The Boys family at Fredville

The Boys family, also de Bois & de Bosco, claimed descent from R. de Boys, or de Bosco, a companion of William the Conqueror who fought at the Battle of Hastings in 1066 who had been rewarded with gifts of land by the grateful King William. In 1357 John Boys was known to have held Bonnington in Goodnestone parish, part of the Manor of Wingham. In the following decades members of the family acquired land in and around Goodnestone and Nonington parishes.

For several centuries  it has been held by Thomas Philpott,  Edward Hasted, and other historians, that a foot of fines dating from  July of 1484 recorded the purchase by John Nethersole, William Boys, Thomas Butte and Robert Gerveis of : “The manors of Fredeuyle 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’” from Thomas and Anne Quadryng’.
However, this foot of fines  actually records a legal manoeuvre to settle a court case to recover possession of the aforementioned properties which had in fact been purchased by John Nethersole and associates from the Quadryngs at some time shortly before the death of King Edward IV in April of 1483. These recovered properties then came into the sole possession of William Boys in 1485.

A foot of fine (plural, feet of fines; Latin: pes finis; plural, pedes finium) is the archival copy of the agreement between two parties in an English lawsuit over land, most commonly the fictitious suit (in reality a conveyance) known as a fine of lands or final concord.

In the Trinity Term of the Law Courts [June and July] of 1484 John Nethersole, William Boys, Thomas Butte and Robert Gerneys through William Rose, their attorney, began legal proceedings to regain possession of “the manors of Fredeuyle and Beauchamp’ with appurtenances, and two messuages, 405 acres of land, three acres of wood and 76s 4d of rent, and the rent of eight cocks, 30 hens and one pair of gloves with appurtenances in Nonyngton and Godneston” as their right. They claimed that the property in question had been illegally seized by John Metford, a wealthy London grocer, who appears to have taken possession of the properties as payment for money owed to him by Thomas Quadryng.

The four plaintiffs stated that they had been in possession of the property “as of fee and lawfully at the time of peace at the time of lord Edward IV, late king of England”, which meant they had held it since before April of 1483. As evidence of this they produced proof of suit of court to show that they had fulfilled their feudal duty to their overlord for Fredeuyle and Beauchamp’ [previously Esol], so confirming their possession of the two manors. After further claims and counter-claims before the court possession of the property by the plaintiffs was confirmed.

On 8th July, 1484, after the end of the court proceedings, the aforementioned foot of fines recorded the outcome of a what was almost certainly a fictitious suit for the conveyance of “the manors of Fredeuyle and Beauchamp’ ect.” with John Nethersole, William Boys, Thomas Butte and Robert Gerveis as the querents [plaintiffs], and Thomas Quadryng’ and Anne, his wife, as the deforciants [one/those who keep out of possession the rightful owner of an estate] gave full legal title to John Nethersole and his associates of the property in question.

In 1485 John Nethersole in turn conveyed the aforementioned properties to William Boys of Bonnington in Goodneston. Boys appears to have done well at this time as he also gained possession of other property locally,  including the Manor of Shebbertswell (Shepherdswell) which had also previously belonged to the rebellious Richard Guildford.
William Boys had obviously been very astute at seeing which way the wind blew as his apparent lack of opposition to Richard III had not caused him any problems with the succeeding Henry VII, the first Tudor, and he continued to prosper under the new regime

Edward Hasted, in his “The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent” stated that after the purchase William Boys “removed thither” to Fredville and made it his main residence but returning  to live at Bonnington at some time before his death in July of 1507.  In the year he died William Boys gifted to Nonington Church 40/- [£.2.00] towards buying an Antephonar [a religious music book]. The gift was made in the name of William Boys of Goodnestone, not of Nonington or Fredville.
William Boys died at Bonnington on 8th July, 1507, his death is commemorated on a brass plaque on the east wall of the North Chapel in in Goodnestone Church.

William’s will divided the bulk of his estate between his two sons, John, his eldest son and heir who had been born at Bonnington in the mid to late 1470’s, and Thomas.  William bequeathed to John “all my lands, tenements, customs, rents, suits and services in Nonington, and to his heirs for ever”, and to Thomas “my lands and tenements etc. in Goodneston, and to his male issue, but if no issue to my son John and his male issue; if no issue to female heirs of Thomas for ever”.

John Boys’ inheritance included the Manors of Beauchamp’ and Fredville, along with other property in Nonington which unfortunately was not specified in the will. According to Thomas Philpott in his “Villare Cantianum: or, Kent surveyed and illustrated” published in 1659, “the eldest had the fairest, and the youngest the ancient seat”. Why Fredville was judged to be fairer was not made clear, possibly it provided a larger income and had better accommodation than the family seat at Bonnington.

Please see Fredville-where was the original manor house located for more information

John Boys was the founder of the Fredville branch of the family and the most likely builder of the first house on the Fredville mansion site.  Prior to the building of the Fredville mansion John appears almost certainly  to have  lived in the  manor house at Bechams, or, less likely, a manor house on the site of the present Holt Street Farm house.

After inheriting Fredville and its associated properties he continued to add to his holdings during the following decades. In 1512 he acquired property in Sandwich, and in 1528 he bought a quarter of the Manor of Soles from Thomas Norton, a legal and administrative entity which entitled him to certain manorial rights, revenues, rents and fines in and around the present Soles Court, Long Lane Farm, and the hamlet of Frogham. In addition to the manorial rights he also purchased from the same vendor 200 acres of arable land, 200 acres of pasture and 60 acres of woodland in Nonington and Barfreston.

As can be seen, John Boys had money to spend in the 1510’s and 1520’s, and this would be the most logical time for him to begin the construction of a new mansion on what is believed to be an uninhabited spur in what was to become Fredville Park. This new house was referred to as “the mansion of Fredfields” in the 1648 will of William Boys, John’s heir.
As his wealth and local importance increased John Boys would have wished to establish himself as a presence in the locality, and what better way to do this than to build a new mansion in a position that made it visible for several miles in the general direction of Sandwich, where he had business interests and held public office. He had entered municipal service in Sandwich in 1528, qualifying to stand for election to Parliament as a result of being a burgess of the borough. John Boys was one of the two members of Parliament for Sandwich at the time of his death in March of 1533, which occurred halfway through a Parliamentary session and it is not clear whether he died in London or Nonington as his death pre-dates the Nonington church register. A near neighbour of John’s, Vincent Engham of Goodnestone, served in Parliament as M.P. for Sandwich at the same time.

Mrs. Boys Behrens, a descendant of the Boys’ of Fredville, wrote about the replacement of the old Tudor Fredville house around 1750, in “Under Thirty-Seven Kings. Legends of Kent & Records of the family of Boys” published in 1926. By the early 1700’s the old manor house had become a farm house and Mrs. Boys Behrens recorded that the new Fredville mansion had been re-built on the old flint foundations of the previous house, noting that the cellars and the covered-in well in the centre of the old kitchen were the only parts of the original house incorporated into the new mansion. The bricks for the Tudor mansion were probably made from the same brick-earth deposits, located a couple of hundred yards to the south of the mansion site, as were used in the construction of the 18th century mansion.

It appears that after the building of the Tudor mansion the presumed old Fredville manor house at Holt Street became the residence of the Boys’ of Fredville’s eldest son and heir. The Nonington parish register records the baptism on May 29th, 1606, of Anna, the daughter of Sir Edward Boys the Younger, gentleman, of Holtestreete.  This mention of Holtestreete indicates that Sir Edward Boys the Younger and his growing family was by then living in a recently re-built Holt Street house. However, the baptism records of two older children make no reference to Holt Street, so it is possible that Sir Edward the Younger was living somewhere else before 1606, the family by this time having acquired several suitable large houses.
Edward Boys and his father, Edward the Elder, had both been knighted by King James I in 1603 or 1604 and it may be that in keeping with the younger Sir Edward’s new status and growing family the Holt Street house was either modernized and extended or a new house was built at the same location. No exact date for the building of the present Holt Street Farm house is definitely known but if the above information is correct then it would appear that the “new” house was probably built between 1603 and early 1606. The bricks used in its construction appear to have been made less than a hundred yards up the hill to the west of the house it what is still known as Brick Field.

William Boys, born at Fredville around 1500, inherited Fredville on John’s death and continued to add to the Fredville estate.  In 1537 Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, as Lord of the Manor of Wingham,  granted William Boys a messuage and 161 acres at Kittington, part of the Manor of Wingham and he appears to have acquired other property  from the Manor of Wingham at around this time as a 1591 survey of the manor records Edward Boys, William’s grand-son, as holding South and North Nonington, the Three Barrows [Three Barrows Down, part of Oxney manor], Ackholt, and Kittington from the Manor of Wingham.

These acquisitions from the Manor of Wingham appear to be due to family connections. William Boys’ wife Mary was the sister of the well-connected Sir Edward Ringsley [Ringley] of nearby Knowlton and during the 1530’s he was a friend of Thomas Cranmer, a leading figure in the English Reformation during the reign of Henry VIII, and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I. When Sir Edward died in 1543 Archbishop Cranmer was the supervisor of his will.

This friendship most likely explains how Boys was able to acquire the aforementioned land from the Manor of Wingham with such fortuitous timing as the Manor of Wingham only remained in the possession of the Archbishop until 1538 when he exchanged it with King Henry VIII for other property

In addition to being a friend of Cranmer Sir Edward was also Knight Marshall and Comptroller of Calais just across the English Channel in Northern France. Calais and its environs was by then the only remaining part of the English Crown’s once extensive French possessions and vital to English trade with the Low Countries and the Continent in general. 

In 1363 Calais had been designated the Staple Port for English wool and leather exported to the Continent, which meant that all exports of these products had to initially go to Calais before being sold on. In the same year the Merchants of the Staple were granted the exclusive right to trade raw wool in Calais.

This system remained in place for almost two hundred years, although it became less important as exports of finished cloth became more important than exported raw wool. When Calais was lost in 1558 the staple moved to Bruges.

William Boys was a large land-owner and accordingly a producer of quantities of wool who most likely had connections to the wool trade in Calais via the nearby port of Sandwich. Undoubtably the sale wool would have contributed annually to his apparently ever increasing fortune although the price of wool collapsed and grain increased in price at the end of the 1540’s.
For much of his reign King Henry VIII was involved in an intermittent war with France and invaded that country three times. The local Kent militias were frequently raised to counter the threat of French invasion and William Boys, again as a gentleman and a land-owner, was involved with raising and administering the militia at various times. Between 1544 and 1546 William accompanied King Henry VIII to France and took part in the siege of Boulogne.
 In his will of 1543 Sir Edward Rinsgley, also spelt Ringley and Ringeley, of nearby Knowlton Court bequeathed “to my nephew, Edward Boys aforesaid, all my harness, bows and arrows, and also my axe, that is parcel gilt, garnished with crimson velvet, my long gilt sword, and the girdle”. Edward was the eldest son and heir to William Boys and this bequest may have been used by a very young Edward in campaigning with his father in France.

After his death at Fredville in December of 1549 William was buried on 22nd December at Nonington Church.  Edward Boys, William’s eldest son, inherited his father’s estates.

In his will, written in 1548, the second William Boys of Fredville bequeathed: “To the marriage of my three daughters, Elen, Mary and Elizabeth £40 each, also 100 livres each the which their uncle Sir Edward Ringley bequeathed them. My four sons Thomas, William, Vincent and John £20 each at their age of 21. That Edward Boyse (sic) be coadjutor to his mother in the administration of this my Will, but not to meddle as Exor (executor), and he to have £20. Edward, my eldest son….. … suffer his mother and Aunt Margaret to have their dwelling whilst they live in the mansion of Fredfields (Fredville) with free coming and going into a chamber commonly called the ‘Nursserye’ with the chambers over the buttery, also allow his mother to take half the profits of the Wind Mill”.[An early mill on the Easole corn mill site].

Edward Boys was born at Fredville in 1528 and grew up as a strict Protestant, possibly under the influence and tutelage of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, a founder of the Reformation and friend of his uncle, Sir Edward Rinsgley. Adherence to his strict Protestant beliefs led to Edward Boys becoming one of the “Marian Exiles” in 1557 and 1558.
Marian Exiles were strict Protestants who fled England to escape persecution by the staunchly Roman Catholic Queen Mary Tudor, who after her death became known as Bloody Mary because of her executions of Protestants. During her short five year reign between 1553 and 1558 Mary and her equally staunch Catholic husband, Philip of Spain, tried to lead England back into the arms of the Church of Rome.

Clare, the wife of Edward Boys, was the daughter of Sir Nicholas Wentworth, a Knight Porter of Calais, and the brother of Peter and Paul Wentworth who both became Members of Parliament who  had strong Puritan sympathies and were critical of Queen Elizabeth I. During their time in exile Edward Boys and his family spent most of their exile with other Protestant refugees in Wesel, near Berne in Switzerland, and Frankfurt. While in exile Edward’s wife gave birth to a daughter called Gersona, who sadly did not survive for long and was buried in Frankfurt. The family remained in exile until Mary’s death in November of 1558.  The accession to the throne of her Protestant half-sister Elizabeth I  made it safe for them to end their exile and return home to Fredville and a once again Protestant England.

Edward served as a High Sheriff of Kent and a Commissioner for Dover Harbour and was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I. A charitable man, he gave 40/- from fifteen acres of land in Nonington and Barfreston to be distributed yearly amongst the poor of Nonington parish (see Nonington Charities). Sir Edward was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Nonington, on 18th February, 1597 (1598).

Another charitable legacy was made by William Boys of Tilmanstone, one of Edward’s younger brothers, who in his will of 1600 bequeathed one and a half acres at Frogham Hill (now Nightingale Lane) to provide two poor house keepers with two houses and an acre and a half of land with a sack of wheat each at Christmas (see Nonington Charities). The cottages were on the site of the present Nightingale Cottages and the one and a half acres now make up the field and a part of the wood (Humphry’s Wood) to the rear of the cottages. The original houses and land were bought with the consent of the Charity Commissioners by Mr. H. W. Plumptre in 1903 and the proceeds of the sale invested and administered by four Trustees of Nonington as the Nightingale Trust. The almost derelict cottages were replaced by the present ones soon after the sale.

Sir Edward’s eldest son, also Edward (II), was baptized at Nonington in 1554. From 1597 he served as a magistrate for Kent, and was a friend of the Puritan divines Thomas Walkington and Richard Sedgwick. The Boys marriages at this time become a bit convoluted and almost incestuous. The younger Edward Boys (II) married Mary Wentworth, the daughter of Peter Wentworth by his second marriage to Elizabeth Walsingham, the sister of Sir Francis Walsingham, the principal secretary and spymaster to Queen Elizabeth I. Peter Wentworth was the brother of the younger Edward Boys’s mother, which made Mary, his wife, his first cousin. This in turn meant that Edward Boys senior was the brother-in-law of Peter Wentworth and the uncle and father-in-law of Sir Francis Walsingham’s niece.
Mary Boys was the maternal aunt of Sir Philip Sidney, the renowned Elizabethan poet, courtier, scholar, and soldier. Her sister Frances had married Sir Philip in 1583 when she was sixteen, but the marriage was a short one. Sir Philip died at the age of 31 at Arnhem in The Netherlands in October of 1586 from a wound received in the preceding September while fighting for the Protestant cause against the Spanish in the Battle of Zutphen. In 1590 Frances married Robert Devereux, 2nd Earl of Essex, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, with whom she had five children. Shortly after Essex’s execution in 1601, Frances married her lover, the 4th Earl of Clanricarde, and went to live in Ireland.

Mary died on 17th October, 1616, and Edward (II) married Catharine Knatchbull, the daughter of Richard Knatchbull of Mersham Hatch, the widow of Alexander Hammon of Acrise, and the mother of Elizabeth Hammon , the wife of his eldest son, Edward Boys [III].  Alexander Hammond had also been a Marion exile in Frankfurt at the same time as Edward Boys [I] had resided there.

Edward’s (II) heir, also Edward (III), was baptized at Nonington in 1579. The younger Edward (II) went on to serve at various times as a member of Parliament for Fowey, Christchurch, Sandwich, and Dover. He married Elizabeth Hammon in March of 1603 [1604], the daughter and co-heiress of Alexander Hammon of Acrise, Kent and Catharine Knatchbull, later his step-mother as well as his mother-in-law.

Both Edwards were knighted by the newly crowned James I in 1604 and Edward junior replaced his by then elderly father as a magistrate in 1632 and inherited the family estates on his father’s death in 1635.

Sir Edward (III) represented Dover in both the Short and Long Parliaments (respectively 13th April to 5th May of 1640 and 3rd November of 1640 until 16th March of 1660), and also served as Warden of the Cinque Ports and Lieutenant of Dover Castle until his death at Fredville in 1646. John, his eldest son and heir, then fulfilled these offices until 1648.

John Boys, the last Boys of Fredville

John Boys was born in February of 1604 (1605), the eldest son and heir of “Sir Edward Boys the Younger of ffredvile”, and  the last of the Boys family to own Fredville. In 1626 John married Margaret, the daughter of John Miller of Wrotham, and John’s grand-father, Edward (I) Boys the Elder of Fredville, gave him a very generous marriage settlement of land and property in Nonington, Ash, Eythorne, Shepherdwell and Womenswold parishes. 
When the English Civil War broke out in 1642 both Sir Edward and John Boys joined the Parliamentarians. Sir Edward was Warden of the Cinque Ports and Lieutenant of Dover Castle and after Sir Edward’s  death in 1646 John  took over his father’s posts as Warden of the Cinque Ports and Lieutenant of Dover Castle. John held these posts until 1648 (see Nonington and the English Civil War for further details). During his service in the Civil War on the Parliamentary side John rose to the rank of Major.

On his father’s death John Boys inherited Fredville and other extensive estates and properties in several East Kent parishes and was to all intents and purposes a very wealthy man.

During the English Civil War the various branches of the Boys family were involved in both the Parliamentarian and Royalist causes (see Nonington and the English Civil War for further details).. Authors of 18th and 19th century histories of Kent believed that loyalty to King Charles I had incurred Major John Boys severe financial penalties that eventually resulted in the loss of Fredville. William Hasted wrote in “The History and Topographical Survey of Kent, vol IX”, that “Major Boys, of Fredville, being a firm loyalist, suffered much by sequestration of his estates. He had seven sons and a daughter, who all died s.p. Two of his elder sons, John and Nicholas, finding that there was no further abode at Fredville, to which they had become entitled, departed each from thence, with a favourite hawk in hand, and became pensioners at the Charter-house, in London”.
The truth, however, appears to be somewhat different. As previously stated Major John Boys was in actual fact a Parliamentarian and, according to William Boys in his 1802 biography and pedigree of the Boys family, the author of his own woes as, ‘by his own extravagance he much encumbered and wasted the estate of Fredville’.
Hasted, along with other writers, appears to have confused Major John Boys of Fredville with Sir John Boys of Bonnington, the staunch Royalist defender of Donnington Castle.

However, Major John Boys had severe financial difficulties well before the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660.  In 1658 he and his son Nicholas, heir to the Major, had mortgaged “the manor of Elmington (Elvington) and the appurtenances of Nonington, Eythorne and Wymblingswold (Womenswold) and the avowedson of the Church at Eythorne” to Thomas Turner, the Major’s brother-in-law, for £1,550.00. This mortgage was renewed in 1668.

The Major’s financial problems persisted and in July of 1673 “the mansion house called Fredville, wherein the said John Boys then lived and lands ect. unto the said manor belonging and situated in the several parishes of Nonington, Barfrestone and Knowlton together with a farmhouse called Frogham farm and several closes thereunto belonging containing two hundred acres, which farm was already mortgaged to one William Gilbourne” were conveyed to Denzil, Lord Holles of Ifield, as security for an advance of £ 3,000.

 Denzil Holles had been a prominent politician during the Civil War, Commonwealth and Restoration periods who had been ennobled by Charles II in 1661.
It would appear that the Major and Nicholas Boys did not repay the money as the Kings Bench at Southwark imprisoned them both for many years.  Nicholas Boys died in 1687 and the octogenarian Major John Boys in March 1688 and was buried at St. Mary’s Church, Nonington.  James Boys, one of the Major’s younger sons, tried without success in 1689 to retrieve the estates.

The Holles of Ifield peerage became extinct on the death of Denzil’s grandson, Denzil Holles, 3rd Baron Holles, in the early 1690’s and Fredville was one of the estates which passed to John Holles, 4th Earl of Clare and Duke of Newcastle.


  • Angela

    I’m a descendant of Mary Wentworth and Edward Boys, and also Clara Wentworth and Edward Boys

  • Robyn

    I am a direct descendant of the Boys family. I am in Australia my grandmother had the maiden name of Boys. I would love to hear from others who are related…
    much appreciated ..Robyn 12th March 2020

  • RH Simons

    [ I could send you a translation of it, via a normal email address if possible – tho’ it does appear similar to the F of F in Chris’ Medieval Gen website. I am transcribing the term in 1484 of the Common Pleas, and encountered it serendipitously ]

  • admin

    Thanks for the link, it’s an original document I haven’t seen before. Unfortunately I can’t decipher most of it as I don’t have any Latin, especially 15th C abbreviated. I can make out the names of William Boys, John Nethersole, Thomas Butte and Robert Gerveis [Gerveys] and of Thomas Quadrynge of ffredvyle and Beauchamp who held land in Nonynton and Godneston and who died in 1484. Nethersole, Boys and others bought Fredville from Quadrynges heirs. This document concerns the sale or transfer of Fredville and other property to Boys and appears to be summarized Below in the 1484 feet of fines. The first four lines are the record of who is concerned and also what is being transferred ie. the manors, land and rents.

    1484 Fredeuyle and Beauchamp feet of fines
    CP 25/1/117/342, number 20.
    Link: Image of document at AALT
    County: Kent.
    Place: Westminster.
    Date: Two weeks from St John the Baptist, 2 Richard III [8 July 1484].
    Parties: John Nethersole, William Boys, Thomas Butte and Robert Gerveis, querents, and Thomas Quadryng’ and Anne, his wife, deforciants.
    Property: The manors of Fredeuyle 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’.
    Action: Plea of covenant.
    Agreement: Thomas Quadryng’ and Anne have acknowledged the manors, tenements and rent to be the right of William, and have remised and quitclaimed them from themselves and the heirs of Anne to John, William, Thomas Butte and Robert and the heirs of William for ever.
    Warranty: Warranty.
    For this: John, William, Thomas Butte and Robert have given them 100 marks of silver.

    Standardised forms of names. (These are tentative suggestions, intended only as a finding aid.)
    Persons: John Nethersole, William Boys, Thomas Butt, Robert Gervase, Thomas Quadring, Anne Quadring
    Places: Fredville, Beauchamp Wood (both in Nonington), Nonington, Goodnestone

    Thanks again for sending it, it’s much appreciated.

Please feel free to comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.