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History of Stelling Minnis

There was probably a settlement here in Roman times for old English word ‘ stelling ‘ meaning a cattle haven or shelter was derived from Latin, the language of the Romans. They brought it here in the first century A.D.and when they left 400 years later they took it with them for few Britons used it. So by inference one can assume Stelling was a settlement along that Roman built road, the Stone Street, just a cluster of mud huts whose inhabitants raised cattle and pigs which they traded with the Romans.

The Romans left Britain about 420 A.D. and this part of Kent was overun by Jutes and Saxons.

They arrived from the continent in large numbers and established a kingdom of Kent, under their leader Hengist. The Saxons drove the Britons out of their settlements and just moved in, probably taking over Stelling.

After Augustine landed in AD 596 and brought Christianity to this part, the Saxons were converted and were responsible for the first church at Stelling.It remained until the present one was built.

We know nothing of Stelling until 1070 when it was shown as being one of the possessions of Odo, Bishop of Bayeaux. But Odo, by now the first Duke of Kent, was ambitious and greedy and fell into disgrace. William the conqueror took back to the crown all his possessions.

Thus it remained until we learn that Edward 1's reign in about 1269, William deHault possessed Stelling Manor. He resided in Wadden Hall just across the Stone Street. The old manor house was demolished in the 1930's.

In the 13th century there was a considerable village of Stelling but it disappeared. Why?

Two things could have happened. It could have been wiped out in 1349 by the Black Death, which destroyed many communities in this part of England. The houses, built only of timber and mud, would have either fallen down or been burned to stop infection. Or it could have been depopulated in the reign of Henry VII in about 1489.

At that time the lords of the manors were taking the land of the small farmers, turning them out of their houses and using the land as pasture for their sheep. Thus fewer workmen were required and as in Saxon times they were turned adrift and their houses burned. So Stelling could have been destroyed in the 14th century by disease or in the 15th century by greed.

What of the Minnis itself? It is one of the very few remaining unenclosed and largely unaltered relics of the medieval manors being the ' Lords Waste ' of the Manor of Stelling. This waste was a parcel of land reserved for the use of the serfs and labourers who did not hold land of their own. On this land they were allowed to graze their sheep, cow or pig, to collect forage and bedding materials to build and roof their huts, to collect firewood and generally use the land to try and improve their wretched existence. Many were able to enclose small portions. During later years adjoining farms put out their sheep and cattle to graze.

During the Napolionic wars the common was a concentration area for Wellingtons troops. Smugglers operated in this area and in the 1830's the men of Stelling and Hardres were at the forefront of the 'Swing' riots.

World War I again saw the Minnis as a training area for large numbers of troops including many Canadians who practiced trench warfare here.

World War II again saw tanks manoeuvring where sheep had safely grazed, and intrepid airmen fought the Battle of Britain overhead.

Throughout the centuries, thanks to the benevolent Lords of the Manor who, unusualy, left it unenclosed, the Minnis itself has remained for commoners to excercise their rights and as a delightful place for the public to enjoy access.