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History of Tenterden

Tenterden comes from the Old English ‘ware’ meaning ‘dwellers’ and the Kentish word ‘denn’ as a ‘woodland pasture’ combined with a place-name; therefore, ‘woodland-pasture of the people of Thanet’.


Tenterden grew from the 14th century around the wool industry. Unlike other such centres in the Weald, it had the benefit of access to the sea. Much of what is now Romney Marsh was under water, and ships docked at Smallhythe. Shipbuilders used timber from the Wealden forests to build vessels, and in 1449, the Confederation of Cinque Ports incorporated Tenterden as a limb of Rye. Tenterden contributed ships to help fulfil Rye’s quota for the Crown.


Tenterden parish church is a Grade: I listed building, dedicated to Saint Mildred, the daughter of Ermenburga, the Great Grand Daughter of King AEthelberht. Although the present church dates to the 12th Century, an earlier Saxon chapel occupied the site. The church expanded several times from its 12th century beginnings. In 1461, Richard Herne, of Canterbury, bequeathed funds to build the tower, which seems to loom over the town. It is one of the churches in the 1588 system of warning beacons. In 1717, Richard Phelps recast the existing five bells into six. Lester and Pack added two trebles to make eight bells in 1769. Edward Hasted describes the church as ‘a large handsome building, consisting of two isles and three chancels, having a lofty well-built tower at the west end, which standing on high ground is seen from the country for many miles around it. There are eight bells in it, and a set of musical chimes. The two isles and chancels are all ceiled; the north isle is curiously ceiled with oak and ornamented. There are three galleries in the church.’


In 1864 G M Mills carried out, a major restoration. In 1971, Whitechapel rehung the bells lower in the tower, and in December of that year, the Archbishop of Canterbury rededicated them. In January of the following year, the Archbishop returned to preach at a special service celebrating the completion of the restoration of the tower.

Tenterden railway station opened on the Rother Valley Railway’s branch line from Robertsbridge, on 29 March 1900. However, due to its distance from the town (nearly two miles away) a more convenient terminus, named ‘Tenterden Town’, opened on 16 March 1903…. more