, a stockbroker, and his wife Grace Murray Willis. From various newspaper advertisements of the time the Willis family appear to have operated it as a sort of hotel cum upmarket boarding house. All this came to an end when Nonington College descended on them! No rent is mentioned, so I have no idea what the arrangement was with the Willis family. We get some insights into College life at Grafton from the local newspapers. For example in October 1941 the “principal”, presumably Gladys, advertised her five-seater Morris-Cowley 6 1934 model 14/15 h.p. for sale, it had “small mileage”, and was in “good condition”. There was petrol rationing at this time, and it was probably proving impossible to run the car. In March 1943 the College was recruiting an Under-Matron “capable of supervising maids and daily women in the household cleaning and able to undertake the nursing of minor ailments of the students” and two maids. Around the same time the College was looking for an experienced groundsman to look after a playing field for winter and summer games. And then in June 1944 an experienced cook was sought to start in September, the person had to be able to cater for 50. This last advertisement gives us some idea of the size of the College at the time, perhaps 30 students, 10 staff, and a further 10 domestic and grounds staff.
On the education front newspapers reported that in 1941 Miss Bennett of Nonington College joined the staff of Donington Grammar School as girls’ gym and games mistress. While in May 1942 Miss E Ewan, who had trained at Nonington, became the new gym instructress of North Shields Youth Centre taking over the girls’ and married women’s sections, she was going to teach country dancing, basketball, gym and summer sports. Miss Ewan had been come from a Social Service work post at Durham. In June 1944 a youth leaders’ course was organised by the County Youth Committee at Grafton Manor which was attended by 14 men and 20 women. The lecturers included Professor Moses Williams, Mr AJ Luss, Mr Bernard de Bunsen (who had a noted career in education both in the UK and abroad), Mr Duncan Jones of the Ministry of Information Films Department, and Mr Mackenzie of the Central Council of Recreative Physical Training. The course was designed to help those working as youth workers and included sessions in music, art drama, dance, crafts and physical training. This course reminds me a little of the summer schools Gladys and Stina had organised, and clearly they must have been involved, so it appears odd they did not get a mention.
By the early spring of 1945 the war in Europe was in its final phases, and it appears that Gladys and Stina decided to hold an event at Grafton Manor to celebrate. According to the 12 May edition of the Evesham Standard Grafton’s gardens would be open on 12 and 13 May, and there would be a demonstration of Greek and National Dancing by the students, all for an admission price of 1/-. How odd then that in the very same edition of the paper this appeared: “In error this garden was stated on hand bills advertising the opening of Worcestershire Gardens in aid of District Nursing as being owned by Nonington College of Physical Education. Mrs Murray Willis wishes it to be understood that she is the owner and that Nonington College are wartime tenants who had to evacuate from Kent”.
No mention of who had ordered the hand bills and made this mistake, did Gladys perhaps toy with the idea of buying the Manor? The Wikipedia entry for Grafton Manor has this to say for its use during World War II “The building was certainly used as a hotel during the war years”, Nonington College has been written out of its history.
With the War in Europe over on 18 May 1945 the Dover Express reported this from a meeting of Eastry Rural District Council: “Subject to the playing field being restored and the YMCA vacating the Lodge the directors of the College were happy to terminate the lease on 1 August 1945”.
The lease being the rental agreement between the Council and the directors of Nonington College. Clearly all was in order as on 6 July 1945 the Express ran an advertisement for an: “experienced gardener, with expert knowledge of playing field upkeep essential, modern house available if wife or daughter can undertake cooking or domestic work in College. Apply …to the Principal, Nonington College, at Grafton Manor
Just one day later Mrs Murray Willis put Grafton Manor up for sale.
After five years in the Midlands Nonington College was about to return to Kent, but things were no longer the same as we will see in the next instalment.
During the English Civil War of 1642 to 1651 close neighbours, friends and even family members frequently took opposing sides in the conflict between the Royalists and Parliamentarians. These divisions were very obvious in Nonington and the adjoining parish of Goodneston as can be seen in the following article.
Sir Edward Boys and Major John Boys of Fredville.
Sir Edward Boys of Fredville became Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Governor of Dover Castle in 1642 and had initially held the castle for King Charles I, but that same year he went over to the Parliamentarians and continued to hold the strategically important castle, known for centuries as the Gateway to England, for Parliament until his death in 1646 when he was succeeded in the posts of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Governor of Dover Castle by his eldest son, Major John Boys, who held these positions until 1648. Sir Edward was also M.P. for Dover in both the “Short” and “Long” Parliaments and was involved with several parliamentary commissions and boards including the New Model Ordinance to form the Parliamentarians New Model Army in 1645.
Sir Edward Boys had a younger son, also called Edward whose baptism on 14th December, 1606 is recorded in the Nonington parish register. The younger Edward Boys also supported and fought for the Parliamentary side and died of wounds received at the Battle of Keynton, otherwise known as the Battle of Edgehill. The parish register of Church of St. Nicholas in Warwick records: “Buried 22nd Jaunarie 1642  Edward Boyse ye sonne of Sir Edward Boyse of East Kent wounded at the Battell at Keynton”.
The Battle of Keynton, also Keyneton, [now Kineton in Warwickshire] was an alternative name for the Battle of Edgehill which was fought over the countryside between Edgehill and Keynton in southern Warwickshire. The fighting between the Parliamentary forces under the command of Earl of Essex and the Royalist army led by Charles I began on Sunday 23rd October. The main battle was fought on the Sunday but fighting continued until the following Tuesday morning when Prince Rupert of the Rhine, the King’s nephew and commander of the Royalist cavalry, led a strong force in a surprise attack against what remained of the Parliamentary forces baggage train at Keynton resulting in the deaths of many wounded survivors of the earlier fighting. After this attack the fighting ceased, but the battle had no clear winner. The Parliamentary forces withdrew to Warwick and reformed, while the King and his army continued on towards Oxford and then on to London.
Colonel Francis Hammond, whose family estate of St. Alban’s Court in Nonington adjoined the Boys’ Fredville home, was in the Royalist army at Edgehill and led the Royalist’s Forlorn Hope, but whether or not the younger Edward Boys encountered Colonel Hammond during the battle is not known. The presence of immediate neighbours on opposing sides emphasises how the English Civil War divided the country, and, in the case of the Boys’, also families.
Edward Boys the younger appears to have been wounded during the fighting in and around Keynton and subsequently taken to Warwick. Here he was most likely treated for his wounds and hospitalized at Warwick Castle, along with some 700 or so others wounded in the battle. Sadly Edward succumbed to his wounds and was buried at St. Nicholas’s church on 22nd January, 1643. The church stands outside one of the gates of Warwick Castle, which indicates that he was in or near the castle when he died.
Confused identities often lead to errors in fact which are perpetuated over the centuries. This is certainly true in the case of Major John Boys of Fredville. William Hasted’s history of Kent records his having suffered severely for his Royalist sympathies in the English Civil War when in actual fact he was a Parliamentarian. His financial woes were caused because, according to William Boys’ 1802 biography and pedigree of the Boys family, ‘by his own extravagance he much encumbered and wasted the estate of Fredville’. Hasted and later historians confused Major John Boys of Fredville in Nonington with Sir John Boys of Bonnington, the famed defender of Donnington Castle, and a distant relative of the Boys’ of Fredville in Nonington. Bonnington is in the parish of Goodnestone and adjoins the northern boundary of the Parish of Nonington and was the original home of the Boys of Fredville in Nonington. Nonington, which in the past was often spelt Nonnington, Bonnington, and Donnington are only differentiated by their initial letter and could, and still can be, easily be confused.
Major John Boys of Fredville’s dedication to the Parliamentary cause was confirmed in 1645 when he was named as one of Parliament’s Commissioners and Council of War in Kent with “Power to Execute; Martial Law on all that have taken part in rising in Kent”. The task of the commissioners and the council was to restore law and order in the aftermath of a Royalist attempt to take Dover Castle and begin an insurrection in East Kent. During an earlier siege in 1642 Sir Edward and John Boys of Fredville had defended Dover Castle against a besieging force which contained at least one of the Hammond brothers from St. Alban’s Court, who were the Boys’ next-door neighbours. However, the English Civil War did not just set the Parliamentarian Boys’ of Fredville against their neighbours, they were also on the opposing side to their Royalist Boys kinsmen at nearby Bonnington and Uffington.
Sir John Boys of Bonnington.
John Boys was the eldest son and heir of Sir Edward Boys of Bonnington and Jane, daughter of Edward Sanders of Northbourne, He was born at his father’s house at Bonnington in the Parish of Goodnestone-juxta-Wingham and was baptised in nearby Chillenden Church on 5th April 1607. John was a distant kinsman of Sir Edward and John Boys of Fredville in the adjoining parish of Nonington where Sir Edward Boys of Bonnington held land. The fact that John Boys of Bonnington and Jon Boys of Fredville both have fathers called Sir Edward Boys would also add to the confusion over identies.
John Boys of Bonnington began his military career in the Low Countries where he served as a mercenary during the later part of The Thirty Years War and may possibly have served with Francis Hammond of nearby St. Alban’s Court in Nonington.
During the English Civil War, he became a captain in the army of King Charles I, and later served as Governor of Donnington Castle in Berkshire. At the outbreak of the Civil War in 1642 Donnington Castle was owned by John Packer, a Parliamentarian, and garrisoned by a Parliamentarian force, but was by then an out-dated structure and initially considered unimportant.
However, after Oxford became the Royalist capital after the King’s failure to capture London in the early months of the war Donnington Castle, which was located twenty miles to the south of Oxford on the main road to the north, gained strategic importance. The First Battle of Newbury was fought on 20th September, 1643, a mile or so to the south of the castle and resulted in a defeat for the Royalist army under the command of King Charles I. After the Royalist defeat Lt. Colonel John Boys with a force of 200 infantry, 25 cavalry and 4 cannon took possession of Donnington Castle and began the construction of substantial defensive earthwork.
By the summer of the following year Parliament forces had gained the upper hand and made attempts to open the road to Oxford by targeting the Royalist strongholds of Banbury Castle, Basing House, and Donnington Castle. Lieutenant-General John Middleton was sent with a force of 3,000 men to take Donnington. Middleton’s soldiers attempted a direct assault on 31st July which was repulsed with the attackers losing some 300 officers and men.
In late September Colonel Horton built a battery at the foot of the castle hill from where the castle was put under a constant bombardment. During a period of twelve days three of the fortification’s towers and a part of the wall were reduced to ruins by some 1,000 or so large cannonballs from the besiegers guns. When Horton received reinforcements, he offered terms of surrender to Lt. Colonel Boys, but Boys refused to accept them. Soon afterwards the Earl of Manchester and his forces joined with Horton but their joint efforts to end the siege proved unsuccessful.
After some two or three days of unsuccessful attacks the besieging forces gave up their efforts to capture the castle and withdrew after becoming aware that a relieving force led the King was en route for Donnington.
Donnington Castle was relieved on 21st October, 1644, and King Charles I knighted John Boys for his conduct during the siege and promoted him to full Colonel of the regiment he had previously commanded as a Lieutenant-Colonel subordinate to Earl Rivers, the nominal Governor of Donnington. The king also gave the newly promoted Colonel Sir John Boys an augmentation to his coat of arms of a golden imperial crown or on a blue canton..
Shortly after the relief of Donnington Castle the Second Battle of Newbury was fought under the castle’s walls on 27th October, 1644, and during the fighting the newly knighted and promoted Colonel Sir John Boys led the soldiers from the castle’s garrison to recapture six of the nine guns defending the castle which had been overrun and captured by an attacking force of 800 Parliamentarian musketeers from the Earl of Essex’s regiment. The numerically superior Parliamentary army was unable to defeat the Royalist’s forces and the battle ended in a draw with no side gaining an advantage on the field but the Royalist army ended the day between two Parliamentary forces. During the night the Royalists were able to leave and return to Oxford leaving their artillery, baggage train, and some of their wounded at Donnington Castle, which remained in Royalist hands.
On 9th November the King’s army returned to retrieve the artillery left in Donnington Castle and took up positions around Newbury. Some Parliamentarian commanders, namely Waller, Cromwell and Heselrige were in favour fighting a deciding battle but the Earl of Manchester and his supporters were reluctant to risk defeat and no battle took place. The Royalists were therefore able to resupply the garrison and depart with their artillery, baggage train and wounded.
After the Royalist army decamped the Parliamentarian forces returned to redeploy and recommence their siege of Donnington Castle. The garrison refused to surrender even after the Royalist’s were overwhelmingly defeated at the Battle of Naseby on 14th June, 1645, leaving no functioning Royalist forces in the field. They continued to hold out until April of 1646 when Colonel Boys received a personal order from the King to surrender Donnington Castle, Charles I at that time was about to give himself up to the Scottish army at Southwell. Colonel Sir John Boys and the garrison were allowed to leave the castle with full military honours.
Sir John continued to be an ardent supporter of the Royalist cause and in 1648 he took a prominent part in the Kentish Rebellion. His anti-Parliamentarian activities led to his being imprisoned in Dover Castle in 1659 and he was not released until February of 1660. He died at his house at Bonnington on 8th October, 1664, and was buried in Goodnestone Church where his memorial can still be seen. Sir John and Lucy, his first wife, had five daughters but his second marriage to Lady Elizabeth Finch, the widow of Sir Nathaniel Finch and daughter of Sir John Fotherby of Barham, was childless.
The inscription on his memorial in Goodnestone church reads:
“Underneath rests Sir John Boys late of Bonnington Kent whose military praises will flourish in our annales as laurells and palms to overspread his grave. Dun(gan)non in Ireland may remain a solemne mourner of his funerall; and Dunnington Castle in England a noble monument of his fame the former for the losse of its expert governer the latter for the honour of its g(alla)nt defender.To crown such eminent loyalty and(va)lour ye King Royally added to his antient scutchon a crown. Leaving no other heirs male than man(ly) deeds to keepe up his name his inheritance decended to his three daughters Jane, Lucy, Anne. In his (5)8 yeare, being discharged from his militant state below he was entertained as we hope in that triumphant state above October 8th 1664.”
A commission was established by Oliver Cromwell as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth to control and punish anti-Cromwell and anti-Parliament land-owners in Kent. One of the commission’s leading members was Major John Boys of Fredville who had served on earlier Parliamentary Committees for Kent from at least 1643, as had his father, Sir Edward Boys of Fredville. Sir Edward had become Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Governor of Dover Castle from 1642 and had initially held the castle for King Charles I, but that same year he went over to the Parliamentarians and continued to hold the strategically important castle, known for centuries as the Gateway to England, for Parliament until his death in 1646 when he was succeeded in the posts of Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports and Governor of Dover Castle by his eldest son, Major John Boys, who held these positions until 1648.
Edward Boys of Bettshanger, who died in 1649, and his son John were kinsmen to the Boys’ of Fredville and also Parliamentarians. John Boys of Bettshanger served as a member of the “Long Parliament” of 1640 to 1660.
Other members of the extended Boys family, notably Sir John Boys of Bonnington and Christopher Boys of Uffington, both in Goodnestone parish, were ardent Royalists, which shows how the Civil War really did divide families.
Some of the prominent gentry from Nonington and neighbouring parishes were listed as suspect persons by Cromwell’s Commission in Kent of 1655 to 1657 and required to bring particulars of their estates or security for their peaceable demeanour to the Committee.
Those listed were:
Lt. Col., Sir John Boys of Bonnington and Christopher Boys of Uffington, both in Goodnestone parish.
Jeremy Gay, gentleman, of St. Paules, near Canterbury, and the tenant of the Holt Street estate in Nonington parish owned by Major John Boys of Fredville, a staunch Parliamentarian.
Colonels Anthony and Francis Hammond of St. Alban’s Court, Nonington, were listed as being amongst the leaders of the Kentish Revolt of 1648.
Sir Thomas Peyton of Knowlton Court, which adjoined St. Alban’s Court to the east and Fredville to the west, was recorded as the Lieutenant General of the Insurrectionist troops during the ill fated Kentish Revolt. He had been elected Member of Parliament for Sandwich in November of 1640 and sat in the “Long Parliament” until he was disabled from sitting in 1644 for supporting the King. Sir Thomas subsequently became one of the six key members of The Action Party, a group of radicals dedicated to bringing down the government during the Protectorate of 1653 to 1659 when Oliver Cromwell ruled as Lord Protector of the Commonwealth and restoring the monarchy under Charles II. The group tried on various occasions to instigate uprisings in support of King Charles II, none of which had any lasting success. After the Restoration, Peyton was elected MP for Kent from 1661 to 1679 in the “Cavalier Parliament”.
Also named was William Swanne of Knowlton, a son of Sir Thomas Peyton’s second wife Cicilia, the widow of Sir William Swanne [Swan] of Hoopes at Southfleet in Kent, who Sir Thomas had married in January of 1648 . Presumably William aided and abetted his step-father in his anti-Parliamentarian activities.
The Nonington Parish Vestry minutes of 1899 record that at least five volunteers from Nonington were serving in the 3rd Battalion of The Buffs [East Kent Regiment], the regiments volunteer battalion, in what was then known as the South African Campaign but is now known as the Second Boer War [11th October 1899 – 31st May 1902]. A sale was held at Nonington School on December 19th, 1901, to raise money for The Soldiers and Sailors Families Association serving in South Africa. The sale was patronized, organized and attended by members of the nobility, gentry, and other prominent citizens from within and around Nonington.
The following PDF files are of newspaper articles about the Easole Corn Mill which replace the scans of the newspaper articles previously published on the Easole Corn Mill page. They were kindly sent to me by Malcolm Blackwood.
1965 In the early hours of Sunday, 9th May, 1965. Easole M Corn ill was destroyed by fire. Reported in The Dover Express & East Kent News on Friday, 14th May, 1965. Please click on the link below to see the full newspaper article.
1966 SIte of Mill at Nonnington by A. W. May was published in The East Kent Mercury of Thursday, December 1st, 1966.
1970. Teddy Gasston-Memories of a kind old miller, published in The Dover Express, 4th November, 1970.
The 1871 census records a Henry S. Pledge and family as living in Ratling Street, near to Ratling Court. Henry may have started his apprenticeship at the Easole corn mill but in 1871 he was listed as a miller employing two men and as a farmer employing two labourers and a boy. Henry Sturgess Pledge, miller, was not a Nonington miller, he was the miller at the ‘Black Mill’ on Barham Downs, some two miles or so from Ratling. By the time of the 1881 census Henry had moved to Kennington, near Ashford, and taken over the running of the Wind, Steam and Water Mills at Kennington, near Ashford, Kent, with the help of his sons, Lawrence and Walter, and they went on to form H.S Pledge and Sons Ltd., the well known flour millers and corn merchants. H S Pledge & Sons Ltd owned the East Hill Mill and Victoria Mill in Ashford. East Hill Mill was a watermill and steam mill built in 1901 and the building is still standing, but no longer in use as a mill. The Victoria Mills was a steam mill built in 1890 and continued to operate until it was gutted by fire in September of 1984 and subsequently demolished. H S Pledge & Sons Ltd was taken over by the Garnham Family in the 1890’s and finally dissolved in 2014.
There are two memorials to the Fallen of the Two World Wars in St. Mary’s Churchyard, a roll of honour in the yew tree by the main entrance to the churchyard and a stone memorial to the Fallen of the Two World Wars set in the west wall of the church.
The Parish Magazine for June of 1917 reported the following:
“Roll of Honour.
A permanent Roll of Honour has been presented to the Parish by Mrs. Penn, and on Wednesday May 23rd [the eve of Empire Day] it was unveiled and dedicated in the Churchyard. It is placed in position under the old Yew Tree and will for many a year be a silent witness to the loyalty and devotion of our Nonington men who were content to give their lives in their country’s cause. A large congregation assembled in Church for a short intercessory service, at the conclusion of which the ceremony of unveiling was proceeded with in the Churchyard. A short address was given by the Vicar and then Mrs Penn unveiled The Roll, and having done so she spoke a few words to those assembled, words full of touching references to the fallen, and cheering and courageous counsel to those who are left to carry on the course to its triumphant finish. The Roll was then formally dedicated.
It is worthy of note that the Memorial is made of teak wood and copper from H.M.S. Britania formerly a training ship for the Royal Navy”.
Unfortunately the article does not make it clear whether the Mrs. Penn referred to was Mrs. Gladys Penn or Mrs. Constance Penn, but I think it most likely it was Mrs. Gladys Penn, the widow of Captain Eric Frank Penn of the Grenadier Guards, who had been killed at the age of 37 when a shell fell on his dug-out opposite the Hohenzollern Redoubt at Auchy-les-Mines near Loos-en-Gohelle in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France on 18th October, 1915. Captain Penn is buried or commemorated at Vermelles British Cemetery, grave reference I.K. 11. Captain Penn’s name is the second name on the Nonington Roll of Honour.
Underneath Captain Penn’s name on the Roll of Honour is that of his younger brother, Second Lieutenant Geoffrey Mark Penn of the 6th Battalion (Reserve) of The Rifle Brigade. Geoffrey Penn was aged 28 when he was killed instantaneously by a German sniper on 11th February, 1915, whilst directing trench work near Ploegsteert [Plugstreet] in Flanders when attached to 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry and is buried in the Rifle House Cemetery at Ploegsteert in Belgium, grave reference IV.H.6.
At the time of the presentation of the Roll of Honour the parents of the two brothers, William and Constance Penn, were the tenants at St. Alban’s Court, Nonington, owned by Captain Egerton Hammond who at the time resided in Old Court House at the top of Pinners Hill. The Penn family business was John Penn and Sons, an English engineering company based in London and mainly known for its marine steam engines, which had been founded by the captain’s grandfather and was almost certainly the source of the teak and copper used to make the Roll of Honour. William Penn had played cricket for Kent in the 1870’s and Eric Penn had played for Cambridge and the M.C.C.
The teak and copper
Roll of Honour.
The larger stone memorial for the Fallen of the Two World Wars is set in the west wall of the church which was refurbished and re-dedicated in 2010.
There are two memorials to the Fallen of the Two World Wars in St. Mary’s churchyard, a roll of honour in the yew tree by the main entrance to the churchyard and a stone memorial to the Fallen of the Two World Wars set in the west wall of the church.
The Parish Magazine for September of 1917 reported that the Roll of Honour in the yew tree was presented to the parish by Mrs. Penn and was unveiled and dedicated by her after a short service on Wednesday, May 23rd, 1917 [the eve of Empire Day.]. The magazine also recorded that “It is worthy of note that the Memorial is made of teak wood and copper from H.M.S. Britania formerly a training ship for the Royal Navy”.
Mrs. Gladys Penn was the widow of Captain Eric Frank Penn of the Grenadier Guards, killed at the age of 37 when a shell fell on his dug-out opposite the Hohenzollern Redoubt at Auchy-les-Mines near Loos-en-Gohelle in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region of France on 18th October, 1915. Captain Penn was buried or commemorated at Vermelles British Cemetery, grave reference I.K. 11. At this time Mr. and Mrs. William Penn, his father and mother, are listed as being resident at St. Alban’s Court, Nonington, and therefore renting St. Alban’s Court from Captain Egerton Hammond, the then owner of the St. Alban’s Court estate.
The Penn family business was John Penn and Sons, an English engineering company based in London and mainly known for its marine steam engines, which had been founded by the captain’s grandfather and was almost certainly the source of the teak and copper used to make the roll of honour. William Penn had played cricket for Kent in the 1870’s and Eric Penn had played for Cambridge and the M.C.C.
The teak and copper
Roll of Honour.
The larger stone memorial for the Fallen of the Two World Wars is set in the west wall of the church which was refurbished and re-dedicated in 2010.
The Reverend Bryan Faussett (1720-1776) was a wealthy Kent clergyman who pioneered archaeology in Kent and excavated and recorded scores of sites in parishes in close proximity to Nonington.These excavations were recorded in
“Inventorium Sepulchrale: an Account of Some Antiquities Dug Up at Gilton, Kingston, Sibertswold, Barfriston, Beakesbourne, Chartham, and Crundale, in the County of Kent, from A.D. 1757 to A.D. 1773”.
The following are notes he made in 1758 on the memorials and inscriptions then to be found in St. Mary’s Church, Nonington.
30. A Very Handsome Altar Piece.
31. On ye East Wall, on ye North Side of the Communion Table is the following Inscription, & Coat, on a Large Brass Plate. (G.note: WILFORD) [Gu. a chevn. engrailed betw. 3 leopards’ heads or. imp. (G.note SIMPSON) ¼ly: 1&4). Per bend sa. & or, a lion rampt. countercharged.
(G.note GEMCOT). 2&3). A bend & on a chef 3 bezants (these the only colour shown)]. Alys the Daughter and Heyre of William Simpson Esquyer, Vice Marshall of Calys, and Catherine Gemcot, Wife to Fauncis WILLFORD, neere 35 Yeares (by whome She had 6 Souns, and 4 Daughters) depted. constantly in ye Fayth of Jesus Christ, about the Yeare of her Age 59, Junij 3 A.Dni 1581, who now resteth in ye Lord, & hath receaved the End of her Faythe, wych is the Salvation of her Soule. 1.Pet.1.9.
32. On a Brass Plate on an Ancient Flat Stone. Hic jacet Johes COOKE, quondam Curat Ecclesiae de Nonyngton q. obiit septimo Die Augusti, A. M.v.xxviii. (error for .. xviii – 1518).
33. On Another Flat Stone bearing this Coat. [Tierced: 1). Gu. 2 bends erm. (KINGSFORD).
2). Arg. on a chevn. sa. 3 escallops arg. betw. 3 ogresses, each charged with a martlet arg. (HAMMOND). 3). ¼ly of 6: 1,3,5). Sa. a fleut-de-lys or. (TURNER) 2,4,6). Erm. (TURNER)]. Here lieth interr’d the Body of William HAMMOND Esq. who departed this Life Jan. 17th1717(8) in the 54th Year of his Age.
34. On Another. Hic Jacet Elizabeth HAMMOND Gulielmi Hammond Arm. Uxor qui (sic in Orig.) obijt in Octob. Anno Domini M.D.C.L.XXV. (1675).
35. On Another. Hic Jacet Willielmus HAMMOND, Arm. qui Obijt Sexto Die Maij Anno Dom. 1685.
36. Another not Legible, except the Date, viz. 1626.
37. On a Mural Monument On the North Wall. Domino Anthonio FIELDO Gregis Christi Pastoris (sic) vigilantissimo, nec non fidelissimo Sacrum. Caetera saepe solent, ut sint magè Messibus apta,/Agricolae, impensis Arva, Labore coli./Ast Ager iste alios coluit, sudavit et alsit,/Ut Sparten Domino Villicus excoleret./Emeritus tandem, Cursumq emensus, abivit,/Extremo expectans Praemia danda Die.
Some Fight the Feild for Love of Country’s Soil;/Some Fight the Feild for their own Honour’s Sake;/Some fight at First, but, afterwards recoile./Which worthily to their Disparage make./Some buie the Field, but pass not for ye Treasure./Their Hearte’s Thoughts play so much upon ye Base;/The Worth of Heav’n they carnally doe Measure,/By corrupt Sense, that savours not of Grace./But, this Field fought for Christ, His Truth, His Flocke,/For Heav’nly Glory, and eternal Lyfe,/Agaynst ye Flesh, The Devill, and Worlde’s Mocke;/This was ye Quarrell, & the deadly Stryfe./Theis Three fought strongly, but he would not yeild;/At Length he fought with Death, and won ye Field.
His Faecundus Ager, caelesti Rore rigatus,/Naturae ornatus Dolibus eximijs,/Attulit ingentem Domini in Granaria Messem,/Imbuto Populo Cognitione Dei./Suavis Odor Vitae Fieldi Documenta fuerunt,/Et redolent Factis Fama Deciusq pijs.
Loe here a Field, whome once the Lord had Bless’t/With guifts of Nature, Learning, Art, and Grace;/Enjoyeth now his Saboaths, is at Rest./Chear’d with the Sun Beames of his Makers Face./The Fragrant Smell of this most Fruitfull Feild,/A Sweet Rememb’rance of his Name doth Yeild.
In The North Chancell. On ye S. Wall.
38. [I. ¼ly: 1). Or, a griffin segreant sa. in a border gu. [gold background, a black griffin with spread wings and front legs raised within a red border] [(BOYS),
2). Sa. a chevn. arg. betw. 3 buckles or. 3). Arg. on a fesse sa. 3 bezants betw. 3 lions’ heads erd. gu. 4). Per pale & per fesse indented erm. & gu. (G.note: Phallop). II. BOYS imp. Sa. a chevn. betw. 3 leopard’s heads or (WENTWORTH)].
39. In Memoriam Edvardi BOYS, Armigeri, defuncti. Stemmata Majorum, Generisq Insigniae, jactent,/Qui laudare solent Proavos alienaq Facta./Hic, Monumenta sui liquit, Statuamq perennem,/Virtutem propriam, verae Pietatis Alumnus./Musarum Decus eximium; Fantorq Piorum;/Justitiae Custos; et Relligionis Amator./Pro Christo natale Soloum, Patriamq reliquit;/Per Christum Semper Patriâ meliore fruetur. In Obitum Edvardi BOYS Senioris Militis.
Vir Pietate Amans, Censû decoratus equestri;/Militiae clarus, clarus et Ille domi./Sanguine Clarorum illustri non nixus Avorum,/Sed Virtute suâ, Viribus atq suis./Justitiaeq tenax, et Amicus Vitabis Ille;/Auxilium miseris, Malleus Ille Malis.
40. In Memory of The Lady BOYS, Wife of Sr. Edward Boys. If Piety to God, and Love of Saintes;/If Pity of the Poor in their Complayntes;/If Care of Children’s Godly Education;/If Modest Carriage merits Estimation;/All these, and more, shall this good Lady have,/To keep her ever from Oblivious Grave./ God He hath crown’d her with eternall Bliss;/The Church doth honour her; The Poor her Miss./Her Godly Offspring treading in her Waies/To theyr succeedinge Age commend her Prayse./Such Honour She, such Honour may they find,/That, unto Syon bear a Loving Mynd.
41. On Another Fine Monumt. on ye same Wall. [¼ly of 10:
1). Sa. 2 chevrons arg. betw. 3 escallops arg. (BODE).
2). Per bend embattled sa. & arg.
3). ¼ly arg. & sa. a label of 3 points sa.
4). Gu. a chevron erm. betw. 3 garbs or.
5). Erm. 3 pickaxes gu.
6). Erm. 2 chevrons gu.
7). Arg. crusilly az. 3 crescents gu.
8). Gu. a maunche arg.
9). Per chevn. sa. & erm. in chief 2 boars’ heads couped or (G.note: SANDFORD).
10). Arg. a chevn. betw. 3 rams’ heads sa. horned or imp. ¼ly:
1). Or, a griffin segreant sa. in a border or (sic, for gu.) (G. note: BOYS).
2). Sa. a chevn. arg. betw. 3 buckles or. (G. note: PHALLOP).
3). Arg. a chevn. sa. with 3 bezants.
4). Per pale & per fesse indented erm. & gu.].
42. In Obitum optimae Faeminae Mariae BODE Uxoris *Joh.Bode Generosi Filia Edvardi BOYS Militis suae obiit 21 Die Jun. A.D. 1615. *He afterwards married Mary, the Daughter of Henry HEYMAN of Sellinge Esq. (see My Book of Pedigrees, Fol.51). Whose Earthly Body now awhile ye Grave shall close retaine,/Her Name in Earth, her Soul in Heavn, forever shall remayne./For why? She living, lov’d of God, a Pattern bright did shine,/To Mayds, to Mothers, Matrons grave; let none at this repine./Meek, Patient, Modest, loving, chaste, kind, harmless, zealous, just;/In Life expressing working Fayth, in Dying constant Trust./In Heav’n her Thoughts She treasured still, & thereon set her Heart,/Good Marye’s Peace now hath, for why? her Choice was Marye’s Part. – I.B. Parturieus perijt, perijt non vivit Olympo./Aeternae in Caelis Gandia Lucis habens./Abstulit hauc cita Mors, nulli Pietate secundam;/Innocuam Vitâ, Pace, Pudore, Fide.- I.B. In Kent and Essex where she came,/For Virtues wreathed in one;/For modest Wisdom, & Sobrietye;/In Life and Death, I count her Blest./She left behind her such a Name,/For sweet Behaviour & Religion;/True Marriage: Love, unstained Chastitye,/Which soe could live, and soe did rest. – W.S.
The Starr deckt Skie thought large, not all the brightest Starrs doth hold;/The Sayntes on Earth, by Light of Grace, more bright an Hundred fold./Who clear’d from lumpish Care, translate from Earthly Mine,/Third Heav’n shall furnish, and above ye lower Starrs shall shine./Such Wight is here interr’d; not Dust, nor Death can dim her Light,/None can deny her this; I speak, in Reason; ‘tis her Right. W.B.
Here lyes her Corpes, which living held a Spiritt,/Whear Zeale and Modesty did still inheritt./Till God, who knew the Virtues that She had,/Saw hir, too good, to live with us, too bad./Hir Earthy Part lies here involved in Dust;/Hir Heavn’ly Sowle, a Saynte among ye Just.
43. On a Neat Monument on The South Wall. [Gu. a chevn. vairy or & az. betw. 3 leopards’ heads or imp. Arg. a fret gu. on a chief gu. 3 leopards’ heads or]. Hic sunt depositae Janae Reliquiae ab antiquâ Generos: Liddelor Familiâ oriundae, ex Castello de Ravensworth, in Agro Durelmensi, Johannis MENNES, Equitis Aurati Anglo Cantiani, Conjugis, Maris Anglicani Vice-Admiralli, Clessisque Regiae Contrarotulatoris. Illa, (absente Marito sub Velis Regijs Reginam ex Galliâ Mariam revehentibus) apud Fridville, Johannis BOYS Armigeri occumbeus, hospitali Istius Humanitate, hic inhumata. In sacram Dilectissimae Consortis Memoriam, Mariti Pietate, hoc Marmor erigitur. Nata Annos, circitèr 1602. Julij 23 1662, denata.
44. On a Flat Stone. Here lieth Edward BOYS Esq. who married The Daughter of Sr. Nicholas WENTWORTH, Knight, Porter of Callise; who departed this Life The 15th of February 1559(60).
45. On Another. Here lieth Dame Katherine BOYS, Wife unto Sr. Edward Boys, Knight, Senr. and Daughter of Richard KNATCHBULL Esq. Who died 23 June 1625.
46. …….. Here lieth also interred The Body of Mary TROTTER The Daughter of The said Mary BODE, and Wife of Richard Trotter, the 2d. Son of Sr. Henry Trotter of Skelton Castle in the County of Yorke, Knt. who died the 18th of Aug. 1647.
47. On Another. Here lieth Sr. Edward BOYS, Knight; Who had Issue, Sr. Edward Boys, Roger, Thomas, Peter, Dorothy, Elizabeth, Mary, Jane, Anne, and Frances; who died January the 8th 1634/5.
48. Three Other Flat Stones, not legible.
49. In The East Window of this Chancell, is this Coat still to be seen. [BOYS (as before) imp. Gu. a chevn. betw.3 griffins passant arg.]. (G. note: FINCH).
50. Here was formerly a Rood Loft.
In The Body.
51. On a Flat White Grave Stone, (incised slab, now much worn)bearing The Figures of a Man, between 2 Women, and, under them, 5 Children, (all cut ye Stone) is The Following Inscription, round the Verge. Orate pro Animis Johais HAMON, Margarete et Mareie (sic) suis Uxoris (sic); qui quidem Johaes obijt iiii die Octobris Anno Dni. M.CCCCC.XXVI (1526) quor Aiab: ppicietur Deus. Amen.
52. On Another Flat Stone. Here lieth interr’d the Body of Elisabeth Wife of John PILCHER. She departed this Life Nov. 27 1725. Aged 74 Years.
53. On Another. Here lieth The Body of John PILCHER of this Parish; who left Issue by Mary his Wife 1 Daughter Elisabeth. He departed this Life March 17 1735/6. Aged 69 Years.
54. The Windows, in General, appear to have been very beautyfull. In The Eastmost Window of The North Isle are The Figures of a Man, and 2 Children, in a praying Posture; and, under them, this Remnant of an Inscription. “Et Elizabet Uxor Ejus”.
55. This Church consists of, The Great, and North, Chancells, The Body, and North Isle. The Tower, which is very low, stands at the West End of the North Isle. In it hang 3 heavy Bells, thus inscribed.
1. Sancta Katerina. Ora pro Nobis.
2. John HODSON Me Fecit. 1683. S. NASH & Robt. PAYNE, Ch. Wardens.
3. Josephus HATCH Me Fecit. 1621.
56. It was anciently a Chappel to Wingham; but, in ye Year 1282, upon dividing Wingham into 4 Parishes, this was one of them.
57. It was called St. Maries.
58. It is a ….. in the Gift of …….
The Present ….. is The Revd. Mr Edward LUNN; who is also Rector of Denton, and Curate of Wymingswould. viz: 1758.