Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974

Tenterden News
Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974
'the most delightful country town in Kent" Penguin Guide 1955

"and we do annex and unite the aforesaid Town and Hundred of Tenterden, to the said town of Rye, and separate the same from our County of Kent,· so that the Town and Hundred aforesaid shall be accounted a member of the Cinque Ports" Henry VI, 1449

The story of Tenterden
D. Ridge, M.Sc., Ph.D., F.R.I.C.

The history and development of a town is largely determined by its geographical situation and this is particularly true in the case of Tenterden where the surrounding district has undergone several drastic changes during the past two thousand years.

When the Romans came to England the whole of what is now generally termed Romney Marsh was a shallow sea with the coast-line running from Appledore through Woodchurch to Hythe. In fact, the B2067 road from Ham Street to Hythe is the old coastal road running along the top of a line of low cliffs. The course of the River Rother, called by the Romans Limen, followed the coast and entered the sea at Lympne (Portus Limanis). Romney in those days was an island some six miles off shore and whilst it may have sheltered a few poor fishermen, it was far too vulnerable to have any of the strategic importance it later acquired as a Cinque Port.

During the Roman era continual drifts of shingle from the south-west formed a natural sea-wall from Romney to Hythe and when the course of the Rother shifted so that it reached the sea at Romney, Rhee Wall was built to link the island to Appledore and the reclamation ("inning") of Romney Marsh began.

Inland the whole of the Weald of Kent and Sussex was covered by a vast, impenetrable forest called by the Romans Anderida and by the Saxons Andreasweald and any settlements would have been along the coastal fringe and on the banks of the many creeks and estuaries.

The shores of Kent were frequently attacked by Saxon and Danish marauders and the defence of the coast was entrusted to a Roman official known as the "Count of the Saxon Shore". After four hundred years of occupation, the legions were withdrawn and the south-east corner of England eventually became a Danish-Saxon settlement.
The coming of Christianity produced a number of religious houses and it is from this period that the history of Tenterden really began. Towards the end of the seventh .century Minster Abbey in Thanet was founded by Egbert, King of Kent. A clearing, or denne, in the forest was used by the monastery for the rearing of pigs which, at the end of the summer, were killed, salted and taken to Thanet for winter food. The locality became known as Tentwardene, literally "the denne belonging to the people of Thanet".

The present church in Tenterden is dedicated to St. Mildred, grand-daughter of Egbert and second Abbess of Minster. The Abbey decayed and its property was eventually annexed to St. Augustine's Abbey in Canterbury, in the first quarter of the eleventh century. Because it was part of a monastic demesne Tenterden does not figure in Domesday Book and the first mention of the place as an entity is in a Pipe Roll of 1179. This effectively disposes of the legend that the Abbot of St. Augustine's diverted money which should have been used for a sea-wall in order to build a "fine tower" for Tenterden church, in consequence of which the sea broke through in 1099 and formed the Goodwin Sands. While there may have been a small wooden church in Tenterden at this time, the present building was not commenced until a hundred years later and the tower was not built until the late fifteenth century.

It was early recognised that the security of the Crown depended on the command of the English Channel. The Cinque Ports of Sandwich, Dover, Hythe, Romney and Hastings received many privileges (Liberties) for providing a fighting fleet whenever the King had need of it. By the middle of the 13th century the two "Antient Towns" of Rye and Winchelsea had joined the Confederation and the Cinque Ports then reached the zenith of their power.

Between 1250 and 1280 another major topographical change occurred which was to have serious effects on one of the Cinque Ports in particular. A series of storms of unprecedented violence together with the continual shingle drift and silting of the estuaries caused a second change in the course of the Rother. Instead of entering the sea at Romney it formed a new channel to join the Tillingham and the Brede at Rye. Romney ceased to be a port of any importance.

The Rother was navigable as far as Bodiam where Sir Edward Dallingrigge built a castle as a defence post against French raiders. Small ports were established at Smallhythe and Reading Street and at the former there was some shipbuilding.

Within a hundred years of the Norman Conquest sheep breeding was an established industry and wool from Tenterden and the surrounding district found a ready market on the Continent. Edward I, however, imposed a tax on exported wool with the result that owling (smuggling) of wool became an ancillary industry eventually involving practically the whole population of the Kent and Sussex coastal regions.

By the time Edward III was on the throne, taxation was so high that practically no wool remained for use in England and in 1331 the King invited Flemish weavers to settle in Kent and teach their craft to the English. Tenterden then developed as a centre of the weaving industry and was long famed for its broadcloth. Dyeworks existed in the town up to the middle of the nineteenth century.

With its shipbuilding, port facilities and cloth industry Tenterden had become a prosperous 􀀔own but it was still subject to the jurisdiction of the Sheriff of Kent and liable for its share of the taxes levied on the county.

Even when England was nominally at peace with France, a continual private war was maintained between_ the men of the Cinque Ports and their neighbours across the Channel. In 1377 Rye had a bad year at the hands of the French raiders and the town was partially destroyed by fire. In order that Rye should be able to receive financial help from Tenterden, Henry VI in 1449 granted the latter a Charter of Incorporation which, among many other privileges, gave the townsmen the right to elect yearly a Bailiff and Commonalty. If the newly elected Bailiff refused to take office, his house was literally pulled down about him!

A year later Tenterden was formally admitted to the Confederation as a Limb of Rye, enjoying all the ancient customs and privileges of the Cinque Ports and divorced from the civil jurisdiction of the County of Kent. The first Bailiff was Thomas Petlesden whose family arms are displayed. on the mizzen sail of the Cinque Port ship in the Borough coat of arms.

The port of Tenterden was Smallhythe where shipbuilding became a major industry. Henry VIII visited Tenterden in 1537 and in 1549 the King's ship "The Grand Masters" was rebuilt and launched at "Smalhethe". The ship was of 400 tons and carried 250 armed men.

A new charter was granted to the town by Queen Elizabeth I in 1600 and thenceforward the Bailiff became known as Mayor. From ancient times the elected members have been known as "Barons of the Cinque Ports" and at the present time all official communications from the Lord Warden are addressed to the Mayor and his Combarons. The barons have the right of "Honours at Court," that is to attend the Sovereign at his coronation. Originally they carried the canopy over the king and his consort and sat on the monarch's right hand at the banquet in Westminster Hall. They disgraced themselves at the coronation of James II by arriving at the Abbey so drunk that they dropped the canopy. The custom went into abeyance after the coronation of George IV but was revived by Edward VII when the Barons carried the banners of the Commonwealth countries. Those Barons fortunate enough to enjoy Honours at Court are known as "Coronation Barons", one of whom is Mr. Stanley Day of Pickhill, who was Mayor of Tenterden when the present Queen was crowned.

The fortunes of Tenterden were now bound up with those of the Cinque Ports, but the marshes were inned and the harbours silted up, so the town gradually lost its maritime associations. Smallhythe finally ceased to be a port when the northern arm of the Rother (separating the mainland from the Isle of Oxney) became so blocked that in 1736 a new channel was cut to divert the river into its present course south of the island.

The eighteenth century was the era of the landed gentry, the Hales, Blackmore and Curteis families in particular, and Tenterden became an agricultural centre noted, as it is today, for sheep, hops and fruit.

Exploring Tenterden

Tenterden commands a striking position on high land that runs between the Rother Levels to the south and the broad vale of the River Beult to the north. Easily accessible by road, Tenterden is the local centre for the surrounding countryside. Since 1945 the town's population bas steadily increased-from 3,439 in 1946 to 5,922 in 1971. This increase reflects the town's growth as a residential centre in recent years. The town, which is surprisingly well equipped with shops, has become the main shopping centre for villages in the surrounding country.

Though it has not had the stormy and exciting past that was the lot of towns nearer the Kent coast, Tenterden has always been in the forefront of the county's history.

Originally a small settlement in a clearing of the Forest of Anderida, Tenterden reached its peak of prosperity after it joined the Confederation of the Cinque Ports in 1449. Up to late Tudor times the port of Smallhythe was kept busy with ship building and repairing and at one time there were more houses on the road between Smallhytbe and Tenterden than in the town itself. By this time the cloth industry which had flourished in the 14th and 15th centuries was declining but Breeches' Pond, near the northern boundary of the hundred, is a reminder of those days when water power was used by the cloth makers. Later the mills were adapted for use in sawpits, tanneries and, of course, for corn milling. The last of the water mills still stands on the Hastings road near the old Rolvenden Station. Tenterden has lost these once thriving industries and is now a quiet country town with various agricultural pursuits and its several important stock fairs. These were formerly held in the wide part of the High Street between the Toll Gate and West Cross and even now early risers may find the High Street full of sheep on the way to the Glebe Field for the May Fair. The introduction of light industries, including chemical products and, more recently, components for motors and electronics is, however, giving a new impetus to the commercial life of the town.

The main thoroughfare, the High Street, is a broad one, stretching from East Cross to West Cross. For more than half its length the road is bordered by the "greens'', a wide belt of grass with plane and lime trees on either side. The west end of the High Street is lined with shops and houses of varying ages and patterns but faced with tiles and weatherboarding as common materials - as indeed they are throughout this part of Kent. In particular the visitor should look for apparently solidly built eighteenth century buildings whose bricks are, in fact, "mathematical tiles", that is, tiles hung flush on a wooden frame (often of the sixteenth century or earlier) to give the impression of brickwork and sometimes supplemented by "stone" quoins which turn out to be painted wood. The central part of the High Street is lined with a variety of shops which continue the same pleasing architectural style that makes this such a charming thoroughfare. Formerly the east-west road ran south of the present High Street which in 1730 was cut through the park of Pittlesden Manor, the old gate-house of which still stands. It is No. 91 High Street, the oldest house in Tenterden, probably dating back to the fourteenth century. That part of the High Street immediately south of the church is built on the old church yard which used to extend to the old road. Thirteen properties on this former Glebeland are still liable to pay rentals to St. Mildred's Church varying from 8d-2/8 a year.

Tenterden has been claimed as the birthplace of William Caxton mainly because a Thomas Caxton was Town Clerk in 1455. Little is actually known of "the Father of English printing" until he set up his press at Westminster on his return from the Low Countries in 1476. However, Tenterden benefited by its legendary association with the printer when in 1928 an American presented to the town a copy of Higden' s Polychronicon printed by Caxton in 1482.

A tour of the town centre might begin at the Town Hall, opposite the bus station and the pedestrian way to the main car park. The Town Hall was built in 1790 to replace the original one burnt down in 1661. The graceful ironwork balcony was added in 1912, but access to it was achieved only by replacing the original Venetian window with a very nondescript one. In 1973 this was in turn replaced by the present window, almost identical with the original, and made by local craftsmen. The Assembly Room has recently been restored to something like its 18th century appearance, with its delicate music gallery, the Venetian red walls, and the grey and white mouldings of the frieze and fireplace, above which hangs the Royal Arms of George III. The Mayor's Parlour, originally the card room of the adjoining Woolpack Inn, contains portraits of members of the Curteis family, who provided Mayors for the town in the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Woolpack Inn may well date from the fifteenth century in common with other buildings on the Glebelands, which originally extended from the present Nos. 10 to 66 along the High Street. It was first known as the Woolsack, a "terrier" of the Glebelands dated "ffowerth day of October ffowerth yere of . . . Elizabeth" (1562) including "item of Thomas Sharpe for a messuage late John Hoigges (Hodges) called the Wolsake lying to the high streete southe, to the churchyard west, to the Vicaragge there northe, and to the messuage and land of th'eires of Thomas Sare (late) Haymans easte - iiis iiiid."

It is mentioned in a Chantry certificate of 1545 as providing an endowment "for the use and support of a chaplain (in St. Mildred's) as well for celebrating service in the church aforesaid as for teaching in the Grammar School."

In Georgian days the Archbishops and Bishops always spent the night at the Woolpack when visiting St. Mildred's for confirmations, and it is not hard even today to picture the carriages driving through the archway into the yard, and the great men bustling about the narrow rambling corridors of the old buildings.

Opposite are two black and white half-timbered buildings of the 15th century. The term black and white is used here, as many buildings in the High Street, of an apparently later date, also have early half-timbered frames beneath their 18th century facades. No. 49 is an example of one which has been partially restored to its black and white appearance after many years under a skin of weather-boarding and tiles.

In 1279 (Edward I) it was reported that "seven shops have been built lately upon the High Street (regiam stratam) in the hundred of Tenwardenn and are rented at 3s5d per ann. And the Sheriff was commanded to cause the aforesaid moneys to be levied for the King's use from the aforesaid shops". This is the row of pleasant shops and houses of varying periods, which screens the Churchyard from the street, and causes the constriction of the roadway at this point.

On the other side of the road the modest 19th century front of the Eight Bells Inn hides a 15th century structure whose black and white timbers form one side of Bells Lane. Upstairs at the back is the 18th century corn market with two delicate Venetian windows.

Bells Lane is very narrow and appears to be completely lined by overhanging weather-boarded houses that seem almost to shut out the sky. Whereas the inn is genuinely old, on the other side of the lane is a modern building of concrete and aluminium built to get the maximum floor space from a very narrow site and with overhanging upper stories exactly like its mediaeval predecessor.

Further down, the lane is bordered by pleasant 18th and early 19th century cottages, under one of which, Theatre Cottage, is a passage lined with old oak weather-boarding leading to tiny Theatre Square, the site of the old Tenterden Theatre. Oliver Goldsmith describes in his Essays, 1765, a visit to Tenterden in 1754 with a group of strolling players, "where we resolved to exhibit Romeo and Juliet . . . The whole audience were enchanted with our powers, and Tenterden is a town of taste . . . I shall never think of Tenterden without tears of gratitude and respect".

On the comer of Church Road is the old 19th century police station, now a laundry, but still with the cells intact. Before the police station was erected, the site was occupied for centuries by the lock-up, and from about 1762 by the toll booth. The Town tollgate was here, next to the milestone which still stands at the pavement's edge.

At the far end of Church Road the Infants' School formerly occupied the National School house of 1842. A new glass and plastic structure has now replaced this unjustly despised example of Victorian design, on a site next to the present Junior School in Recreation Ground Road.

The Pebbles, a handsome 18th century building, was given to the people of Tenterden by the previous owner. It is hung with mathematical tiles and with false wood quoins made to resemble stone, and houses the excellent public library. Next door is the White Lion, a hostelry since the 16th century, if not earlier.

Opposite the Pebbles the Westminster Bank, an Italianate building of 1886, reflects the solid self-confidence of the Victorian architect, and is successful in this position, although the old house it replaced may have been more in keeping with its still remaining neighbours, Nos. 54/56 and 60/62. The latter, which has been a pharmacy and bookshop since 1790, hides under its 18th century weather-boarding and tile-hanging a "hall-house" of the 15th century, most of the magnificent oak wood work of the original frame being visible internally. (An almost identical building, still with its stone hearth in the middle of the floor and open to the roof timbers is to be seen at Lenham, likewise occupied by a pharmacy.)

Next door another charming old wooden building houses the "Children's Shop." In the 19th century it was at various times the Post Office, a very early motor showroom and a cattle food manufactory. In the yard behind are the stable buildings.

Mockford Alley, which leads to the Salvation Army Citadel, defines the limits of the original Glebe lands. The angle at which Nos. 60 to 66 stand to the street may well reflect the mediaeval limits of the Church's property here. It was only in 1880 that Mr. Lewis received permission to bring his shop forward to the building line newly established by the Borough Surveyor, from the Westminster (then London & County) Bank to the Vine Inn.

Behind the Vine is the car park on the site of the Tenterden Brewery, whose old buildings in later years housed the works of the Kent Chemical Company, now on the other side of the High Street. The western corner of the car park is occupied by a two storey weather-boarded early 19th century warehouse or builders' yard, now belonging to the Corporation and intended as a Museum and exhibition building.

The entrance to Station Road, which leads down to the Tenterden Railway Company's Tenterden Town Station (to distinguish it from the original Tenterden Station on the Rolvenden Road, now known as Rolvenden Station - see page 75) was until recently guarded by the 19th century Market Hall, erected here in 1823 to replace the mediaeval Market House, a wooden structure which stood outside the White Lion. This little building has had to give way now to a wider road, leading to the car park and market area.

A shed behind the Market Hall housed the manual fire-engines until about 1896, when the hall itself became the Fire Station. It remained in use until 1971 when the new Fire Station was opened in St. Michaels. Opposite is the Baptist Chapel of 1835 (enlarged 1887), internally very pleasing, but externally forbidding. Unlike the architecture of earlier periods, buildings of Victorian and later date do not weather attractively.

Down Bridewell Lane (still known to many by its original name of Gas Lane) is another builders' yard with delicate barge-boards and windows. "Gas Lane" leads to the Gas-works, dating from 1838.

Opposite Pittlesden Gate House, mentioned earlier, is the ugly bulk of Manor Row, on the site of the rose garden of Pittlesden Manor House, where the first Prince of Wales, later Edward II, stayed in 1305. Thomas Petlesden was the first Bailiff of Tenterden, on the granting of the Charter in 1449, and his Arms (Three estoiles upon a bend between four lion heads erased) appear on the mizzen mast of the Cinque Ports ship which is the main feature of the Arms of Tenterden.

The charming shops of the western High Street, separated from the dust of the traffic by the greens, and facing cottages of all periods beyond the further greens, lead to West Cross. There is much concern that the now empty department store here should be replaced by new building in sympathy with the general character of the High Street.

The 17th c. garage here formerly housed Milsted's Forge and Ironworks, many of whose products, railings, gates, hand tools - and former apprentices - are to be found around the town.

Westfield House, c. 1700, whets the appetite for Westwell House, a superb Georgian piece of 1711 (on an earlier site) facing the grounds of Heronden Hall, whose large and impressive Victorian gateway emphasises the end of the town. The name of Heronden is of great antiquity and the manor was the subject of a charter in the year 968 AD. The Old English name Hyringdaenn possibly means "a pasture (for pigs) on a projection of high ground."

The William Caxton Inn on the corner of the Smallhythe Road changed its name from the Black Horse in 1949 at the time of Tenterden's quincentenary celebrations. In the Smallhythe Road are several houses well worth a close examination, especially the brick chimney belonging originally to the old tannery buildings.

Returning to the town centre, two doors from the Town Hall is the Old Grammar School, now The Man's Shop, founded in or about 1521 by a bequest "towards the purchasing bilding or making of a convenient house for the said chauntry prest for the tyme being at Tenterden to loige and teche his scolers accordingly." The number of scholars having dropped by 1817 to about six, the school became merged in the newly formed National School. The old building was let in two tenements until 1960 when it was converted to its present use. It is well worth a visit.

Opposite, the prison-like windows of Nos. 13/15 are modern work (suited to the now defunct National Provincial Bank) which however show what can be done by thoughtful modernisation of old dignified buildings.

Nos. 19/21, an 18th century corn chandler's warehouse with upper-floor doors and hoist, mathematical tiles, wood quoins and a "Tenterden" cornice, houses quite successfully a car sales room.

The supermarket to the east occupies a surprisingly successful Cinema (architecturally) of the 1930s, next door to which the original Ivy Court is hidden by shops built in its front garden, although it can still be reached through its own front door. brought forward at the end of a long corridor to be flush with the shop fronts. The old house is still intact behind.

The Recreation Ground was formed at the end of the last century out of the glebe fields, a far sighted purchase by the Corporation to provide room for the fairs which had outgrown their original site on the High Street greens. The magnificent old tithe barn which stood on the site of the new bowling green was unfortunately pulled down at the time.

East Cross Gardens almost hide The Fairings, a conversion to shops of the original cinema of 1912 on the corner of Oaks Road, which leads to Golden Square and East Hill.

A tree-lined drive on the right completely hides Hales Place. which seventy years ago was clearly visible from the road, across treeless fields. Today it is best seen from the footpath off Sandy Lane, unless advantage is taken of a day when the gardens are opened to the public. Although much of the old house was pulled down in the middle of the 18th century, what remains is impressive; tall brick chimneys, a fine staircase, grotesque carved supports to the front and back doors, and above all the unique Elizabethan garden wall with its Tudor brick towers, and the brick wellhouse and gateway.

On the corner of East Hill and Golden Square, East Hill House, tile hung with pedimented doorway, and a first floor Venetian window. is worth more than a glance, and next to it are the old Plough Inn, a beerhouse for many years, but now a cottage, and the attractive block of dignified residences and comfortable cottage shops marking the junction of the roads. Golden Square, which takes its name from Golden Farm (the old name for Leigh Green Farm) and is in fact a road and not a square, ends with Birch Tree House, a remarkable combination of brickwork, tile hanging, and mathematical tiles.

Behind Golden Square is Beachy Path. Here the old Tenterden Carriage Works, which latterly housed the Council's Highways Depot, is now to give way to housing for the elderly.

Woodchurch Road to the east is flanked by Craythorne House, built 1782, at one time the home of Beachcomber of the Daily Express, and Stace House, a pleasant Georgian mansion only recently revealed by the felling of a screen of trees to improve visibility at this very dangerous crossroads. Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Priestley are reputed to have stayed at Dovenden in the Woodchurch Road in 1774.

From the crossroads Beacon Oak Road leads northward to Ashford Road and Homewood School, which possesses a fine modern hall, and extensive grounds, and is centred round the mansion of 1766, a handsome five storey house with the typical Tenterden cornice.

Returning westwards, the Beacon Oak planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's Jubilee marks the beginning of the town proper, although the Strict Baptist Chapel and the Roman Catholic Church are still very much in the fields.

Next on the right are Penderel, Georgian with sensitive modern additions behind, and the Unitarian Chapel, or Old Meeting House, undistinguished from the outside and easily overlooked, but internally like a rustic City church. The original woodwork, galleries, pulpit, railings and chairs date from 1746, but the congregation moved here in 1662. Opposite and unsuspected behind a comparatively modern hedge is the Meeting House Pond, a typical village pond of the horse era.

The White House, then the unhappy and badly sited Post Office, then Miriam House and Yew Tree House, with the dovecote set back from the road, bring us back to East Cross. The Armoury, No. 14 East Cross, was the headquarters of the 3rd Cinque Ports Rifle Volunteers, formed in 1859 to fight Napoleon III "in any part of the southern military district of the Kingdom of Great Britain".

A lane on the right reveals a farmyard, almost in the High Street itself, complete with an ancient barn, which is currently awaiting restoration. A few yards further on, facing the supermarket, is Eastwell, out of scale, as ugly as Manor Row, and even worse at the back, a tragically typical modern shopping parade. It stands on the site of Eastwell House, a large 16th century house, with a massive and still remembered chimney, which was allowed to be pulled down, possibly because it was largely hidden from sight by Edwardian shop extensions, quite recently. Small portions of an Elizabethan wall-painting have survived, in the keeping of the Town Council and the Maidstone Museum.

Finally, the Parish Pump, or more correctly East Cross Pump, erected in 1864 to provide this end of the town with a public water supply. It is difficult to realise that piped water was unknown in most parts of the country, including London, 100 years ago, and indeed much more recently. The deeds of most properties in Tenterden refer to the well or pump in the backyard, or to right of water from the neighbouring property.


This, the most interesting individual building in Tenterden, is dedicated to St. Mildred. It has a lofty tower that can be seen across the Kentish Weald and for many miles out at sea. A small wooden church probably preceded the present one, the building of which was commenced at the end of the twelfth century with the construction of the nave and chancel. In the next century the south aisle was built followed in the fourteenth by the north aisle. The Tower was erected in 1461-1463 at the instigation of the Bishop of Rochester who owned one of the quays at Smallhythe and needed a beacon tower to guide the ships in from the sea. It is constructed of a local limestone, quarried at Tuesnoad near Bethersden. Because the stone can be polished it is known as "Bethersden Marble". The tower stands on ground two hundred feet above sea level and is itself one hundred and twenty feet high. From its top the coast of France can be seen on a clear day, whilst the tower itself can be discerned by ships in the Channel. According to local tradition the beacon on the top was lit during the alarm of the Spanish Armada. The church is one of only six in Britain to possess twin west doors, although this is a common feature in cathedrals.

An extensive restoration took place in 1864 when galleries and box pews were removed and the present seating laid out. More recently, 1930, the north chancel aisle was opened as a Lady Chapel, when a new east window was inserted.

The stained glass of the church, especially that of the West Window, is pleasing, although of no great historical significance. The barrel vault ceiling dates from the fifteenth century and is finely carved. A fourteenth century hexagonal font stands inside the south door, and above the door of the old rood loft stairway is a mutilated piece of a fourteenth century alabaster carving of the Resurrection. This was found at Leigh Green, the rest of the carving having presumably been destroyed during the Reformation, or at the time of the Commonwealth, and was presented to the Vicar during the restoration of 1864.

The large Jacobean memorial in the north wall of the Lady Chapel is to the family of Whitfield, seventeenth century occupiers of Eastgate House, which stood in the Woodchurch Road, and was demolished, having been allowed to fall into disrepair, in 1963. On the tomb are eighteen shields displaying no less than thirtyone different coats of arms.


Tenterden town occupies only a small part of the total area of the hundred which within its nine thousand acres includes the ecclesiastical parish of St. Michaels and the hamlets of Smallhythe and Reading Street.

St. Michaels, situated at the northern end of the hundred, has developed considerably over the last few years and contains many modern houses and a few shops. It is now a community with several sporting and social activities, all of which are keenly supported. A new Hall has been erected and provides excellent accommodation for all types of social events.

The pleasant Victorian Church (1863) on a hillock above the roadside gives its name to the district, which was formerly known as Boresisle (Burhweardeshyll). The graceful spire is visable for many miles.

There are some pleasant Victorian cottages in Grange Road, the centre of the old village, and Briton House, at the top of Grange Road, is one of the many half-timbered houses to be found all over the rural area outside the town.

Beyond Grange Road there are several footpaths giving access to the Millponds, and the rolling and partially wooded country between St. Michaels and Biddenden. To the east also, Pope House Lane, a bridleway, leads to the footpath to High Halden, with magnificent views towards Woodchurch and the high ground of Aldington and Lympne.
Also to the east of the Ashford Road and opposite Grange Road, Swain Road leads past the north end of Ox Lane and the Three Wents turning ("Wentways" is Kentish for a crossroads) to the entrance to Ingleden Home Farm, and on past the woods to Huntbourne, Swain Farm, and Great and Little Robhurst. Great Robhurst was originally known as Parish Farm, having been used by the Parish of Woodchurch from the time of the Poor Law legislation of 1601 up to 1821 to provide work for the poor.

The old people's homes at Little Hill, St. Michaels, designed by Mr. James Williams for the Tenterden Borough Council and opened in 1972, recently won a DoE award for Good Design in Housing.
Smallhythe lies at the southern end of the hundred and borders on the Reading Sewer. In this part of the world "Sewer" still retains its mediaeval meaning of a watercourse for draining marshland - the word did not get its modern meaning until London had its first drains in the early seventeenth century. Reading Sewer follows the original north channel of the River Rother, although it now flows in the opposite direction.

Smallhythe was once a thriving port, but is now a quiet roadside hamlet containing a famous house, Smallhythe Place, a National Trust property which is open to the public from March to October. This half-timbered yeoman's house dates from 1480 and was originally the residence of the Port Officer. It gained fame, however, as the home of the actress, Dame Ellen Terry, who purchased the property in 1899 and lived there until her death in 1928. It is now filled with relics of Dame Ellen, Mrs. Siddons, Garrick and other theatrical celebrities. Included in the National Trust property are the adjacent Priest's House, Yew Tree Cottage, and the newly restored sixteenth century ship-repairing dock. In the grounds of the house is the Barn Theatre.

The church of St. John the Baptist was rebuilt in 1516/17 of red brick, with stepped east and west gables in the Flemish fashion, to replace a previous building burnt down with most of the rest of the hamlet in 1514. The west window contains original Tudor tracery, the original east window having been destroyed by a bomb in the second world war. Pulpit, lectern and reading desk came from St. Mildred's Church in 1900.

The "Chapel at Smalhede" is mentioned as early as 1400, when the jurats of Romney paid 3s. 4d. towards its upkeep on the occasion of the launching of a barge.

The nearby Bulleign Farm reminds us that the family of Anne Boleyn owned property in this area.

At the south east corner of Tenterden hundred is the tiny hamlet of Reading Street, on the road to Appledore. Here there are only a few houses, including Old Barrack Farm, Skeers House, Brockett House, and the white house on the corner, until recently the White Hart and Lamb Inn. In Napoleonic days a garrison was stationed here and the Tenterden Racecourse, just across the Reading Sewer, was well patronised by the officers and their friends.

The little church is that of St. Mary, Ebony, which was removed here in 1858 from its original but inconveniently remote location on the Isle of Ebony, across the water.



This quiet village, referred to in the Heronden Charter of 968 as "Apeldre"- apple tree -, is situated on the northern edge of Romney Marsh. It was once on the coast but is now some nine miles from the sea. The great storm of 1287 removed its river and left it more or less high and dry, so that it gradually declined to its present village status. Despite a certain amount of new building on Appledore Heath to the north, the village still retains its old-world aspect. This is due partly to its inaccessibility, for local bus services are infrequent and the railway station is a mile and a half away across the Marsh.

The Royal Military Canal borders the village to the south, and dates from the early nineteenth century when it was built as a defence against the threatened Napoleonic invasion. It has since served as a similar bulwark in the two great wars of the present century. Now disused, it is a pleasant and restful spot on a hot summer's day, with little but the song of the birds to disturb the solitude. The stretch between Appledore and Warehome has been preserved in this happy state for all time by the National Trust. Fishing rights are reserved but visiting anglers may obtain short term permits.

Appledore village has a wide street leading up from the canal, with old houses and a few shops lining it on both sides. Near the canal bridge is the church, a thirteenth century structure which was burnt by the French in 1380 and subsequently has been altered many times. The massive stumpy tower contains a good peal of bells and inside the west door are boards recording memorable rings. Within the church are several fine screens and the tomb of Master Philip Chute who was standard bearer to Henry VIII at Boulogne. There is a small brass to a butcher and a number of modern shields displaying coats of arms associated with the locality.

In recent years an annual Flower Festival has attracted many visitors, and the bulb fields across the canal bring a touch of Holland to this part of the Marsh. To the north of the village at Home's Place on the road to Kenardington, is a remarkable mediaeval domestic chapel. The Horne family formerly had a chantry chapel in the church.


This is probably the best known of the villages in the neighbourhood, and certainly· the most attractive architecturally. Its main street is a gem of medieval charm that even the rush of modern traffic cannot dim.

The village is known for its story of the two maids Eliza and Mary Chulkhurst, who were Siamese twins joined at shoulders and hips. They lived here in the sixteenth century for their full life of thirty-four years and participated in the life of the community. On the death of one the other refused to be severed and thus she followed her "other half" in six hours. They bequeathed land for an Easter distribution of bread and cheese to the poor. The ceremony still takes place every Easter Monday at 10 a.m. Special biscuits are also struck, bearing the imprint of the maids, and are given on request to visitors present at the distribution. In the fourteenth century the village was a centre for broadcloth weaving, and some of the older buildings still have communicating attics in which were housed the looms. A covered market house was also in existence at that time.

The wide main street is Biddenden's glory. It is paved on both sides with Bethersden marble and flanked by shops, inns and tearooms varying in age from Tudor to Victorian. The whole south side of the street seems to share one vast living roof. The view from the car park of this great sweep of brown tiles is unforgettable. To the north of the street is the seven gabled cloth ball, a particularly beautiful half-timbered structure.

The church, dating from the thirteenth century, stands in a pleasant churchyard. It possesses a castellated tower with an out- side stair turret that is a feature of churches in this area. It is famous for its memorial brasses to local people, covering the period 1499-1700. The brass to Thomas Fleet (1572) is a palimpsest, being engraved on the back of an earlier Flemish brass. There is also a good Jacobean pulpit.


(OE Hathewolden), on the main road from Tenterden to Ashford, stands on elevated ground overlooking the valley of the little River Beult. The church is worthy of a visit to see the great wooden tower built about 1300 and the timber work in the porches and roof. "lts steeple pricks through the hilltop woods, a landmark for the countryside" wrote Dorothy Gardiner 40 years ago, and this first distant view is unchanging and unforgettable. The parish of High Halden was mentioned in Domesday Book where it was recorded that the manor of Tepindene was held by Hugo De Montfort. All that remains of the old Norman manor is Tiffenden Farmhouse which straddles the Roman road from Hemsted to Lympne.

The Chequers Inn, once the haunt of smugglers, goes back many years. The present building dates from the early seventeenth century but is believed to incorporate parts of a mediaeval hall house.

There has been much new building, mostly good, in the village in recent years, and much new traffic on the Tenterden-Ashford road.

Not so long ago, however, High Halden was a remote village 'very retired and as unpleasant as any in the county" (Ireland's Kent, 1828). Ransley Farm on the Ashford Road perpetuates the name of the notorious family of smugglers who terrorised the neighbourhood in the mid eighteenth century, and at Potkiln Farm, hidden among the lanes to the north, was the pottery which produced the brown and yellow High Halden ware, within living memory.

KENARDINGTON. (Cyneweard's den or pasture)

This is one of this smaller parishes of the neighbourhood, lying on the flat, marshy levels that border the Royal Military Canal. It is a charming place that boasts a few country cottages on the high road and a few more on the narrow winding lane leading past the church, which has a massive tower with the characteristic outside stair turret of the thirteenth century Marsh churches. The church was struck by lightning in 1559 and behind the tower the nave and chancel are missing, the surviving south aisle making do as the whole church.

Nearby on the Appledore Road is a large white-plastered house, again only a portion of a larger original. This is Kenardington Manor, dating probably from the late fifteenth century, but standing on the site of a Norman, or possibly Saxon, manor house, one of three assigned by William the Conqueror to provide an income for the Custodian of Dover Castle. Under King John it was held by the Normanville family, passing by the marriage of Margaret de Normanville to Sir William de Basing (of Basinghall Street) and in the time of Henry VIII to the Hornes of Appledore. Beneath its unassuming exterior is a wealth of old timber.

Adjacent to the church can be seen the remains of an extensive system of earthworks that are reputed to have been built by King Alfred as protection against the marauding Danes, who, after their landing at Appledore in the ninth century were effectively held here and prevented from occupying the rest of this part of Kent.


Situated in the extreme south-western part of the area and indeed of the county of Kent, Newenden is a hamlet standing at the eastern end of a ridge of high ground between the River Rother and the Hexden Channel. Eastward stretch the Rother Levels, an area particularly liable to flooding. Though now a dreamy little village, Newenden was once a place of considerable importance. Because of its position at the end of the wide estuary of the Rother, it was in Roman times a natural defence post against invaders trying to enter the Weald. Its strategic importance, however, declined as the river channel silted up.

At Newenden the river forms the county boundary between East Sussex and Kent and in 1700 the bridge with its three arches was built as a joint undertaking. In the same year the chancel and tower of the parish church were pulled down and sold to local contractors, so that the building now consists of a truncated nave and a rather unusual little steeple. It contains a richly ornamented Saxon font depicting a fine set of dragons.

A short way from the village are the traces of the Carmelite Priory of Lossenham (O.E. hlose - pig-sty) and down on the marshy levels near Hexden Channel is Castle Toll, an ancient earthwork which has seen struggles with Saxon and Danish invaders, but is now almost forgotten, unlike its neighbouring Rother guard, Bodiam Castle, junior by 1,000 years, which though built in 1300 remains the classic mediaeval castle because it never had to face attack from without. It was built by Sir John Dallingrigge to protect the district from possible French invaders, but now welcomes visitors (including the French) at the rate of 95,758 a year (1970).
ROLVENDEN (Domesday-Rovindene)

This large village stands on high ground between the valleys of the Newmill and Hexden Channels and is surrounded by pleasant well-wooded country. The gently curving High Street lined with buildings of tile and weatherboard, leads between wide green verges to the parish church. This building, with its fifteenth century tower, contains two remarkable squires' pews, one of which is used as the vicar's vestry. The Gibbon family, believed to be the ancestors of Edward Gibbon, the historian, settled in Rolvenden in 1326. The author of "Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" is, however, buried at Fletching in Sussex.

Rolvenden Layne, on lower land to the south, expanded when the main village was burnt down and temporarily vacated in the late seventeenth century. The Layne has two fine Tudor houses, Wesley House, from which John Wesley preached in 1758 and Frensham Manor, once the residence of Sir Auckland Geddes, first Baron Rolvenden.

Beyond Frensham a footpath leads (with the aid of a good map) past Freezingham, very remote down on the levels. to Cradle Bridge, and across the Newmill Channel to Bulleign Farm at Smallhythe.

The former Rural District Council had a major part in financing the conversion of Great Maytham Hall into living accommodation for retired professional people. This house, designed by Lutyens, is a stately mansion of regular proportions. It had close connections with the great Liberal politicians of the first World War. It was then the property of the Tennant family, but is now owned by Mutual Households Association Limited. The gardens were laid out by Gertrude Jekyll. Near the church are the former R.D.C.'s old people's homes, opened in 1974, and named after the Monypenny family, one of whom built the first Maytham Hall in 172 l.

Between Maytham and Potman's Heath on the road to Wittersham lies Maytham Wharf, an elevated piece of ground in the levels, which was once an important landing place on the Rother.

Close to Rolvenden is Hole Park, the ancient residence of the Gibbons, which has been restored in recent years. The Park, famous for its natural and formal gardens, is open on many Sundays during the year in aid of various charities.

In the hilly country north of Rolvenden is Halden Place, once the home of Lady Jane Grey. Parkgate, a mile away on the Tenterden-Cranbrook road, is a reminder that Halden Park was at the time of Edward V reputed to be the largest park in England.

On the Benenden road is Rolvenden Mill, a perfect example of a post-mill, which was restored by the late owner of Hole Park as a memorial to his son.


This is a scattered village at the eastern end of the Isle of Oxney, and from the top of the old cliffs are magnificent views over the Rother valley into Sussex, across the marshes to the sea between Rye and Dungeness, and eastwards to the hills behind Folkestone.

The elegant and complete fifteenth century church has a square tower with beacon turret and is dedicated to St. Mary. It stands above the main part of the village at the head of a small valley, formerly an inlet of the sea and known then as Stone Crutch. An earlier church was burnt down in 1464. The south chapel contains the blocked up entrance of the staircase leading to the rood loft, for which recesses were cut "behind and above the responds of the nave arches, to all appearance without dislocation though very near the 'quick'." Of the six bells, one is pre-Reformation and bears the inscription Vox Augustini sonet in Aure Dei, indicating that the church was once part of the possessions of the monastery of St. Augustine at Canterbury.

The Roman Mithraic altar of the 3rd century AD., bearing the symbolic bull carved in relief, was placed in the church in 1926, having at one time been used outside the inn as a mounting block. Beside it is an even older relic - the 130 million-years-old fossilised bones of a dinosaur from Stone Quarry.

EBONY (Eben-ey)

This was a small island to the north (ey=island), now known as Chapel Bank, whence a little church was moved 100 years ago to the hamlet of Reading Street, with the hundred of Tenterden. But the old churchyard remains and once a year a pilgrimage is made to this isolated, wind-swept burial ground.

The old course of the River Rother, now the Reading sewer, forms the northern boundary of the parish of STONE-CUM-EBONY. The crossing place was once a ferry and even so recently as 1932 entrance to the Isle of Oxney by way of the Ferry Bridge was subject to the payment of toll. A board outside the Ferry Inn lists the tolls payable for various types of traffic (viz. pigs, each, 1d., lambs (per score) 3d., every horse, mule or ass, 1d., bath chair, 1d.). The church registers record the death of a soldier of the 45th Regiment, quartered at the Ferry, a strategic point during the Napoleonic Wars.

The total acreage of the parish is 4,880 acres; the population in 1971 was 479 and there are 155 houses. It is interesting to note that the population 50 years ago was 403, and in 1841 was 467 with only 94 houses.


This village occupies the western and higher part of the Isle of Oxney, and is on the main Tenterden to Rye road. Formerly distinguished by its annual May Fair of toys and pedlars it is now a quiet and charming little place. The manor dates from 1032 and was for several hundred years held by the crown. Palstre (pronounced Paster) Court, dating from the Norman Conquest, has kept its eleventh century spelling. The name may be derived from the Latin viri palustres, "men of the marsh" or from M.E. palster, "a point or spit of land."

The church is a nobly proportioned structure with a lofty tower incorporating the usual stair turret. In the middle ages a beacon on the top of the tower served as a guide for ships coming up the River Rother. The interior of this mainly fourteenth century church displays much geometrical reticulated tracery but has little or no stained glass. There is, however, a finely carved late mediaeval lectern and a modern altar triptych, the work and gift of Laurence Irving. In the north aisle there is a well-preserved memorial brass to a certain Stephen Audyan, dated 1523.

Opposite the church is Wittersham House, a typically restrained neo-Georgian conversion by Sir Edwin Lutyens for the Hon. Alfred Lyttelton (1857-1913), famed as a master of cricket, even in this land of cricket, and as a politician.

Included within the limits of Wittersham is the cross-roads known as The Stocks. Here, loftily sited so that it can be seen from the Levels out towards Rye, is a typical Wealden group comprising a post-mill, dated 1781 on the centre post, a cluster of oast houses, and a lovely timbered cottage. Nothing could be more symbolic of England's garden county than this delightful setting.


A large scattered village on the secondary road from Tenterden to Ashford, Woodchurch is a lovely place consisting to a great extent of tiled and weatherboarded houses. Wide grass verges and the flowers in the gardens of the houses combine to make this one of the most delightful villages in the vicinity. A few shops, the Six Bells Inn and the unusually named Bonny Cravat Inn next door, form the centre of Woodchurch, and at the north-eastern corner of the village green are two beautiful period houses. The motoring population is well catered for by three garages in the village, the largest of which are also commercial vehicle distributors and agricultural machinery repairers, and the largest employers of local labour.

Townland in the centre of the village was in 1135 the Manor of Thunlande, held by Ralph de la Thun from the King for half a knight's fee. This manor, like that of Kenardington, was assigned by William I for the defence of Dover Castle.

Up the hill is the Early English church, which has a short tower, with enormous buttresses, capped by an unusually tall shingled spire. The church should however be visited for the beauty of the interior, well described in the Penguin "West Kent and The Weald" (one of the "Buildings of England" series, edited by Pevsner), which cannot be too highly recommended to all visitors to this area. There are two very fine brasses in the church, one to Nicholas de Gore, priest in 1320 (the third oldest brass in Kent) and the other to Thomas Harlakynden (1584), interesting for its multiplicity of wives and children.

On the hillside to the north were once two windmills, a black and a white one, but the black one was damaged in a gale some years ago and was eventually pulled down. The white one was given to the village by Sir Sidney Nicholson, organist and choirmaster at Westminster Abbey from 1917 to 1927, who came to live at Woodchurch just before the last war, and through the efforts of the villagers it still remains a conspicuous landmark from miles away.
The arms of Tenterden show a threemasted ship with fores'l furled, mains'l charged with the arms of the Cinque Ports (three half lions - from the Royal arms - conjoined with three half ships), and mizzen sail bearing the arms of Thomas Petlesden, the town's first Bailiff.

The Town and Hundred

When Tenterden received its Charter, as a Limb of the Cinque Ports, it was essential that the new Corporation should include within its boundaries not only the town on the hill but also the rest of the old Saxon Hundred of Tenterden with its vital shipbuilding settlements of Smallhythe and Reading.

Today, after 525 years as a Borough, this ancient Town and Hundred has become a "Successor Parish". The former Borough Council of 16 members has become a Town Council, presided over by the Town-Mayor, who is elected each year at the annual May meeting. In addition, to his duties as Chairman of the Council, he is, in a town with the traditions of Tenterden, in constant demand at civic and community functions.

The fulI Council meets six times a year, and Council meetings and most committee meetings are open to the public, the times being advertised on the notice board at the Town Hall, where the meetings are held.

The transfer of many former powers and duties to the new Ashford Borough Council has resulted in the loss of all the former Borough staff, with the exception of the Town Clerk, now a parttime appointment, and the Town Hall Keeper.

As the corporate successor to the former Borough the Town Council is a Member of the Confederation of the Cinque Ports, with the responsibility of carrying out the duties of membership and maintaining the rights and privileges that go with it. It also retains the power to appoint local officers of dignity, in this case the two Sergeants-at-Mace, who escort the Town-Mayor on all ceremonial occasions and are responsible for the safe-keeping of the Maces and the Mayoral Regalia.

The new Borough

The Ashford Borough Council is the successor to the former Ashford Urban, East and West Ashford and Tenterden Rural District Councils, and the Tenterden Borough Council, with an area of 250 square miles and a population of 80,000. There are 44 Councillors, four of whom represent the former Tenterden Borough area. Council meetings are held every six weeks and are open to the public. The main offices of the councils are in Ashford, and there is a local office at Tenterden Town Hall.
The Ashford Borough Council is responsible for dealing with Planning Applications, Local Plans, and Building Regulations, Council Housing, Refuse Collection, and Highway Management with the urban area of Ashford (the County Council is responsible for Refuse Disposal, and Highway Management in the rest of the Borough), public health matters, parks, allotments, footpaths, and cemeteries.

The Young Generation

It is often said that small towns have nothing to offer to young people today. There is certainly not a big enough population in Tenterden to support a discotheque, but there is no shortage of other activities. The Tenterden Youth Club has a modem building in Highbury Lane, providing billiards, table tennis, or just a place to meet over a cup of coffee, and there are flourishing youth clubs attached to the Methodist and the Parish churches.

In addition, the various sports clubs mentioned on pp. 84-86 are only too pleased to welcome new members, and Scouts and Guides are well represented, and the Red Cross and St. John Ambulance Cadets.

The Tenterden Operatic and Dramatic Society (TODS to those who find the full title a bit frightening) is always on the look-out for new talent, and can find plenty of interesting work behind the scenes -scene-painting and construction, looking after costumes, publicity, etc. - for those whose talent is not yet ready for the footlights.

The Fieldpath Group, affiliated to the Ramblers' Association, provides an introduction to the countryside, and useful outdoor activity in keeping open the ancient highways in which this part of Kent is so rich, but which are under constant threat from largescale agricultural operations.

Groups such as the Local History Society and the Weald of Kent Art Group cater for other tastes, and with the amenity societies, the Tenterden Trust and the Weald of Kent Preservation Society, are anxious to enrol younger members whose enthusiasm and new ideas are vital to the well-being of any society.

Evening classes - painting, pottery, woodwork, and any other activity for which there is a demand -are available at Homewood, and in the same way the Youth organisations are prepared to arrange expert instruction and guidance in almost any pursuit, provided there is sufficient interest - judo, swimming, mountaineering, rock-climbing, sailing ....

The Elderly

Twenty per cent of the population of Tenterden is over pensionable age, and many of them are very active. For the less active, however, there are Darby and Joan Clubs and the Association for the Care of the Elderly (now known as Age Concern), which provides help of all sorts in emergencies, and also regular hot lunches and coffee and occasional coach outings. There is also a special club for the Disabled, which meets regularly.

"Little Hill" is a group of flats and bungalows specially designed for the elderly, in pleasant surroundings, but close to the main road and the shops of St. Michaels, and under the supervision of a warden who can give assistance in various ways if required. There are also old people's bungalows in Tenterden at Hales Close, and the Abbeyfield Society has a house in the Ashford Road. At Great Maytham in Rolvenden Layne a stately mansion, built by Lutyens, belongs to the Mutual Households Association Ltd. and provides a home life for retired professional people. In Rolvenden also is the recently opened "Monypenny" group of flatlets and bungalows for the elderly.

Health visitors, district nursing, home help, meals-on-wheels and a library service for the housebound are available through the help of various organisations, while a regular medical check-up is provided for old age pensioners at the Clinic, together with the normal chiropody and dental care. The Lions Club and Rotary provide holidays for a number of elderly people every year, and outings are arranged by various bodies.


The nine hole golf course, to which visitors are welcomed, lies off the Woodchurch Road, with extensive views over farmland and the hills to the north and east.

Kent has been a home of Cricket since the beginning of the 18th century, and the village greens at Woodchurch, Newenden, Rolvenden and Benenden, the scene of many famous matches in the past, continue to provide the perfect setting for lazy summer afternoons. The Tenterden Cricket Club has its ground in the delightful surroundings of Morghew Park, on the Smallhythe Road, and the Smallhythe Cricket Club is almost next door at Pickhill.

The Tenterden Football Club plays on the Glebe Field beyond the Recreation Ground, and the St. Michaels Club on the Recreation Ground at St. Michaels. There are Tennis Courts and a Bowling Green on the Recreation Ground in Tenterden, while Goal Running and Bat and Trap are still to be found in the surrounding villages.

Angling attracts large numbers of enthusiasts to the Newmill Channel, the Reading Sewer and countless ponds and waterways throughout the area.

There are many footpaths (the up-to-date map is available for inspection at the Town Hall, and the Public Library in Tenterden, and at the Council offices in Ashford) giving access to miles of unspoilt, and apparently uninhabited, country, chiefly farmland and woodland, and in addition, largely outside the area of this guide, but still close by, are the Forests of Hemsted, Ham Street, Orlestone and Bedgebury.


Tenterden is the natural shopping centre for the surrounding area, but the quality and variety of the goods available, and the friendly and unhurried service, combine with the attractive background of the old buildings and the tree-lined greens to draw customers from much greater distances. It is often easier to find some elusive item here than in London-and of course all the shops are concentrated in half a mile on one street.

Apart from the specialist shops and antique shops, there are still many privately owned businesses although the national chains are also well represented.

Education Facilities

Tenterden is indeed fortunate in the provision of its schools, as within its boundaries there are a fine secondary school (Homewood) and three primary schools provided and run by the Kent Education Committee.

Secondary Education in the Ashford Division was reorganised in September, 1973, and Homewood School now receives children of all abilities at age 11. At age 13 those children who have the ability, interest and parental support to undertake a further five years of full-time education leading probably to the G.C.E. at Advanced Level have the opportunity of transferring to an Upper School (based on the former Grammar Schools) in Ashford.

The County Council have agreed that, subject to the outcome of Public Notice, Homewood School shall in 1977 become a school for pupils mainly aged 11-18 of all ranges of ability, with no transfers at age 13 after 1976.

HOMEWOOD, which is co-educational, stands in its own grounds which extend to some 45 acres. The house from which the school takes its name is still used for school purposes, but new buildings have been added by the Education Committee. The school has a roll of a little over 900 and runs courses leading to C.S.E. and G.C.E. examinations. The Headmaster is assisted by a staff of nearly 50 qualified teachers.

There is also at Homewood a flourishing Adult Education Centre catering largely for recreational activities.
In Ashford there is a branch of the South Kent College of Technology which provides a variety of courses in subjects associated with engineering, commerce and agriculture in addition to running an extensive G.C.E. course.

TENTERDEN C/E JUNIOR SCHOOL was rehoused in new buildings on an attractive site behind the Surgery in 1957 and two classrooms were added in 1970. The roll is nearly 220 and the Headmaster has eight assistant teachers.

TENTERDEN COUNTY PRIMARY INFANTS' SCHOOL, like the C/E School to which the children progress, is a very lively community which was recently re-housed in new premises built adjacent to the Junior School. The roll is just over 100 and the Headmistress has four full-time assistants.

ST. MICHAELS C/E PRIMARY SCHOOL serves the parish of St. Michaels in the hundred of Tenterden. A very good example of adaptations and extensions in modern and nineteenth century construction to the former two-class school have provided an assembly hall and five classrooms. Further remodelling to improve the accommodation and amenities is imminent. The roll is around 170 and the Headmaster has five full-time assistants.

RANTERS OAK SCHOOL (Independent Preparatory School). 

Half way between Rolvenden and Benenden an ancient oak tree stands near the roadside. This, according to local legend, was the pulpit used by an early breakaway sect of Methodists known as "Ranters" to speak to the large crowds they usually attracted. The oak has a connection, too, with John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, for it is said that he spoke from the tree-probably so old that, as now, it had tilted well over from a vertical position and could be easily climbed-during one of his many preaching tours of Britain and when he was refused permission to speak in Rolvenden church.

On the land behind this oak stand twin oast houses which were the oldest part of Ranters Hall Farm. The farm no longer exists, part of it becoming Ranters Oak School, but evidence of the site of the farm midden was discovered recently when the school changing rooms were modernised. In the foundations, builders found a quantity of animal bones.

The school itself is an interesting mixture of styles: brick, weatherboarding and cedar. The main building adjoins the oasts and has a pleasant old timbered hall. The lower parts of the oasts have been converted into classrooms and another classroom was, together with the sitting room directly above, converted from a hop press and the beams of this still exist.

There is an interesting complex of Colt buildings which form the classrooms for the lower school and the gymnasium. The gym was adapted by Colt's architects most successfully from their standard village hall design. These very modern buildings blend in pleasantly with the architecture of the rest of the school.

A short way from Ranters Oak, in the direction of Rolvenden, is the school's boarding house, Chessenden, which is privately owned by the school's housemistress. Chessenden is one of the oldest names in the neighbourhood, being described in Domesday Book. During World War II a number of service personnel were billeted there. When, fortunately, they were on duty at their station, the original house was completely demolished by a flying bomb. The present building was entirely rebuilt on a slightly different site to an unusual but very practical design and, with its large garden and many fruit trees, provides a completely country house kind of atmosphere for the 14 boarders who stay there.

Ranters Oak School, a recognised independent girls preparatory school which takes a number of boys up to the age of 9, has been at Rolvenden for many years. Some of its former girls and boys - one of whom is now a married woman living in Australia - knew it as Mickeldene, its name before it was evacuated to Rolvenden during the last war.

Brian H. Kingston


Tenterden is situated on a clay promontory 185ft. above sea-level in the centre of some of the most varied and beautiful landscape to be seen in England.

To the SOUTH and EAST we find a commanding view of the fertile, dyke-strewn marshes of Walland and Romney - often flooded during winter months, but lush with green pastures for the 100,000 sheep in spring and summer. From a vantage point on the Church Tower, this magnificent panorama extends from the chalk North Downs and Dover Straits to the power station marking the tip of the unique shingle headland at Dungeness.

NORTH of the town the land rises steadily until it reaches the famous Kentish Ragstone Hills, 4 miles south of Maidstone near Sutton Valence. Before we reach the ridge we cross the valley of the River Beult, where in places the Wealden clay has been transformed into a hard limestone rich in fossil shells. The easily polished surface of this stone and the area where most of it was quarried gives it the name of Bethersden Marble, widely used for church towers and "causeways," found at Biddenden and Westwell in Tenterden. These causeways preceded the country Turnpike roads of the eighteenth century.

Finally, to the WEST of Tenterden lie undulating woodlands of the Kent/Sussex border. Here we find orchards and hop gardens interspersed with large areas of pine woods. The 75-acre National Pinetum at Bedgebury (14 miles) contains over 100 different species of conifer, their avenues of towering spires making a majestic contrast to the rhododendrons below.


Kent provides an abundance of plant and animal life, both indigenous and migratory. A visit to Dungeness will reveal nearly half a score of unusual plants found nowhere else in Britain. Many lesser known TREES and shrubs grow wild within a 5-mile radius of Tenterden-Guelder Rose, Spindle, and one or two specimens of the rare Wild Service tree, the wood from which was once used by local craftsmen.

The varied BIRD LIFE within the borough is reflected by local enthusiasm for the R.S.P.B. and evening classes on bird study. In 1969, nearly 60 different species were recorded in the area, over 40 of which were seen in a town garden-fire crests, long-tailed tits, nuthatches and redwings, to name but a few. During the same year were seen nearly 20 species of BUTTERFLY including Orange Tip, Painted Lady, Speckled Wood, etc.

Tenterden is not without its quota of wild MAMMALS. Weasels, badgers and foxes may be seen by the lucky few. FISHES, too, abound in the lower levels of the river Rother.

Spring is heralded by a succession of WILD FLOWERS colouring the marshes, woodlands and hedgerow banks. In March and April celandine, coltsfoot and wood anemones are followed by primroses and drifts of bluebells. Several species of orchis may be observed by the discerning botanist.

For those who prefer cultivated flowers, there are ample opportunities to pay a call on the PRIVATE GARDENS open throughout the summer. Hole Park at Benenden and Sissinghurst Place are within 5 miles (8 km) of Tenterden. The elegant landscaped garden at Scotney Castle, near Lamberhurst (15 miles, 24km), should not be missed. It contains many rare and beautiful shrubs and trees to delight the connoisseur.

The profusion of cherry and apple blossom is a glorious sight which many visitors travel long distances to see. Truly Kent can be said to honour its name of-

" The Garden of England ''.
Brian H. Kingston

The following routes are suggested as providing the motorist with maximum variation of scenery and interest for the distance travelled. In most cases there is at least one definite objective to visit. Some of the roads are unclassified, and are frequently narrow and winding, demanding extra care in driving. Distances are approximate only, being quoted as a rough guide. Normal courtesy and respect for property will be appreciated by landowners, farmers, and other visitors, to the mutual benefit of all.


Soon after leaving Tenterden by the B2080 to Appledore, there are magnificent views of the Romney Marsh and North Downs. At Reading Street (2½ miles, 4 km.) the road turns sharp left. Continue for 1 ½ miles to small crossroads with whitewashed cottage and turn RIGHT for Stone. A mile up the road is the old Ferry Inn noted for smugglers. In the centre of the village by the Crown Inn FORK LEFT past the 14th century St. Mary's Church. Climbing up the Isle of Oxney turn left at the T-junction (Tighe Farm). The very narrow winding lane (185 ft.) drops steeply down to the Royal Military Canal. Turn RIGHT over bridge to Rye. Approaching this ancient Cinque Port (now 2 miles inland) note the old cliffs to the right and canal to the left as the county boundary is reached.

At RYE visit the Norman Ypres Tower, the 12th century church, cobbled streets or the harbour itself. It may be better to put the car in one of the many parks, since the streets are too narrow and steep for comfort. Small teashops abound. Two miles further on lies the old town of WINCHELSEA, the first "new town" to be built after the great storm of 1250.

Returning to Tenterden from Rye, take the A208 and fork RIGHT along the B2082 at Playden, 1½ miles (Inn for meals). Continue through Iden and Wittersham (Isle of Oxney). In the ship-yard village of Smallhythe visit the Ellen Terry museum and 15th century church before climbing up to the return to Tenterden.


Start as Route A but go straight on at the Reading Street turn. The narrow minor road winds over the marshes around the south of the Tenterden area. Follow signs to Wittersham (do not turn left) until reaching the B2082 T-junction. Turn RIGHT and continue as Route A.


Taking the A28 west of Tenterden via the old Rolvenden Station, the road leads up the hill from which, looking south and east, one has a fine view of the surrounding country. In Rolvenden turn FIRST RIGHT (B2086). On leaving the village a fine example of a post windmill is seen on the left, and a mile further on is the entrance to the grounds of HOLE PARK.
Picturesque BENENDEN (where Princess Anne was educated) occupies one of the highest points in the Weald. At the end of the street turn LEFT at the cross roads. The route, marked to Sandhurst, leads past a paved Roman ford, below on the right, and along the old Roman road to the A268, at which point turn RIGHT for Hawkhurst, site of famous smugglers' headquarters and battle. Continue straight over the crossroads in the village to the next traffic lights at Flimwell corner (3 miles, 5 km) and turn RIGHT on to the A21. One mile further on, turn RIGHT again to the B2079 which borders Bedgebury Forest to the west. A mile and a half along the road is the entrance and car-park to the NATIONAL PINETUM.

Continuation of this road leads to the village pond at GOUDHURST, at which point turn RIGHT, past the 15th century buildings and church, which contains many fine brasses. Five miles along the A262 past orchards and hop gardens is Sissinghurst. For the ruins and gardens of SISSINGHURST CASTLE take the first turning left after leaving the village going east. Just over a mile past this turning the road crosses the Hammer Stream, which used to drive the Hammer Mill (100 yards up the valley to the right). BIDDENDEN is another two miles along the A262. Here is one of the few remaining pavements of Bethersden Marble in the country, and many timber buildings. On leaving the village turn RIGHT by "The Maids" sign. Down the road after half a mile leave the A262 where it turns sharp left, and take the right fork marked to Benenden. Another mile, at the crossroads (Castleton's Oak Inn) turn LEFT. This road winds through flower-covered woods and hedgerow banks at the end of which the tower of Tenterden Church suddenly dominates the skyline.


Follow Route C to the A268 at Sandhurst but this time turn LEFT (east) into the village and then RIGHT. After crossing the Kent Ditch, which forms the county boundary, the first glimpse of BODIAM CASTLE is seen below on the left, dominating the upper valley of the Rother. Passing the castle entrance the road crosses the River Rother and winds up a gradient for 2 miles until the B2165 is reached at Staple Cross. Turn LEFT. (For those interested in visiting the Pestalozzi Children's Village, Sedlescombe is 3 miles south of this point). At the A28 crossroads, turn LEFT again to Northiam where a visit should be made to the 13th century manor house of Great Dixter, partly restored by Edwin Lutyens. Near the point where the river flats at Newenden are crossed were unearthed in 1822 the well preserved remains of an ancient ship, reputed to be Danish of the 9th century. At the top of the hill beyond Newenden, turn RIGHT for Tenterden via the old village street of Rolvenden.


Commence as for Route A, but continue along the B2080 to Appledore. Beyond the Street cross the bridge over the Royal Military Canal and immediately turn sharp RIGHT. The narrow road crosses the flat, wind swept Walland Marsh through bulbfields of narcissus, daffodil and tulip in the spring. Soon after pass;ing over the level-crossing the lonely Fairfield Church appears, standing in the middle of a field. Once completely surrounded by water, this 15th century building is one of only three in England dedicated to St. Thomas-a-Becket. A mile further on the road passes over White Kemp Sewer and meets the A259. Turn LEFT here to Brookland, a quaint marshland village of half-timbered and weatherboarded cottages, famous for its church with detached octagonal belfry.
After another mile turn RIGHT at the main road (which runs along the clay Rhee Wall), through the once flourishing port of Old Romney, and on to the right-hand junction with the B2075, leading to LYDD. Just before the town, after crossing the old railway bridge, fork LEFT and then turn LEFT at the roundabout, for DUNGENESS. This road crosses Denge Marsh, an area full of bird life in both summer and winter. At the end of this stretch fork RIGHT on to a narrow concrete road to the headland. (N.B. Do not drive on to the shingle or the car may be stranded). Carefully crossing the narrow gauge Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway, make for the new lighthouse beyond the lifeboat station. A short walk over the shingle reveals a fine view across -the bay to the east-Folkestone, Dover and South Foreland, 25 miles distant

For the return journey spend a little time at the Cinque Port of Lydd and then, from the centre of the town, take the B2076 direct to Old Romney. Turn LEFT at the A259 junction. From here there is a choice of the direct route to Tenterden via Appledore (turn LEFT to B2080 at far end of Appledore High Street), or an alternative longer route. For the latter, turn RIGHT on the B2081 at Brenzett, 2½ miles beyond Old Romney. After a drive of 4 miles across the Romney Marsh, turn LEFT in the village of Ham Street on to the B2067. The road winds for 4 miles through farmland and, at the T-junction, turns RIGHT, skirting WOODCHURCH which has a windmill and a fine early English church. For Tenterden do not turn into the village but continue straight on past the Stonebridge Inn.


Many local churches have fine brasses and unique architectural features. Routes A, C, D, E.
Widely distributed all over S.E. Kent. Route A - Camber and Rye. Routes C - Scotney (near Bedgebury) and Sissinghurst. Route D - Bodiam.
Royal Military Canal and river fishing - Routes A and E. Sea fishing - Route E.
Routes C and D.
See the PDF for sections on Accessibility (rail, road), for Motorists, Books about Tenterden, General Information, Country Footpaths, Acknowledgements, and Maps

Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974


Town and Hundred of Tenterden 1974

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