Larkfield and East Malling is a civil parish in the district of Tonbridge and Malling, Kent, England. It is about 2.4 miles (3.9 km) southeast of West Malling, 5.5 miles (8.9 km) northwest of Maidstone, and 11.4 miles (18.3 km) SSW of Rochester. In 1962, the parish was formed from two smaller ancient ecclesiastical parishes, East Malling and Larkfield. Covering 4.16 square miles (10.77 km2), the parish is in the heart of the hop fields and fruit-growing region, and has an expanding residential area. The distinct hamlet of East Malling Heath is in the parish. There are two parish churches in the parish. The church at East Malling is dedicated to St James the Great; then at Larkfield to Holy Trinity. There is also a Methodist church in Larkfield.
Of the two parts of the parish, Larkfield is much more built-up, lying on the main A20 road, and is part of greater Maidstone. The M20 motorway also passes through, with junction 4 residing at the centre of Leybourne on the A228. East Malling has a much more village feel about it. As well as the roads, East Malling railway station, serves the village.
There is a railway station at East Malling (services to Maidstone, Ashford & London) and another nearby at New Hythe (Larkfield) (with services to Maidstone, Paddock Wood and the Medway towns). The estimated population of the registration district of Malling in 2001 was 12,700.
The name of Larkfield is literal and descriptive – it refers to the large numbers of skylarks found in the fields; its first recorded instance is in Domesday Book as Lavrochesfel.
The village has expanded rapidly since the M20 motorway was constructed in the 1970s and it continues to grow, with new housing developments being built. These are The Lakes in Leybourne, on disused gravel pits that were turned into man-made lakes. The decision to build on this area was unpopular with some residents, but the remaining lakes were turned into a country park and nature reserve to offset the impact of the new housing.
The “Tree”(shared with the Parish of Ditton) and “Bird” estates are part of a popular residential area in Larkfield. Tonbridge and Malling borough council applied to purchase this area of land in 1947, as part of the Medway Gap development plan. In 1961 planning permission was given to build what is now two estates, where the majority of the roads are named after species of trees and birds. There is also another estate, known as the “Poets” just to the North of the M20 where all the roads are named after famous poets.
A large Tesco supermarket sits to the North end of the Parish, near the country park. There is also another supermarket, built originally as part of the Safeway chain, which stands on the corner of New Hythe Lane and the London road. Following the demise of Safeway in 2004, it changed several times in quick succession, becoming first a Morrisons for a short time, as part of that company’s purchase of the bulk of the Safeway estate, before being sold to Somerfield, and in 2009, re-opening, fully refurbished, once again as a Morrison’s.
KM Group is based in Larkfield.
In the neighbouring area of Aylesford there is a J.Sainsbury’s. Also located on New Hythe Lane is Larkfield Leisure Centre, built in the 1980s.
Larkfield has been of some historical interest throughout recent times, with a number of archeological discoveries in the area. Much of the location filming for the 1960s BBC comedy programme “Mr Pastry” took place in the countryside around East Malling. Richard Hearne who starred had lived in a neighbouring village, St Mary Platt, and knew the area well.
Close to the main crossroads on the A20, Larkfield Priory Hotel, built in 1890, is allegedly haunted.