Tenterden and District Guide 1936
Fifty-three miles south-east of London, in the heart of that pleasant and beautiful country known as the Weald of Kent, stands the ancient town of Tenterden, the only corporate town in the whole district.
In very early times, when the Weald formed part of the great forest of Anderida, the inhabitants had certain rights of grazing and pasturage, and, doubtless to preserve some sort of order, a Warden was appointed by the Thane, and thus originated the name Thane-Warden, which, through over fifty variations, has resulted in Tenterden. In 1255 it was spelt Thendwardenne; in 1279, Tenwardenn; in 1534m Tentwarden; and so to the present day, when even now some people will write it as Tenderden. Some authorities connect the name with tenter - in connection with the cloth manufacture which was carried on here from the time it was first introduced by Edward III - and denn, or dene, a deep, narrow wooded valley, or, as some authorities believe, a forest clearing. But whatever its derivation, it stands today as a pretty and thriving little country town, attractive to the visitor and pleasant for the resident. The land around, especially on the north and more gradually on the south, slopes down and affords beautiful views of the country across and beyond the valleys. The main street lies east and west, with by-ways and highways branching north-east to Ashford and Maidstone, 12 and 18 miles; south-east to Appledore, 6 miles, and Romney Marsh; south to Rye, 10 miles; west to Rolvenden and the Sussex border and on to Hastings, 22 miles; and north-west to Cranbrook, 8 miles, Tonbridge and London.
The Maidstone and District Motors run frequent services to all these points, except to Appledore, but it is anticipated that soon a service will be established on this route and extended to Dymchurch.
There are stations on the local railway, the Kent and East Sussex, which was opened in 1900, connecting with the Southern main line at Headcorn at one end and at Robertsbridge at the other, by either of which routes London may be reached in about two hours.
The town is governed by a Corporation consisting of a Mayor, four Aldermen and twelve Councillors, with the necessary officials, this body taking the place, since 1835, of the old Corporation, which consisted of the Mayor (formerly Bailiff), twelve Jurats and a varying number of Freemen.
The municipal history of Tenterden really beings in the reign of Henry VI, when, owning to its prosperous and flourishing condition through the cloth industry, etc., it was incorporated by Letters Patent in 1449 and annexed to the town and port of Rye, one of the "Ancient Towns" of the Cinque Ports, through which it became, and still continues, a member of that famous confederacy. Edward IV confirmed this grant in 1463, and from this period the history of Tenterden is continuous and unbroken, and the list of Bailiffs from the commencement to the granting of the new Charter by Queen Elizabeth is complete.
Tenterden continued to make progress during that Queen's reign and the Corporation made sundry attempts to obtain a Mayor, notably in 1589, when the Mayor of Rye, who happened to be in London, wrote home to the Deputy Mayor: "Tenterden is taking a new Charter. How far we may be prejudiced therein I pray you think upon and send me your minds."
But it was not till 16th August, 1600, that their efforts met with success, on which date the Queen granted the new Charter and directed the then Bailiff, John Hales, should continue in office as Mayor, by which he became the Charter-Mayor of Tenterden and held that dignity for a fortnight only, his term of office expiring on 29th August, which was then the date of election. On that day Anthony Whetenhall was chosen as the first elected Mayor of Tenterden, and the list of his successors is also complete to the present day, not a name being omitted from 1449 to 1936, a record which many larger and more important towns cannot show, but would doubtless from an historical point of view be very proud to be able to do.
This Charter of Queen Elizabeth was with many of the town's records lost in the fire which consumed he old Court Hall in March 1661, having been started by Richard Burden, a Freeman, who was confined therein for debt; and again it needed considerable and prolonged efforts by the Corporation law officers to obtain an Exemplification thereof, which was ultimately granted by William III in the twelfth year of his reign, February 1700. This is a document of considerable interest. It consists of four large skins of parchment written wholly in Latin,and is still in the possession of the Corporation, who have also minute books of the Elizabethan and Stuart periods which throw many quaint and interesting sidelights on the town's history in bygone days. Very fortunately, a good number of the records were in the custody of the Town Clerk at the time of fire and so escaped destruction.
Another mater of much interest is that Tenterden, by virtue of being a member of the Cinque Ports, has the privilege of its Mayor attending the coronation of the Kent as a Baron of the Cinque Ports. This function was revived at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 and of His late Majesty King George V in 1911, and it is hoped, will be carried out at the forthcoming coronation of His present Majesty King Edward VIII in 1937.
A WALK ROUND THE TOWN
To the visitor strolling along the spacious High Street, with its ample width, broad green borders and trees, it is but natural that he should first turn to the fine old Church of St Mildred the Virgin (one of only four old parish churches in Kent having this dedication), with its noble tower, 129 feet high, keeping, as it were, guard over the quiet little town which clusters around it. He will remember that it has been connected with sundry legends concerning both the Goodwin Sands and Sandwich Haven, but it is well to point out that the present tower, dating from the middle of the 15th century, has nothing to do with either.
The little turret, or "vice", on the north side of the tower, the double west door - a feature very uncommon in parish churches - the shingled roof and other details will doubtless be noticed, and for a few fuller historical details reference may be made to a short published account obtainable at the Church.
Adjoining the churchyard is the oldest licensed house in the town, "the Woolpack," which dates from the beginning of the 16th century, when it formed part of the endowment of the old grammar school founded about 1524, which stood a short distance further eastward. The inn is a very quaint old place and in Georgian days, when the Archbishops and Bishops came to hold confirmations, etc, and had occasion to stay the night in Tenterden, they always put up at this hostelry.
The Town Hall adjoins. This was built in 1792, but as the old one was burnt down in 1661, it may seem a long time before they had their new one.
However they were not altogether homeless, for they had a Court Room at "The White Lion," Court Chamber at "The Queen's Arms," the Parlour at "The Angel," besides at "The Woolpack" and occasionally at "The George," "The Queen's Arms" (at one time "The King's Arms") is supposed to have stood nearly opposite the present Town Hall, while, according to a deed dated 1719, "The George" stood almost next to the grammar school. The old school house has been used as cottage tenements for over 100 years, the last foundation scholars being merged into the National Schools about 1820. Proceeding eastwards we notice an old brick residence, Eastwell House, having some fine chimneys, and now utilised for commercial purposes. At East Cross (dating back to 1495) we turn left along the road to Ashford, passing the new and up-to-date Post Office - very convenient for this end of the town, but a long step from the other - and then three places of worship almost within the proverbial stone's thrown of each other. First, the Unitarian, or Old Meeting House, which is the oldest Nonconformist place of worship in the borough; it originated in 1662, when George Haw, the Vicar of Tenterden, was ejected under the Act of Uniformity and founded this congregation, becoming its first minister. The others are Trinity Church (Free Church of England), opened in 1928, and the RC Church of St Andrew, completed in 1935. Passing on to Beacon Oak Road and turning right, continuing across Woodchurch Road and down Limes Hill to Appledore Road, and still bearing right, we see on the left the historic seat, Hales Place, formerly much larger and the residence of Sir Edward Hales and others of that family; Elmfield and the recreation ground, and so back to East Cross. On the left, or south, side are "Ye Olde Cellars," another very quaint old place and reputed to have been a licensed house for 250 years or more, but the original name appears to be lost. The famous Elizabethan black and white house, the subject of so many and varied views, and for generations used as a butcher's shop, has within the last few years been restored and renovated and is now known as the Tudor Rose Tea Rooms. At the corner of Bell's Lane is "The Eight Bells," it's front much modernised, but showing ancient timber work at the side. In the early days this was known as "The Angel," after that "The Six Bells," increased in 1774 to "The Eight Bells." The old toll gate stretched across the road to where the police station stands and we next notice "The White Lion," which, although an unpretentious hotel of 18th century design, may date back to a remote period when it is remembered that the white lion was the badge of the Earl of March, afterwards Edward IV (1461-1483). The old market cross and market house formerly stood close by; at the cross proclamations were made and marriages published in Commonweath times. The town stocks were also here, so that it was not a long journey for those who had overstepped the mark; many instances are noted in the records of culprits having to sit here for three or six hours to clear their heads and cool their heels.
At the corner of Gas Lane stands the Baptist Chapel; the first Baptist meeting in Tenterden was licensed in 1704. The present building was erected in 1835 and enlarged in 1861 and 1887. At some distance back from the road is Willow Tree Cottage, reputed to be the oldest inhabited house in Tenterden, but an unsightly advertisement hoarding prevents much of it being seen; a little further on stands the War Memorial on the green. The Methodist Chapel is almost at the bottom of the town; this congregation dates from 1797, but the present edifice was erected in 1885 and has since been much enlarged. We now reach West Cross and, noticing an interesting old house lying back from the road known as the Manor House, formerly held by the Petlesden and Blackmore families. At the corner of Station Road, formerly Brewhouse Lane, is the fire engine station. In Church Lane are the Drill Hall, Workmen's Club and National Schools, and on the south side of the churchyard the police station and various shops and houses more or less built on the borders of, and encroaching on, the churchyard, as human remains have from time to time been discovered among the foundations. We are now at the church, from which point we started.
ROUND THE ENVIRONS OF TENTERDEN
For a longer but still pleasant walk we can continue from the church to East Cross and the Ashford Road, passing on the left the large mansion of "Homewood," which dates from 1760 and was long the residence of the Haffenden family. Here a distinguished naval commander, Admiral Sir Charles Drury, lived on his retirement from the Navy. He became Mayor of Tenterden for the year 1913-1914, but died during his term of office.
Jireh (Strict Baptist) Chapel is a little further on, and then we come to the large and growing district of St Michael's, which was formerly known as Boresisle, or, as many spell it, Boars' Isle and Birds' Isle; the first was probably correct and is doubtless a later version of the name Borewarsile, which occurs so far back as 1300.
The church was built in 1865 and is dedicated to St Michael, hence the place has been called by that name. Taking the road left, the halt on the railway line is crossed and a little further on is St Michael's Grange, an interesting old building formerly Birds' Isle House unti lthe late JR Diggle Esq, the well-known educationalist, restored and enlarged it. He served five times as Mayor and was a Cinque Ports Baron at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. Since then it has been a school, but in November, 1935, it was opened by HRH the Duchess of York as a training centre for unemployed men from the distressed areas. This being the first Royal visit for quite a long period caused no little pleasure and excitement. Proceeding on our way we pass sundry farms, Brown's Corner, and then come to Chennel Park, very prettily situated among numerous tall trees. This was the place where two misguided young men committed a burglary in 1785, for which offence according to the harsh and severe justice of those times they were hanged on Gallows Green, on Appledore Road, on 27th August of that year. Another delinquent, who committed a robbery in 1796, was also condemned to be hanged, but was pardoned by the King on condition he served in the Royal Navy. From the house the road, a narrow, winding one, emerges on the Cranbrook Road by the watermill bridge, so called from a watermill which stood a short distance higher up the road.
Continuing to the left uphill we pass the Cemetery to Westwell House, a fine Queen Anne residence by the Blackmore family in 1711, overlooking Heronden Hall Park. We now reach West Cross and the town. From this point the road leads south, passing on the right Heronden and Morghew Hall to Broad Tenterden, with Ashenden and Summer Hill on the left, but not visible from the road, eventually reaching the old-word Hamlet of Smallhythe, where there is not a great deal to see at the present day, save the Tudor brick church of St John the Baptist and the famous old black and white houses formerly belonging to Dame Ellen Terry, in one of which - that nearest to the bridge - she spent her declining years and there died in 1928.
But this quaint old place is full of history and it needs considerable imagination to picture what it was like in the 14th to 16th centuries, when the sea flowed up to its southern boundary and ships of the Royal Navy were built and repaired here; in fact, a Royal dockyard. This, however, was the case and records preserve the names of ships sailing from thence, ship masters and shipwrights. One Smallhythe vessel formed part of a King's escort across the sea in 1378, and in August 1416 King Henry V personally visited Smallhythe to inspect some of his ships, then building, and while there he received news of a success at sea, whereupon he hastened to Canterbury and in the Cathedral there gave thanks for the victory. A later, and perhaps greater (physically), Henry - the eighth of that name - visited Tenterden in 1537; maybe he also visited Smallhythe to see how his ships were progressing.
The Church is an interesting specimen of Tudor brickwork, having been rebuilt in 1516-19 after the destruction of the old one by fire in 1514. Until recently it was a living by itself and the right of presentation was in the hands of the inhabitants of the borough of Dumbourne, one of the six boroughs into which Tenterden is divided, and which includes Smallhythe, but it is now annexed to the vicarage of Tenterden and the benefice known as Tenterden-with-Smallhythe, a curate-in-charge being appointed to attend to the spiritual needs of this quiet and peaceful spot. The old toll gate and ferry leading into the Isle of Oxney which existed here for generations has, within the last year or two, been made free and foot passengers no longer have to pay ¼d to pass over.
Retracing our steps to the town, let us travel in an easterly direction. Leaving East Cross via New Town to the Woodchurch Road, at a corner of Beacon Oak Road stands "Craythorne," built about 1780, and a little further on "Eastgate," dating from about 1741, where formerly lived the Whitfield family, who have a fine monument dated 1622 in the Church. Knockwood and Ingleden Park (where the Baroness Burdett-Coutts spent her honeymoon in 1881) are away on the left and almost out of sight, and so down Clay Hill (mentioned in a will dated 1560) and up Prestons Hill (two of the Prestons were Bailiffs during the reigns of Edward IV and Henry VII) on to the Appledore Road. To the left is Leigh Green, where a fine large windmill stood from 1818 until it was burnt down on 26th November 1913. Farther east is the old seat of Kenchill (spelt Kentyshyld in 1539 and also mentioned as far back as 1448), and from thence on to Reading Street and Ebony. Here is the little church of St Mary, rebuilt in 1858; formerly it was annexed to the living of Appledore, but is now attached to the vicarage of Stone.
Returning to the corner of Prestons Hill may be noticed the picturesque old mansion known as "Finchden," on the front of which are the initials and date E.F., 1658, formerly held by the Finch family; and a little further on towards the town is Brunger farmhouse, with arched doorways and traces of old windows, probably one of the oldest houses existing in the borough. Passing over the site of Gallows Green we are now at Golden Square, East Cross and the town.
Tenterden formerly had several watermills and windmills; today there is but one watermill, Ashbourne, on the Rolvenden Road, the windmill having been taken down in 1912.
To conclude, in the 17th century Tenterden had an able and energetic Town Clark named William Aldcroft, who was appointed in 1654. During his tenure of office the Corporation was harassed by a series of vexatious law suits extending from 1662 to 1673, but at length the shadows lifted in 1674, and various inhabitants of the town having subscribed towards meeting the expenses the Town Clerk made this entry in the minute book: ".... earnestly wishing peace, unity, and the flourishing condition of this Corporation in its government, commerce, and trade, and that it may be well spoken of both at home and abroad as heretofore..." The same sentiments still heartily prevail. Therefore to adapt a famous public school's motto: "FLOREAT TENTERDONIA". A.H.T.
GOLF. One of the chief attractions in the borough is the 9-hole golf course, which is situated about ¾ of a mile from the centre of the town. This little course is very sporty and very well kept, the greens being specially good for an inland course of this description. The green fees are moderate and all visitors are heartily welcomed. The professional, A Goldsmith, has a very good selection of golf clubs and other accessories for sale.
CRICKET. The ground is situated about one mile from the town on the Rye Road. The Tennis Tournament is held on the cricket ground during the second week in August.
BOWLS. The green (at the rear of the White Lion Hotel) was laid 30 years ago and is in splendid condition. Visitors are always welcomed.
ANGLING. There is plenty of good fresh water fishing in the Club's preserves. Visitors can obtain tickets from Mr Warwick, High Street, on the Hon Secretary, Mr C T Williams, 13 High Street. Dungeness (18 miles) for sea anglers.
LAWN TENNIS. The Nonescript Tennis Club have two excellent Grass Courts and an "En-tout-cas" Hard Court situated within two minutes of the centre of the town. Visitors to the town are welcomed as "visiting members" for periods from a week or more. Terms may be obtained from the Honorary Secretary of the Club. C T Dray, 121 High Street, Tenterden.
CLUB. The Workmen's Club in Church Road. Reading Room (visitors admitted on small payment), Billiard and Snooker Tables.
Below we give a few of the many beautiful walks through woodland and fields for those who like to ramble, or along the lanes for those who are not used to climbing over gates and fences.
From the Fire Station, down roadway, across railway lines, turn right across field at end of lane, through Chennell Park, follow path by house wall, cross road to mill pond, returning left up lane to park gate, turn left on main road, or from mill pond turn right and back by St Michaels (4 miles)
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