• Esole Manor House:-a diary of the archaeological excavation of “The Ruins” at Beauchamps in Nonington-revised 3.8.19.

    The following series of articles written by Peter Hobbs of Old St. Alban’s Court in Easole, Nonington, record the progress of the  continuing archaeological  excavation of the site of the old Esol or Esole manor house, situated in pastureland known locally as “The Ruins”, from 2010 onwards. These articles were originally published in the Nonington Parish Magazine.
    Please remember that interpretations of discoveries both archaeological and documentary  may have  changed during the duration of the dig.

    +++++++

    June 2010.
    Those of you who have walked up there hopefully are impressed with the amount of earth that the Dover Archaeological Group have shifted although the building that is being revealed has been heavily robbed of stone over time and not just in the 1960’s. The basic shape is confirmed as that shown on nineteenth century maps but the finds are scanty. There is part of an expensively crafted window lintel in good ragstone which has been dated to the 14th C but the pottery finds have mostly been later. There is ample evidence of the consumption of large quantities of shellfish and we know that the building had a tiled roof and windows with glass in them.

    A geophysical survey has been done of the whole field which has shown up a number of anomalies which will be investigated but since they represent , in effect, soil compression or rubble spread, we may simply have the sites where  the instructors stopped the tank trainee drivers during the war to make a cuppa! Or where brick earth was taken out in earlier centuries. Or indeed they may be long forgotten buildings. This is but one of the reasons that those of you who may have old pictures of the Baptist Church sausage sizzles up there should dig them out – there just may be something in the background which could help us now.

     We have almost completed a survey of Beauchamps Wood. This shows a complex series of mounds within it, probably of different periods, and we shall have to wait for completion before we can set it alongside our other evidence to try and work out what actually went on. Whatever it was, it was over many centuries.

     So we may have discovered what is probably an early manor house, previously unrecorded, but the site is much older so we are not really sure what else is there or indeed if this was the main house on the site at all! Basically, we still have all the questions to answer.

    October 2010.
     Work obviously did not start again in September and will not start again until the end of October at the earliest. This is because the significance of the discoveries at the Roman villa site at Folkestone (or to be more precise under the Roman site) are such that every potential working moment is being squeezed out of the budget for archaeology before the site has to be closed down and re filled. No more funding is available certainly for the moment and perhaps never so they are going for broke! What they have unearthed is a completely unknown but large and prosperous Iron Age pre Roman settlement with  extensive trading links including directly with Rome. Large quantities of Roman wine as well as tableware were coming through the port which suggests the country had a lot of sophisticated customers rather keen on Roman luxuries as well as the painted crazies who saw off  Julius Caesar. Or perhaps that was what Roman wine did for you.

    Anyway, when the Dover Group do return, they have a little more excavation to do on that part of the site and, providing that does not lead to any unexpected developments, the site will be filled in and left protected for posterity. So, if you want to see a bit of Nonington history from the fourteenth century, then go and look soon because that will be your last chance. And similarly, if any children want to see the outcome of a real archaeological dig (as opposed to the somewhat glamourised ones from Time Team), then they should come and see this. We might try for an open day on the first Sunday the archaeologists are back but that date is still unknown and it can be pretty bleak on the hill when the wind blows.

    +++++++

    The photographs in the gallery were taken by Clive Webb in early May of 2011.

    +++++++

    2012 February.
    Early this year because we thought we were almost at the end of this phase of excavation and therefore about to cover over the diggings again, numbers of people came to see our site including several groups from the school at Beechgrove. Then we proceeded with the last of the tidying up and straightening trench edges before the final photos were taken and we started to fill in the site before opening the next tranche of digging.

    But it did not quite work out that way. A stubborn flint on the North West side was not loose at all but turned out to be attached to a rather large lump of masonry. And there proved to be a lot more where that was situated – walls of greater thickness than anything else previously seen on site. As the excavation progressed, it gradually became clear that these large lumps of masonry were not in situ but had been slighted and then buried. The expert verdict was that the walls belonged to a large building, probably Tudor based on their construction, which gave us a span of about 1480 to
    1600’ish.  However, all this was somewhat open to question because only a few inches above one of these great lumps, we came across a 1970s metal ring pull. Had it been dropped down a rabbit hole? Was it the remnant of one of the church barbecues? Were these walls not Tudor but war works by the army? Worse, as we excavated medieval bits of broken pottery, beneath them we came across empty Heineken cans! And they were at the bottom of this great hole which looked as though it had been machine dug. Yet we also could see that there were no machine marks on our slabs of masonry. A mystery indeed!  It increasingly looked as though we had two holes, one early in which our masonry had been buried and a second, relatively modern, in which a lot of modern rubbish had been buried right at the side of our big blocks.

    Fortunately, we still have witnesses around who were involved in the clearing and levelling of the site in the 1970s and also knew what was there before the War. There was indeed some earth moving around on that bit in the 1970s and possibly a bulldozer engaged in clearing, burying old barbecue waste, and levelling but, more importantly, no one had known of our buried walls. All the earlier maps we have show accurately the main shapes of the buildings we have already excavated but nothing else. So it looked as though the theories about a Tudor building stood. We were also encouraged by the discovery of a fragment of an elaborate and expensive wood burning stove which would have been imported from abroad in the period we are looking at.

    But who would have invested money in a big building on top of our hill at that period of time? We know that the Hammonds at St Albans Court purchased the property in 1558 from Edward Browne at Worth. The Hammonds were using it as a tool store within a few years and someone living in Worth was hardly going to build themselves a new house in Nonington. So if someone did build on our site, it would probably be Edward Browne’s predecessor and we are not yet sure who that might be.

    We – or to be more precise –  Clive Webb has traced the ownership of this piece of land from its AngloSaxon origins as far as 1484 when  ” the manors of Fredeuyl and Beauchamp and 2 messuages, 405 acres of land, 3 acres of wood and 76 shillings and 4 pence of rent and a rent of 8 cocks, 30 hens  and 1 pair of gloves in Nonyngton and Godneston ” was sold by a Thomas Quadring to John Nethersole, William Boys and others . In 1485, it looks as though William Boys might have got sole possession…..and at some point sold it on. Was it to Edward Browne or someone else? We keep searching.

    But who knocked our big walls down and buried them? We may have a potential candidate for this.  In 1556, Edward Hammond had spent a fortune rebuilding his manor house at St Albans Court in brick , adding a fine bay to the front as well as a tower to the rear, and also adding a new courtyard enclosed in a new wall with a gatehouse to the front. He bought Beauchamps two years later and although he might have been content to have an ancient ruin in full sight of his newly refurbished gentleman’s residence, would he have been happy with the newish Tudor house at the side of it? Unlikely! And he could afford to flatten it. So perhaps he did just that. But we do not know and an equally valid guess could be that the building was unstable and had to be pulled down – or it was something else altogether!

    So we went looking for more foundations and walls to the North West and indeed have found lots of them. None of them fit out big wall dimensions!  However,it looks as though there was a large barn perhaps with a chalk floor onto which the tiled roof at some stage collapsed. But at the moment we have more walls than buildings that we can tentatively identify so we are in the position that we know less than when we restarted the excavations this time round. The excavated site is now twice the size and the spoil heaps twice as big but we are still far from understanding what actually the site is all about. So we dig on – we had a team of 17 last weekend and we needed them all!

    We are still looking for pre-1970s pictures of what it looked like on the hill. Surely there must be one somewhere? We have the evidence for a lot of parties up there: surely someone must have taken a photo or two? Please dig out your old albums and have a look!

    2013 May.
    Initially, this year has been depressing. We had soldiered on through the mud but have since lost a number of digging days because of frost making the ground too hard, snow covering everything up and rain too heavy to attempt anything at all. However, we have been persevering with the essential but humdrum work of cleaning up the exposed walls  and stripping out chalk floors to see what was underneath. As a result, we now realise that we have a number of rebuildings on site. Chalk floors overlie older walls and we have layers of broken tile within these. Walls start and stop without much rhyme or reason that we can see and some are clearly of better quality than others which look as though they might have been thrown together on the most casual basis. Within this, we have several rectangular holes apparently containing nothing but in some cases dug through an existing wall. These holes are probably late because those that dug them did not realise what they were digging through but to what purpose is most unclear since they are empty of anything other than earth! We are also uncovering shallow tine marks in the clay which probably date to when machinery was used to clear the copious brambles which used to grow up there. All in all, it is a very complex story we are beginning to unfold.

    All these walls and floors are being cleaned up so that they can be surveyed, drawn and photographed, a slow and laborious process but essential if we are to understand the site. However, we have encountered a problem in that walkers passing through have taken it upon themselves to remove artefacts, some even telling us that because no one was present at the time, this was an obvious license to liberate what they could find ! If you would like a 700 year old piece of brick or tile or some Tudor feasted mussel shells, we are happy to oblige but please do not remove items which may look as though they have been dumped but are often piled to be recorded. Or any other item please. None of it has a real intrinsic value but the record may have (or so we hope). And the dog walkers who are carefully collecting their animals’ deposits in plastic bags before dumping them in the field have clearly lost the plot as well as putting at hazard the animals which will be grazing there later in the year.

    We have found an Inventory of 1616 which suggests that there was some equipment which could have been used for brewing and preparing hemp up there as well as a  “moulspere” for disposing of the moles whose presence in ample quantities is on display right now and was obviously an issue then. And Clive Webb and I have been across at the Kent Archaeological Society Library at Maidstone going through the recently archived papers of Dr Hardman. He had been Town Clerk at Deal but had a deep interest in the history of Nonington and collected and copied in the 1930s large quantities of documents which have now either disappeared or are too fragile to be handled at all.  A respected scholar, he had significant theories about the origins of our site which we will share with you once we understand them better ourselves. Of the other papers he had copied, there were Court Rolls dating back to the 1600s and even to the days when the Abbot of St Albans Abbey was the landlord which show some continuity of land names with the 1349 Rental Roll we already have. We may through these be able to work out where the pieces of land itemised in the 1349 Roll were, something we could not do before because once the Court went out of existence, the land came to be known by the name of its owners rather than by what it was called in the the centuries old  lists.  Clive is also beginning to distinguish the beginnings of Fredville and its separation from our site in the sixteenth century as well as the presence of several previously unknown mills around the village. We are also beginning to understand that every landholder in the area had numbers of widely scattered small strips of land which they farmed and how, from the earliest times, the richer land holders were striving to put together bigger blocks of land to allow them to gain the advantages of size for efficiency.

    On the photo front, Mrs Theobald has come up with a picture which shows the shape of the land below the vast conifer by the site in the early 1950s.  This is very helpful indeed and there must be more around to give us a better feel for the lie of the land before the clearances in the 1970s when people had barbecues and fireworks up there. Please look.

    2013 December.
    I read through what was written in May and began to wonder what had changed. The painstaking work of gently scraping layer after layer of material away to the point that we reach the natural soil level has continued through rain and shine. Those that lived and worked up there must have been pretty tough since the North and North Easterly winds seem to blow straight through you and the sun can beat down on the exposed earth with a quite fierce intensity. Nevertheless, it is clear that no one in Nonington in the last 250 years at least had a clue as to the amount of walling existing just below the surface of the ground because it is indeed virtually undisturbed – except by the activities of at least the 350 years before that!   

    How do we know about the timing of such activities? Because they have all taken place below the layers of tile, chalk and flint covering the site which have first to be painstakingly removed.  There is plenty of evidence of fires but even one big bonfire a year for one hundred years leaves a lot of burnt earth and clay; there is no evidence of metal working and precious little of bone. We continue to find numbers fragments of pottery and ultimately, when all these have been washed and cleaned, we ought to get some sense of the time scale over which this part of the site was occupied or at least used for some purpose.

    We have had two major disturbances on site: one was that the young beef put in the field to graze started to take a keen interest in our activities of which the only productive result was that their impact on our chalk floors when wet meant that we had tangible evidence that our buildings were unlikely to have been used for stock. Farmer John Smith of Beaute Farm at Ash provided us with a fence although to our astonishment, we found that some animals were still getting in by stepping under the insulated bits of wire imitating where we ourselves secured access! So we had to put in a proper gate instead. The other setback, very disheartening, was that someone took apart an unrecorded Tudor wall and smashed up the bricks by hurling them at the large masonry walls we had uncovered, in turn knocking bits off them too. Sad.

    We are reaching the end of what we can do with the spade and trowel until everything has been mapped, drawn and photographed. There may then be some further checking by removing more wall to ascertain what may be underneath but the next stage is some trial trenches in other parts of the area to see what else we may find.  For example, we suspect that we have yet to find the first home for our 13th and 14th Century bricks and most certainly we do not know where our big blocks of masonry come from (pictured). Not from the South, East or North we are pretty sure. So, go West young man.

    However, in the event, the first new trench went across the southerly line of our rectangle, visible as a bank from the footpath through Beauchamps Wood ,and surveyed there, and continued in the field on Google Earth ( although not on the latest edition – a function of grass growth and the time of day ). What showed up was what looked like a negative lynchett , the bank thrown up as the plough turns at the end of a furrow.  We had anticipated a bank and silted up ditch reflecting an early enclosure which just goes to show how archaeology can inject a different reality. Amongst other things, this excavation suggests that the ages of the wood on either side of the bank may be different and poses hard questions about the real age of our enclosure. Clive Webb came up with the tenant of the Abbot of St Albans who rented that piece of ploughland, three acres in extent, in 1501: she was a lady, probably a widow, called Joan Gaylor. The rent paid was 12 pence and one farthing (1/4 of one penny pre decimalisation when 12d was one shilling – 10p today) which is now equivalent approximately to about £310. I am told that arable rents are currently between £90 and £ 140 per acre depending on the quality of the land and the piece we are talking about is far from prime arable, so rents have not changed very much over 500 years even if the face value of the £ in our pocket has !
    We also trenched across the boundary mound in the wood. There, in addition to confirming the negative lynchett, we found a metre deep trench cut down to the chalk with a flat bottom. We have also found a similar ditch in the shallow depression that surrounds Beauchamps Wood on the Ruins Field side. Dating this may give us the date that Beauchamps Wood itself was planted – perhaps later than we thought although the amounts and position of the quantities of early medieval pottery we found have yet to be evaluated.

    At one level, on the documentary side, as with Joan Gaylor, the coincidence of the historical record with the archaeology reinforces the thought that we were making great progress. It is like a giant puzzle with each piece representing a different piece of information. One section of it is painstakingly assembled showing an apparently cohesive story only for a new piece to emerge to prove that we must start again. For example, we now have assembled quite a lot of information on people like Sir Henry Beaufuiz  in the 14thC and the Quadring family in the 15thC who owned the site but tantalizingly not – yet anyway –  quite enough to see them firmly in place and what impact they had within local society. And the discovery of the ditch around the wood raises a series of questions about when the wood was established as suggested above.

    We still hope for more old photos of the site or the surrounding area. Do check the attic please before it is too late. The death of John Theobold who played as a boy on our site, worked on it from time to time as part of his job and was most generous with his time and stories sadly deprives us of yet another prime source of information.

    2015 February
    Only by looking back did I realize that the last progress report was in June 2014 and a lot of earth has been shifted since then. Some of it has gone into backfilling the existing trenches after time consuming and meticulous work in removing further layers of floor and closely examining the flints in the walling to secure a better understanding of the sequence of buildings on the North West side of the site. In addition to photographing every detail and putting it onto a plan, every wall has also been drawn.

     We still remain pretty unclear because the large amounts of broken pottery found at every level has yet to be washed and assessed and if you pause for a moment to consider how many new floor coverings there will have been over some hundreds of years, then you begin to sense the complexity of the task. It is not helped either when you think about the ordinary farm yard before the arrival of concrete floors and modern machinery where animals plodded through winter mud and any old rubble to hand was thrown into the worst holes. Our site ran down from the 1600s but we know from Will Inventories that cattle and sheep were around  even if there was precious little of value in the buildings themselves as the timbers  rotted and the roofs fell apart. Disintangling what happened when will require a detailed scrutiny of all the evidence including the written record and we are some way off from that point yet.

    The archaeological work was interrupted by a mass exodus to dig the massive Anglo Saxon site at Lyminge as well as, later, the Convent Well at Woodnesborough. Lyminge, now thought to have been the base for South Kent royalty, may have a connection in that one philologist at least argues that there are links in language between Nonington and the inhabitants at Lyminge, and another prominent historian suggests that the owners of Oeswalum  ( broadly what were the combined estates of St Albans Court and Fredville ) in the 790s were linked by kinship to the South Kent Royal line.

    Be that as it may, we carried on trenching about 20 yards out from the side of Beauchamps Wood revealing nothing until almost due West of our main site, we came across a well flinted road surface. A series of trenches were then dug back to our main site which traced it, badly eroded and patched ,to the main site. In so doing, we dug through the flat area where I was sure we would find the foundations of the expensive house I thought built in the 1400s from which the big masonry walls found in the big hole had come. Absolutely nothing – not even much old tile – so bang goes that theory which just leaves us still with the mystery of from where they did come.

    The roadway itself almost loses itself before it gets to the main site so we are currently excavating a large area to see where it does go, not easy when the wind blows so cold and the rain has left a slippery mush. There are quite a lot of pottery finds– broadly interpreted as medieval and late medieval  – so waste has been cast on this surface for a long period.
    So we keep digging! 

    2016 December.
    As promised in the last newsletter, the Dover Archaeological Group laid on site a day of display of archaeological finds and pictures together with people to act as guides and explain what we thought had gone on in the previous nine centuries there. It was advertised in advance on the village notice boards, at the garage and on the footpaths around the site. It would be fair to say that we were not overwhelmed with interest.

    We then cleared that site which now has been mostly filled in thanks to Adrian Ovenden, not yet completely because winter rain had so softened the soil that even a JCB was in trouble in moving around. The contrast with the rock hard consistency in summer was extreme. The only other observation we could make was that some of our excavated dwarf walls had run over older holes in the ground without subsidence and therefore how elective in weight carrying were such walls with a beam on top of them to distribute the weight.

     We moved to what was going to be a brief excavation of a trial metre square hole which had been started in the South East corner of the field when an archaeologist had spotted fragments of brick in a molehill close to the path up to the other excavations. At that stage, we thought we had virtually completed on the top site – little were we to know then that the job was not half done! Anyway, we had found in the hole a number of bricks which looked very similar to those used on the 1666 extensive rebuilding of Old St Albans Court and further excavation unearthed large quantities of broken or badly burnt brick both whole and in fragments. We also excavated a nearby dip in the ground which proved to be rubbish and discarded elements of building work, not modern. Ian Sayer  provided the answers: when the greenhouses and other buildings belonging to the kitchen gardens of Old St Albans Court which lay behind the Malt House immediately below our site but on the other side of the road had been demolished to make way for the Seed Warehouse which preceded the existing Double Glazing factory, the rubbish had been brought by truck up to Ruins Field and used to fill in a number of the hollows and dips which were then a feature of the field. Earth was dumped on top to seal it in and allow it to revert to grazing again.

     On the North East side of our excavation and directly abutting our layer of discarded brick, we discovered an hole about a metre and a half deep from which we concluded the brick earth had been removed presumably to make bricks. There had been little endeavour to fill it in until probably the 20thC judging from with what it had been filled. We concluded that what we most probably had was the remnants of a clamp for making bricks dating from the latter half of the seventeenth century. The physical dating evidence was slight – one clay pipe bowl dating closely to that period – but the documentary evidence was strong. We had a 1663 Rental Agreement referring to “burning fields “close to the main house and reference to a newly built stable which we can identify on maps preceding our existing 1869 Devey stable block. We also know that in 1666, the manor house was massively enlarged and that would have required hundreds of thousands of bricks.

     Where did these come from? Railways were two hundred years away and roads were not of high quality to facilitate the transport of a large volume of heavy material. The brick earth around Nonington is present both in quality and quantity so, as with the brick for the 1556 rebuilding of Old St Albans Court, we presume they were made locally. The most likely  mode was that having been made and dried, the bricks would have been fired in a clamp, a relatively simple if labour intensive process which was in use in Kent up to the 1930s and is still in use in many poorer parts of the world. The whole process was and is arduous. Tons of brick earth have to be dug up and overwintered before being puddled in the spring, a process of breaking and treading it into some consistency. Flints would have been removed and possibly sand added although that technical refinement tended to be a century later. Then , using wooden moulds, the mixture is turned into brick shapes which are transported to sheds to dry out, again a process which required double handling as the shapes dried to the point that they could be stacked a finger apart on a hard surface together with a combustible material – hedge cuts, tree branches, bracken, straw – and then set alight.

    Depending on the size of the pile and weather conditions, the clamp could take ten days or more to burn through, pungent and unpleasant by all accounts, before it was allowed to cool and taken apart and the bricks sorted. Quality and colour would be variable and the wastage rate as high as 40% but everything usable would have to be stored under cover before being taken for site use. Every stage of the process required labour and a lot of the work would have been done by women and children, and there would have been a lot of buildings required, even if only for a short period.

    Our brick clamp does not seem overly large and it seems that the remnants as well as the excavations for brick earth then lay undisturbed other than being overgrown by grass possibly for a couple of hundred years until William Oxenden Hammond planted the field with sweet chestnut in the 1870s. Possibly it did supply the bricks for the newly built stable in 1663 because this was not a large building. However, the late Aubrey Sutton reported evidence of brick manufacture being unearthed when the present Nonington Court was being built by the College in the 1960s and this is confirmed by Ian Sayer. The 1666 extension of Old St Albans Court would have required many thousands of bricks, a big manufacturing task but there is no evidence to suggest that this particular site had that capacity. Some skill would have been needed to fill the moulds swiftly and the burning would also have required some expertise both in laying the materials to be burnt as well as in observing temperatures and adjusting draught probably by adding or subtracting quantities of mud externally. Clive Webb identified a bricklayer in the village in 1600 and brick layer was then an ambiguous title which could mean brick maker. The 19thC censuses for Nonington show considerable employment associated with bricks and they were manufacture in Easole until the beginning of the 20thC. In between, the amount of brick building in the village is relatively small and would not have supported a continuous industry. Clive on his website identifies some other sites around the village but they were also making bricks in situ we think and not for wider use,

    Again, having completed we thought our brick explorations, the site threw up another question. Beneath our brick clamp, there is evidence of ditches. We have to dig further to see what they are –land boundaries or ploughing boundaries perhaps? All that we do know is that they are pre 1629because we have an estate map which shows the land boundary along the present fence line to the South.

    So what changed and why?

    Wait and see!

    2018 June.
    I had not appreciated that it was a year since I last added to the record. I wrote then about the 17thC brick clamp we had excavated. We also located another to the South which we also excavated. Checking for evidence in the copious mole hills, we think there is nothing more to the South, South East or West of the excavated site but almost certainly more to the North and East. We assume  that the whole area must have been extensively used in the 17th C to produce the large numbers of bricks for the New Buildings in 1666 at Old St Albans Court, a stable block which replaced a Tudor construction, and also for the Malt House on Sandwich Road. For all works that came after that, for example the walled kitchen gardens on the site of the Double Glazing factory  and College Cottage, we assume on the basis of the nature of the bricks themselves that they were either imported or made at the local brick works in Easole Street.

    One other curiosity was that we discovered a ditch underneath the clamp site which was possibly a land boundary running approximately SW/NE but not one that appeared on our earliest map, a land survey of 1629. We were unable to date this.

    We then moved on to a long trench running SW/NE, the preliminary excavation for which had kindly been done by Adrian Ovenden. We dug deeper. There was a general spread of flint flakes from the tools which early man had worked but the surprise was a find of pottery sherds dating from the late Bronze Age or possibly early Iron Age. Crude in construction, nevertheless it was an indication of potential settlement nearby. Further along, we dug through a low bank which can be seen when the grass is down and also shows up on Google Earth but found absolutely nothing to indicate its origin or purpose.

    Attention was then transferred to another trench also started for us by Adrian which ran NW/SE across a large dip immediately to the North East of our first major excavation by the large conifer called the Punch Tree in Ruins Field. It ran through a large bowl in the sward and up the sides at each end. We have yet to find any source of water on the whole site which carried substantial human occupation from the 1200s to the 1500s at least and certainly cattle thereafter because we have the record. Was this a collapsed well or some sort of pond? We dug over several weekends ……. and then some weekends more ……. and found nothing archaeological at all. What eventually became clear was that we had a geological phenomenon, a naturally occurring form of sinkhole called a solution doline where, over many years, the underlying chalk dissolves leaving a sunken saucer. Nothing as dramatic as the sinkholes which appear in limestone areas but just a gentle subsidence which can be a kilometre in diameter or much smaller as in this case. As the grass died back in the Autumn and we knew what we were looking for, we could then distinguish at least three others, smaller and more shallow, in the area. We then excavated further to the NW to see if we had any form of track across the end heading from the main site to the N along the edge of the ridge but there was no evidence to suggest this. So nothing archaeological at all but we consoled ourselves with the thought that at least we had definitive evidence that no discernible human activity had taken place across that area and that in itself was concrete information about land use in the context of the development of the main site.

    Adrian then filled in the trenches for us, an onerous piece of work for which we were indeed grateful to have been relieved. The late Ian Williams, an inveterate enthusiast for many causes and always an eager adventurer when his curiosity was aroused, also came on site to assist in our quest for a water source because he was aware that he had divining skills in that respect.  His divining rods reacted firmly in a number of spots each of which was marked and then excavated. In each case, there was, sometimes at a depth of as much as 12 inches, brick, tile or pottery. These were remnants scattered from the main site and the common characteristic was that the material was a form of burnt clay. Ian secured no reaction from mortared flint walls and located no water. Throughout he was uncomfortable with his ability to exercise a power that he did not understand and could not control although the information we gleaned was that there had been no building development further to the NW of the main site.

    At this stage, we felt that we had pretty much bottomed what Ruins Field was likely to yield archaeologically by digging and, before we started work again in the confines of Beauchamps Wood, it was time to assemble, clean and begin the analysis of the material we had collected from the site over quite a number of years. It is all very well exposing walls and floors and ditches but unless their contents are scrutinized, catalogued and categorized and the information published, then the accumulated knowledge is lost not only to the local community but also to the wider academic community which will interpret it and place it in a wider background of knowledge and understanding. It took a number of van journeys to bring back the accumulated material to Old St Albans Court and nearly three months to wash every item and mark it to identify exactly from whence it had come on site. The materials were then grouped into categories such as brick, tile, flint, shell, bone, pottery, metal etc and the material within each category again grouped under individual find numbers. Tile and brick where possible were measured. The catalogued materials await more expert analysis of which probably the most important will be the pottery because it is the most dateable.

    However, we now already are pretty certain that the large quantities of peg tile we have came from Tyler Hill in Canterbury where Christchurch manufactured profitably on a grand scale from the 1100s onwards, and the most substantial quantities of our brick dates back to the 1300s and is imported from Flanders. We also have a little later Tudor brick, probably from the brick clamps we excavated in the adjoining land.

    We were then able to scrutinize the detailed and accurate maps of our excavations for the first time. This has led to a series of other questions not apparent when we were on the open site as the result of which we are back up the hill reopening trenches so that they can be extended into unexcavated territory to check for further building and roadways. So far, we have trenched under what was the site of the original main spoil heap and confirmed the existence of the ditch edging the South side of the site. As yet there appears to be no evidence of earlier building there but we still have quite a bit of new trenching to do on what we had thought was a worked out site.

    Meanwhile, Clive Webb has been slowly and meticulously collecting and piecing together the land occupancy which is complicated to say the least. The over-lordship of this manor is of course entirely separate from what became St Albans Court and in possession of the Abbey of St Albans from1096 ( although the Abbot seems to have got his sticky fingers on part of it as a tenant later on ). From the 1100s , the over-lordship is in the hands of the De Say family who had responsibility for part of the defences of Dover castle. It is doubtful that any of them ever set foot on the site but let it out to a series of tenants who in turn sublet. Some of this information is already posted on the Nonington Village Web Site but it is still in a process of refinement because new bits of information often cause a reinterpretation of an aspect we thought clear. We also have issues in that the documentary evidence appears to be contradicted by the archaeological evidence and vice versa. But we press on !

  • Esole Manor House:-a diary of the archaeological excavation of “The Ruins” at Beauchamp’s in Nonington.

    The following series of articles written by Peter Hobbs of Old St. Alban’s Court in Easole, Nonington, record the progress of the  continuing archaeological  excavation of the site of the old Esol or Esole manor house, situated in pastureland known locally as “The Ruins”, from 2010 onwards. These articles were originally published in the Nonington Parish Magazine.
    Please remember that interpretations of discoveries both archaeological and documentary  have  changed during the duration of the dig.

    +++++++

    June 2010.
    Those of you who have walked up there hopefully are impressed with the amount of earth that the Dover Archaeological Group have shifted although the building that is being revealed has been heavily robbed of stone over time and not just in the 1960’s. The basic shape is confirmed as that shown on nineteenth century maps but the finds are scanty. There is part of an expensively crafted window lintel in good ragstone which has been dated to the 14th C but the pottery finds have mostly been later. There is ample evidence of the consumption of large quantities of shellfish and we know that the building had a tiled roof and windows with glass in them.

    A geophysical survey has been done of the whole field which has shown up a number of anomalies which will be investigated but since they represent , in effect, soil compression or rubble spread, we may simply have the sites where  the instructors stopped the tank trainee drivers during the war to make a cuppa! Or where brick earth was taken out in earlier centuries. Or indeed they may be long forgotten buildings. This is but one of the reasons that those of you who may have old pictures of the Baptist Church sausage sizzles up there should dig them out – there just may be something in the background which could help us now.

     We have almost completed a survey of Beauchamps Wood. This shows a complex series of mounds within it, probably of different periods, and we shall have to wait for completion before we can set it alongside our other evidence to try and work out what actually went on. Whatever it was, it was over many centuries.

     So we may have discovered what is probably an early manor house, previously unrecorded, but the site is much older so we are not really sure what else is there or indeed if this was the main house on the site at all! Basically, we still have all the questions to answer.

    October 2010.
     Work obviously did not start again in September and will not start again until the end of October at the earliest. This is because the significance of the discoveries at the Roman villa site at Folkestone (or to be more precise under the Roman site) are such that every potential working moment is being squeezed out of the budget for archaeology before the site has to be closed down and re filled. No more funding is available certainly for the moment and perhaps never so they are going for broke! What they have unearthed is a completely unknown but large and prosperous Iron Age pre Roman settlement with  extensive trading links including directly with Rome. Large quantities of Roman wine as well as tableware were coming through the port which suggests the country had a lot of sophisticated customers rather keen on Roman luxuries as well as the painted crazies who saw off  Julius Caesar. Or perhaps that was what Roman wine did for you.

    Anyway, when the Dover Group do return, they have a little more excavation to do on that part of the site and, providing that does not lead to any unexpected developments, the site will be filled in and left protected for posterity. So, if you want to see a bit of Nonington history from the fourteenth century, then go and look soon because that will be your last chance. And similarly, if any children want to see the outcome of a real archaeological dig (as opposed to the somewhat glamourised ones from Time Team), then they should come and see this. We might try for an open day on the first Sunday the archaeologists are back but that date is still unknown and it can be pretty bleak on the hill when the wind blows.

    +++++++

    The photographs in the gallery were taken by Clive Webb in early May of 2011.

    +++++++

    2012 February.
    Early this year because we thought we were almost at the end of this phase of excavation and therefore about to cover over the diggings again, numbers of people came to see our site including several groups from the school at Beechgrove. Then we proceeded with the last of the tidying up and straightening trench edges before the final photos were taken and we started to fill in the site before opening the next tranche of digging.

    But it did not quite work out that way. A stubborn flint on the North West side was not loose at all but turned out to be attached to a rather large lump of masonry. And there proved to be a lot more where that was situated – walls of greater thickness than anything else previously seen on site. As the excavation progressed, it gradually became clear that these large lumps of masonry were not in situ but had been slighted and then buried. The expert verdict was that the walls belonged to a large building, probably Tudor based on their construction, which gave us a span of about 1480 to
    1600’ish.  However, all this was somewhat open to question because only a few inches above one of these great lumps, we came across a 1970s metal ring pull. Had it been dropped down a rabbit hole? Was it the remnant of one of the church barbecues? Were these walls not Tudor but war works by the army? Worse, as we excavated medieval bits of broken pottery, beneath them we came across empty Heineken cans! And they were at the bottom of this great hole which looked as though it had been machine dug. Yet we also could see that there were no machine marks on our slabs of masonry. A mystery indeed!  It increasingly looked as though we had two holes, one early in which our masonry had been buried and a second, relatively modern, in which a lot of modern rubbish had been buried right at the side of our big blocks.

    Fortunately, we still have witnesses around who were involved in the clearing and levelling of the site in the 1970s and also knew what was there before the War. There was indeed some earth moving around on that bit in the 1970s and possibly a bulldozer engaged in clearing, burying old barbecue waste, and levelling but, more importantly, no one had known of our buried walls. All the earlier maps we have show accurately the main shapes of the buildings we have already excavated but nothing else. So it looked as though the theories about a Tudor building stood. We were also encouraged by the discovery of a fragment of an elaborate and expensive wood burning stove which would have been imported from abroad in the period we are looking at.

    But who would have invested money in a big building on top of our hill at that period of time? We know that the Hammonds at St Albans Court purchased the property in 1558 from Edward Browne at Worth. The Hammonds were using it as a tool store within a few years and someone living in Worth was hardly going to build themselves a new house in Nonington. So if someone did build on our site, it would probably be Edward Browne’s predecessor and we are not yet sure who that might be.

    We – or to be more precise –  Clive Webb has traced the ownership of this piece of land from its AngloSaxon origins as far as 1484 when  ” the manors of Fredeuyl and Beauchamp and 2 messuages, 405 acres of land, 3 acres of wood and 76 shillings and 4 pence of rent and a rent of 8 cocks, 30 hens  and 1 pair of gloves in Nonyngton and Godneston ” was sold by a Thomas Quadring to John Nethersole, William Boys and others . In 1485, it looks as though William Boys might have got sole possession…..and at some point sold it on. Was it to Edward Browne or someone else? We keep searching.

    But who knocked our big walls down and buried them? We may have a potential candidate for this.  In 1556, Edward Hammond had spent a fortune rebuilding his manor house at St Albans Court in brick , adding a fine bay to the front as well as a tower to the rear, and also adding a new courtyard enclosed in a new wall with a gatehouse to the front. He bought Beauchamps two years later and although he might have been content to have an ancient ruin in full sight of his newly refurbished gentleman’s residence, would he have been happy with the newish Tudor house at the side of it? Unlikely! And he could afford to flatten it. So perhaps he did just that. But we do not know and an equally valid guess could be that the building was unstable and had to be pulled down – or it was something else altogether!

    So we went looking for more foundations and walls to the North West and indeed have found lots of them. None of them fit out big wall dimensions!  However,it looks as though there was a large barn perhaps with a chalk floor onto which the tiled roof at some stage collapsed. But at the moment we have more walls than buildings that we can tentatively identify so we are in the position that we know less than when we restarted the excavations this time round. The excavated site is now twice the size and the spoil heaps twice as big but we are still far from understanding what actually the site is all about. So we dig on – we had a team of 17 last weekend and we needed them all!

    We are still looking for pre-1970s pictures of what it looked like on the hill. Surely there must be one somewhere? We have the evidence for a lot of parties up there: surely someone must have taken a photo or two? Please dig out your old albums and have a look!

    2013 May.
    Initially, this year has been depressing. We had soldiered on through the mud but have since lost a number of digging days because of frost making the ground too hard, snow covering everything up and rain too heavy to attempt anything at all. However, we have been persevering with the essential but humdrum work of cleaning up the exposed walls  and stripping out chalk floors to see what was underneath. As a result, we now realise that we have a number of rebuildings on site. Chalk floors overlie older walls and we have layers of broken tile within these. Walls start and stop without much rhyme or reason that we can see and some are clearly of better quality than others which look as though they might have been thrown together on the most casual basis. Within this, we have several rectangular holes apparently containing nothing but in some cases dug through an existing wall. These holes are probably late because those that dug them did not realise what they were digging through but to what purpose is most unclear since they are empty of anything other than earth! We are also uncovering shallow tine marks in the clay which probably date to when machinery was used to clear the copious brambles which used to grow up there. All in all, it is a very complex story we are beginning to unfold.

    All these walls and floors are being cleaned up so that they can be surveyed, drawn and photographed, a slow and laborious process but essential if we are to understand the site. However, we have encountered a problem in that walkers passing through have taken it upon themselves to remove artefacts, some even telling us that because no one was present at the time, this was an obvious license to liberate what they could find ! If you would like a 700 year old piece of brick or tile or some Tudor feasted mussel shells, we are happy to oblige but please do not remove items which may look as though they have been dumped but are often piled to be recorded. Or any other item please. None of it has a real intrinsic value but the record may have (or so we hope). And the dog walkers who are carefully collecting their animals’ deposits in plastic bags before dumping them in the field have clearly lost the plot as well as putting at hazard the animals which will be grazing there later in the year.

    We have found an Inventory of 1616 which suggests that there was some equipment which could have been used for brewing and preparing hemp up there as well as a  “moulspere” for disposing of the moles whose presence in ample quantities is on display right now and was obviously an issue then. And Clive Webb and I have been across at the Kent Archaeological Society Library at Maidstone going through the recently archived papers of Dr Hardman. He had been Town Clerk at Deal but had a deep interest in the history of Nonington and collected and copied in the 1930s large quantities of documents which have now either disappeared or are too fragile to be handled at all.  A respected scholar, he had significant theories about the origins of our site which we will share with you once we understand them better ourselves. Of the other papers he had copied, there were Court Rolls dating back to the 1600s and even to the days when the Abbot of St Albans Abbey was the landlord which show some continuity of land names with the 1349 Rental Roll we already have. We may through these be able to work out where the pieces of land itemised in the 1349 Roll were, something we could not do before because once the Court went out of existence, the land came to be known by the name of its owners rather than by what it was called in the the centuries old  lists.  Clive is also beginning to distinguish the beginnings of Fredville and its separation from our site in the sixteenth century as well as the presence of several previously unknown mills around the village. We are also beginning to understand that every landholder in the area had numbers of widely scattered small strips of land which they farmed and how, from the earliest times, the richer land holders were striving to put together bigger blocks of land to allow them to gain the advantages of size for efficiency.

    On the photo front, Mrs Theobald has come up with a picture which shows the shape of the land below the vast conifer by the site in the early 1950s.  This is very helpful indeed and there must be more around to give us a better feel for the lie of the land before the clearances in the 1970s when people had barbecues and fireworks up there. Please look.

    2013 December.
    I read through what was written in May and began to wonder what had changed. The painstaking work of gently scraping layer after layer of material away to the point that we reach the natural soil level has continued through rain and shine. Those that lived and worked up there must have been pretty tough since the North and North Easterly winds seem to blow straight through you and the sun can beat down on the exposed earth with a quite fierce intensity. Nevertheless, it is clear that no one in Nonington in the last 250 years at least had a clue as to the amount of walling existing just below the surface of the ground because it is indeed virtually undisturbed – except by the activities of at least the 350 years before that!   

    How do we know about the timing of such activities? Because they have all taken place below the layers of tile, chalk and flint covering the site which have first to be painstakingly removed.  There is plenty of evidence of fires but even one big bonfire a year for one hundred years leaves a lot of burnt earth and clay; there is no evidence of metal working and precious little of bone. We continue to find numbers fragments of pottery and ultimately, when all these have been washed and cleaned, we ought to get some sense of the time scale over which this part of the site was occupied or at least used for some purpose.

    We have had two major disturbances on site: one was that the young beef put in the field to graze started to take a keen interest in our activities of which the only productive result was that their impact on our chalk floors when wet meant that we had tangible evidence that our buildings were unlikely to have been used for stock. Farmer John Smith of Beaute Farm at Ash provided us with a fence although to our astonishment, we found that some animals were still getting in by stepping under the insulated bits of wire imitating where we ourselves secured access! So we had to put in a proper gate instead. The other setback, very disheartening, was that someone took apart an unrecorded Tudor wall and smashed up the bricks by hurling them at the large masonry walls we had uncovered, in turn knocking bits off them too. Sad.

    We are reaching the end of what we can do with the spade and trowel until everything has been mapped, drawn and photographed. There may then be some further checking by removing more wall to ascertain what may be underneath but the next stage is some trial trenches in other parts of the area to see what else we may find.  For example, we suspect that we have yet to find the first home for our 13th and 14th Century bricks and most certainly we do not know where our big blocks of masonry come from (pictured). Not from the South, East or North we are pretty sure. So, go West young man.

    However, in the event, the first new trench went across the southerly line of our rectangle, visible as a bank from the footpath through Beauchamps Wood ,and surveyed there, and continued in the field on Google Earth ( although not on the latest edition – a function of grass growth and the time of day ). What showed up was what looked like a negative lynchett , the bank thrown up as the plough turns at the end of a furrow.  We had anticipated a bank and silted up ditch reflecting an early enclosure which just goes to show how archaeology can inject a different reality. Amongst other things, this excavation suggests that the ages of the wood on either side of the bank may be different and poses hard questions about the real age of our enclosure. Clive Webb came up with the tenant of the Abbot of St Albans who rented that piece of ploughland, three acres in extent, in 1501: she was a lady, probably a widow, called Joan Gaylor. The rent paid was 12 pence and one farthing (1/4 of one penny pre decimalisation when 12d was one shilling – 10p today) which is now equivalent approximately to about £310. I am told that arable rents are currently between £90 and £ 140 per acre depending on the quality of the land and the piece we are talking about is far from prime arable, so rents have not changed very much over 500 years even if the face value of the £ in our pocket has !
    We also trenched across the boundary mound in the wood. There, in addition to confirming the negative lynchett, we found a metre deep trench cut down to the chalk with a flat bottom. We have also found a similar ditch in the shallow depression that surrounds Beauchamps Wood on the Ruins Field side. Dating this may give us the date that Beauchamps Wood itself was planted – perhaps later than we thought although the amounts and position of the quantities of early medieval pottery we found have yet to be evaluated.

    At one level, on the documentary side, as with Joan Gaylor, the coincidence of the historical record with the archaeology reinforces the thought that we were making great progress. It is like a giant puzzle with each piece representing a different piece of information. One section of it is painstakingly assembled showing an apparently cohesive story only for a new piece to emerge to prove that we must start again. For example, we now have assembled quite a lot of information on people like Sir Henry Beaufuiz  in the 14thC and the Quadring family in the 15thC who owned the site but tantalizingly not – yet anyway –  quite enough to see them firmly in place and what impact they had within local society. And the discovery of the ditch around the wood raises a series of questions about when the wood was established as suggested above.

    We still hope for more old photos of the site or the surrounding area. Do check the attic please before it is too late. The death of John Theobold who played as a boy on our site, worked on it from time to time as part of his job and was most generous with his time and stories sadly deprives us of yet another prime source of information.

    2015 February
    Only by looking back did I realize that the last progress report was in June 2014 and a lot of earth has been shifted since then. Some of it has gone into backfilling the existing trenches after time consuming and meticulous work in removing further layers of floor and closely examining the flints in the walling to secure a better understanding of the sequence of buildings on the North West side of the site. In addition to photographing every detail and putting it onto a plan, every wall has also been drawn.

     We still remain pretty unclear because the large amounts of broken pottery found at every level has yet to be washed and assessed and if you pause for a moment to consider how many new floor coverings there will have been over some hundreds of years, then you begin to sense the complexity of the task. It is not helped either when you think about the ordinary farm yard before the arrival of concrete floors and modern machinery where animals plodded through winter mud and any old rubble to hand was thrown into the worst holes. Our site ran down from the 1600s but we know from Will Inventories that cattle and sheep were around  even if there was precious little of value in the buildings themselves as the timbers  rotted and the roofs fell apart. Disintangling what happened when will require a detailed scrutiny of all the evidence including the written record and we are some way off from that point yet.

    The archaeological work was interrupted by a mass exodus to dig the massive Anglo Saxon site at Lyminge as well as, later, the Convent Well at Woodnesborough. Lyminge, now thought to have been the base for South Kent royalty, may have a connection in that one philologist at least argues that there are links in language between Nonington and the inhabitants at Lyminge, and another prominent historian suggests that the owners of Oeswalum  ( broadly what were the combined estates of St Albans Court and Fredville ) in the 790s were linked by kinship to the South Kent Royal line.

    Be that as it may, we carried on trenching about 20 yards out from the side of Beauchamps Wood revealing nothing until almost due West of our main site, we came across a well flinted road surface. A series of trenches were then dug back to our main site which traced it, badly eroded and patched ,to the main site. In so doing, we dug through the flat area where I was sure we would find the foundations of the expensive house I thought built in the 1400s from which the big masonry walls found in the big hole had come. Absolutely nothing – not even much old tile – so bang goes that theory which just leaves us still with the mystery of from where they did come.

    The roadway itself almost loses itself before it gets to the main site so we are currently excavating a large area to see where it does go, not easy when the wind blows so cold and the rain has left a slippery mush. There are quite a lot of pottery finds– broadly interpreted as medieval and late medieval  – so waste has been cast on this surface for a long period.
    So we keep digging! 

    2016 December.
    As promised in the last newsletter, the Dover Archaeological Group laid on site a day of display of archaeological finds and pictures together with people to act as guides and explain what we thought had gone on in the previous nine centuries there. It was advertised in advance on the village notice boards, at the garage and on the footpaths around the site. It would be fair to say that we were not overwhelmed with interest.

    We then cleared that site which now has been mostly filled in thanks to Adrian Ovenden, not yet completely because winter rain had so softened the soil that even a JCB was in trouble in moving around. The contrast with the rock hard consistency in summer was extreme. The only other observation we could make was that some of our excavated dwarf walls had run over older holes in the ground without subsidence and therefore how elective in weight carrying were such walls with a beam on top of them to distribute the weight.

     We moved to what was going to be a brief excavation of a trial metre square hole which had been started in the South East corner of the field when an archaeologist had spotted fragments of brick in a molehill close to the path up to the other excavations. At that stage, we thought we had virtually completed on the top site – little were we to know then that the job was not half done! Anyway, we had found in the hole a number of bricks which looked very similar to those used on the 1666 extensive rebuilding of Old St Albans Court and further excavation unearthed large quantities of broken or badly burnt brick both whole and in fragments. We also excavated a nearby dip in the ground which proved to be rubbish and discarded elements of building work, not modern. Ian Sayer  provided the answers: when the greenhouses and other buildings belonging to the kitchen gardens of Old St Albans Court which lay behind the Malt House immediately below our site but on the other side of the road had been demolished to make way for the Seed Warehouse which preceded the existing Double Glazing factory, the rubbish had been brought by truck up to Ruins Field and used to fill in a number of the hollows and dips which were then a feature of the field. Earth was dumped on top to seal it in and allow it to revert to grazing again.

     On the North East side of our excavation and directly abutting our layer of discarded brick, we discovered an hole about a metre and a half deep from which we concluded the brick earth had been removed presumably to make bricks. There had been little endeavour to fill it in until probably the 20thC judging from with what it had been filled. We concluded that what we most probably had was the remnants of a clamp for making bricks dating from the latter half of the seventeenth century. The physical dating evidence was slight – one clay pipe bowl dating closely to that period – but the documentary evidence was strong. We had a 1663 Rental Agreement referring to “burning fields “close to the main house and reference to a newly built stable which we can identify on maps preceding our existing 1869 Devey stable block. We also know that in 1666, the manor house was massively enlarged and that would have required hundreds of thousands of bricks.

     Where did these come from? Railways were two hundred years away and roads were not of high quality to facilitate the transport of a large volume of heavy material. The brick earth around Nonington is present both in quality and quantity so, as with the brick for the 1556 rebuilding of Old St Albans Court, we presume they were made locally. The most likely  mode was that having been made and dried, the bricks would have been fired in a clamp, a relatively simple if labour intensive process which was in use in Kent up to the 1930s and is still in use in many poorer parts of the world. The whole process was and is arduous. Tons of brick earth have to be dug up and overwintered before being puddled in the spring, a process of breaking and treading it into some consistency. Flints would have been removed and possibly sand added although that technical refinement tended to be a century later. Then , using wooden moulds, the mixture is turned into brick shapes which are transported to sheds to dry out, again a process which required double handling as the shapes dried to the point that they could be stacked a finger apart on a hard surface together with a combustible material – hedge cuts, tree branches, bracken, straw – and then set alight.

    Depending on the size of the pile and weather conditions, the clamp could take ten days or more to burn through, pungent and unpleasant by all accounts, before it was allowed to cool and taken apart and the bricks sorted. Quality and colour would be variable and the wastage rate as high as 40% but everything usable would have to be stored under cover before being taken for site use. Every stage of the process required labour and a lot of the work would have been done by women and children, and there would have been a lot of buildings required, even if only for a short period.

    Our brick clamp does not seem overly large and it seems that the remnants as well as the excavations for brick earth then lay undisturbed other than being overgrown by grass possibly for a couple of hundred years until William Oxenden Hammond planted the field with sweet chestnut in the 1870s. Possibly it did supply the bricks for the newly built stable in 1663 because this was not a large building. However, the late Aubrey Sutton reported evidence of brick manufacture being unearthed when the present Nonington Court was being built by the College in the 1960s and this is confirmed by Ian Sayer. The 1666 extension of Old St Albans Court would have required many thousands of bricks, a big manufacturing task but there is no evidence to suggest that this particular site had that capacity. Some skill would have been needed to fill the moulds swiftly and the burning would also have required some expertise both in laying the materials to be burnt as well as in observing temperatures and adjusting draught probably by adding or subtracting quantities of mud externally. Clive Webb identified a bricklayer in the village in 1600 and brick layer was then an ambiguous title which could mean brick maker. The 19thC censuses for Nonington show considerable employment associated with bricks and they were manufacture in Easole until the beginning of the 20thC. In between, the amount of brick building in the village is relatively small and would not have supported a continuous industry. Clive on his website identifies some other sites around the village but they were also making bricks in situ we think and not for wider use,

    Again, having completed we thought our brick explorations, the site threw up another question. Beneath our brick clamp, there is evidence of ditches. We have to dig further to see what they are –land boundaries or ploughing boundaries perhaps? All that we do know is that they are pre 1629because we have an estate map which shows the land boundary along the present fence line to the South.

    So what changed and why?

    Wait and see!

    2018 June.
    I had not appreciated that it was a year since I last added to the record. I wrote then about the 17thC brick clamp we had excavated. We also located another to the South which we also excavated. Checking for evidence in the copious mole hills, we think there is nothing more to the South, South East or West of the excavated site but almost certainly more to the North and East. We assume  that the whole area must have been extensively used in the 17th C to produce the large numbers of bricks for the New Buildings in 1666 at Old St Albans Court, a stable block which replaced a Tudor construction, and also for the Malt House on Sandwich Road. For all works that came after that, for example the walled kitchen gardens on the site of the Double Glazing factory  and College Cottage, we assume on the basis of the nature of the bricks themselves that they were either imported or made at the local brick works in Easole Street.

    One other curiosity was that we discovered a ditch underneath the clamp site which was possibly a land boundary running approximately SW/NE but not one that appeared on our earliest map, a land survey of 1629. We were unable to date this.

    We then moved on to a long trench running SW/NE, the preliminary excavation for which had kindly been done by Adrian Ovenden. We dug deeper. There was a general spread of flint flakes from the tools which early man had worked but the surprise was a find of pottery sherds dating from the late Bronze Age or possibly early Iron Age. Crude in construction, nevertheless it was an indication of potential settlement nearby. Further along, we dug through a low bank which can be seen when the grass is down and also shows up on Google Earth but found absolutely nothing to indicate its origin or purpose.

    Attention was then transferred to another trench also started for us by Adrian which ran NW/SE across a large dip immediately to the North East of our first major excavation by the large conifer called the Punch Tree in Ruins Field. It ran through a large bowl in the sward and up the sides at each end. We have yet to find any source of water on the whole site which carried substantial human occupation from the 1200s to the 1500s at least and certainly cattle thereafter because we have the record. Was this a collapsed well or some sort of pond? We dug over several weekends ……. and then some weekends more ……. and found nothing archaeological at all. What eventually became clear was that we had a geological phenomenon, a naturally occurring form of sinkhole called a solution doline where, over many years, the underlying chalk dissolves leaving a sunken saucer. Nothing as dramatic as the sinkholes which appear in limestone areas but just a gentle subsidence which can be a kilometre in diameter or much smaller as in this case. As the grass died back in the Autumn and we knew what we were looking for, we could then distinguish at least three others, smaller and more shallow, in the area. We then excavated further to the NW to see if we had any form of track across the end heading from the main site to the N along the edge of the ridge but there was no evidence to suggest this. So nothing archaeological at all but we consoled ourselves with the thought that at least we had definitive evidence that no discernible human activity had taken place across that area and that in itself was concrete information about land use in the context of the development of the main site.

    Adrian then filled in the trenches for us, an onerous piece of work for which we were indeed grateful to have been relieved. The late Ian Williams, an inveterate enthusiast for many causes and always an eager adventurer when his curiosity was aroused, also came on site to assist in our quest for a water source because he was aware that he had divining skills in that respect.  His divining rods reacted firmly in a number of spots each of which was marked and then excavated. In each case, there was, sometimes at a depth of as much as 12 inches, brick, tile or pottery. These were remnants scattered from the main site and the common characteristic was that the material was a form of burnt clay. Ian secured no reaction from mortared flint walls and located no water. Throughout he was uncomfortable with his ability to exercise a power that he did not understand and could not control although the information we gleaned was that there had been no building development further to the NW of the main site.

    At this stage, we felt that we had pretty much bottomed what Ruins Field was likely to yield archaeologically by digging and, before we started work again in the confines of Beauchamps Wood, it was time to assemble, clean and begin the analysis of the material we had collected from the site over quite a number of years. It is all very well exposing walls and floors and ditches but unless their contents are scrutinized, catalogued and categorized and the information published, then the accumulated knowledge is lost not only to the local community but also to the wider academic community which will interpret it and place it in a wider background of knowledge and understanding. It took a number of van journeys to bring back the accumulated material to Old St Albans Court and nearly three months to wash every item and mark it to identify exactly from whence it had come on site. The materials were then grouped into categories such as brick, tile, flint, shell, bone, pottery, metal etc and the material within each category again grouped under individual find numbers. Tile and brick where possible were measured. The catalogued materials await more expert analysis of which probably the most important will be the pottery because it is the most dateable.

    However, we now already are pretty certain that the large quantities of peg tile we have came from Tyler Hill in Canterbury where Christchurch manufactured profitably on a grand scale from the 1100s onwards, and the most substantial quantities of our brick dates back to the 1300s and is imported from Flanders. We also have a little later Tudor brick, probably from the brick clamps we excavated in the adjoining land.

    We were then able to scrutinize the detailed and accurate maps of our excavations for the first time. This has led to a series of other questions not apparent when we were on the open site as the result of which we are back up the hill reopening trenches so that they can be extended into unexcavated territory to check for further building and roadways. So far, we have trenched under what was the site of the original main spoil heap and confirmed the existence of the ditch edging the South side of the site. As yet there appears to be no evidence of earlier building there but we still have quite a bit of new trenching to do on what we had thought was a worked out site.

    Meanwhile, Clive Webb has been slowly and meticulously collecting and piecing together the land occupancy which is complicated to say the least. The over-lordship of this manor is of course entirely separate from what became St Albans Court and in possession of the Abbey of St Albans from1096 ( although the Abbot seems to have got his sticky fingers on part of it as a tenant later on ). From the 1100s , the over-lordship is in the hands of the De Say family who had responsibility for part of the defences of Dover castle. It is doubtful that any of them ever set foot on the site but let it out to a series of tenants who in turn sublet. Some of this information is already posted on the Nonington Village Web Site but it is still in a process of refinement because new bits of information often cause a reinterpretation of an aspect we thought clear. We also have issues in that the documentary evidence appears to be contradicted by the archaeological evidence and vice versa. But we press on !

  • Medieval bee skeps

    Bee boles and bee keeping at Old St. Alban’s Court in Nonington by Peter Hobbs, the present owner.

    Bee boles, the recesses in stone or brick walls used to house the skeps of coiled straw or wicker in which most bee keepers kept their bees before the arrival of moveable frame hives in 1862, are not particularly numerous in Kent.  The Kent Archaeological Society has over time assiduously published all the major information relating to those in Kent and this note adds a little only to a comprehensive record.

       Old St Albans Court is fortunate in its documentation so we know that in 1556, Sir Thomas Hammond rebuilt a substantial part of his ancient manor house in brick. This included providing a Walled Garden to the West, the South East facing wall of which, closest to the North Western end of the house, contains three triangular topped bee boles, each of which is identical in construction to the ones recorded (IBRA Register 288) at the South end of the boundary wall in the Cathedral Close at Canterbury.    This boundary wall dates probably from 1547 when a house was built on the South side of the plot.

    St Alban's Court bee bole
    One of the Old St Alban’s Court bee boles

      Our construction is of red brick, three bricks deep for each side for the main body, with two bricks slanting to the triangular top above. The slanting bricks have been rubbed at each end to edge together both at the top and above the side bricks, a small point but elsewhere, except in the ones above  in Canterbury, photos seem to show the equivalent bricks being laid head to head at an angle of 90* which requires no shaping of the brick. The dimensions of the bee boles are an height to apex of 12 inches x a width of 9 inches x a depth of 12 inches. They are formed by three bricks on either side each with a fill in ¼ brick at the ends abutting an end course which is part of the fabric of the other side of the wall and from the slight difference in the brick, we assess as part of the 1666 works on the house extension behind. The base of the bee boles is approximately 4 feet above the present ground level which we judge to be about where it always was. The bricks themselves were almost certainly made on site: burning fields are recorded, and the Dover Archaeological Group have revealed the remains of 17th C brick clamps nearby. The incorrect mortaring belongs to sometime in the last century.

      We received planning permission to insert a door in the South Eastern facing wall to facilitate entrance to the Walled Garden and, to our surprise, this revealed a further bee bole.

       In 1790, William Hammond lavished a large sum on refurbishing and updating his mansion and this included building greenhouses in his Tudor Walled Garden , all the base kitchen garden aspects of which were removed to an entirely newly built and even larger Walled Garden at the side of his Malt House about ¼ mile away.  The South Eastern facing wall of this new Garden has been demolished but there is no village memory of it having bee boles in it. At St Albans Court, the Tudor Garden wall was extended upwards, rendered in cement with moveable wooden ventilation shutters built in at the top, a dedicated heating boiler system provided and a large greenhouse built against it. Other heated greenhouses, free standing, were also built at that time. The 1790 render had covered over this bee bole, certainly two others nearer the house, and possibly more to the South. We suggest this because our existing bee boles were at 7 ft intervals and the demolished one exactly conformed to being one of a line as well as in height in the wall.

       We then looked further: we knew that a section of the wall had been extended upwards in 1666 as part of other major works on the house and was then supported by a buttress – 7ft from the nearest bee bole – which probably therefore also masks another bee bole.

      With certainty we can say that we have a line of six bee boles made in 1556 with the possibility when looking at the wall of another three or possibly four. The render will in time reveal how many as it decays – the 1790 greenhouses were mostly demolished in the 1960s with one free standing one remaining.

      In present times, the walled garden has big variations in temperature, not infrequently touching 40*C in summer and going below -10*C in winter. The prevailing winds are from the West and rainfall is markedly lower than within a few miles in every direction. However, birds nest in the bee boles and honey bees are in the ventilation slots in the wall above so the Tudor siting remains valid. 

        It would seem highly likely that the detailed execution of the desired form of bee boles was left to the individual craftsman. The Cathedral Close bee boles were inserted in the 1547 wall by outside contractors and in this stretch of wall, there are two clusters of bee boles which look similar but actually on inspection are of markedly different construction. (There are more – IBRA 288 – in the Memorial Garden beyond, again of a distinctly different and more complex structure.)  Scrutinising the published photos of other recorded bee boles, some are similar but none are identical to ours. Perhaps it was the same itinerant brickie, or his apprentice, that was engaged by Hammond for his Nonington project nearly a decade later?

       The IBRA Register records a total of 1591 bee boles in the UK (2017) of which 57 are in Kent. Penelope Walker noted that there seemed to be none South of a line from Sandwich to Ashford and beyond. We sit on that line and the observation still broadly holds true in terms of the current Register. However, the Dover Archaeological Group recorded a fine set of bee boles at Winkland Oakes Farm in Sutton, well South, and it seems likely that alert and observant eyes would yield more.

  • Nonington and the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, 1792 to 1814.

    Increasing fears of a French invasion caused plans to be made for the defence of England and in August of 1796 “Invasion No. 113”, the first detailed and systematic defence plan, was drawn up in the office of Sir David Dundas, the quarter-master general. One of the assumptions of the plan was that if the invader chose to land on the coast near Sandwich British forces would initially not find a strong defensive position to oppose the invading forces. The plan put forward Nonington or Hougham as preferable places of opposition with a force on the Isle of Thanet threatening the invaders flank. The next line of defence would then be centred along the River Stour near Canterbury.

    Nonington is on an ancient road that began in Sandwich and passed through Eastry, Chillenden, and Nonington before continuing on to cross the Dover to London road at Denne Hill and then passed around Barham into the Elham Valley and then on to Lyminge and beyond. Control of this road would have allowed the French to by-pass the defences at Dover and strike towards Canterbury and then London. French troops landing on Romney Marsh would also have been able to use this road to head towards Canterbury.
    Therefore, a French invasion via Sandwich in late 1796 would have meant Major Hammond of St. Alban’s Court and the two Nonington Yeomanry troops [[Nonington and the East Kent Volunteers]  literally fighting on their door steps to defend  their homes and families in Nonington from the invading French army. Obviously some had more to defend than others.
    Members of the local militias, known as the Volunteer Corps, were not held in high regard by regular officers.  Volunteer cavalry such as the East Kent Volunteers were considered more elite because of the cost of purchasing the horses and uniforms required to join.
    Those men from Nonington unable to afford the horses and uniforms required to serve in the mounted volunteers but who wished to join the Volunteer Corps would have served as infantry and artillery volunteers and would also have also been involved in fighting the French invaders.

    In 1803 Napoleon commenced his planning for an invasion of England and began to gather and train a new army in camps on the north French coast which eventually amounted to some 200,000 men supported by over 2,000 ships of various types and sizes. Other invasion methods were considered, including a fleet of troop-carrying balloons and a tunnel under the English Channel, but invasion plans were eventually shelved in 1805 when Napoleon’s naval forces failed to gain control of the Channel and its approaches after defeats at Cape Finisterre and Trafalgar.

    In October of 1803 Lord Romney, the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, convened a meeting where it was agreed by all of the East Kent Yeomanry troop captains that the existing troops would combine to form a new mounted cavalry regiment to be known as The East Kent Yeomanry Cavalry with Sir Edward Knatchbull as Colonel supported by Lieutenant Colonel William Honywood and Major William Hammond of St. Alban’s Court in Nonington.

    Part-time Volunteer officers were not held in high regard by regular officers, their often ostentatious uniforms and social pretensions frequently made them the object of ridicule. Volunteer officers are to be found in the novels of Jane Austen and other writers of the period.
    Part-time Volunteer officers were not held in high regard by regular officers, their often ostentatious uniforms and social pretensions frequently made them the object of ridicule. Volunteer officers are to be found in the novels of Jane Austen and other writers of the period.

    The threat of invasion was for a time taken very seriously by the British government and the south-coast of England was heavily fortified as a precaution. Plans were also made for the evacuation of civilians in the event of a French invasion. A copy of at least a part of the plan from 1804 for the evacuation of Nonington’s inhabitants has recently come to light, and the names listed appear to be almost entirely those of women and children. Presumably the able bodied male inhabitants would have been expected to take up arms against the French invaders alongside those Nonington men already serving with the  Volunteers.  

  • A Saxon (left) tries to repel a Viking raider (from a contemporary manuscript)

    Oesewalum and the Vikings-revised 31.05.2019

    Oesewalum was held by Earl Aldberht (also: Ealdbeorht, Ealdberht), and his sister, Selethryth (also: Seleðryth ,Seleðryð), Abbess of Minster on Thanet, and Southminster (also Suthminster), now generally accepted as having been at Lyminge). Oesewalum had either been inherited from their father, a Kentish noble and land-owner, or granted to them along with other extensive estates by King Offa of Mercia for their support in quelling a Kentish revolt against him during the mid-880′s. Aldbert is recorded on some documents as being a minister or advisor to Offa.

    For political reasons Aldberht and Selethryth made a grant of Oesewalum to Wulfred (also Uulfred), the Archbishop of Canterbury,  with the grant entailing that the Archbishop was to gain possession of the manor after both their deaths. This grant was made around 805, and Selethryth died not long after it was made. She was survived by Aldberht, who eventually entered the monastery at Folkestone and died there around 820. After Aldberht’s death the deeds of Oesewalum were seized by Oswulf, a relative of Aldberht and Selethryth, who appears to have inherited their interests and later became an earldorman.  After seizing the deeds Oswulf took them to Southminster Abbey and gave them to Cwoenthryth, the daughter of King Coenwulf of Mercia (also Cenwulf, Kenulf, Kenwulph) and overlord of Kent, who had followed Selethryth as Abbess of the Abbeys of Southminster and Minster on Thanet.  King Coenwulf of Mercia was at that time involved a long running dispute with Archbishop Wulfred over whether laymen or clergy should control religious houses.
    Ceolwulf,  Coenwulf’s brother, succeeded to the throne of Mercia in 821, but only reigned until 823 when he was usurped as King of Mercia by Beornwulf, and Baldred (Bealdred), possibly a Mercian kinsman of  Beornwulf’s, became the king of Kent.
    Cwoenthryth  had retained possession of Oeswalum for some four years or so under the protection of her father and uncle but in 824 Beornwulf, the new king, agreed to resolve the dispute of ownership of various manors and estates between Cwoenthryth and Wulfred at the Council of Clofso (Cloveshoe) where Oesewalum, written as Oesuualun in the charter, was one of the estates returned to Wulfred.

    This protracted struggle over the possession of Oesewalum, which Wulfred apparently referred to in at least one contemporary document as a small piece of land, may indicate the previously unrecognized importance of the manor to the abbeys of Minster and Southminster. Dr. F. W. Hardman, a respected East Kent antiquarian of the early 1900’s alludes to this importance in the manuscript of an unpublished book on Nonington held in the Kent Archaeological Society (KAS) archives at MaidstoneMuseum. Dr. Hardman believed that Oesewalum was in fact an inland refuge for the inhabitants of Minster Abbey from raids by Vikings. By inference it would also have served the same purpose for inhabitants of Southminster as Dr. Hardman, in common with other antiquarians of the time, believed that Southminster and Minster on Thanet were one and the same. Dr. Hardman also believed that this use as a refuge was the origin of Nonington, with the name probably deriving from something like Nunningatun, the Nun’s manor.

    In Roman times the Wantsum Channel, which separated the Isle of Thanet from the rest of Kent was two miles wide in places. The first bridge to Thanet was not built until 1485 and a ferry ran from Sandwich to the island until the mid-1700’s. Minster had been an active port until the Wantsum silted up in the 13th to 15th centuries. Oesewalum would have been well suited for use as a refuge as it was far enough from the Wantsum, five miles or so, to be safe from a quick raid from the sea but easily accessible from Minster via the port of Sandwich and then by an ancient road via Woodnesborough to Eastry and then Chillenden and then to Oesewalum. The exact location of this sanctuary at Oesewalum has yet to be positively identified,  but was most likely in the vicinity of St. Mary’s Church in Nonington.
    The ancient roadway from Sandwich then runs past St. Mary’s church in Nonington to Womenswold, across to the east side of Barham, on through the Elham Valley through the old market “town” of Elham  to the abbey at Lyminge, which was successively under the control of Selethryth and Cwoenthryth.

    The churches on the route also have the name of their patron saint in common with the first Minster Abbey, St. Mary the Virgin. Sandwich’s oldest church and the site of a lost convent on Strand Street which was on the Wantsum’s edge, Eastry, Nonington, Elham, and Lyminge are all dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin, with Lyminge being jointly dedicated to St. Mary and St. Ethelburgha, its founder.

    A Saxon (left) tries to repel a Viking raider (from a contemporary manuscript)

    A Saxon (left) tries to repel a Viking raider

    (from a contemporary manuscript)

    The first Viking raid on Kent recorded in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle was an attack on the Isle of Sheppey in 835, but it appears that Kent had been subjected to raids from the sea since at least the 790’s. Evidence of this can be found a charter of King Offa of Mercia.
    King Offa issued a charter in 792 confirming the exemption of the Church in Kent from various services, most likely given to help placate the church in Kent to accept his rule. However, one exemption the Church did not receive was from the service of “an expedition within Kent against sea-borne pagans arriving with fleets, or against the East Saxons”. This reference  in the charter is compelling evidence that raids by sea on the coast of Kent were perceived as a serious threat by the early 790’s. These “sea-borne pagans” were presumably Scandinavian in origin, either Danes or Norwegians.

    These raids appear to have quickly become a problem to the nuns of  Lyminge Abbey as in 804 they were granted land for a sanctuary in Canterbury, and Lyminge suffered so badly from “Viking” incursions that the nuns moved to Canterbury taking St. Ethelburgha’s relics with them.

    There were some reports of Vikings building fortifications in Kent by 811, and the situation must have become serious because when King Coenwulf  granted Archbishop Wulfred land in 822 he maintained an obligation for Wulfred to destroy fortifications built on the land by pagans, by this time almost certainly Danes.

    Wulfred left his property to his kinsman, Werhard, with the specific instruction that Werhard should in his turn leave the property to ChristChurch, Canterbury. In his will written in the early 830’s Werhard states that a charity was begun by Wulfred, and that he intended to continue it as Wulfred wished. Wulfred specified that Oesewalum, again written Oesuualun, should provide seven paupers with “enough to eat be given each day as is convenient and over the year let each pauper be given twenty-six pence for clothing”.
    Werhard also instructed that a mass be celebrated for his soul every day and that on his anniversary 1,200 paupers should each be given food of a loaf of bread, some cheese or butter and one penny (£.5.00 in total for 1,200 paupers, a large sum). After Werhard’s will Oesewalum seems to disappear as an entity, the name does not appear in any surviving documents.

    In 851 and 854 the Danes overwintered on the Isle of Thanet and by 865 the raids were so bad and East Kent was so badly ravaged that the inhabitants offered the Vikings a large bribe to leave them in peace. However, during the negotiations the Danes changed their minds and rampaged through East Kent. Along with other minsters and abbeys in Kent  the abbey at Minster in Thanet fell into decline because of Danish incursions and its lands either fell into disuse or were sold off. It must have taken a real “frontiersman’s” mentality to have wanted to own and work land within such easy reach of the Danes.

    That part of East Kent that became the Parish of Nonington must have received more than one visit from raiding Danes as it lay within easy reach of the coast. Perhaps evidence of such depredations will soon come to light?

  • Nonington and the Manor of Wingham

    The Manor of Wingham was given to the Abbey of Christ Church in Canterbury in 836 by Athelstan, King of Kent. The manor covered much of the land in the present parishes of Ash, Goodnestone, Nonington, Wingham, and Womenswold. It is recorded as Winganham in 946, and Wingehame in the Domesday Survey of 1086.

    In what became the old parish of Nonington the Manor of Wingham held AckholtKittingtonOxenden, later Oxney; North and South Nonington (centred around the present hamlet of Nonington,  Ratling Court, and Old Court); a small part of Soles manor; and the woodland at Crudeswood, later Curleswood Park.

    The manors of Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles along with Mounton, were not part of the Manor of Wingham.  Mounton, also  Monkton, was a small estate of some twenty-five acres or so around the present Gooseberry Hall Farm which was part of the Manor of Adisham, another manor held by Christ Church.

    Christ Church lost possession of many of its holdings during the troubles of the Heptarchy in the ninth and tenth centuries. Some restitution was made in 941 when Edmund I, the Magnificent, king of a unified England, “restored to the Church of Christ, which is in Canterbury, those lands which his forefathers had unjustly taken away from the Church of God, and those that belonged to that church”, mainly Twiccanham (Twickenham, Middlesex, given in 793), Preostantun (Preston-next- Faversham, given in 822), Winganham, (Wingham, presumably the Manor of Wingham of which Nunningitun [Nonington] was a part), Swyrdlingan, (Swarling-in-Petham, given in 805), Bosingtun, (Bossington near Adisham?) , Gravenea, (Graveney, given in 811), and Ulacumb, (Ulcomb).

    The Domesday Survey of 1086 and after.

    In late 1085 William I, the Conquerer, (1 The Domesday Survey of 1086 and after. 066-1087) ordered a survey to record who then held the land in England, and parts of Wales, and who had held it during the time of King Edward the Confessor. Nonington is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey as it was included in the entry for the Manor of Wingham, but a survey of churches made for Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury made soon after his ordination in 1070, and so roughly contemporary to Domesday, records Nunningitun” as a subsiduary church to the mother church “ad Wingeham”.
    On August 2nd 1282 Archbishop John Peckham founded the College of Wingham, a college of secular canons consisting of a provost and six canons, divided into four parishes as follows: Wingham; Esse (Ash); Godwyneston with the hamlets of Bonnington, Offington (Uffington), Rolling, Newenham, underdone together with parts of Tuicham (Twitham) and Chileden (Chillenden) and, lastly,  the church of Nonington with the chapel of Wymelingewelde (Womenswold) and the hamlets of Rittlynge (Ratling), Freydeville (Holt Street), Hesol (Esole), Suthnonington ( South Nonington) Hakeholt (Acholt), Catehampton (Kittington), Attedane (Oxenden?), Wolshethe (Woolege), and Vike (Wick, the Wick Lane area near Woolage Green).

    In 1283 to 1285 had a survey made of the Manor of Wingham and  the new parish of Nonington contained all or a part of its constituent manors of Ackholt; Curleswood; East Ratling, later Old Court; Kittington; North & South Nonington; Oxenden;  and Ratling.

    The tomb of Archbishop John Peckham in Canterbury Cathedral.

    The Manor of Wingham remained in the possession of the Archbishop until 1538 when he exchanged it for other property with King Henry VIII for other property. Around 1800 Edward Hasted in his history of Kent said that the manor itself “with the royalties, profits of courts, &c. remained still in the crown. Since which, the bailiwic of it, containing the rents and pro fits of the courts, with the fines, amerciaments, reliess, &c. and the privilege of holding the courts of it, by the bailiff of it, have been granted to the family of Oxenden, and Sir Henry Oxenden, bart. of Brome, is now in possession of the bailiwic of it. A court leet and court baron is held for this manor”.

    Sir Henry Oxenden (1721–1804), whose family took their name from the Manor of Oxenden [Oxney], in the parish of Nonington.

    The Oxenden family retained the lordship of the manor of Wingham into the 20th century and may still do so.

  • Nonington in The Domesday Survey of 1086-revised 02.03.2019

    Before the Domesday Survey of 1086.
    The land in the old parish of Nonington, with the exception of the manors of Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles, along with a small estate at Mounton, was held from the  Manor of Wingham which Athelstan, King of Kent, gave to Christ Church in Canterbury in 836. Mounton, also Monkton, was a small estate of some twenty-five acres or so around the present Gooseberry Hall Farm which was part of the Manor of Adisham, another manor held by Christ Church.

    The remaining land in the old parish of Nonington consisted of: Ackholt; Kittington; Oxenden, later Oxney; North and South Nonington (centred around the present hamlet of Nonington,  Ratling Court, and Old Court); a small part of Soles manor; and the woodland at Crudeswood, later Curleswood Park.

    The Manor of Wingham was also over-lord of most of the land in the present parishes of Ash, Goodnestone, Wingham, and Womenswold. Wingham was recorded as “Winganham” in 946 and “Wingehame” in the Domesday Book. 

    Christ Church lost possession of many of its holdings during the troubles of the Heptarchy in the ninth and tenth centuries. Some restitution was made in 941 when Edmund I, the Magnificent,  the king of a then unified England, “restored to the Church of Christ, which is in Canterbury, those lands which his forefathers had unjustly taken away from the Church of God, and those that belonged to that church”, mainly Twiccanham (Twickenham, Middlesex, given in 793), Preostantun (Preston-next- Faversham, given in 822), Winganham, (presumably the extensive Manor of Wingham), Swyrdlingan, (Swarling-in-Petham, given in 805), Bosingtun, (Bossington near Adisham?) , Gravenea, (Graveney, given in 811), and Ulacumb, (Ulcomb).
     Lanfranc had a survey of churches under his jurisdiction soon after his ordination as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070, and this survey recorded that “Nunningitun” was a subsidiary church, in actual fact a chapel, to the mother church “ad Wingeham”. Nunningitun is at present the earliest known use of the name, or of any of its variants, for the hamlet which grew up around the chapel dedicated to St. Mary the Virgin and became the centre of the later parish of Nonington.

    The Domesday Survey of 1086 and after.

    Great Domesday; Catalogue reference: E 31/2-The National Archives

    William I, the Conqueror, ordered a survey in late 1085 to record who then held the land in England and those parts of Wales under his rule, and also who had held it during the time of King Edward the Confessor. “Nunningitun”  is not mentioned in the Domesday Survey as it was a part of the Manor of Wingham and therefore included in that manor’s entry.

    Domesday map of Kent, Victoria County History of Kent Vol. 3 1932. Please click on the map to enlarge it for easier viewing.
    Domesday map of Kent, Victoria County History of Kent Vol. 3 1932.

    The Manor of Wingeham as recorded in the Domesday Survey:
    “In the lath of Estrei, in Wingeham hundred, the archbishop himself holds Wingeham in demesne. It was taxed at forty sulings in the time of king Edward the Consessor, and now for thirty-five. The arable land is . . . . . . In demesne there are eight carucates, and four times twenty and five villeins, with twenty borderers having fifty-seven carucates. There are eight servants, and two mills of thirty-four sulings. Wood for the pannage of five hogs, and two small woods for fencing. In its whole value, in the time of king Edward the Confessor, it was worth seventy-seven pounds, when he received it the like, and now one hundred pounds. Of this manor William de Arcis holds one suling in Fletes, and there be has in demesne one carucate, and four villeins, and one knight with one carucate, and one fisbery, with a saltpit of thirty pence. The whole value is forty shillings. Of this manor five of the archbishop’s men hold five sulings and an half and three yokes, and there they have in demesne eight carucates, and twenty-two borderers, and eight servants. In the whole they are worth twenty-one pounds”.

    Domesday also recorded three manors which were independent of the Manor of Wingham in what was to become the parish of Nonington, namely  the manors of Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles. In the Confessor’s time these were held by three individual lords of the manor who held their manors directly from the king. At the time of the survey Eswalt, Essewelle, and Soles were under the lordship of Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux and were recorded in the survey as follows:-
    Eswalt
    “In Eastry Hundred…………Adelold (Aethelwold) held
    Eswalt from the Bishop (Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux).  It answers for 3 sulungs. Land for… In lordship 1 plough. 6 villagers with 2 smallholders have 3 ploughs. 2 slaves; a little wood for fencing. Value before 1066 £9; now £15. Young Alnoth held it from King Edward”.
    Adelold was chamberlain to Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux,  and lost Eswalt and his other holdings when Odo was imprisoned in 1082. The Crown retained Eswalt until 1088 when William II, known as Rufus(1087-1100) and the recently crowned King of England, gave William de Albini (Albigni) Eswalt as part of a gift of various manors as a reward for his loyalty to the both old and new king. Eswalt remained in the possession of the Albini family until 1097 when Hugo de Albini (Albeneo), the Earl of Albemarle, gave the Manor of Eswalt (Eswala)  to the Abbey and Convent of St. Alban’s, Hertfordshire. By 1511 century this manor had become known as “the lordship of Saint Albons Courte”.

    Essewelle
    “Ralph of Courbepine holds Essewelle from the Bishop. It answers for 3 sulungs. Land for… In lordship 3 ploughs. 1 villager with 7 smallholders have ½ plough. 1 slave. Value £6. Molleva held it from King Edward”.
    Ralph de Curbespine/Courbepine/Curva Spine, also held the manors of Danitone (Denton), Ewelle (Ewell), and Colret (Coldred) from Odo, which had all previously been held from King Edward the Confessor by Molleve, also Malleue, a woman and most likely a widow. Although not a common occurrence, women in pre-Conquest England could hold property in their own right as well as inheriting it on the death of their husbands.

    De Curbespine’s holding passed on to the Maminot, also Mamignot, family and by inheritance became part of the Barony of Maminot. This in turn passed in the late 1100′s to the Barony of Say, or Saye, on the marriage of Alice, or Lettice, the heiress to the Maminot estates, to Geoffrey de Say. As part of the Dover Castleward Barony of Say the knight’s fee of Essewelle was subsequently divided into what were to become known as the manors of Esole and Fredville.

    Soles
    “Ansfrid holds Soles from the Bishop. It answers for one sulung. Land for…in lordship 2 ploughs, 8 villagers with 1/2 plough. Value before 1066, 100 shillings(£.5.00) ; later 20 shillings(£.1.00) ; now £.6. Aelmer held it from King Edward.”

    Soles was confiscated by the Crown when Odo fell from favour and then granted to the Crevequer family. It became a part of the Barony of Crevequer, which was one of the baronies responsible for Castleward at Dover. Soles, now known as Soles Court Farm, has been part of the Fredville estate since its purchase by John Plumptre of Fredville in 1800.

    The Domesday Survey shows that Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux, was by far the richest tenant-in-chief in England. In Kent alone he held 184 lordships, which with  the manors he held in twelve other counties gave him an income of £3,000 a year. However, Odo quickly became the most hated man in Kent because of his ruthless greed in taking whatever he wanted by force and soon came into direct conflict with Lanfranc, Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1076 Odo was tried on Pennenden Heath in Kent for defrauding the Crown and Diocese of Canterbury and had to return some of the land holdings he had obtained by illegal means whilst other assets were re-apportioned.

    Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux. From the Bayeaux Tapestry.

    In 1082 William I imprisoned Odo for seditiously planning a military expedition to Italy without the kings permission, the supposed purpose of this expedition was to obtain the Papacy for Odo.  In addition to his imprisonment Odo also had his remaining estates confiscated by the Crown and the confiscated estates remained under the control of the Crown for some years. After five years of imprisonment  William was persuaded on his deathbed to release Odo from prison and after William’s death at Rouen in September of 1087 Odo recovered his Earldom of Kent from William II, the newly crowned son of the Conquerer who was also known as Rufus. This nickname may have come about either because of the reddish colour of his hair when he was a child or his ruddy complexion. However, Odo soon returned to his duplicitous ways and once again lost his titles and estates in 1088 when he organized an unsuccessful rebellion to overthrow William II and replace him with Robert, Duke of Normandy, another son of the Conqueror. William II  did not imprison Odo, instead he allowed him to go to the Duchy of Normandy where Odo remained in the service of Duke Robert. In 1097 Odo died in Palermo in Sicily whilst en route to Palestine with Duke Robert to take part in the First Crusade. After Odo’s exile to Normandy William II gave some of Odo’s confiscated manors to various barons and kept the remainder for himself. Eswalt, Essewelle and Soles all appear to have been manors that the king gave to favoured barons.

  • Nonington and The Great War-plans for evacuation in the event of a German invasion

    As the outbreak of armed conflict between the British Empire and the German Empire became more certain plans were made to evacuate the civilian population of Kent in the event of invasion. The arrangements for the evacuation of Nonington’s inhabitants have recently come to light, and appear to have made shortly before the outbreak of The Great War in August of 1914. Parish council members appear to have made up the committee making and administering the arrangements.
    H.W. Plumptre, the chairman of  the committee, had served as an officer in the 5th East Kent Rifle Volunteers having joined as a 2nd lieutenant in 1887 he  had been commissioned  Lieutenant in 1889 and Captain in 1893 before resigning his commission in 1896.

    Nonington-WW1-emergency-reg

    Plans for the evacuation of the inhabitants of Nonington in the event of a German invasion after the beginning of the The Great War.
    Aubrey Sutton archive.

    Nonington-WW1-evacuation transport

    The transport arrangements to evacuate the inhabitants of the various hamlets
    in the old parish of Nonington.
    Aubrey Sutton archive.

     

  • Sir John de Beauchamp at Esole-revised 10.01.19

    John de Beauchamp, one of the founding Knights of the Garter. Pictured in The Garter Book, 1435
    John de Beauchamp, one of the founding Knights of the Garter in 1348, along with his brother Thomas, 11th Earl of Warwick. Pictured in The Garter Book, 1435

    In 1349 the Abbot of St. Alban’s was the Lord of the Manor of Esol, and his manorial rent rolls for that year show that Sir John de Beauchamp held at Esole:-‘one messuage [now called Beauchamps-my note] with dovecot, 60a arable, 12a pasture at a total annual manorial rental of 52 s.6d payable to the Abbot of St. Alban’s’.
    John de Beauchamp was born in 1315,  the second and youngest son of Guy de Beauchamp, 10th Earl of Warwick, and Alice de Toeni, a wealthy heiress in her own right and the widow of Sir William Leybourne, who had died in 1307.  Juliana de Leybourne was the only child from this brief marriage and accordingly her father’s sole heiress and,  like her mother, was also very wealthy in her own right.
    Guy de Beauchamp had been a staunch supporter of Edward I and one of the leading opponents of Edward II’s misrule.  When  Guy died in  1315 Thomas de Beauchamp, his eldest son and the heir to the Earldom of Warwick, was only two and John de Beauchamp was a very young baby.

    During his long military service Sir John was one of the most successful of King Edward III commanders in the wars in Northern France and the Low Countries. He fought in Flanders in 1338; was present at the array at Vironfosse in October of 1339 when the armies of the English and French kings met but did not come to battle; and took part in the sea battle of Sluys on 24th June, 1340.

    The French defeated before Calais by Edward III. From Jean Froissart:“Les Chroniques de France”. The British Library.

    Edward, Prince of Wales and eldest son of Edward III, played a key part in the great victory over the French at Crécy on 26th August, 1346, even though he was only aged 16 at the time. He was known as Edward of Woodstock during his life time and as The Black Prince after his death, possibly due to the black armour he wore. During the Battle of Crecy Sir John carried the Royal Standard whilst fighting alongside his brother, the Earl of Warwick, and his brother-in-law, Lord Say.
    Sir John was also present at the successful siege of Calais which lasted from September, 1346, until August, 1347, and gained possession of Calais for the English Crown which retained it until 1558 when it was finally lost in the reign of Mary Tudor. On hearing of its loss Queen Mary reputedly said “When I am dead and opened, you shall find “‘Calais’” lying in my heart”.

    Scene from the Battle of Crecy, 1346. Fierce fighting between soldiers and knights in armour during the Battle of Crecy, Picardie,France. From "Les Chroniques de France" ,The British Library, London, Great Britain
    The Battle of Crecy, 1346. During the battle Sir John carried the Royal Standard, seen on the left of the illustration. From From Jean Froissart: “Les Chroniques de France”. The British Library.

    After the Battle of Crecy Sir John de Beauchamp (often referred to as Bello Campo in contemporary Latin documents) began acquiring various land-holdings in and around the parish of Nonington.  Esol was in his possession by 1349, as was part of the manor of Fredville and some land on that manor which Sir John held from his sister, Maud de Say, the dowager Lady de Say. These and other land acquisitions in mid-Kent around Rainham were possibly paid for with money received from ransoming French prisoners taken at the battle.
    After Sir John’s death in 1360 his Inquision Post Mortem taken at Canterbury on 4th  March [ 35 Edward III] 1362 (1363) recorded his holdings in and around Nonington as:
    Nonyngton. Tenements at Easole [later known as Beauchamps Manor], consisting of a messuage with dovecot, 60a. arable, 12a. pasture, held in gavelkind of the abbot of St. Alban’s by service of rendering 52s. 6d. yearly at his court of Easole in equal portions at Michaelmas, Christmas, Mid-Lent and Midsummer, and doing suit at the same court every three weeks.

    Monketon[now called Gooseberry Hall Farm]. 8a. arable held in gavelkind of the prior and convent of Christ Church, Canterbury, by service of rendering at their court of Adesham 20d. yearly at Mid-Lent and doing suit there every three weeks.

    Fredevylle[Fredville]. 12a. arable held in gavelkind of the lady of Say by service of rendering at the court of Fredevyll 4s. 8d. by equal portions at Michaelmas and Palm Sunday and two hens at Christmas.
    Freydevill’[Fredville]. 24s. rent of free tenants [free holders who paid various manorial rents to Sir John for land they held on the Manor of Freydevill’.
    [Note the use of Fredevylle, Fredevyll’, and Freydevill’ within the same document].

    Nonyngton. 40a. land called ‘ten’ atte med’  held in gavelkind of the archbishop of Canterbury by service of rendering yearly at his court of Wyngeham 11s. and doing suit there every three weeks.

    Godweston[Goodnestone]. 5a. land held of the same archbishop by service of rendering yearly at the court of Wyngeham 20d” “.

    At the time of his death Sir John had also held the manors of Silham and Mere which were both in the southern part of the parish Rainham in mid-Kent. The latter manor was held from his half-sister, Juliana de Leybourne, who was known as the “Infanta of Kent” because of her extensive land-holdings in the county which she had initially inherited and then added to with land and property entitlements from three marriages and subsequent widowhoods. 

    Baynard’s castle is perhaps the lesser known of the three Norman London castles after the Tower of London (established 1066) and Montfichet’s Castle (by 1136). Baynard’s has a rich history as both a castle owned by the Duke of Gloucester and, after 1446, the crown when it became a royal palace.

    Sir John primarily resided in a large house he had had built in the Parish of St. Andrew in the ward of Castle Baynard in London, some forty miles or so from Rainham on the old London to Dover road, and Esol was a further thirty-five miles or so closer to Dover and Sandwich. This would have meant two days of easy travel by horse between London and Esol, with an overnight break at Rainham, or, where speed was of the essence, less than a days hard ride between the two places in either direction with a change of horses at Rainham.   Sandwich is some six miles distant and Dover is less than ten miles away, so Esol would have been a comfortable place to wait for suitable weather to cross the Channel from either port or to recover after crossing from the Continent en route to London or other inland destinations. Esol may also have provided a more comfortable residence to Sir John when he was made Warden of the Cinque Ports.
    King Edward III was constantly campaigning in Northern France and the Low Countries in pursuit of his claim to the French throne, so in addition to providing accommodation for travellers the Kent estates, and especially those in and around Nonington, would also have supplied provisions for the de Beauchamp fighting men and horses campaigning across the Channel, and later to Sir John when he was Captain of Calais

    The large St. Andrew’s parish house was later purchased by the Crown for use as the King’s Wardrobe. In his 1598 survey of the cities of London and Westminster John Strype noted:
    “Then is the King’s great Wardrobe. [I have not read by whom the same was builded, neither when, or for what Cause; but only that] Sir John Beauchamp, Knight of the Garter, Constable of Dover, Warden of the Cinque Ports, Son to Guido de Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, builded this House, was lodged there; this House then bearing the Name of the King’s Wardrobe, in the 5th of Edw. III. The said Sir John Beauchamp deceased in the Year 1359. and was buried on the South side of the middle Ile of Pauls Church. His Executors sold the House to King Edward III. unto whom the Parson of St. Andrews complaining, that the said Beauchamp had pulled down divers Houses, in their places to build the same House, whereby he was hindred of his accustomed Tithes, paid by the Tenants of old time; granted him 40s. by the Year out of that House, for ever. King Richard III. was lodged there in the 2d of his Reign.

    In this House, of late Years, was lodged Sir John Fortescue, Kt. Master of the Wardrobe, Chancellor and under Treasurer of the Exchequer, and one of her Majesty’s Privy Councel. The secret Letters and Writings, touching the Estate of the Realm, were wont to be inrolled in the King’s Wardrobe, and not in the Chancery, as appeareth by the Records”.
    The house was near the old St. Paul’s Cathedral and along with the cathedral was destroyed in the Great Fire of London of 1666 and now remembered as Wardrobe Place, EC4.

    Arms of John de Beauchamp, 1st Baron Beauchamp -d.1360- Gules, a fesse between six crosses crosslet or, a mullet for difference. Differenced for a third son.

    Edward III made Sir John a Knight Banneret in 1347  with an annual allowance of £140 to enable him to support this title. A Knight Banneret was entitled to bear a small square banner rather than the swallow-tailed pennon of a Knight Bachelor and he commanded a body of officers and men, i.e. knights, esquires and soldiers, whom he raised to serve under his banner, but who were paid by the Crown.

    The following year the King further honoured Sir John by making him Captain of Calais, and soon after this Edward III appointed Sir John as Admiral of the Fleet; Constable of the Tower of London; and Warden of the Cinque Ports.  For a time Sir John was deprived of the position of Constable of the Tower in 1354 because of rumours against him, but the King subsequently reappointed him when these proved unfounded.

    THE MONUMENT OF SIR JOHN BEAUCHAMP, POPULARLY KNOWN AS DUKE HUMPHREY’S TOMB. After W. Hollar.
    The monument of Sir John de Beauchamp, popularly known as “Duke Humphrey’s tomb”. After W. Hollar.

    Sir John was summoned to Parliament by the King as Baron Beauchamp of Warwick in 1350 where he served until his death from plague at Calais on 2nd December of 1360. His body was returned to England, possibly via Nonington where it may have rested in the church, to be buried between two pillars before the image of the Virgin on the south side of the nave of Old St. Paul’s Cathedral.  The monument to his memory is commonly, but incorrectly, called “Duke Humphrey’s Tomb”. John had no legitimate children so his title of 1st Baron Beauchamp of Warwick became extinct and his property, including that in and around Nonington and Rainham, was in the most part inherited by Thomas de Beauchamp, 11th Earl of Warwick.

  • Hatchetts-2nd vicarage

    The Reverend Frederick Chalmers and his orphanage at the Nonington Vicarage

    The Reverend Frederick Chalmers, 1860.

    Captain Frederick Chalmers, an Indian Army officer who had been born in Nova Scotia in what is now Canada, returned to England in 1842 after serving as Superintendent of Mysore in India to take Holy Orders. He was accompanied by his young son whose mother had died when he was an infant. Lieutenant Frederick Chalmers, then the assistant to the Commissioner of Mysore, had married Eliza Smith, the daughter of the Reverend Smith, Chaplain of the Mysore establishment in May of 1834.
    Frederick  was ordained in 1843 and  shortly afterwards married Matilda Marsh, a clergyman’s daughter and sister to Catharine Marsh, who was to become well known for her evangelical work amongst the poor of London, especially with the thousands of navvies building the railways in and around London, and also those working on the construction of the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in Hyde Park.

    The Reverend Chalmers was given the living of Beckenham in 1851 and happily ministering there and acquiring a reputation for preaching a good sermon. In 1866 England’s fourth and final pandemic cholera epidemic erupted in the East-End of London and between the end of July and early November of that year nearly four thousand people died from the disease.  Frederick’s sister-in-law worked among the poorest of those affected in the fever epidemic doing what she could to alleviate their suffering and as a result of promises made to dying parents that she would care for their children became the carer for over seventy orphans.

    The Reverend Chalmers and his wife saw it as their duty to help these poor unfortunates and Mrs. Chalmers opened an orphanage for them in a large house in Beckenham, the accommodation was supplemented by the building a room made from iron in the garden. The orphaned children were brought up as much as possible on the family system with siblings being kept together and they were taught to help each other. They also received a good education at local church schools.

    In the autumn of 1872 the Reverend Chalmers was appointed to the living of Nonington in Kent and when the Reverend, wife, and the remaining children moved there the orphanage’s iron house went with them, where according to a letter by Catherine Marsh,  it was ” set up in the Vicarage Garden, to the delight of the orphans. It was sufficient for the small number of children now left in it”.
    The Nonington vicarage where the Reverend Chalmers and his household were listed as living in the vicarage in the 1881 census  is now “Hatchetts” at the top of Oak Hill (Vicarage Lane).

    It would appear that the orphanage was is the out-buildings of the vicarage, as well as in the iron house in the garden,  as in the 1881 census returns the  Reverend Chalmers and his household are listed as living in the vicarage and there is a separate entry for the orphanage.

    The Vicarage:
    Frederick Chalmers, head, married , 76, Vicar of  Nonington, Nova Scotia
    Matilda Chalmers, wife, married, 70, Basildon, Berks
    Dalzell  Chalmers, son, single, 29, solicitor, Bromley
    Catherine Marsh, sister-in-law, single, 61, Clergyman’s daughter, Colchester
    Leila Ditmas, visitor, sngle, 23, daughter of major in army, Richmond, Surrey

    Ann Collins, servant, single, 44, housekeeper & cook, Ireland
    Elizabeth Tapsell,  servant, single, 46, lady’s maid, West Wickham
    Agnes Pannatt, visitor, single, 31, lady’s maid, Walmer
    Johanna Herms, servant, single, 41, parlour maid, Germany
    Lydia Horton, servant, single, 43, housemaid, Northbourne
    Arthur Horne, servant, single, 27, butler, Ridgemount, Beds

    The Reverend Chalmers must have been a man of some means judging by the number of servants at the Vicarage, and he also appears to pay the care of the orphans. Catherine Marsh, his sister-in-law, was a frequent visitor to the Nonington vicarage and was very well connected. She knew most of the leading reforming politicians of the day and was on good terms with Florence Nightingale.

    The Orphanage:
    Sarah Fagg, Head, 43, Matron
    Emma D. W. Evans, boarder, 32, Elementary School Teacher
    Emily Phillips, orphan, 23, general servant.

    Orphans:
    Mary A. Garland 13 London, Middlesex, England
    Sidney Davies 14 Bromley, Kent, England
    Letitia M. Potter 15 Beckenham, Kent, England
    Emily Rudd 12 London, Middlesex, England
    Annie Dennis 12 London, Middlesex, England
    Louisa J. Clayson 10 Nonington, Kent, England
    Richard Tapsell 9 Sundridge, Kent, England
    Walter O. Scott 13 London, Middlesex, England
    Edith C. Fagg, niece, orphan, 9, Yorkshire, Sheffield
    Thomas C.H. Bailey 8 Beckenham, Kent, England

    The orphanage appears to have closed when the Reverend Chalmers died on 15th July, 1885,  while still incumbent at Nonington, and was succeeded by the Reverend Frederick Carus Wilson.

    Below are the obituaries of the Reverend Chalmers and two of his sons.


%d bloggers like this: