The most casual visitor to Aylesford can see at once that it is old. It is, in fact, said to be one of the oldest continually occupied sites in England The Royal Manor of Aylesford was ﬁrst owned by William the Conqueror and the church of St Peter and St Paul is of Norman origin, with a list of vicars dating from 1145. But this River Medway crossing point (the name is said to derive from an Anglo-Saxon description meaning the ford by the church) was old long before the Normans arrived.
There was certainly a Bronze Age settlement hereabouts and in the mid-5th century local tribesmen lost a vital battle against Jutish settlers led by the Warlords Hengist and Horsa. In AD 893 Alfred the Great defeated the Danes in a battle here, or near here, and in 1016 the village was the scene of another defeat of the Danes, this time by Edmund Ironside.
The 14th century Ragstone Bridge, for centuries the only road across the Medway between Rochester and Maidstone, no longer disgorges modern day traffic directly into Aylesford High Street. The new bridge also offers a good view of the old stone bridge, which is probably one of the most photographed and painted landscape features in Kent, and of the very pleasant riverside grounds of the Hengist Hotel, behind the free car park.
There is no mistaking the antiquity of the houses that overlook the river on both sides of the old bridge. They include the Chequers Inn and the George House, formerly a coaching inn and still bearing the evidence on the Windows which make it necessary for the owners to display a notice advising strangers that it is now a private dwelling. A little further along, the Little Gem claims to be the smallest pub in Kent and certainly one of the oldest, if the date above the door, 1106, is to be taken quite literally. Sadly this ‘Little Gem’ has been allowed to rot by its owner since it closed as a pub some 6 years ago.
The village is built around a square from which Rochester Road passes by the Tudor group of Trinity Court Almshouses, founded by John Sedley in 1605 and restored in 1841, with a new wing added by the Brassey family in 1892.
The actress Dame Sybil Thorndike’s father was vicar of Aylesford and she was married there in December 1908 by the Bishop of Rochester and her uncle the Bishop of Thetford. Her mother played the organ during the ceremony.
Dame Sybil’s last visit to the village was in 1972 when, at the age of 90, she opened the new village community centre.
Only just outside the village is The Friars, England’s ﬁrst Carmelite priory in 1242, but closed like many others by Henry VIII in 1538 after which it became a country mansion. It was visited by Samuel Pepys in 1669, when it was owned by Sir John Banks. Then, one night in June 1930, the building was virtually destroyed by ﬁre and although there was no loss of life a rare collection of Venetian glass and other valuables were lost. The building remained more or less derelict until after the Second World War when Carmelite monks from Europe pooled their resources and bought and restored what had once been theirs anyway. Today, The Friars is open to visitors and welcomes thousands of pilgrims every year.
A little further from the village in the opposite direction is Kent’s ‘little Stonehenge’, the 5,000 year old Kits Coty. It stands, surrounded by iron railings, on a steep ‘hillside, to one side of, though not visible from, the Blue Bell Hill road between Maidstone and Chatham. The three great upright stones capped by an equally massive table stone are all that remain of a 200 foot long burial chamber that was still recognisable 200 years ago, before soil erosion bared it to today’s visitors.
Lower down the same hillside are the remains of another chamber, Little Kits Coty. Legend has it that its reputation as the Countless Stones was challenged once by a baker who thought he would invalidate the name by placing a loaf of his bread on each stone as he counted it so that he would know which he had counted and which he had not. But he found that the loaves were disappearing in his wake and, convinced that the Devil was guarding the secret of the stones, the baker abandoned his task, leaving the stones still un-numbered, their reputation intact.
Unfortunately, that particular legend is told, pretty much the same in every detail, of other heaps of old stones all over Britain and none can say where it began.
Just east of the village itself, in Station and Forstal Roads, the traditional local industries of brick and tile making have been replaced by a large area of warehousing and distribution centres. Beyond that again is Cobtree Manor Park, a very pleasant area of woodland and open space that was once part of the old Cobtree Manor estate where the showman and several times Mayor of Maidstone, Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake had his zoo. When he died, he left the property to the town and as well as the public park there is now a golf course and the Museum of Kent Life.
Part of what was once the site of the giant Aylesford paper mills is now home to the Meridian television studios and also to Kent Newsprint, a leading newsprint recycling plant.
For nearly 600 years the Nevill family has owned land at Birling, ever since the manor came into the family by marriage in 1435. They came to England with the Conqueror and successive Marquesses of Abergavenny have traced their title back to Sir Ralph Nevill, sixth son of the ﬁrst Earl of Westmorland, who was summoned to the English Parliament of 1450-1472 as the ﬁrst Baron Bergavenny.
Since then, the family has given England many famous sons, including that Richard Nevill, Earl of Warwick, who became known as Warwick the Kingmaker after his nephew won the War of the Roses and became Edward IV. First to use the new form of the title, Abergavenny instead of Bergavenny, was William, 14th Baron, who died in 1745.
The Hon Rev William Nevill built Birling Manor in the late 1830s, having become vicar of Birling in 1816. He became the fourth Earl of Abergavenny in 1845 and his three daughters, Caroline, Henrietta Augusta and Isobel, are credited with having carved the 10 foot high imitation 15th century font cover in the church.
The manor was destroyed by ﬁre in 1917, but the compact little village centre around the church still includes the old forge and the village inn, which changed its name from the Bull to the Nevill Bull in 1953 in memory of Michael Nevill who was killed in the Second World War. The Nevill family crest features a bull’s head and two chained silver bulls for supporters.
Artist Rowland Hilder’s mother came from Birling. His father, Roland Hilder, was under-butler at Birling Manor and after their marriage, Mr and Mrs Hilder emigrated to the United States in 1904. It was there, in 1905, that young Rowland was born. The family came back to England and to Birling several times and Rowland studied art at Goldsmith’s College in London.
Margaret Collins’ book Birling, A Backward Glance, in which she gathered together a great many interesting and entertaining details of life in the village in the past, was illustrated for her by Rowland Hilder.
Among the many stories of former villagers, there is one about the Hon Rev E.V. Bligh, vicar of Birling in the mid-19th century, who tried to commercialise the Birling Cure for rabies. The recipe was a close-kept secret, but it apparently included herbs and drugs infused in milk and it was sold in large wine bottles costing a guinea each. This proved to be too expensive for most of the potential customers, so the enterprising cleric re-bottled some of it and sold it for 3s 6d a small bottle. According to Mrs Collins’ researches, business was good for a while, but then Louis Pasteur developed his anti-rabies vaccine in 1864 and the Birling Cure went the way of many another patent medicine into oblivion.
Birling is now another of those ‘dormitory villages’ with no school and, since 1947, no village store or post office. But the church, All Saints, much of which is 14th century, still stands on its little rise. It is reached from street level by a ﬂight of stone steps, from where its later Perpendicular-style tower dominates the village centre and much of the surrounding countryside. Not altogether surprisingly, the names of various members of the Nevill family feature prominently on the memorials inside the church.
Nearby, the wrought iron village sign, unveiled in December 1989, is a relatively rare example, in Kent, of the silhouette style, in which the symbols are unpainted metal cut-outs. The Work of village blacksmith, Len Kilner, features the Nevill bull and the White Horse of Kent, above which two medieval pilgrims cavort in merry memory of the many pilgrims who would have passed through Birling on their way to Canterbury.
Burham moved inland about a mile during the 19th century, after whatever prosperity it had enjoyed stopped coming from its river frontage and began to be provided by chalk quarrying for the new cement works.
From very small beginnings, Burham grew rapidly to house a population of about 500 in 1851 and almost 2,000 by 1900. It was during this period of growth that the 12th century waterside church of St Mary the Virgin became too small and too distant and a rather grand new one was built, for the ‘new’ village. It lasted less than a hundred years, however, and was declared unsafe and demolished in 1980. The old one, down by the waterside, is still standing and was restored in 1956 after being disused for many years.
Today, St Mary’s church is officially ‘redundant’ and cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust and both Church of England and Methodist worshippers share the unobtrusive little 19th century church in Church Street. One of the curiosities of the old churchyard used to be a memorial stone, now lost, with a twisted face on it and the words:
Behold Burham’s Belle, a delight
With her curls assymetric and tight;
Let us hope that her Biz
Was as straight as her Phiz
And she kept, like her nose, to the right.
Great Culland House lasted from 1592 until 1953 and then it was pulled down. The French Ambassador to Elizabeth I stayed in it to be near his friend Sir Walter Raleigh, who was staying at nearby Aylesford Priory. The old house, though gone, is not forgotten, nor will be while the great donkey-powered wooden treadmill which used to draw water from the nearby well remains preserved outside Maidstone Museum.
A more recent memorial to a more ancient event is the ragstone monument on the bank of the River Medway close to the old church. The inscription reads: ‘This stone commemorates the battle of the Medway, AD 43, when a Roman army crossed the river and defeated the British tribes under Caractacus.’ It was possibly the most decisive battle of the Roman invasion and opened the Way for the Roman conquest of Britain. The idea of marking the spot in this Way came from the author Nigel Nicolson of Sissinghurst Castle.
The village the church alone remembers now lingers vestigially around the ford where the stream crosses the road, but even there the memory is fading.
Stream Cottage is a 15th century half-timbered former rectory and Old Mill House still stands — just ~ amidst the overgrowth of trees and bushes that almost hide it completely. ‘
The village green, in three parts separated by footpaths and lined with trees, still spreads itself out in front of the ragstone church of St Peter ad Vincula, an unpretentious little church with a 13th century tower surrounded by its churchyard. But most of the rest of the village is 19th and 20th century, reaching out into the agricultural land south of the A20 and forming a pretty well continuously urban area with neighbouring Larkﬁeld.
Even the green has been belittled by the larger recreation ground, Where the Community Centre is, and the village sign stands on a little triangle of grass on the very edge of the parish, opposite the War memorial, where the road from Aylesford forms its ﬁshtail junction with the A20. The sign, which was unveiled in November 1996, is an attractively colourful one, featuring the church with its red tiled roof, and the stream with ducks, with the name of the village enscrolled across a garland of traditional local crops of hops, cherries, apples, pears and strawberries.
Yet, for all the newness, by standing aside from the arterial A20, Ditton manages to preserve many of the characteristics of a traditional village and gives the impression of being, on the whole, a very pleasant little community.
If the abbey had not been built where it is, no doubt East Malling would have remained the only Malling. As it was, the abbey gathered people around it into a separate village that became Town Malling (now West Malling) and left the older settlement to the east very much a junior partner.
What helped East Malling to retain its individuality in the shadow of its big brother West Malling was the stream that runs through the village. Once it turned no fewer than six water wheels, which powered the stones that ground flour for its own inhabitants and also for those of the abbey and their dependants. But as time went by, East Malling mills developed an economic importance as the ﬂour was traded over a greater area than the immediate vicinity.
At one point the stream was diverted to create a moat round a house at East Malling. The moat has been ﬁlled in now and nothing is known of that house except that it was bought during the 16th century by Richard Manningham and razed to the ground in order that he could build for himself a far grander house.
That one we do know about because it was called Bradbourne, one of Kent’s ﬁnest houses and now the headquarters of Horticultural Research International. It is still known locally by its old name, East Malling Research
Station, and, among a great many things too technical to dwell upon here, concerns itself with improving and developing varieties of fruit of all kinds.
Manningham was a Bedfordshire man who made his fortune in the City and died in 1611. But after him the house was owned by a family that left a much deeper impression upon county history, the Twisdens. They rebuilt the house and altered the rebuilding until they had it more or less the way it is today, a pretty house at the end of a long drive; one of the best Queen Anne houses in England with a specially ﬁne Jacobean oak staircase inside.
The Twisdens (Twysdens, Twysendens — depending upon the period) provided Kent with one or two notable sons. One, Sir William, the ﬁrst baronet of Roydon, was a noted scholar, astrologer, book and manuscript collector, Member of Parliament — and buccaneer! He died in 1629 and it was his son, Thomas, who ﬁrst changed the Twysden to Twisden when he became Baronet of Bradbourne in 1666.
The last baronet, Sir John, died in 1937 and the 200 acre estate seemed certain to be bought by developers and planted with new houses.
As it happened, though, the East Malling Research Station was already established on neighbouring land and was looking for more on which to expand. It bought the house and more than 500 acres of Bradbourne estate and made it a centre of international repute, which it still is.
The other major property in East Malling Was Clare Park, which lay between the village and the London Road. Clare House was built in 1793 for banker and timber merchant John Larking, founder of the Maidstone Bank, but during the difficult times of post-Napoleonic Europe, the bank failed and Larking ﬂed the country. Today, Clare Park is a council housing estate built around a secondary school.
East Malling was mentioned in a Charter of King Edmund in about AD 940 and in the Domesday survey in 1086. In about 1100 it passed from the ownership of the Archbishop of Canterbury to West Malling Abbey, which held it until the abbey was dissolved in 1538. The church, which had been St Mary’s, was rededicated to St James the Great and is partly 11th century.
Until the 1860s, Eccles was known as Bull Lane and was just a few cottages alongside the lane that is now the main road through the village. But the name is not new. Judith Glover, in her book The Place Names of Kent, traces it in its present form back to 1208 and suggests that it derived from the 10th century Aecclesse, meaning the meadow of the oak.
Whether or not the Romans knew the name or the meadow, with or without the oak, when they came we don’t know. What we do know is that one of them liked whatever he did ﬁnd there because he built the largest Roman villa yet excavated anywhere in Kent, quite close to the present village.
It seems he was some kind of pottery magnate — the Josiah Wedgwood of his day, perhaps — and his pottery must have paid for a pretty luxurious life-style because the villa had 140 rooms including an elaborate suite of baths, with several heated rooms and a cold plunge, that would have outshone many a private swimming pool today.
The site of the Roman villa was ﬁrst discovered by local clergyman the Rev Beale Poste in 1848, who found a lot of Roman pottery during a Walk across a ﬁeld. The ﬁrst buildings were uncovered in 1882 by historian George Payne but serious excavation did not begin until 1962, after the outlines of the buildings were seen from the air. Work was completed in 1976, after which the site, which is on land owned by Blue Circle Cement, was again covered with soil. Now a report on the dig is being completed for publication.
It was the building boom of the 1800s that brought the village out of its own extended Dark Age, as it did several other Medway valley villages. Thomas Buss, who was born in Aylesford in 1848 and moved to Eccles at the age of eight, wrote a pamphlet in 1908 in which he recalled the village as he remembered it during those years of growth.
According to him, the ‘boom’ began after Thomas Cubitt bought two farms near the river and opened a brickyard and a cement factory on the land. One of the local farmers, Thomas Abbott, foresaw the need for homes for workers in the new industries and he built a row of 22 houses and the Walnut Tree public house. Buss remembered the men who came to work in the new brick and cement works as a pretty rough lot, from all over the country, drawn by the promise of high wages. They earned £5 a week, which was very high indeed for those times and they spent most of it on gin and beer in the Walnut Tree.
The young Buss used to go with his father to the public house with wheelbarrows to collect the drunks as they fell out onto the street and wheel them home.
Eccles church was built at the end of the 1880s but however well it competed with the Walnut Tree in the 19th century, it could not compete with the materialism of the 20th. In 1930 Eccles had its own cinema, as well as its pubs, the Working Men’s Club and the recreation ground and in 1979 the church was sold for more new homes to be built on the site.
Today, Eccles is still one of the villages where there is more proﬁt to be made from what comes out of the ground than from what is grown in it and the area is deeply scarred with quarry sites, some of which are still active.
The ruins of Leybourne Castle barely hint at the importance of the building and its owners in days long gone. Today, the remains are little more than a few walls onto which the manor house, behind the church, has been built. Yet
Leybourne was a signiﬁcant manor before the Normans arrived and 700 years ago the castle belonged to one of the most powerful families in Kent.
The manor came into the de Leybourne family during the reign of Richard I and Sir Roger de Leybourne was one of the barons who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. That led to his being imprisoned in Rochester
Castle, from where he was only released after he had paid a hefty ﬁne. His son, another Sir Roger, was killed during one of the crusades and, following a custom of the time, his embalmed heart was returned to his family, who installed it in a unique (in Kent) heart shrine in Leybourne church.
He left a son, yet another Roger, who fathered the Sir William de Leybourne who enhanced the family fortunes no end by marrying Juliana, daughter and Wealthy heiress of Sir Henry de Sandwich. It was that enhanced family fortune that enabled Sir William to play host to Edward I and Queen Eleanor at Leybourne Castle on St Crispin’s Day (25th October) 1286. Two iron crowns in the church are believed by some historians to have been left as Royal mementoes of that visit, although it must be said others have found reason to doubt that.
Sir William had two sons. One, Sir Henry, grew up to be one of the most violent and lawless men of his day and he was ﬁnally outlawed for felony and disinherited in 1329. The other son, Sir Thomas, died young, leaving his father to be the last baron to live at the castle. His grand-daughter, Sir Thomas’ daughter, another Juliana, inherited so much property and was so rich that she became known as the Infanta (Princess) of Kent.
But she was the last representative of the family into which she was born and from her the Leybourne estates passed to her husband, the Earl of Huntingdon, and later to the Crown. When she died, childless, in 1367 she was buried at St Augustine’s Abbey in Canterbury and the family was extinct. The castle became the property of an abbey and fell into ruin after Henry VIII’s dissolution. It was some time later that the house was built on part of the site.
Leybourne church is, in fact, older than the castle. Parts of it are 900 years old, although it has been added to and altered over the years. One of its rectors, John Larke, was hanged, drawn and quartered in March 1544 for denying Henry VIII’s new title of Supreme Head on Earth of the Church in England.
Today’s Leybourne village is almost entirely modern in character. Vastly expanded by estate development, its Old Rectory has been converted into a restaurant, its countryside crossed by new roads and gouged by sandpits that have become water sports centres and nature reserves.
Leybourne Grange, a 270 acre site between the A20 and the M20, was a home for 1,200 handicapped people until it closed in 1992. It now houses the Grange Park College for 16-20 year olds with severe learning difficulties and plans for much of the rest have included a 700-home housing estate. Among Leybourne’s latest features is the 22 acre RSPCA animal rescue centre in Castle Way, which was opened in 1996.
ROYAL BRITISH LEGION VILLAGE
Although part of Aylesford parish, the village deserves a mention of its own. Founded on Preston Hall Hospital, it grew out of the efforts of the British Legion (before it was distinguished with the Royal preﬁx) to provide for ex-servicemen needing continuing support during and after convalescence.
The present house, despite its Jacobean style, was built in the 1850s and was part of an extensive manor that dated back to the 12th century when the Culpeper family held it during the reign of King John. Much later, the estate came into the ownership of Edward Ladd Betts, a railway engineer who built the present Preston Hall before he was ruined by ﬁnancial speculation. As a result, the property passed to the Brassey family. Later still, another owner, Madame Sauber, let the Hall for use as a Red Cross Convalescent Home during the First World War and when the war was over it became a hospital for ex-servicemen.
The village was built around it, providing homes and workshops for the families of patients at the hospital until the men could return to work themselves. The author George Orwell was one of those who received treatment for tuberculosis at Preston Hall. It was taken over by the National Health Service in 1948 as a chest hospital and later became a general hospital until the new Maidstone General Hospital in Hermitage Lane opened in 1984.
Today, Preston Hall houses the headquarters of the West Kent Health Authority and is also the site of the Heart of Kent Hospice, which was opened in 1992 by Diana, Princess of Wales.
British Legion Industries still provide work for ex-servicemen in the village.
Most of the original houses have now been replaced, although some of the distinctive Preston Hall Colony bungalows are still in use on the opposite side of the A20, alongside Hermitage Lane.
Ryarsh is not a particularly distinguished little village, a mile or two north of West Malling, but it deserves a mention if only because it’s Victorian vicar for 38 years, the Reverend Lambert Blackerell Larking, became the ﬁrst secretary of the Kent Archaeological Society and launched the record of its activities, Archaeologia Cantiana, which is still going strong.
He wrote more than 200 pages of the ﬁrst volume. He was an authority on Saxon and other ancient manuscripts and made a translation of the Domesday Book which was published after his death.
Today, Ryarsh is the workplace of Birling parish, and bricks from Ryarsh Brick Co have protected Middle Easterners from the heat of the sun and scientists at King Edward Point from the freezing temperatures of the Antarctic, not to mention lions in the lion house at London Zoo from the vagaries of the English climate.
In 1998 plans were put forward to turn the local sewage works, for long an eyesore, into public gardens which, if the scheme goes ahead, could make a signiﬁcant improvement to the village generally.
West Malling used to be known as Town Malling and the approach road to its centre from the A20 is still called Town Hill. Residents are divided about whether they want to be villagers or townsfolk, and there will be those who will question my judgment in including it among Kent villages.
But it has a villagey feel about it: a very distinctive little community, most of the centre of which is a designated conservation area. It was ﬁrst mentioned, as Town Malling, in AD 945 but the nunnery was founded by Bishop
Gundulph of Rochester in the 11th century. It was destroyed, together with most of the houses, in 1190 and rebuilt for a community of Benedictine nuns.
Legend has it that Becket’s assassins hid in the Abbey during their ﬂight from Canterbury after they had launched the Archbishop upon his gory way to early canonisation.
The Abbey in Swan Street is still occupied by Anglican Benedictine nuns, who have as close neighbours the Anglican Cistercian monks of Ewell Monastery in nearby Water Lane.
The High Street is lined on both sides with some ﬁne Tudor, Jacobean and Georgian houses. Just outside the village, the 18th century manor house built by Thomas Augustus Douce is now a commercial training centre, separated
from the parkland it overlooks (now a local authority country park) by the road that goes through the hamlet of St Le0nard’s on its way to join the Maidstone-Tonbridge Road at Mereworth.
The mansion was a rest base for airmen operating from the Second World War West Malling airﬁeld. Its cellar was the war-time Twitch Inn, on the ceiling of which airmen, including some of the famous air aces of their day, wrote their names in candle ﬂame soot. The airﬁeld is some way out of the village: 530 acres bought from the Ministry of Defence by Kent County Council in 1973 and 1974 and now developing into a high quality, low density business park and Kings Hill village.
St Leonard’s is chieﬂy notable for its tower, perhaps the ﬁnest early Norman keep in the country and all that remains of the house that Bishop Gundulph built there. The Startled Saint public house, which used to amuse customers and passers-by with its inn sign showing the saint looking appropriately startled by Battle of Britain Spitﬁres ﬂying overhead, is now a private house.
West Malling was rather more obviously deserving town status in the days when local industry included tanning, brewing, glass blowing, clock-making and the manufacture of straw hats. Today, it is almost wholly residential, but it still contends with several other Kent villages for the honour of being the one where cricket was ﬁrst played in the county, claiming that the game was ﬁrst played on the local ground in 1705.
The 1974 local government reorganisation combined the former Malling rural council with Tonbridge urban council to form Tonbridge and Malling district (later borough) council and in 1998 it was decided to sever yet another link with the past by closing the West Malling magistrates’ court, opened in 1866, from January 1999.
Travelling downstream on the River Medway, along the tidal reach from Allington Lock to the impressive concrete span of the M2 bridge at Rochester, the only village actually to reach down to the water on the Men of Kent’s eastern bank is Wouldham.
It is worthwhile for any river traveller to disembark to see the village, if only to visit the church or, at any rate, the churchyard where the grave of local man Walter Burke is marked by a headstone. The original inscription is now almost wholly illegible but it has been repeated on the back of the stone. The new inscription, carved in 1955, tells how Burke was purser on HMS Victory at Trafalgar and that it was in his arms that ‘the immortal Nelson’ died.
Walter Burke left the Navy and came home to Wouldham where he owned both Purser Place and Burke House. Both were removed to Maresﬁeld in East Sussex in 1937 and materials from both were used to build one new house, also called Purser Place. Burke died on 12th September 1815, aged 70, and every year since local schoolchildren have laid ﬂowers on his grave each Trafalgar Day.
For centuries there was a ferry crossing the river whenever hired to do so from Wouldham to Halling and it may be that there was, before that, a ford across the river at this point, possibly where Romans and Britons fought for the way to London. In 1843 workmen found what, at the time, was thought to be a Mithraic temple at Wouldham, and although later experts decided it was more likely to have been part of an old farmhouse cellar. No one can be sure because no details of its location have survived, so no one now knows where it was found.
The ferry service ended in 1963, when the Stevens family, who had operated it for many years, gave it up. Nowadays, it is assumed that anyone who wants to cross the river will have the means to travel the few miles north or south to the nearest bridges at Aylesford or Rochester.
Out on Wouldham marshes, north of the village, the 14th century remains of the house called Starkey Castle were brought back to life in the 1980s by retired barrister Gerald, Davies. The house was originally built for Sir Humphrey Starkey, Recorder of the City of London in 1471 and later Chief Baron of the Exchequer in 1483. The Royal Commission on Historical Monuments described Starkey Castle as a monument of national importance and one of the few medieval manor houses to have survived more or less in its original condition.
Today, Wouldham is mostly a village of terraced cottages originally built for 19th and early 20th century cement Workers. The church is at one end of the village street, its Wall prettily overhung by ﬂowering trees. Inside, a list of rectors begins in 1283 and the font is hewn from a solid slab of stone which is capped by a carved wooden pyramid cover with brass work decoration.
An extract from The Kent Village Book by Alan Bignell ISBN 1853065714 1999