Copyright Kent Past 2010
The History of Kent
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A Tour of Westerham
‘Westerham’, observed George Bevan in his 1876 Handbook to the County of Kent, is
‘a pretty little town, dependent more on the scenery around than on any intrinsic
interest.’ While Bevan, a compiler of numerous individual English county handbooks
for travelers, has many insightful gems of information to share about late 19th century
Kent, his description of the historic market town of Westerham sorely needs updating.
Once home to a variety of world-
Naturally, Westerham boasts openly of its links to famous luminaries particularly Wolfe and Churchill—there are large statues of both men in the village green—and makes as much of these associations as possible. Yet the town has more to offer than simply connections to great men.
Many of Westerham’s homes and structures are historic, dating as far back as the 12th century. Stroll across the village green to the medieval parish Church of St Mary the Virgin, in which many well-
One of Westerham’s finest homes, Squerryes Court, a well-
Originally a lesser manor of the manor of Westerham, Squerryes dates back to the reign of Henry III (1216-
Westerham is a late Anglo-
In 1227, Henry III, granted Westerham a market charter, enabling the towns’ tradesmen to emerge as key participants in the Kentish livestock trade during the middle ages. At the time, cattle provided the bulk of the meat consumed in medieval cities, and livestock production in Westerham helped make meat more widely available in London markets.
Westerham’s closeness to the Weald of Kent and ‘very pleasant’ situation, in the words of 19th century handbook writer Richard King, at the foot of the North Downs along the river Darent, have continued to attract new residents and nature-
Also, certainly worth a visit are the lovely Charts Edge Gardens on B2026, only 0.6 mile south of Westerham off the A25 and open to the public from mid-
Located at the eastern entrance to Westerham in Quebec Square, this low-
Situated to the south of central Westerham, off Westerham Road, are the house and gardens of Squerryes Court, long owned by the Warde family. In one form or another, a house has stood on this site for 800 years. Built in the late 17th century, the current house features elegant rooms, furniture, porcelain, tapestries and oil paintings acquired and used by the Wardes since the 18th century. An Emma exhibition is also on display at the moment, showcasing the costumes used in the 2009 BBC production of Emma and highlighting Jane Austen’s connections to West Kent. The gardens, recently restored based on 18th century plans, offer spring bulbs, roses and herbaceous borders.
Church of St Mary the Virgin
The parish church of St Mary’s stands directly on the edge of the village green, and dates back over 800 years. Built of Kentish ragstone, St Mary’s exhibits a 12th century tower, walls from the 13th and 14th centuries, and 16th century small brasses with 17th and 18th century memorial tables. Additional changes to the primary structure were made in the 15th and 19th centuries. Of special interest is the 14th century font, which has witnessed the baptism of many illustrious persons including General Wolfe, John Frith, who assisted William Tyndale to translate the Bible before his untimely execution in 1533, and Winston Churchill’s grandson.
The Village Green
This is an ideal starting point for a walking tour of Westerham, the west end of the pretty village green holds a statue of General Wolfe, erected in 1911 and designed by Derwent Wood ARA. On the east end, past old shops and the 16th century Grasshopper Inn and towards St Mary’s, sits a modern bronze casting of Sir Winston Churchill, sculpted by Oscar Nemon after the Second World War.
Roofless and crumbling, with round arched windows, this whimsical two-
The George and Dragon Inn
Originally built in the 16th century as a stopover for travelers on their way to London, this Grade II, timber-
*Seasonal opening times and admission prices should be checked before making a special trip to Westerham.
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