The Manor of Solys, now Soles Court Farm

Soles Court Farm is located near the hamlet of Frogham on the southern edge of the parish of Nonington. It is one of the oldest settlement sites in Nonington and was recorded as a separate manor in the Domesday Book of 1086.  The old Soles farmhouse, pictured below, probably dated from the late 17th century, but was abandoned in the late 1950′s and fell  into a state of disrepair and was demolished in the 1980′s, now just a few outbuildings remain. Upper and Lower Soles Woods, respectively to the west and east of the house site,  have extensive banks and ditches which possibly date from pre-Norman times and were probably dug  to help protect the woodland from foraging animals.

General History.

Soles, originally Solys, derives  from the O.E. sol: meaning mud or mire, which in Kentish dialect could mean a pond or pool of muddy water or a muddy, boggy area. Sole is a very common Kentish place name, just across the field from Soles is Broadsole at Frogham.

The Domesday Survey recorded: “Ansfrid holds Soles from the bishop (Odo, Bishop of Dover and Bayeaux and Earl of Kent, half brother of William I with whom he later fell out with and who stripped Odo of his lands and titles). It answers for one sulung. Land for… In lordship 2 ploughs; 8 villagers with ½ plough. Value before 1066, 100 shillings; later 20 shillings; now £ 6. Aelmer held it from King Edward”.

Soles manor was the site of a very early mill which is mentioned in a fine of 1227 which finalizes a protracted legal dispute between William de Soles and  Cecily de Dovre, the daughter of Agnes by John Le Archer, over ownership of the single knight’s fee of Soles. The fine refers to a capital messuage [the then manor house and outbuildings which would have been on or near the site of the later manor house pictured above] and  the half site of a mill previously held by William’s uncle, also William de Soles. The windmill was presumably to the north-east of the  manor  house on the same site as the later Barfreston mills.

1254: a roll of holders of knight’s fees recorded that in the “Hundred of Eastry. Hamo de Soles tenet dimid feod in Soles de Ricardo Rokesle – nota bene Johanes de Soles tenet dimid in eodem de eodem”, which translates as: “Hamo de Soles holds half of Soles from Richard Rokesle (Richard de Rokestle), Johanes de Soles holds half in the same place on the same terms”.

1274-75: On returning from crusade in 1274 King Edward I ordered the making of the Kent Hundred rolls [1274-75] which recorded the rights and dues owed to him. The Hundred of Eastry entry for Soles reads: “Then they say that John de Soles holds one fee in Soles of John de Rokeste and the same John of Robert de Crevequer and the same Robert of the king in chief and he owes 20s. each year at Dover Castle”.

1375:On 28th December, 1375, King Edward III granted to Geofrey Chaucer, King’s Esquire, and author of “The Canterbury Tales”, the guardianship and the right of marriage of William de Solys, a minor then aged one year and heir of the late John de Solys, lord of the manor of Soles and Betteshanger. Awarding a guardianship was commonly done for  royal favourites and members of the royal household: ‘the guardian became responsible for maintaining the heir in a manner appropriate to his estate and for keeping the property from deterioration’. The land at Soles was worth five “solidates”, a solidate was as much land as was worth one shilling (five pence) a year.

1528: 19th Henry VIII. Thomas Norton sold to John Boyes, ¼ of the manor of Soles [the manorial rents and fees], with 200 acres of land, 200 acres of pasture and 60 acres of woodland in Nonington and Barfreston for £40.

1637: Manor, messuage, farm and lands called Soles, about 140 acres. Land occupied by Nich. Creake, the Creake family also held land at Kittington.

1664: First mention of Soles barn as separate entity, approx 6 score (120) acres.

1660’s: Sold by John Boys to Sir Anthony Percival of Dover. Manor of Soles, barnes, messuages, lands, tenements, meadows, pastures, woods, grounds and hereditaments.

1700: Soles manor and Soles barne, approx. Six score acres, arable, pasture, woods and downs.

1704: Occupied by Laurence Austen (also at the White Horse, Church St., Nonington.), late Wm. Sharpe. Soles Field abutting to the S.W. 12 acres occupied by Thos. Osbourne.

1760: One messuage, two barns, two stables, one orchard, one hundred and fifty acres of land, ten acres of meadow, ten acres of pasture and thirty acres of wood.

William Hasted in his ‘History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent’ vol. IX, published in 1800, has a brief history of Soles.
SOLES is a manor at the boundary of this parish, next to Barfreston, which at the taking the survey of Domesday, in 1080, was part of the possessions of Odo, bishop of Baieux, under the general title of whose lands it is thus entered in that record:
Ansfrid holds of the bishop Soles. It was taxed at one suling. The arable land is . . . In demesne there are two carucates, and eight villeins with half a carucate. In the time of king Edward the Confessor it was worth one hundred shillings, and afterwards twenty shillings, now six pounds. Elmer held it of king Edward.
Four years after which, on the bishop’s disgrace, the king seized on this estate among the rest of his possessions. After which it was granted to the family of Crevequer, and made a part of that barony, being held of it by the tenure of performing ward to Dover castle. Of Hamo de Crevequer it was held by knight’s service in king Edward I.’s reign, by Richard de Rokesle, and of him again by Hamo and John de Soles, who certainly took their name from it, but this name was extinct here in the beginning of king Henry IV.’s reign, for in the 4th year of it Thomas Newbregge, of Fordwich, was become possessed of it, whose descendant sold it to Rutter, from which name it passed; about the beginning of king Edward IV. to Litchfield, whose descendant Gregory Litchfield alienated it in king Henry VIII.’s reign to John Boys, esq. of Nonington, in whose descendants it continued down to John Boys, esq. of Hode-court, who in Charles I.’s reign alienated it to Sir Anthony Percival, of Dover, comptroller of the customs there; in whose descendants it remained till, not many years since, it was by one of them passed away to Major Richard Harvey, who sold it to Thompson, of Ramsgate, after whose death it came by marriage to Mr. Stephen Read, of Canterbury, who afterwards alienated it to John Plumptree, esq. of Fredville, the present owner of it. A court baron is held for this manor.

The manor of Soles held a Court Baron, hence Soles Court. The Court Baron was introduced into the post-Conquest feudal system in the 1090’s and was the principal type of manorial court of a manor’s chief tenants and had responsibility for the internal regulation of it’s local affairs. The Court was attended by those free tenants whose attendance at the court was a condition of their tenure, and by customary tenants who held land by an agreement made at the manor court which was entered on its roll with a copy of the entry regarded as proof of title. The court dealt with such matters as the transfer of land; the organisation of the common fields and meadows; the abatement of nuisances’ (defective hedges, blocking of paths, straying beasts, etc); and anything concerning the occupations a manor’s inhabitants, which in most manors were connected with agriculture. The Steward, who ran the court for the lord, kept a watchful eye over the lord’s rights, including rentals, heriots and boon work.

The Manor of Soles and, presumably, the 1760 holding of “one messuage, two barns, two stables, one orchard, one hundred and fifty acres of land, ten acres of meadow, ten acres of pasture and thirty acres of wood” were sold by Stephen Read to John Plumptre around 1790. The last entry in the manorial rolls recording Mr. Read as Lord of the Manor was made in 1788, and the first entry as Lord of the Manor for Mr. Plumptre was in 1792. Prior to the sale Mr. Plumptre and  the Duke of Newcastle, the last but one owner of Fredville, had paid manorial rents as tenants of the Manor of Soles for land they held there, although according to the manorial rolls the Duke did not actually pay rents owed from 1704 onwards.

The rents were assessed on an annual basis according to the custom of the manor and were payable on land and property and also on their transfer to the heirs of a deceased holder, or their sale. The rents were not always payable in cash, some tenants had to also make payment to the Lord of the Manor in poultry and eggs. The Soles manorial rolls record tenants having rent of two or more chickens, which were assessed at value of one shilling so presumably a cash alternative was acceptable.
There are copies of the records of the infrequent manorial courts held for Soles from 1770 until 1862 when it was decided by John Pembleton Plumptre, the lord of the manor, and William Miles, his steward, that the “the rents are so few and small we do not contemplate holding another court”.
Soles Court Farm is still part of the Fredville estates.

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  • admin

    Thanks for the positive comments, Paul.
    There was a farm settlement on Ruberry Downs over towards the Roman Road, which is to the left of the bridge. This appears to have been inhabited from Iron through to perhaps the early 17th century. The 1870’s OS maps show a water cistern there. Butts Lane I think derives from its proximity to Soles Butts, the shave that runs from the railway line to the Three Barrows on the Roman Road which is where the manor of Soles lands meet up with the manor of Wingham’s lands on Ruberry Downs close by to the east of the aforementioned settlement.I think the farm you are referring to is Oxenden or Oxney, which is located through Dead Woman’s Gap, the older name for which appears to be Oxney Forestall and Oxney Barn Field & Wood. I remember asking Peter and some of the older beaters back in the 1960’s how the name arose, but nobody knew . I’ve never heard of or found an explanation for the name anywhere else.It may have possibly been a female itinerant who perished there in the late 19th or early 20th centuries or maybe a death connected to the building of the railway in the early 1860’s. It’s a similar situation to Bloody Bones Lodge at the foot of Old Court Hill. It was the local name for the lodge and the small field behind it, but I’ve never found a written reference to it. My thinking here  is that an old burial mound was disturbed when steam ploughing began in the 1860’s and, as in the case of the AS graveyard at St. Alban’s, the disinterred bones were fancifully or romantically presumed to have originated from the casualties from some long past battle.
    I’ll look into Dead Womans Gap, there may be something in a free online newspaper archive or a reference somewhere else.I’ll let you know if I find anything,Regards,Clive Webb.

  • Paul Plumptre

    While we are discussing Frogham and Oxney, can I raise what could be a very long wild goose chase. As one drives the charming lane / road West out of Frogham, one first goes up Phoenix lane, and then past the entrance to Soles; then over the railway bridge (where there are still 4ft concrete pyramids erected 1940 to block German tanks). One the right hand over the bridge, it is now Little Ruberry wood (I think) – where you tell me there used to be a farm 1300-1800.
    400 yards further on, one gets to the corner where one briefly joins the North Downs Way (to my family, the ‘Roman Road’ or ‘Butts Lane’). Just before this, there is a straggling spinney, through which a farm track descends towards the main Oxney Wood. My father, and hence his family, have always referred to this spinney as ‘Dead Woman’s Gap’. Q1. Do you know of anyone else referring to it as such? (I never asked old Mr Eric Ratcliffe, who farmed thereabouts in my youth.) Q2. One must assume there was a dead woman sometime. My father told us no story. It would be a long wild goose chase, to search through local newspapers, for a report of a dead woman found there. I would start c.1900, and I would guess she must have been found between 1830 and 1930. (She would not have been a local woman; else why would a name ‘Dead Woman’s Gap’ have grown up.) Have you ever come across such a record?
    Best wishes. I really enjoy all your articles.
    Paul Plumptre (01788 521712, Rugby)

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