Aerial photographs of the old parish of Nonington taken in the last half of the 20th century clearly indicate the sites of several early settlements dating back to the Iron Age [circa 500 BC onwards] and beyond. Accidental finds over the last couple of centuries of worked flints, pottery sherds and pot boilers in fields or gardens uncovered by ploughing or gardening have given strong indications of the locations of sites of early habitation, and a handful of organized archaeological excavations from the mid-19th century onwards have provided more definite evidence as to where some of the early inhabitants of Nonington lived on a more permanent basis.
Pre-historic finds near the old and new St. Alban’s Court houses.
The 1997 during a watching brief at St. Alban’s Court the Thanet Trust for Archaeology discovered possible Late Bronze Age, 1000-701 BC., hut circles and enclosure during the construction of an access road which is now the main entrance to the property.
The watching brief produced possible remains of pre-historic hut sites, floors and drip trench and enclosure. There was a lack of datable materials (burn daub and one pre-historic pot sherd) but hut sites reminiscent in form and state of preservation to Late Bronze Age hut circles encountered by excavator at Monkton and Ebbsfleet. Thin general scatter of pot boilers, (flints heated in the fire until extremely hot and then dropped into a vessel of liquid to heat it, pottery the of that period in time could not survive direct flame) in the area and lack of pottery may indicate a low level of occupation.
From the late Stone Age to the early Romans: settlement near Mill Cottage.
Prior to the installation by EDF of an underground high voltage cable to Mill Cottage on the site of the old Easole Feed Mill an extensive archaeological survey and excavation was carried out in September of 2009 by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust in the field between Mill Cottage and Kittington Farm. A wide variety of finds came to light dating from the late Mesolithic [c 6,500 BC] to the early Roman period [c 150 AD]. This and other finds indicated that by early Roman times there was a thriving farm, with associated buildings, where spelt wheat grown on an industrial scale and that some of the spelt wheat what malted for use in brewing.
The records of the excavations were published in Archaeologia Cantiana, Vol. 131, 2011.
The Roman military base at Aylesham.
Evidence of Bronze Age, Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement has been uncovered during the building of the new housing estates on the west side of Aylesham out towards the Wingham Road. Until 1951 the present Parish of Aylesham formed a single parish with the present Parish of Nonington.
Early discoveries prior to building work commencing in late 2014 were made by archaeologists from Swale and Thames Archaeology (SWAT) who are still carrying out the ongoing archaeological survey work for developers Barratt Homes and Persimmon Homes. These early discoveries included a Saxon skeleton, Bronze Age urns and Roman domestic objects.
In February of 2020 Dr Paul Wilkinson of SWAT disclosed further discoveries at Aylesham. By far the most important discovery disclosed was evidence of a Roman military facility on the Aylesham site. In an article in Kentonline regarding archaeological discoveries at Aylesham Dr. Wilkinson said:
“We are quite certain we have discovered what was a military supply depot on the Aylesham site. This would have been set up a year or two after the Romans invaded Britain and we believe would have been manned by soldiers of a Roman legion. Not all of them would have been fighting men but specialists in a range of support roles – similar to the British Army of the Victorian era – and would have been posted around an area to concentrate on infrastructure tasks.”.
If this discovery does prove to be a Roman military supply depot then it sheds a new light on the strategic and logistical importance of the area that became the old Parish of Nonington to the Romans in the years immediately following their invasion of “Britannia” in 43 AD. The site of the presumed depot is only half a days march from the Romans presumed landing place on the coast between Deal and the Wantsum Channel and the important Roman port of “Retupiae”, the present Richborough Castle. The presumed depot site is located near to ancient pre-Roman trackways which then allowed for direct and rapid access to the East Kent hinterland.
Hopefully more detailed information regarding this and other discoveries at Aylesham will be available in the very near future to all who have an interest in the ancient history of Aylesham and Nonington.