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
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